Hughes: Overhaul in front court poses big questions for next year

first_imgIt’s always interesting looking forward to next year when it comes to college sports.Change is almost certainly unavoidable, and when it happens on a minimal level, things are even more intriguing.For the Wisconsin men’s basketball team, last year the offseason question centered on UW’s backcourt since Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon graduated.Now the eye of the inquiries focus on the frontcourt, where three players – Tim Jarmusz, Keaton Nankivil and All-American honorable mention Jon Leuer (a total of 203 starts) – are ditching the jerseys for graduation gowns.So the question for this upcoming offseason is flipped to the big men. Where once that area was considered stacked, it is now unclear who will step up.There’s no shortage of confidence in Mike Bruesewitz. He showed tremendous heart following his sprained knee against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament.During the NCAA Tournament, it even seemed like the national media was talking more about Bruesewitz than anyone else, and I’m not surprised. He’s got a motor – that’s something every fan can appreciate in any athlete – and he’s got quite a personality that’s beginning to unfold.By the time he’s a senior, he’ll be the face of Wisconsin’s program. I really don’t have any reason to doubt that right now.It is because of him and Josh Gasser that I believe next year’s Badgers won’t be too many steps behind the 2010-11 squad. But they will take some steps back.For one thing, Gasser actually shot the ball quite well his freshman year, hitting .472 of his shots (although his perimeter clip is a different story), and he developed his assertiveness later in the season as well. Head Coach Bo Ryan likes to talk about Gasser’s natural ability to see the floor well, and I’m thinking that will improve come his sophomore year.So, with the backcourt looking set, what’s the outlook for the bigs?Although Ryan will, of course, not name a starter until the beginning of next season, Bruesewitz will no doubt fill one of the three open spots. Meanwhile, Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans will eye the others.There’s also 6-foot-10, 250-pound center Evan Anderson, who will enter his first year after redshirting this past season. But right now it’s uncertain how he’ll handle his first year on the floor.For one thing, UW loses a lot of proven deftness at shooting. Bruesewitz can certainly hit from downtown. But he hasn’t shown the ability to consistently hit shots from anywhere on the floor quite like Leuer.Berggren has shown flashes himself, but, like Bruesewitz, he wasn’t consistent in his sophomore year.Recently, he showed a bright flash against Belmont in the NCAA Tournament, going 2-2 from the arc. But he shot .318 from the perimeter during the season while also going .491 from the field.What’s more about Berggren, his defense is not as polished as the group of seniors now graduating.During the 2010-11 season, Berggren averaged one foul every 5.4 minutes. Of the seven players who earned more minutes last season, Bruesewitz, Gasser and Evans fouled at about every 10 minutes while Leuer, Nankivil, Jarmusz fouled at about every 15 minutes or more.So while consistency is the main question for Berggren and Bruesewitz, Evans’ play brings about love/hate stirrings in different ways.He would add an extra dose of athleticism to the frontcourt, as the Badgers only attempt alley-oops when Evans is on the receiving end. So the more he’s on the floor, the more avenues of scoring open up.But, alas, he has no outside shot, which doesn’t work all that well into Ryan’s philosophy of every player being able to more or less play every spot on the floor. He attempted three shots on the year and didn’t make any.He’s also got some defensive finesse, though. Despite playing a couple hundred minutes fewer than Jarmusz and Bruesewitz, Evans recorded six more blocks than those two combined and showed an ability for guarding the net in other ways as well.But, alas, he turns the ball over too much. Gasser, Bruesewitz and Nankivil turned the ball over no more than seven more times than Evans, despite playing hundreds of minutes more. Jarmusz turned it over 11 fewer times.The frontcourt could make or break next year’s Badgers. While UW will go through an overhaul, Michigan (which tied for fourth in the conference this past year) will likely return all of its starters. Michigan State will see all its big men return as well.Ohio State loses Dallas Lauderdale but keeps All-American Jared Sullinger and adds 6-foot-10 recruit Amir Williams. Purdue loses All-American JaJuan Johnson but welcomes the return of Robbie Hummel.Basketball is a game of giants. Let’s hope Wisconsin’s new-look front court stands tall.Elliot is a junior majoring in journalism. How do you feel about next year’s frontcourt? Who will step up for the Badgers? Send your thoughts to

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