MU/UW Hoops First Impressions
It is early, really early to begin making definitive statements about the two major Division 1 hoops teams in Wisconsin. It is not too early to share some first impressions.
Strengths — The 2010-11 squad has more depth and athleticism than any team MU has brought to the floor since at least 2003. The team is loaded with potential, although unfortunately potential is a word that means you haven’t accomplished what needs to be accomplished quite yet. Jimmy Butler is an excellent player, perhaps MU’s next NBA candidate. National JUCO player of the year Jae Crowder is a great addition, and coupled with Darius Johnson-Odom should provide the team with three consistent scorers (an absolute necessity to win games consistently). Freshman Vander Blue is an outstanding defender whose offensive game will mature with time. Davante Gardner, all 6’8” and 290 pounds of him. has been a pleasant surprise as a post scorer with excellent hands and a soft touch around the basket.
Weaknesses: The Golden Eagles remain a relatively poor rebounding team despite their increased size. Poor 3-point shooting has hindered the team early and it is imperative that Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, or someone else step up as a consistent outside shooter. The point guard play needs to improve, and installing Junior Cadougan as the starter at point needs to occur soon.This team has lots of youth and inexperience, and Coach Buzz Williams is obviously still searching for the most effective player combinations.
Outlook: Two tough losses to Duke (82-77) and Gonzaga (66-63) demonstrated how close the team is to becoming a Top-25 team. Nonetheless, the games were losses and two wonderful opportunities to gain a signature out-of-conference win were missed. Upcoming games against quality opponents Wisconsin and Vanderbilt will say much about the progress of this team prior to Big East Conference play.
Strengths: The Badgers have a legitimate NBA 2011 first round draft pick in Jon Leuer and a tough combo guard in Jordan Taylor. Keaton Nankovil and Mike Breusewitz are solid inside players, and Ryan Evans provides UW with an ultra-athletic defender and rebounder. Port Washington’s freshman Josh Gasser has been a pleasant surprise in the backcourt and has provided a nice influx of outside shooting and ballhandling.
Weaknesses: Bo Ryan’s squad are rarely noted for their quickness, and this group is certainly slower than most. It will be difficult to give Taylor much rest due to a lack of depth in the backcourt and the team is a little light on ballhandlers. The team will need a consistent scorer to go with Jon Leuer and Taylor (Nankovil or Josh Gasser?) and without balanced scoring it will be difficult to beat the top teams in the Big 10.
Outlook: Wisconsin struggled with the athleticism of UNLV in their first real test of the year. Upcoming games in the Old Spice Challenge, and non-conference games against NC State and Marquette, will tell much about the Badgers and their preparedness for what looks like a strong Big Ten Conference. Can Gasser keep up his fine play as the schedule becomes more challenging? Will Nankovil’s shot stay consistent, and can someone provide an offensive spark when teams focus on slowing Taylor and Leuer? Ryan’s teams typically mature quickly, which is a good thing considering the Big Ten opener against Minnesota is looking more difficult after the Gophers recent wins over North Carolina and West Virginia.