Wisconsin backcourt preview
Wisconsin returns perhaps the best backcourt in the Big Ten, including National Player of the Year candidate Jordan Taylor. Along with Taylor, the Badgers return sophomore Josh Gasser, who averaged 5.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game as a freshman a season ago.
Taylor came into his own last year, as he averaged 18.1 points, 4.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game and his 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio led the nation and was fourth-most all-time. He is on the 2012 Wooden Award watch list as well as on multiple first-team All-America teams. He was a first-team All-American last year by Fox Sports and a second-team All-American by five publications including Associated Press and Sporting News.
Taylor was clutch as well last season, including leading the Badgers back from a 15-point second half deficit and scoring 21 of his 27 points in the second half to help lead the Badgers to a win over No. 1 Ohio State 71-67 in Madison. A few weeks later, Taylor dropped a career-high 39 points on Indiana in Bloomington, including 17 straight in the second half to help Wisconsin knock off the Hoosiers 77-67. The 39 points was the third-most all-time at Wisconsin and his seven 3-pointers tied a single-game school record.
He has been a model for the typical Bo Ryan basketball player, progressing by leaps and bounds each season. Taylor averaged 1.6 points per game as a freshman before jumping to 10.0 points per game his sophomore year and finally making another big leap by averaging 18.1 points per game last season.
Despite averaging just a shade under six points per game, Gasser had his share of moments as a freshman as well, most notably banking in a game-winning 3-pointer to win in Ann Arbor 53-52 over the Michigan Wolverines. The freshman from Port Washington also made school history, becoming the first Wisconsin Badger to ever record a triple-double. He earned that honor with a 10-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist afternoon in Evanston leading the Badgers to a 78-46 victory over Northwestern. If you don’t remember, that game was the appetizer for the state of Wisconsin before the main meal of watching the Packers beat the Bears and go to the Super Bowl.
With the exception of Taylor, the Wisconsin back court will be young and for the most part inexperienced. The Badgers bring in two freshmen in Traevon Jackson and George Marshall. Jackson, the son of former Ohio State great Jimmy Jackson, averaged 18.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.3 steals per game as a senior in high school. Marshall was named second-team all-state in Illinois as a senior, averaging 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
Wisconsin also returns sophomore Ben Brust, who can play either guard spot. The sharp-shooter averaged 0.7 points and 0.5 rebounds per game. He scored a career-high three points in games against Manhattan and Michigan State.
The other guards are all walk-ons. Juniors Dan Fahey and J.D. Wise as well as freshman Jordan Smith round out the other three guard spots. Smith went to the same high school which produced former Badger standout Jon Leuer. Smith is the leading scorer in Orono’s history and the 12th leading scorer in Minnesota basketball history. He shot 47 percent from behind the 3-point line and averaged 21.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game as a senior in high school last season.
Wisconsin may lack depth in the back court this season, but it will be interesting to see how the two new freshmen play as well as seeing the progression of Brust, as he may be forced to be the main backup for both Gasser and Taylor.