As evidenced by the tiebreaker rules of Sunday's Red/White Scrimmage -- reserve forward Duje Dukan clinched a White Squad victory in a half-court shooting contest -- serious early-season judgements of the Wisconsin Badgers are still largely premature.
Almost everybody looked good -- stats, by the way, were not officially kept -- and we've previously been burned by over-evaluating things before getting even a sniff of Big Ten competition. George Marshall was impressive (he will assuredly be exciting to watch), Traevon Jackson unveiled a lights-out mid-range jumper and Ben Brust was notably aggressive, perhaps trying to push himself out of the "purely a sharpshooter" role.
But if you take a step back from it all -- the score was reset at halftime at the request of head coach Bo Ryan, telling us all we should know about the seriousness of the scrimmage -- you'll see not much as changed in the battle for the Badgers' starting point guard spot since Josh Gasser was lost for the year with a torn ACL. Neither Marshall, Jackson nor Brust did anything to really distance himself, and Ryan confirmed as much in saying he has not yet decided on a starter.
"I think with what we're running, it's so ironic that what we're doing, if we're going to lose a point guard like a Josh, actually we're better off now than we would have been, say, losing Jordan [Taylor]," Ryan said. "Just what we were practicing, if you lose a Jordan or a Trevon Hughes, or even when Devin [Harris] played, so to speak, at point guard. But now, with what we've been running, the parts are so interchangeable that hopefully we're not going to miss too much. We'll miss some, but you've just got to minimize that."
If anything, I think we can expect some tinkering with the rotations in non-conference season. Certainly more so than the past couple of years, which have seen Ryan stick with a relatively vanilla lineup into Big Ten play. Perhaps Marshall will start and Brust will aid him in that role, while Jackson contributes as a spot-up shooter and defensive chaser.
"He's got a good shot," Ryan said of Jackson, whose on-ball defense was also pretty impressive. "Especially that pull-up jumper, that's his shot. Both he and Ben and George, they have scoring ability, some in different ways."
Some other quotes and thoughts from Sunday's scrimmage:
-- Despite the ongoing competition at the spot, Marshall seems like UW's most natural point guard. He will have to be smart with the ball and a strong defensive player to see consistent early minutes, though his outside shot looked strong and he seemed vocal enough to potentially be a solid leader.
"Josh is a big loss," Marshall said. "He's a leader, so when he went down, I felt like there would be a lot more responsibility on me and the other guards."
A quick follow-up question asked if Marshall was ready for that leadership role, to which he responded, "I'm definitely ready. I was ready before [Gasser] went out."
-- Zach Bohannon, the junior forward who sat out last year after transferring from Air Force, was impressive in crashing the boards and scoring points off offensive rebounds. Bohannon is experienced and figures to be a potential Bo Ryan Favorite, but he has a crowded core of forwards to leapfrog for playing time.
"That's the one thing that I hope I can bring to coach Ryan when he gives me an opportunity to play," Bohannon said of his hustle and offensive rebounds. "I just want to be efficient out there and know that I don't have a lot of opportunities to shoot. I know that I'm not going to be priority No. 1 to score. I know I'm going to be able to take the open shot when it's there, but besides that I know my role is going to be really limited from an offensive standpoint. So I know that if I want to get some points, I've got to make sure I get on the offensive glass."
-- Ryan on post-Gasser life: "Guys are making a statement every time we compete. There'll be things from [the scrimmage] that either help or hurt a guy minute-wise, so to speak. But as we tell them, that's life. It's going to be that way on their job, too. Performance still gets rewarded."
-- Ryan also praised sophomore Frank Kaminsky, who has shown flashes of marked improvement from last season.
"He's got a great feel," Ryan said. "And he didn't even shoot it as well as I think he's going to some times, some games, from the outside. He's got a nice touch; you see the rotation, you see the elbow lift. And he's a good passer."