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September 18, 2008


Head coach: Bo Ryan
Last season: 31-5 overall, 16-2 in Big Ten.
Postseason: Won Big Ten tourney title; lost 73-56 to Davidson in Sweet 16.
Breakdown: Probable starters | Backcourt | Frontcourt | Offense | Defense | Outlook

BACKCOURT

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.

PROBABLE STARTING FIVE
G Trevon Hughes, 6-0/Jr.
11.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 apg
G Jason Bohannon, 6-2/Jr.
8.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 53 3-pointers
F Keaton Nankivil, 6-8/Soph.
0.4 ppg, 0.8 rpg
F Joe Krabbenhoft, 6-7/Sr.
7.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg
F Marcus Landry, 6-7/Sr.
10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg
TOP RESERVES
G Jordan Taylor, 6-1/Fr.
True freshman
F Jon Leuer, 6-10/Soph.
2.9 ppg, 1.3 rpg
Now for the bad news: Hughes struggled mightily down the stretch. Once the calendar turned to March, he averaged just 7.8 points (eight games) and shot less than 40 percent. He actually shot less than 40 percent for the season, and his assist-to-turnover ratio was 1.18-to-1 not exactly what you're looking for in a point guard. The Badgers need more of the player who tore up the non-conference schedule and less of the guy who averaged only 9.7 points in Big Ten play. He doesn't have to be spectacular for Wisconsin to be successful, just steady.

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.

FRONTCOURT

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.

OFFENSE

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.

DEFENSE

It's just silly to say a Ryan-coached team won't make the NCAA Tournament. This one has plenty of returning talent and senior leadership to mix with some emerging young players and a solid recruiting class. You know what you're going to get when you play the Badgers: efficient offense and solid defense. They dictate the pace and make it difficult to score. An eight-point deficit against Wisconsin is like being down 14 to anyone else. Uncharacteristically, the Badgers didn't take especially good care of the ball last season, ranking in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio. The Badgers need a more consistent Hughes, more scoring from Landry and Bohannon, and one of the young guys to contribute seven to eight points and five or so rebounds per game up front. Wisconsin will finish no worse than fourth in the Big Ten and be in the field of 65.
Few teams play better defense than Ryan's Badgers. They yielded only 54.4 points per game last season to lead the nation. It's a clinic in hard-nosed man-to-man every time out. They'll pressure the ball and deny in the post as if their lives depend on it.

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.

IMPACT NEWCOMER

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 bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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