2011 College Basketball: Wisconsin Badgers Predictions and Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 11/3/2011
Unless you are a Wisconsin alum, from the Big Ten, or a former coach, you probably don’t much enjoy watching the Wisconsin Badgers play basketball. Since Bo Ryan arrived as coach, they are always good and pretty much a lock to contend in the Big Ten and win couple of games in the NCAA Tournament, but they surely don’t win pretty.
Need proof? Exhibit A was UW’s Big Ten Tournament opener against Penn State last season, a 36-33 Wisconsin loss that set offensive basketball back decades (it was 18-2 Lions after 10 minutes).
When is the last time you saw a team win a game when its leading scorer had nine points like PSU’s Talor Battle did? That total of 69 points broke the Big Ten Tournament record for fewest points by a whopping 16 – and of course Wisconsin was involved in that one too.
UW went 13-5 in Big Ten regular-season play to finish third before getting bounced in its tournament opener. UW, as a No. 4 seed, advanced to the Sweet 16 of the Big Dance but lost to eventual finalist Butler to finish 25-9.
2011-12 Wisconsin Basketball Key Additions/Losses
The losses were heavy for Wisconsin, with three starters – the entire frontcourt – departing. Jon Leuer is easily the biggest loss, as he averaged a team-high 18.3 points per contest and also led the team with 7.2 rebounds per game. No other player on the team averaged more than 4.2 rebounds. And the player who averaged those 4.2, Keaton Nankivil, is also gone. Leuer and Nankivil also led the team in blocks. Tim Jarmusz is the other departed starter.
Overall, the Badgers will be looking to replace 46.0 percent of the minutes played last season.
As for key additions, there really aren’t any expected to make a huge impact who didn’t suit up for at least some games last year.
Ryan doesn’t really lure top recruits, so the freshman most likely to have some role is actually redshirt freshman center Evan Anderson. But the 6-foot-10 Anderson was only honorable mention all-state as a senior in high school. But Wisconsin will at least need his size.
2011-12 Wisconsin Badgers Basketball Outlook
Perhaps no preseason Top 25 team – UW is No. 15 in the AP poll – will rely more on one player than the Badgers will on senior point guard Jordan Taylor, who is probably the best at his position in the nation. Taylor was an All-Big Ten pick last year and second-team All-American after leading the nation with a 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio. He averaged 18.1 ppg and 4.7 assists per game overall and was third in the Big Ten in averaging 20.1 ppg in conference play.
Taylor was one of five players named to this season’s AP preseason All-America first team, the only senior on the squad and only the second Badger to get that honor (Michael Finley).
Also back is fellow starting guard Josh Gasser. He averaged just 5.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists in nearly 29 minutes a game. And his 30.2 percentage from three-point range must improve. But Gasser showed some good signs, including recording the first triple-double in UW history with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a late January game at Northwestern. He was the first Big Ten freshman with a triple-double since some guy named Earvin Johnson in 1977.
The other key returnees are forward Mike Bruesewitz, who started 13 games and averaged 19.9 minutes per game last season (he will slide into Leuer’s spot), small forward Ryan Evans, guard Rob Wilson and center Jared Berggren. Wilson is probably the first player off the bench unless Ryan wants to start a three-guard lineup at times.
The Badgers will return 53.6 percent of their scoring, 54.7 percent of their rebounding and 68.8 percent of their assists from 2010-11.
You know this team will be fundamentally sound because it always is. For example, last season Wisconsin led the nation turnovers per game (NCAA-record at just 7.6) and free-throw percentage (81.8 percent).
2011-12 Wisconsin Badgers Basketball Schedule
Certainly the toughest stretch of UW’s nonconference schedule comes starting Nov. 30 at top-ranked North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, followed by a game vs. preseason No. 21 Marquette a few days later.
The Badgers also play 2011 NCAA Tournament teams UNLV and Wofford and might also face tourney team BYU depending on how the holiday Chicago Invitational shakes out. Including Big Ten play, and if BYU and Wisconsin meet in the final of that holiday tournament, UW has 15 games scheduled against teams from last year’s Big Dance.
The Badgers open Big Ten play on Dec. 27 by welcoming Nebraska to the conference, as the football program did. With the new 12-team Big Ten, the Badgers will face four conference schools just once in the regular season: Michigan, Purdue, Northwestern and Indiana.
I highly recommend you not bet against Wisconsin when the Badgers are at home. In 10 seasons under Ryan, Wisconsin is 152-11 (.933) overall at the Kohl Center and 78-6 (.929) in Big Ten games there. UW enters the season on a 19-game home winning streak. Its last loss was on Feb. 9, 2010, against Illinois. That is UW’s only loss to an unranked Big Ten opponent at home under Ryan and its only home loss to any unranked team in the past five years.
2011-12 Wisconsin Predictions for College Basketball
Wisconsin is the third-favorite at 4/1 on Bodog to win the Big Ten and projected by the media and coaches to finish second in the conference to Ohio State.
That seems a bit high for me, but isn’t out of the question if Taylor stays healthy. If he gets hurt, things could go badly downhill in a hurry with no other proven go-to player.
UW is 55/1 to win the national championship, and that’s just not going to happen. Another Sweet 16 trip is probably the best that can be expected.
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