At times, it was incredibly difficult to watch Ben Brust on the court last season. He filled the role of a sharpshooter wing, but yet, shot just 30 percent from beyond the arc in conference play. He captured the attention of the UW faithful during non-conference play for his ability to light it up from downtown, but throughout the bulk of conference play and the Badgers' biggest games of the season, Brust was rarely much of a factor offensively.
Turn the page to this season and what you have is an entirely different basketball player. Yes, we're fresh off what may be the most memorable game of his career, but even before Brust nailed two big-time baskets against Michigan on Saturday, it was evident he's taken his game to a new level.
First and foremost, Brust has expanded his role on this Wisconsin team (17-7, 8-3 Big Ten). He's started all 24 games this season and averages a team-high 34 minutes per game. He jumped from averaging seven points per game last season to over 11 points per game in this 2012-13 season -- trailing only center Jared Berggren.
But look past the stat sheet, and Brust's biggest improvements from a year ago may be his ball-handling and leadership. Dribbling to his left -- or at all, sometimes -- resulted in poor ball-handling and turnovers all too often for Brust last season. The Badgers could not count on him to run the offense or drive in the lane, as he simply lacked the ability and confidence to control the offense on a consistent basis.
Defensively, Brust is not the same on-ball defender as guard Josh Gasser, but he's still made strides in that aspect of his game. And truthfully, it seems Brust is taking on the role of Gasser from last season -- at least offensively. In terms of minutes and what coach Bo Ryan asks of Brust, it reminds me of Gasser playing from the wing last season.
Wisconsin's offensive struggles have been well noted this season, but as of late it's been the Ben Brust Show. He's led the Badgers in scoring in their last three contests (20, 18 and 14).
I'm not anointing Ben Brust as the next great thing at Wisconsin, but sometimes we get so consumed by the current season we forget how far some of these players have really come.
Why Brust is no longer flying under the radar.
The Big Ten issued a statement on its newest recruiting rules.
Little off topic, but I'm curious to see your thoughts of these jerseys the Golden State Warriors will wear in an upcoming game. Personally, I think they're awful.