Wisconsin met a legitimate contender in Florida on Wednesday night, and now the Badgers must decide how much influence the 74-56 loss should have on the rest of their season.
Ed. note: Apologies on the late Badger Bits this morning. We intend these posts to be your fill of morning links, but perhaps this one can occupy your lunch break.
Whether you believe Florida exceeded its No. 10 ranking or Wisconsin failed to live up to its No. 22 standing, Wednesday night's 74-56 loss to the Gators has provided an intriguing opportunity for early-season evaluation.
Did the Gators, buoyed by 24 points on 10-of-10 shooting from forward/center Erik Murphy, simply run away with the result we all should've expected? Badgers fans have become infatuated with the promise of Sam Dekker, George Marshall, Traevon Jackson and the like, and Dekker did share the team lead with 11 points. Jackson added eight of his own on 3-of-5 shooting (including 2-of-4 from 3-point range), and looked pretty sharp in his 19 minutes on the floor. Marshall, perhaps taking on the toughest role in being the first to have a shot at replacing Josh Gasser at point guard, managed only three points on 1-of-5 shooting and three assists.
But after the game, head coach Bo Ryan lamented Wisconsin's defense, which allowed Florida to shoot nearly 62 percent from the floor (26-of-42) and reach the foul line 20 times. Three Gators reached double figures, while three others scored at least eight points each.
What disappointed UW coach Bo Ryan coach the most was his players not sticking to UW's rules on how they were supposed to defend the Gators on high screens, particularly in the first half.
"I don't hang my players out, but the thing that we worked on, we did the opposite," Ryan said. "And it was younger guys who need to learn. It was a great experience for them now, because they will know why we do things the way we do them. Showed a weakness in that area that we have to get better."
That's all well and good, and it's what you'd expect from the Badgers defense-oriented head coach. But in the face of a Florida offense that was pretty obviously faster and more effective, Wisconsin had no answer. Ryan Evans managed only seven points (on 3-of-11 shooting) in a team-high 30 minutes on the floor. Perhaps he was heavily tied up on the defensive end, but that made Berggren the only viable offensive contributor among UW's starting five.
The Badgers also went just 7-of-24 (29.2 percent) from 3-point range, echoing some of the tougher moments of last season in which the offense seemed so reliant on the outside shot. You have to believe a team with shooters like Ben Brust, Jackson and Marshall, not to mention big men that can step out and shoot like Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz, will not experience so many more weak shooting efforts.
Simply put, the Badgers' lack of a go-to scorer seemed pretty glaring. Two games into the season, it's not a cause for concern. But in the post-Gasser, post-Jordan Taylor era, Wisconsin's offense has quite a few answers to find before Big Ten play approaches.
Thursday Lunch Links:
- Jim Polzin of the State Journal plays the "what if" game. As well as the absence of Gasser, he cites the Badgers having not yet played on the road this season as an important factor to keep in mind.
- As Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, the Big Ten has signed an agreement with the ACC and the Orange Bowl that will include the conference with the SEC and Notre Dame as opponents for the ACC champion in the Orange Bowl beginning after the 2014 season.
- Bret Bielema has said several times that Wisconsin could've been a national championship contender had cornerback Devin Smith not been lost for the season. But on the flipside, had Smith played, the Badgers would have entered this season without a returning starter at cornerback. Tom Mulhern of the State Journal profiles Smith's strong 2012 season.
- Montee Ball, as you might've heard, is one score shy of tying the NCAA's career touchdown record. ESPN Wisconsin's Tom Lea chats with running backs coach Thomas Hammock as Ball approaches history.
- UW Athletics put together this pretty awesome video tribute to Ball's career at Wisconsin: