As we continue to preview the upcoming season, today we take a look at the rebuilt Wisconsin frontcourt. All three of last year's starters -- Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil and Tim Jarmusz -- have graduated, so this fall will put the concept of "reloading" to the test. I don't think the Badgers are quite to that reloading stage yet, with each of the returnees averaging less than 5 ppg.
The outside shooting that the outgoing trio provided might never be duplicated in Madison. However, the group expected to fill the void may have a more diverse skill set collectively. In time, guys like Mike Bruesewitz and Evan Anderson will surely increase the level of toughness on Bo Ryan's team.
I wrote last week that Wisconsin's guards will carry the Badgers this year, but it's cyclical. The forwards and centers on this team may actually be more talented top to bottom, but there are going to be growing pains during the 2011-12 season.
#31 | Mike Bruesewitz, 6'6" Junior
The biggest question for most people regarding Bruesewitz after his good showing this August on a European tour with the East Coast All-Stars is which hair style he'll go with this season now that the ginger afro is gone. But consistency, not cornrows, is the key to Bruiser's junior year.
People sometimes forget that Bruesewitz struggled enough during his 13-game starting stint last season to be replaced by Jarmusz. He still managed to post the best shooting percentage (62.7%) and offensive rebounding rate (8.6) on the team in 2010-11 in just under 20 minutes per game. Not to mention his clutch contributions against Ohio State proved he can shoot the rock bit too.
The otherwise modest stat line Bruesewitz posted overall doesn't paint a full picture of the redhead's impact. Most importantly, Bruesewitz is the emotional sparkplug for UW. Every successful team needs a guy like this, and with Bruesewitz, Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser leading the way, the passion bucket is full for these Badgers. Because Bruesewitz played through injury so well in the three NCAA Tournament games (he doubled his scoring and rebounding averages to 8.7 and 6.3 respectively in over 26 mpg), we have every reason to believe he can sustain that energy in a full-time starting role.
#40 | Jared Berggren, 6'10" Junior
Jared Berggren is the second frontcourt player who must have a decent year for the Badgers to be successful. Bo Ryan is certainly high on Berggren's potential and thinks he's ready for a breakout year now that more minutes have become available.
Unfortunately fouls have limited Berggren's minutes thus far. He has to improve from a rate of 7.4 fouls committed per 40 minutes. The other problematic area, as with all of UW's young forwards, has been turnovers. If he can tighten that part of his game up, it will improve his offensive efficiency, which will be important since I expect him to be a high usage player this season.
If "Ice Berg" can stay on the floor, he can provide a true back to the basket threat, perhaps more so than Wisconsin has enjoyed the past few seasons. His footwork has improved greatly, as evidenced by his record-breaking results in agility drills, and he also is a threat to block a few shots defensively. Berggren should be a capable threat from long distance (32% as a redshirt sophomore) that opponents will have to respect. I bet they are all getting sick of that.
#5 | Ryan Evans, 6'6" Junior
Yet another fourth-year junior, Evans got a pass from me the last couple years because he was a late bloomer with potential. Well, now that potential must translate. Gone are the security blankets named Leuer and Jarmusz. It's been a relatively quiet off season for Evans from all accounts, but the staff needs someone to step up on the wing.
Evans has been called upon to be a defensive weapon in the past against such foes as Kyle Singler, Evan Turner and Tim Hardaway Jr. and performed admirably. In addition, when Evans played well offensively last season -- he loves playing Purdue for instance -- the Badgers usually fired on all cylinders. But the inexplicable mistakes still came a bit too often. And though reliable on straight-on 15-footers, his jump shot is still an adventure. With a freshman breathing down his neck, Evans is going to have to look the part of an upperclassmen this year to get regular burn.
#30 | Jarrod Uthoff, 6'8" Freshman
Uthoff is the ultimate boom-or-bust player for Ryan this year in the sense that he might not even play. The reigning Iowa Mr. Basketball weighs in at a skinny 200 lbs. and could potentially redshirt to give his body time to adjust to college competition. But if he doesn't sit out, some whispered during the off-season that he might be second-most skilled player on the team. And early returns confirm that. Ryan is already making comments about Uthoff similar to the ones he made about Gasser last year.
Having graduated from his floppy high school 'do to the standard issue Badger buzzcut, Uthoff has a versatile set of talents that will harken back to the recently departed player with whom he now shares a jersey number. From what I have witnessed, Uthoff is a very fluid player whose court vision really sets him apart from other forwards. It would be hard to keep him off the floor if he's ready physically. Comparisons are unfair, I know, but I cannot shake images of this kid turning into a Mike Wilkinson-type. It is yet unclear if his body is even capable of adding the strength needed to match Wilk's defensive prowess.
Off the bench
#32 | Evan Anderson, 6'10" Freshman
Mammoth in size and heart, Anderson's claim to fame on the court so far is leading the dance routine in the pregame huddle. Now he's eager to log some real minutes after a redshirt season. Given Berggren's history of foul trouble, Anderson is going to be needed for spot minutes at the 5 to clog the middle and grab rebounds. He has a surprisingly decent shooting touch, though overall his skills are still very raw. We may be looking at the next Dave Mader, or he may surprise us.
#13 | Duje Dukan, 6'8" Sophomore
Dukan is looking noticeably stronger than he did last year when he was a little-used reserve. He's more willing to mix it up now and that is a must for a player his size. Playing time will be scarce again, however, because of his defense and the talent still ahead of him on the depth chart. Assuming Ben Brust handles the role of sharpshooter this season, Dukan's ship probably won't come in this season. If he hopes to fill the Tim Jarmusz role one day, Dukan needs to be a better rebounder and more reliable with the ball.
#44 | Frank Kaminsky, 6'11" Freshman
Like Leuer, Kaminsky experienced a big growth spurt between his high school sophomore and junior seasons. He managed to retain some point guard skills at his current height, as evidenced by his part-time role last year at Benet Academy. Given how hard it is for big men to pick up defensive principles to Ryan's liking, I anticipate Kaminsky spending a redshirt year to get "strong like ox" and improve his footwork. Luckily his body is more Ian Markolf than Brian Butch coming in.
#34 | Zach Bohannon, 6'6" Junior
***A transfer from the Air Force Academy, J-Bo's physical "little" bro will sit out this season and will be eligible to play as a redshirt junior next fall.***
See other preview posts on B5Q: Part One - Guards | Bo Ryan quotes from Media Day