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September 18, 2008
Trevon Hughes made the transition from role player to starter fairly smoothly. An afterthought as a freshman on a senior-laden team, he started 34 of 36 games last season and delivered for coach Bo Ryan. He was second on the team in scoring (11.2 ppg) and third in assists (2.5). He also led the Badgers in steals (1.8), ranking fourth in the Big Ten.
Forward Marcus Landry is Wisconsin's second leading returning scorer and rebounder.
Jason Bohannon was the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year last season, and now he steps into a starting role. While Hughes faltered in conference play, Bohannon was at his best. He had six double-digit scoring games in conference play, including 18 points on six 3-pointers at Indiana. He's an excellent spot-up shooter, and he led the team in 3-pointers while sinking a respectable 39.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Bohannon brings a different dimension than the graduated Michael Flowers. He's not the defender his predecessor was, but he's a much better shooter. Coaches believe he'll play serviceable defense and bring some added leadership.
Freshman Jordan Taylor, a three-star prospect, will see plenty of time in the backcourt. He was "Mr. Basketball" in Minnesota after averaging 22.3 points and 7.1 assists. Word in Madison is that he has impressed the upperclassmen with his play in the summer. Some believe he has the mind-set and maturity to step in and be a factor – and he's physically ready as well.
The Badgers will be anchored by senior forwards Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft. What a luxury for Ryan to have two players on whom he can rely to provide offense, defense, rebounding, toughness, etc. They simply find ways to contribute, be it filling up a box score or doing the little things that help Wisconsin win games.
Landry blossomed last season as a full-time starter. The league's coaches voted him to the all-conference second team. He ranked third on the Badgers in scoring (10.8 ppg), but he was first in scoring during Big Ten play (12.1 ppg). He was second on the team in blocks and third in rebounding.
Krabbenhoft was a member of the five-man all-conference defensive team. He led the Badgers in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5-to-1), was second in rebounding (6.5), assists (2.5) and field-goal percentage (48.5 percent), and ranked third in steals. Good things happen for Wisconsin when Krabbenhoft has the ball. Defensively, he plays all-out - diving for loose balls and taking charges.
Keaton Nankivil will get the first crack at being the third starter up front. He has added strength and explosiveness this offseason, and the coaches believe he's ready to break through. He played sparingly as a freshman (2.4 mpg), but he had seniors Brian Butch and Greg Stiemsma in front of him. If he can take the experience of going against them in practice and be a little more physical, he has a chance to play significant minutes.
Jon Leuer saw more time as a freshman than Nankivil. He played mostly on the perimeter last season, and he shot the ball well from 3-point range (12 of 28) in limited opportunities. He flashed his potential against Michigan, going for 25 points, including 5-for-5 from 3-point range. Coaches expect Leuer to be more physical this season and get some of his points around the rim, too.
Ryan and his staff do an excellent job of maximizing talent with their "swing" offense. Be it posting smaller players or sending post players to shoot 3-pointers, the Badgers find ways to score efficiently. They value each possession and put a premium on taking good shots.
SHOES TO FILL
F Brian Butch. The "Polar Bear" led the Badgers in scoring (12.4 ppg) and rebounding (6.6). He was a clutch player who will be missed.
MUST STEP UP
Landry. He's the leader up front. The Badgers don't have a lot of experience in the frontcourt. While they hope Nankivil and/or four-star prospect Jared Berggren and/or three-star prospect Ian Markolf can develop quickly, Landry will have to hold down the fort.
Taylor. Everything points to Taylor being the first player off the bench for the Badgers. The coaches love his feel for the game and his mental makeup.
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.