Five things to watch in UW's exhibition opener

 
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Photo Courtesy UW Athletic Communications

When Bemidji State visits the Kohl Center Wednesday night it will mark the unofficial start to the UW men's basketball season. 

The exhibition games are always fun because they provide a sneak peak of this year's team and they at least give us a few hints as to who will play a major role in the outcome of this season. There is no danger of losing redshirt eligibilty so anyone can play and since UW will be playing a far inferior opponent you can expect to see a lot of the players who you might not see once the regular season gets underway.

But because of that, be cautious when you watch the game tonight. Here are a couple of things NOT to look for tonight:

  • The play of senior guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon. There's no question the growth and leadership of UW's oldest guards are huge for the Badgers this season, but Bemidji State does not provide the right canvas to judge whether or not Pop and J-Bo have made the neccessary strides.
  • Playing time/the rotation. Everyone will play against Bemidji State and Bo Ryan will try every possible combination of players. If a guy like redshirt freshman Ryan Evans plays 30 minutes Wednesday night, don't just assume he will be a major part of UW's rotation this season.

With that said, there are plenty of things we can look at against Bemidji State. Here are five things to watch for Wednesday night at the Kohl Center

  1. The starting lineup - Bo Ryan always downplays the significance of his starting five and he does so with good reason. Often the first and second players off the bench play larger roles than a couple of the starters. Still, it's fun to speculate and we should see the starting five Bo Ryan envisions for the regular season when the tip-off comes tonight. I expect to see Hughes, Bohannon, Tim Jarmusz, Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil.


  • Strides made by key players - While you shouldn't start assuming playing time based on what you see Wednesday night, it is OK to judge the strides some key players have made in the offseason. Leuer has gotten stronger, but will he show improved touch around the basket and a more consistent jump shot? Is Jim Jarmusz a more reliable offensive player this season? Can he create his own shots now? What about Jordan Taylor? Is he a more confident offensive player with a year under his belt? Has Rob Wilson worked hard enough off the court to earn a bigger role this season? Will he be an offensive spark off the bench and possibly contend for the sixth man of the year award?
    These are questions that certainly won't be answered Wednesday night, but we will at least get a chance to see these players in game-action and start to see the strides they have made since the spring.
  • The newcomers - Which freshmen will play key roles this season? The word out of Madison is that 6-10 redshirt freshman Jared Berggren is ready this season and won't be one of Bo Ryan's four year projects. What about Evans? The late-bloomer seems to have a ton of potential, but it's likely he will only receive the kind of minutes Wilson got last season as Ryan eases him into the rotation and gives him some experience during the non-conference season. Meanwhile, true freshman Mike Bruesewitz could get the kind of significant minutes Joe Krabbenhoft received as a freshman, although the coaching staff probably hopes those kinds of minutes aren't readily available because Krabbenhoft came into the program in a down year where Marcus Landry and Greg Steimsma were suspended and DeAaron Williams transferred out of the program.
    Again, we can't go jumping to conclusions based on what we see Wednesday night, but we have hardly seen any of these guys play, so it's one of the top storylines to pay attention to tonight.
  • The walk-ons - The fans can never appreciate the work the walk-ons do on the scout team and they hardly ever see them in person at the Kohl Center. Freshman Dan Fahey joins veterans Wquinton Smith and Brett Valentyn as walk-ons who only get to shine in front of the fans during the two exhibition games every season. Look for all three to get significant minutes late in the second half. 
  • The intangibles - New uniforms, new students, new cheerleaders and maybe even a new jacket for Bo. It's the first game of the year, and while the crowd will be smaller than usual, we'll get our first glance at the Kohl Center on game-night since last season.
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