Badger Bits: Coping with Jordan Taylor's twilight

Jordan Taylor's game Thursday night against Syracuse in the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA Tournament could be the last of his career. Despite a solid senior season, he hasn't quite recaptured the magic of his junior campaign.

I remember when Jordan Taylor dropped 39 points on Indiana last season and I decided somewhere in the midst of his outburst that he was my favorite player to ever wear a Wisconsin basketball jersey. He scored 17 straight for Wisconsin at one point, with every shot seemingly coming with a hand in his face. It technically wasn't the greatest performance ever at Assembly Hall--he was one point shy off of Shawn Respert's 40 points in 1995--but it should have been.

There was a stat that season that was probably repeated too often, but it epitomized everything that was Taylor: His shooting percentage went up whenever he took a contested shot. This was supposed to show that he was "clutch" but really it meant something deeper and, in a way, scarier. It meant that his competitive aims had evolved way beyond the "we must win this game" team level into something more spiteful and sort of selfish where every possession was essentially another opportunity to tell someone "eff you." It was hard to tell whether he really relished the big moments or had started sabotaging the routine for their lack of challenge.

Fast forward to today, and on the eve of the Badgers' most important game of the season every preview of Wisconsin v. Syracuse sees fit to remind me that Jordan Taylor circa 2010-11 is gone. The numbers are down across the board--points, assists, rebound, etc.--and on a subjective level you've probably felt it too. Or, I should say haven't felt the anxious energy that happens when you know a 3-pointer is about to turn into an avalanche but have to wait another 20 minutes to be validated.

Against Vanderbilt, Taylor followed Jared Berggren with a contested three to put the Badgers up five points early in the second half. He missed his next four attempts from beyond the arc. They don't keep track of his shot percentage with a hand in his face anymore.

Taylor hasn't been bad; in fact he has been great. By far the most important player for Wisconsin this season. If I seem somewhat mushy it's because there is a more than fair chance that tonight will be the last time we see Taylor in a Wisconsin uniform. As someone in the "business" (I guess) I feel inclined to remind you that one of the great ones under Bo Ryan is about to leave us--whether tonight or in a couple weeks--so here you go.

As someone who was moved enough by Taylor's performance against Indiana at least enough to post about it on my Facebook wall, I'd just like to say that perhaps more than a Badger victory I'd like to see him go off one more time. It's a selfish thing, I know, but then again that's sort of what made me a fan in the first place.

Oh yeah links and stuff

SB Nation New York breaks down the frontcourt and backcourt matchups for tonight's game.

Mike Fiammetta of the Badger Herald talks with the Syracuse school newspaper equivalent of Mike Fiammetta and asks some good questions on tonight's game.

Your daily reminder that the 2-3 zone is tricky (via the Journal Sentinel).

In case you didn't think Syracuse had enough offensive weapons, you'll be happy to know that James Southerland is playing really well this postseason and has a well-groomed beard.

The Badgers have been getting standout performance lately from their role players. The Journal Sentinel rolled out profiles on two of them: Rejection as a motivator for Ryan Evans, and Ben Brust's acceptance of his role on the team.

Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician previews the game, and concludes that the Orange should be able to handle the Badgers whether they play at Bo Ryan's tempo or Jim Boeheim's.

Just because you probably ought to know, here's what Dickie V thinks.

Paul Grant joined the scout team in practice, just as Phil Mitten sagely predicted.

Not that he wasn't already motivated, but Bo Ryan will make BANK if he can somehow get Wisconsin into the Championship Game.

Wisconsin is playing in its fifth Sweet 16 in the last 10 seasons. Only four schools have been to more.

Barry Alvarez makes overtures to adjust the school's off-campus alcohol policy months after the John Chadima incident.

Reason # 1,000 why I hope the Badgers win tonight: Because without basketball we'll have nothing left to do but pick our butts over whether Danny O'Brien will be headed to Wisconsin. Speaking of which, here are a few reasons why O'Brien may be headed to UW (or some other schools) courtesy of SB Nation. (P.S. he's visiting this weekend.)

Shaka Smart WON'T be coaching Illinois next year.

So, uh, the Michigan basketball team exploded yesterday, with three players announcing departures and Trey Burke apparently now mulling over the NBA.

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