Kennesaw State-Wisconsin Preview
Wisconsin’s shot at the Big Ten title and another NCAA
tournament run is anchored by a known commodity in senior guard
Jordan Taylor, who is expected to be one of the best players in the
country this season.
Taylor’s supporting cast is promising but largely lacks
experience, and the way the Badgers’ young players develop will go
a long way toward determining whether they live up to high
And Taylor will have a hand in helping them develop as the
15th-ranked Badgers open the season Saturday versus Kennesaw State
at the Kohl Center.
Jon Leuer is gone, leaving Taylor as the Badgers’ unquestioned
leader. He’s embracing the role, leaning on what he learned from
teammates in the past.
“During my freshman year, Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry were
two of the best leaders I think I’ve been around,” Taylor said.
“They were extremely encouraging, but they also would let you know
if you weren’t doing something right or what you need to do better.
There is a fine line, not to yell at guys. You know which guys you
can yell at and which you can’t. Just trying to help your teammates
in any way you can.”
Badgers coach Bo Ryan expects Taylor to take over – but not
necessarily by scoring more. Taylor averaged 18.1 points per game
last season, but his NCAA-best 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio might
be his most impressive asset.
“I just hope he doesn’t think he has to score 40 a game this
year,” Ryan said. “I think we’re going to be in trouble if he does.
He doesn’t. He wants to be even more consistent. He wants to be
more inclusive with his teammates, maybe in transition. There are
different things we’re looking at in trying to get done with a
different-sized team maybe on the floor.”
Wisconsin went 25-9 last season, finishing third in the Big Ten.
The Badgers made their 13th straight NCAA tournament appearance and
advanced past the first weekend of the tournament for the second
time in the past six seasons, losing to Butler in the regional
“It’s definitely something that sticks with you, knowing you
were so close to reaching the goal,” sophomore guard Josh Gasser
said. “The way we lost, also, it stuck a little longer. In the
offseason, it is good fuel to fire you to work harder and get
better. We know we could have done better and we lost the game by
losing it ourselves. We didn’t necessarily get beat by another
team, we got beat by a very good team. We know we can improve on
that. It definitely was good fuel to fire us up in the
Leuer led the Badgers with 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game
last season, and was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second
round of the NBA draft.
That’s a big loss, and the Badgers also must replace their other
two frontcourt starters from last year, forward Keaton Nankivil
(9.7 points, 4.2 rebounds) and guard/forward Tim Jarmusz (3.9
points, 2.2 rebounds).
The Badgers don’t have a lot of experienced big men to take
“We might not be as big,” Ryan said. “We could be. … But then
again, we might not be.”
They’ll have to be ready for a non-conference schedule that
includes a Nov. 30 visit to North Carolina and a Dec. 3 home game
against in-state rival Marquette.
Ryan will expect bigger things from junior forward Mike
Bruesewitz, who played well in the tournament but wants to become
more consistent this season.
“I’m one of those guys who could tell the amount of mistakes I
made instead of the good things I’ve done,” Bruesewitz said. “I’m
more concerned with the areas I messed up on and made mistakes on.
I feel I can improve shooting percentages and rebounding numbers.
And defensively, change games more defensively. Be the guy who
shuts the other team’s best post player down.”
The Badgers also will be expecting significant contributions
from 6-10 junior forward/center Jared Berggren and 6-10 center Evan
Anderson, who redshirted last season. If the Badgers go small, they
could turn to senior Rob Wilson – although Wilson has missed time
in practice with an undisclosed injury – and junior Ryan Evans.
Of the Badgers’ freshmen, 6-8 forward Jarrod Uthoff has caught
Ryan’s eye early in practice.
“He is a player,” Ryan said. “Better than expected. But don’t
tell him I said that.”
The Badgers also have high hopes for Gasser, who started and
played well as a freshman last year. Gasser looks up to Taylor, and
wants to emulate his game.
“When it looks like he’s covered, just getting that extra step
away from a defender and finding a way to finish,” Gasser said.
“He’s got great finishing ability, great strength and
explosiveness. It’s tough to teach but watching him and covering
him the past year, I definitely learned a lot from him. And
hopefully, I can use that.”
Gasser said Taylor’s leadership will be critical for the Badgers
“The kid works harder than anyone that I’ve seen,” Gasser said.
“He’s got so much talent. But the thing that I think separates him
is his leadership. He just makes whoever plays around him
Lewis Preston will be making his coaching debut for Kennesaw
State after serving as an assistant at Penn State the past four
seasons. Preston will have the luxury of leaning on junior Markeith
Cummings, who led the Atlantic Sun Conference in scoring at 18.3
points per game in 2010-11.
The Owls, who were 8-23 last season, also return fellow guard
Spencer Dixon, who averaged 13.1 points and a team-high 3.4
assists. LaDaris Green averaged a conference-best 8.5 rebounds.
Preston’s primary concern, though, will be improving a defense
that allowed opponents to shoot 46.5 percent and average 74.8
points – the worst marks in the Atlantic Sun.
This is the first meeting between Kennesaw State and