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Leuer returns just in time

If Wisconsin wants to have any chance of winning the Big Ten, it must win all five of its remaining games. With Ohio State's win at Illinois Sunday, the Buckeyes join Michigan State and Purdue in prime position to take the title. All three top teams still play one of the other top teams on the road once, which means it's likely all three will have at least four Big Ten losses.

The good news for Wisconsin is that it is done playing Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State. The bad news is that the Badgers already have four losses and can't afford any slip-ups.

That's why the return of Jon Leuer is so timely.

There's been no confirmation that the Badgers' 6-10 forward will play Thursday night at Minnesota, but Leuer says he is "game-ready" and all signs point to him at least coming off the bench against the Gophers.

A Thursday return would come right in the middle of the 4-6 week prognosis Bucky's 5th Quarter first reported Jan. 11.

Suddenly the Badgers remaining road games at Minnesota and at Illinois seem more manageable, which means UW could still realistically finish 14-4 and with a little help, earn a share of the Big Ten title.

Leuer's return also gives UW five regular season games to get ready for a deep postseason run. In some ways, his injury has helped Wisconsin. Both Keaton Nankivil and Jordan Taylor have improved immensely in the last nine games without Leuer. The junior forward's return will force opposing defenses to back off the guards a little bit, allowing Taylor, Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon more opportunities to penetrate, which has proven to make UW's offense more successful.

Leuer's 15.4 points per game won't hurt either.

Wisconsin's primary goal remains the same: win the Big Ten. That opportunity still exists and remains realistic with Leuer back in the lineup. However, his return also gives Wisconsin the ability to do much more than just win its conference.

Leuer is back just in time to make the next month or so very interesting for the Badgers.