With their 87-69 loss to Cornell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Wisconsin Badgers' 2009-10 season is over.
The Big Red jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, sending the Badgers to their worst loss of the year and sending senior guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon out on a sour note.
But lucky for Badger fans, this year's team only loses two players. These two players were definitely an essential part of a team that won 24 games, greatly exceeding preseason expectations. Hughes and Bohannon averaged 15.5 and 11.4 points per game this year, respectively, and won't be easily replaced. But Wisconsin is bringing everyone else back, which spells good news for next year's team.
So, with the 2009-10 season already a memory, let's take a look at next year's squad.
Only a junior next year, Wisconsin is in good hands with Jordan Taylor running the point. Standing at 6'1", Taylor was Wisconsin's sixth man for most of 2009-10, before taking a starting position when Jon Leuer went down in January.
Averaging 10.1 points a game, Taylor has the ability to drive the lane, but also step out and hit the three-pointer. However, what sets him apart is passing ability. Taylor dished out 112 assists while only committing 37 turnovers. If he can keep up that kind of play, he should be in the running for All-Big Ten next year.
A 6'3" guard out of Cleveland, Rob Wilson has only seen a little bit of playing time over the past two years. However, next year he will be seeing the court quite a bit more than 12 minutes a game.
With the departure of Hughes and Bohannon, the shooting guard position is wide open, leaving Wilson as the obvious favorite to fill the spot. Although he only averaged 3.2 points in 2009-10, Wilson has shown that he has a shooting touch from outside and could be an adequate replacement for the two graduating seniors.
Just a freshman last year, Ryan Evans appears poised to take over the small forward position after a disappointing season from Tim Jarmusz. Standing at 6'6", Evans has shown he can be an inside presence and has the ability to hit the mid-range jump shot.
Averaging 3.3 points last year, Evans saw more and more playing time as the season went on and was the primary substitute for Jarmusz.
Simply put, Wisconsin's success as a team next year hinges on the play of 6'10" forward Jon Leuer. Averaging 15 points and six rebounds a game, Leuer was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten player in 2009-10 and was the key to Wisconsin's inside scoring.
With the ability to work the post and hit the three, Leuer was one of the most versatile players in the country. If he can stay healthy the entire year and play the way he's capable of, he could be in the running for Player of the Year in the Big Ten.
Standing at 6'8", Keaton Nankivil is, along with Leuer, the key to Wisconsin's inside presence. Averaging 8.4 points a game last year, Nankivil is able to work the post, and although he doesn't have quite the mid-to-outside shooting prowess as does Leuer, he is still capable of hitting the three-pointer.
However, since Nankivil will be an important part of the team next year, he will have to work on his consistency. Last year, he tended to disappear during some games, notably the season-ending loss to Cornell.