There isn’t a team in the country that is consistently underrated the way that Wisconsin is consistently underrated.
It’s almost a rite of passage for the program: you don’t become a true Badger until the pundits decide you’re the reason that Wisconsin will struggle. Jared Berggren couldn’t replace Jon Leuer? Please. Jordan Taylor couldn’t replace Trevon Hughes? Did you see what Taylor did as a junior. Leuer helped Wisconsin overcome the loss of Brian Butch, who, along with Hughes and Marcus Landry, kept Wisconsin afloat when Alando Tucker used up his eligibility.
I could go on, but I’ll get to the point: I’m beginning to really regret leaving Wisconsin out of the preseason top 25.
Look, losing Taylor is going to mean that Bo Ryan’s club will have to make some major adjustments next season. Taylor wasn’t quite as good as a senior as he was as a junior, but that doesn’t change the fact that he played a ton of minutes as Wisconsin’s primary ballhandler and almost always was the guy counted on to make a play at the end of a clock.
But just because the Badgers have a new look doesn’t mean that they’ll be worse off.
Wisconsin returns four starters from last year’s team that won 26 games and finished one game off of the three-way tie for first place in the regular season standings. The guy that is projected to take over the point guard spot, Josh Gasser, has started 66 games in two seasons with the Badgers. Ben Brust has proven that he can be a streaky scorer, and freshman George Marshall has had a lot of people talk about his potential this summer.
And that’s before you factor in the big men. Berggren and Mike Breusewitz, once he gets healthy, are both veteran that have been through the battles with Wisconsin. Senior Ryan Evans will likely start as well, with talented freshman Sam Dekker providing major minutes off the bench. And now, Ryan is talking about sophomore center Frank Kaminsky like he’s also going to play a major role this season.
“He’s one of the most improved guys I’ve ever coached,” Ryan told ESPN.com. “He’s really doing some nice things. It’s going to be hard to keep him off the floor. He moves his body, he know how to move. He has a good feel for passing as a big and he’s knocking down the 3-pointer like crazy. He’s a big that can stretch and in the post he’s developed more than last year.”
I doubt Wisconsin’s streak of 11 straight NCAA tournaments will be snapped this season, but they’ve also finished four or higher in the Big Ten the last 11 seasons.
Will that continue this year as well?
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.