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November 12, 2007
Big Ten Preview
Teams, Part Two

by John Gasaway



What Northwestern did well: Take care of the ball for a change.

Northwestern should be the kind of team that has no trouble holding on to the ball. It goes slowly and shoots more threes than any other team in the Big Ten. Yet two seasons ago, strangely and disastrously, Bill Carmody’s team gave the ball away on more than 21 percent of its possessions in conference play. For many teams that percentage of turnovers would be merely annoying. For the Wildcats, playing a Princeton-styled offense that eschews offensive rebounds entirely, that number was lethal.

So the good news (yes, there was good news in 2007) is that NU was able to plug this particular leak last year. Carmody’s men cut down on their turnovers significantly, giving the ball away on fewer than 19 percent of their possessions in conference games.

The bad news, however, is that new leaks were springing everywhere you looked in Evanston.

What we learned in 2007: Taking care of the ball doesn’t matter if you can’t make shots.

The Wildcats in 2007 were the worst three-point shooting team in the Big Ten, yet they shot more threes than any other team in the conference. That is one really bad combination.

Craig Moore, Carmody’s most frequent shooter from outside, made just 33 percent of his threes, and that figure was above average for this group. Take away Moore and Kevin Coble and the rest of the team hit just 28 percent of its treys. The result of all those misfires was predictable and profound: even though it took care of the ball, Northwestern’s offense fell off a cliff last year and was in fact the worst in the entire Big Ten. In a conference with the Minnesota and Illinois offenses struggling the way they did in 2007, “worst” is saying something.

Speaking of falling off a cliff, the defense in Evanston last year also took a plunge. Indeed, if not for that hearty perennial known as Penn State’s freakishly-permissive defense, the Wildcats would have had both the Big Ten’s worst offense and its worst defense. Can any of the above change this year?

What’s in store for 2008: Thanks to Tim Doyle and the official scorer (in that order), nearly 72 percent of NU’s field goals last year came off of assists, the best such figure in the nation. Now, however, Doyle has graduated, so discussions of the Wildcats must henceforth begin and end with 6’9” sophomore Kevin Coble. No other player in the Big Ten is as important to his team as Coble is to Northwestern. In fact, it’s not even close. Without Coble, the possibility of an 0-18 season would merit discussion.

So there’s an eloquent symmetry to the fact that Coble has chosen to take a leave of absence from the team. He’s in Phoenix with his mother, Carlys, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. I think no player in the Big Ten is more important to his team than Coble. Coble thinks no team is more important than his mother. He’s right. His actions bespeak a true understanding of importance. Salute.

Why is Coble so valuable? Forget the obvious stylistic dissimilarities: the player who most closely resembles Coble on paper is 2007 first-round draft pick and former Ohio State Buckeye Daequan Cook. Coble and Cook both entered the Big Ten as precocious freshmen last year, and both combined excellence on the defensive glass with proven (if, in Cook’s case, sporadic) three-point range. Consider: last year Coble was a better defensive rebounder than D.J. White, a better three-point shooter than Jamar Butler, and he recorded steals at a higher rate than Travis Walton. In fact, it’s not inconceivable that we could see his name being called out on a draft night at some point. No fooling, though it will depend in part on exactly how tall he really is. He’s been listed variously as 6’8”, 6’9” and 6’10”.

Moreover, Coble’s particular talents are, to greater or lesser degrees, both unique on and essential to this particular team. Most obviously, he’s far and away the best defensive rebounder on a team for which every defensive rebound is a precious commodity. There is quite literally no one else. He’s also the best three-point shooter on a team that shoots a ton of threes. Lastly, with the possible exception of fellow sophomore Jeremy Nash, he’s the most prolific generator of steals on a team that has feasted on its opponents’ turnovers throughout the Carmody era. (Sterling Williams and Jeff Ryan, for example, at least offset their missed shots with a lot of steals--though, to be sure, Williams has both more misses and fewer steals than Ryan does.) In short, the loss of Coble is huge. His absence leaves a gaping hole on a team that was going to struggle even if he were present and accounted for.

If by some chance Coble is able to return, Northwestern could present a nice little case study in tipping-point hoops: as bad as it was last year, this team could still score a reasonable number of points. We know NU will shoot a lot of threes and we know it won’t get any offensive rebounds. So assuming it can again hold on to the ball, it would simply be a matter of how many threes Moore and Coble will hit. The best bet for additional perimeter help may be senior Jason Okrzesik who, along with everyone else on the team not named Coble, suffered through a miserable season of outside shooting last year, but whose team-best FT percentage hints at better possibilities. Additional help in the backcourt this year will come from Michael Thompson, a 5’10” freshman point guard from Chicago.

The Wildcats’ defense, on the other hand, doesn’t show as much potential for improvement. The challenge for Carmody on D is two-fold. First, his team has to force opponents to shoot threes instead of twos. NU’s conference foes made more than 54 percent of their twos last year, a figure that represented a small but significant erosion in interior defense from the previous season. With a team as small as Carmody’s, that weakness figures to continue--the best counter-measure is simply to coax opponents into jacking up threes instead.

That is all well and good, but assuming your opponent misses that three, you still need to get the rebound. That is something the Wildcats were utterly unable to do last year, as their defensive rebounding was far and away the worst in the Big Ten. Part of that is beyond correction, for this is a small team playing zone: clearly there’s a ceiling on how good its defensive rebounding is going to be. That said, it has to improve. Perhaps one or both of the 6’8” redshirt freshmen--Ivan Peljusic and Nikola Baran--or 6’6” freshman Mike Capocci can be of some help here. Carmody will want to find out.


What Ohio State did well: Combine talent and skill with a bit of luck to make one great season.

Ohio State was indisputably a dominant team in 2007. Going 15-1 in the Big Ten and 35-4 overall, the national championship runners-up had three freshmen taken in the first round of the subsequent NBA draft. That’s dominant.

Still, it never hurts to be lucky. For example, 15-1 Ohio State outscored its conference opponents by a smaller margin per possession than did Kansas (14-2 in the Big 12), Georgetown (13-3 in the Big East) or even North Carolina (11-5 in the ACC) did. In addition to the infamous, and controversial, overtime win against Xavier in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes also needed a Greg Oden block in the final seconds to preserve a one-point win over Tennessee in the Sweet 16.

It’s a teachable lesson. Even when your team is blessed with NBA-level talent, you still need the ball to bounce your way. Ask Bill Self.

What we learned in 2007: Stereotypes can be wrong.

When Daequan Cook joined teammates Greg Oden and Mike Conley in declaring for the NBA draft, the varied reactions that the three freshmen received were instructive. Oden’s declaration was greeted with little more than a collective shrug. No one in his or her right mind thought a player projected to be the number-one pick overall would return for another season of college basketball.

On the other hand, while no one is going out of the way now to resurrect this vein of talk, the fact is that even the idea of Conley leaving after one year, much less Cook doing so, was initially greeted with some skepticism. See for instance the Columbus Dispatch the week after the national championship game: “Should Mike Conley and Daequan Cook leave too? No.” Still, if Conley’s decision was doubted by some, Cook’s declaration for the draft was flat-out ridiculed. The freshman from Dayton appeared to many to be the very essence of an all-too-familiar stereotype: the talented teenager divorced from reality, likely receiving bad counsel from those around him. Indeed, one national commentator went so far as to compile a list of ten “knuckleheads” who’d allegedly declared too early. Cook, in this commentator’s estimation, was nothing less than “the mayor” of “Knucklehead City.”

By now, you know the punch line. The knucklehead was the 21st pick. Shaq and D-Wade are his teammates now. That’s not to say Cook is a shoo-in for the All-Star Game anytime soon, mind you, but merely that his decision to go into the draft proved to be the correct one. This time the stereotype didn’t fit--or didn’t matter. This particular ambitious and petulant teenager happened to have a striking combination of skills.

Even with a late-season shooting slump, Cook left Columbus having made 42 percent of his threes. Also note that, despite reports that shooting is “the only thing Cook does well,” the fact of the matter is that he was a monster on the defensive glass. Just five players--Oden, Brian Butch, Marquise Gray, Shaun Pruitt and Courtney Sims--were better among Big Ten hoopsters. Stereotypes or no, those two facts together will always get you some interest from the NBA.

What’s in store for 2008: Maybe way back last fall, when he was putting the finishing touches on this recruiting class, Thad Matta fully expected that both Oden and Cook would be gone by now. How else to explain the boatload of talent 6'6" or taller in this class? However, Matta may not have envisioned that Mike Conley would be gone already. There was no point guard in this group of new arrivals until junior college transfer P.J. Hill was signed at the 11th hour in late August. As a result Ohio State this year looks loaded in the frontcourt but pretty thin in the backcourt: only Jamar Butler returns. In fact, the senior from Lima, Ohio, represents something of a one-man archaeological exhibit where Buckeye guards are concerned.

Butler became a starter in February of his freshman year, when new coach Matta decided to bench Tony Stockman and Brandon Fuss-Cheatham in favor of Butler and Je’Kel Foster. Butler played point that year and the next but then functioned as a “combo” guard last year alongside point guard Conley and third guard Ron Lewis. So it will be interesting to watch Butler this year. He never looked entirely comfortable last year, and indeed his offensive efficiency, not merely the sheer volume of his points, took a hit after a beautiful 2006 that looked a lot like Drew Neitzel’s year in 2007: plenty of made threes along with plenty of assists. If Butler can reprise that performance this year, it would give this young team a huge lift.

Not that Butler will be the only graybeard on the roster this season. Joining him will be fellow senior Othello Hunter, who thrived on the periphery of all that talent last year, playing at a level of offensive efficiency better than that of any of his more illustrious teammates. With a bigger role in the offense this year, the 6’9” Hunter won’t be that efficient again, of course, but there’s no question the talent is there. For one thing, he was the best offensive rebounder in the Big Ten last year.

Needless to say, Ohio State’s interior defense will suffer in Oden’s absence, but don’t cry for Matta just yet. Hunter is a solid interior defender, and even senior Matt Terwilliger has been known to block a shot now and then. Also helping the defense will be the presence of sophomore David Lighty, who at 6’5” has proven he’s capable of defending multiple positions. While Lighty’s performance on offense during the regular season last year can be charitably described as "unremarkable," he did have a nice little spurt during the tournament. TOSU fans hope that continues.

As for the new arrivals, the Buckeyes’ most highly-touted recruit is McDonald’s All-American Kosta Koufos, a seven-footer out of Canton billed as having precociously well-developed perimeter skills. He certainly put up big numbers over the summer playing for Greece at the U-18 European Championships in Madrid. Koufos is merely the tip of another Matta recruiting iceberg, one that includes high-scoring 6’6” guard Jon Diebler, 6’6” wing Evan Turner, 6’5” wing Eric Wallace, the aforementioned 6’1” junior college transfer P.J. Hill and 6’8” shot-blocker Dallas Lauderdale. Add in 6’10” Vanderbilt transfer Kyle Madsen, and it shapes up to be another very young, very talented Ohio State team.


What Penn State did well: Make threes and hit the offensive glass.

In conference games the Nittany Lions were above the 2007 Big Ten average in terms of accuracy from beyond the arc (37 percent) and rebounding their misses (35.3 offensive rebound percentage).

That was it, as far as good news, for a team that went 2-14 in the Big Ten.

What we learned in 2007: With apologies to Newton: A defense at rest tends to stay at rest, unless acted upon by an external force.

Penn State’s defense was horrible the year before last. Then again, the Nittany Lions did beat Illinois in Champaign that season, back when that still impressed people. Coming into 2007 there was therefore talk of a possible NCAA tournament bid, maybe even (true story) a Big Ten title. All this despite the fact that Penn State had seen no major changes in personnel. So guess what happened?

Penn State’s defense was horrible last year.

Worst Big Ten defenses, 2005-07
Opponent points per possession, conference games only

Penn State, 2007     1.19 
Penn State, 2005     1.14 
Penn State, 2006     1.13

Northwestern, 2007   1.10  

In its way, this was a remarkable performance. No other major-conference team last year exhibited, for good or ill on offense or on defense, the same level of across-the-board consistency that Penn State demonstrated--for ill; very, very ill--on defense. Looking at the six major defensive categories, we find that over the course of the conference season the Nittany Lions ranked either ninth (opponent turnover percentage), tenth (defensive rebound percentage) or dead last (opponent points per possession, opponent effective FG percentage, opponent 2FG percentage, and opponent 3FG percentage) in every category.

The problem here wasn’t effort, at least not exclusively. Coach Ed DeChellis’s men fared well enough in the effort stats on offense, such as offensive boards. Rather, the fatal flaw, if there is just one, is something even more incorrigible and intractable: these are simply short guys, and opponents just shoot over them. For the second year in a row, Penn State’s Big Ten foes made a higher percentage of their two-point shots than did the conference opponents of any other major-conference team in the nation.

What’s in store for 2008: The question looking forward is simply this: will added depth this year (see below) help this defense?

It could, but it’s certainly not a given. For one thing, it’s not as if Penn State faded down the stretch last year. Its defense was what it was pretty much the whole season. Opponents scored 1.20 points per possession over the first eight games of the conference season and 1.18 over the last eight games.

Still, more bodies should allow for more effort. DeChellis has been talking for at least two years now about wanting to play more man-to-man. This may be the season we see it happen. Even so, the best-case scenario for a defense this small is still to be below-average. The offense will need to score a lot of points when it gets the ball.

Penn State will once again be led this year by its two past winners of the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award: 6’5” wing Geary Claxton (the 2005 winner) and 6’5” forward Jamelle Cornley (2006). Last year, for the second season in a row, Claxton missed a ton of shots, and for the second year in a row he made up for it, to an extent, by being an absolute beast on the offensive glass. Cornley is more accurate in his shooting but less beastly in his offensive rebounding. Net result: Claxton and Cornley function at about the same level of offensive efficiency, via different means.

The concern with both Claxton and Cornley is fatigue. Cornley, who’s currently sidelined with a bruised knee, played an astonishing 90 percent of his team’s possible minutes last year. Claxton missed the first four games of the season with an injury and then eased into the year with some reduced minutes in the first few games, otherwise his mileage might have come close to Cornley’s. If this year’s added depth can help keep these two mainstays a little bit fresher through February, all the better. Note that while the defense didn’t fade down the stretch last year, the offense did a little, going from 1.06 points per possession over the first half of the Big Ten season to 0.98 over the second half.

Speaking of handy two-player Penn State cognitive units, behold shooting guards Mike Walker and Danny Morrissey. Walker, the starter last year, exited 2007 stage-left in rather spectacular fashion, scaring the wits out of Illinois fans everywhere by hitting 7-of-11 threes and scoring 22 points in the Nittany Lions’ opening-round six-point loss to the Illini in the Big Ten tournament. Over the season as a whole, however, Morrissey was the better shooter, hitting 44 percent of his threes and posting one of the best effective FG percentages in the entire Big Ten. Still, Morrissey is more turnover-prone and less prolific in his assists than Walker is, and thus the two teammates, like Claxton and Cornley, possess differing strengths yet net out to roughly the same level of offensive efficiency.

DeChellis figures to have more choices elsewhere on the floor this year, though none of those choices looks to be particularly long or large. In the wake of Milos Bogetic’s decision this past spring to transfer, Brandon Hassell is, at 6’11”, the Nittany Lions’ lone regular who’s taller than 6’8”. Additional minutes in the frontcourt will be absorbed by true freshman Jeff Brooks, a 6’8” small forward; Schyler King, a 6’6” junior college transfer; and 6’8” redshirt freshman Andrew Jones. (David Jackson, a 6’6” redshirt freshman, is currently sidelined with a stress fracture.) As for the backcourt, last year’s starter at point guard, Ben Luber, is gone, and his minutes will now go to Talor Battle, a 5’11” freshman, and Stanley Pringle, a 6’1” junior college transfer. It will be up to all of the above to try to change the vexing defensive inertia that has prevailed of late in Happy Valley.


What Purdue did well: Put impressive offensive talent on the floor.

Imagine drawing a Purdue fan aside a year ago and saying something like:

“I can see into the future and I’m here to tell you that in 2007 Carl Landry will come back from his knee surgery and be every bit as outstanding as he was in 2005: undersized tenacity, improbably beautiful scoring efficiency, the works. Plus he’ll get to the line even more often in ’07. Speaking of 2005 and vintage players returning from really nasty knee injuries, David Teague will be back too, only this time he’ll have an outside shot. Seriously, he’s going to hit 41 percent of his threes, and he won’t even be the best perimeter shooter on this team. That’s going to be Chris Lutz, to the tune of 47 percent. Oh, and did I mention the part where Lutz is going to drive and score going one-on-one against Joakim Noah in the NCAA tournament?”
Your hypothetical Purdue fan would probably have shouted with glee. With good reason, given the Boilermakers’ 9-19 season in 2006.

What we learned in 2007: Impressive offensive talent doesn’t necessarily translate into an impressive offense.

For all of the accurate shooting displayed by Landry, Teague and Lutz, Purdue’s offense was actually a hair below the Big Ten average last year. The Boilers turned the ball over with some frequency, ranking just eighth in the Big Ten in their ability to hold on to the ball in conference play. Even more damaging was the steep--make that vertical--drop-off in success that occurred when anyone not named “Landry,” “Teague” or “Lutz” took a shot, or indeed handled the ball. For whatever reason, the Boilermaker offense was something less than the sum of its parts in 2007.

What’s in store for 2008: Matt Painter has landed a nationally ranked recruiting class, so coming off last year’s trip to the tournament, hopes are higher in West Lafayette than they’ve been in quite some time. There’s going to be an adjustment period, however, as the new era gets rolling. Indeed, the traditional concerns voiced with any young team--big shoes to fill, young guys “stepping up,” etc.--would appear, for once, to be eminently well justified.

As seen above, Landry and Teague weren’t just their team’s leading scorers last year. They were also, along with Lutz, far and away Painter’s most efficient options on offense. In the absence of Landry and Teague (and for that matter Lutz, who transferred to Marshall), the possessions and the shots will, inevitably, fall to players who are either brand new or who were much less successful in their offensive endeavors for Purdue last year. Subtract Landry, Teague and Lutz, and you’re looking at a group that made just 47 percent of its twos and 29 percent of its threes.

Still, that group was able to help the team in other ways. In fact, there may not have been another player in the Big Ten last year who better exemplified his team’s primary strength than did Purdue’s Chris Kramer. In 2007, the Boilermakers’ otherwise average defense was able to achieve results that were actually very good thanks to the fact that Painter’s men were so inordinately successful at getting opponents to cough up the ball. It was Kramer leading the charge here, recording steals at a rate higher than any other player in the Big Ten, higher even than Mike Conley’s rate--and that’s saying something.

Last year, Purdue’s conference opponents turned the ball over on 24 percent of their possessions. That, and some nifty defensive rebounding, formed pretty much the sum total of the defense, because the Boilers’ conference opponents actually shot a hair better from the field than did Purdue. So it will be important, maybe even crucial, that Kramer continue his felonious ways, for Landry and Teague, in addition to being the best options on offense, were also two of Painter’s three best defensive rebounders.

The third member of this triumvirate on the defensive glass was 6’6” forward Gordon Watt. He’s gone, too, kicked off the team by Painter in October after the junior was arrested for the second time in two years on suspicion of driving under the influence. To say that there are minutes available for newcomers in West Lafayette would therefore be putting it mildly. In the Boilermakers’ first exhibition game, Painter started three freshmen: 6’3” guard E’Twaun Moore, 6’8” wing Robbie Hummel and 6’10” big man JaJuan Johnson, in-state products all. Other new arrivals include 6’8” wing Scott Martin and 6’9” junior college transfer Chris Reid. Another possibility may be 6’9” junior college transfer Nemanja Calasan, though at this writing his eligibility is yet to be determined.

With this influx of new blood, sophomore guard Keaton Grant will have to compete for minutes. Improving both his accuracy from the field and his ability to hold on to the ball would help his cause. Another member of the backcourt platoon, Tarrance Crump, finally got on the floor last year after sitting out 2006 with a suspension. As if to make up for lost time, he attempted shots at a faster clip than any other Boilermaker save Landry and Teague. The result, however, was merely lots of defensive rebounds for the other team, and Crump’s minutes diminished accordingly. Marcus Green also struggled to make shots last year, though he was notably productive on the defensive glass.

In short, this is a young team: Crump will be the lone senior this year. Still, the core group is now in place for the next couple seasons. There promises to be a good deal of anticipation and talk building toward 2009. As for this season, the Boilers play Louisville at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in mid-December. If it hasn’t happened already, we will certainly have an idea after that game of how quickly these new-breed Boilermakers are coming together.


What Wisconsin did well: Everything but timing.

The term “Bo Ryan kind of player” is now used occasionally in Big Ten circles when describing one of those otherwise inscrutable high school recruits. Maybe that’s the ultimate accolade for any coach: to become adjectival. Like, say, “Izzo.” Distilled down to its essence, “Bo Ryan” as an adjective might be defined as playing sound position defense and taking fanatically good care of the ball.

In 2007, Wisconsin fans got to see a true Bo Ryan kind of team at the Kohl Center. The Badgers, as always, held on to the rock and played excellent defense. In fact, Wisconsin last year was without a doubt the best team the Big Ten has seen over the past two seasons, with the single exception of last year’s Ohio State team. It was the Badgers’ misfortune that last year happened to coincide with the arrival of three unprecedented freshmen in Columbus, all of whom were then selected in the first two dozen picks of the ensuing NBA draft. It may be cold comfort in Madison, but it’s true: in a “normal” year, that Wisconsin team wins the Big Ten in a walk.

What we learned in 2007: Small improvements can make a big difference.

The Badgers went from 19-12 overall and 9-7 in the Big Ten in 2006 to 30-6 and 13-3 in 2007. It was a textbook example of marked year-to-year improvement from virtually identical personnel. Wisconsin was just older and better, on both sides of the ball. For instance, Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor, who took the bulk of their team’s shots over the past two seasons, were significantly better at making twos last year than they were in 2006. Their combined 2FG percentage jumped almost five full percentage points. That, along with the Badgers recording a few more offensive boards, propelled a modest but significant overall improvement in offense last year.

Nevertheless, there was one change so notable last year it bordered on the immodest: the frequency with which Wisconsin opponents turned the ball over. In keeping with their coach’s emphasis on low-foul, reach-free position defense, Ryan’s teams have customarily forced very few turnovers (and blocked very few shots). That changed, kind of, last year, as the Badgers’ Big Ten opponents gave the ball away on about 21 percent of their possessions, up from less than 19 in 2006. Whether this reflected a new direction by Wisconsin or merely bad nights for opponents, or a little of both, is anyone’s guess. Note for example that Michael Flowers is the only player in Madison who records steals at a level above mere bystander happenstance. In any event, more turnovers from opponents, along with a few more defensive rebounds, resulted in a defense that improved on its 2006 performance even more than did the Badger offense. In short, the offense and defense both improved a little, so the team improved a lot.

What’s in store for 2008: In the Purdue preview, I had occasion to note that Carl Landry and David Teague weren’t merely the Boilermakers’ leading scorers last year, they were also, more importantly, the team’s most efficient offensive performers. So what about the departures of leading scorers Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor in Madison? Will Wisconsin be able to make up for all those lost points?

Yes. Naturally, no single Badger is going to be what Tucker was to last year’s group. Still, with the exception of Jason Chappell, also now gone, Taylor was his team’s worst two-point shooter. Of course, he offset those missed twos with solid three-point shooting. Moreover, this year’s players will have to make the jump from being efficient in Tucker’s wake to being efficient in their own right. Even so, a continuation of merely average two-point shooting from the likes of Brian Butch and Marcus Landry--and maybe some timely threes from Jason Bohannon--will go a long way toward nudging this group toward the standard set by last year’s offense: 1.07 points per possession. Even a slight drop-off would not be disastrous for a team that defends.

About that defense: Butch was easily the best defensive rebounder in the Big Ten last year. He personally hauled down 26 percent of opponents’ misses during his minutes on the floor, minutes which, as always, were rather infrequent. Though a starter, Butch averaged less than 20 minutes a game before his season ended with that ghastly elbow dislocation at Ohio State in late February. Indeed, though Butch has a surprising three-point touch, it’s not too much of a stretch to call him a defensive rebound specialist. It’s pretty much all he does, and he’s superb at it. (To be fair, he also takes zealously good care of the ball.) Since Butch is a specialist, it’s high time he was given a cool nickname. Maybe ”The Closer,” because he shuts down opposing possessions after one shot every time. Just a suggestion.

Butch is merely one of this year’s returning veterans, a group that also includes Michael Flowers, Marcus Landry, Joe Krabbenhoft and Jason Bohannon. As mentioned previously, Flowers is the only Badger who records steals; he also dishes assists and is an excellent all-around perimeter defender. (Flowers took a leave of absence from the team in October for undisclosed reasons but is now back, apparently for good. We’ll see.) Landry figures to inherit a goodly share of Tucker’s possessions and shots. The good news for Badger fans is that the 6’7” Landry is an efficient shooter. The bad news is he turns the ball over twice as often per individual possession used as did Tucker which, granted, was never.

As for Krabbenhoft, on any other team he’d stand out as his coach’s best defensive rebounder. Either he or Butch needs to be on the floor for Wisconsin to maintain its hegemony on the defensive glass. Bohannon, with his team-leading 84 percent FT shooting, looks like a good bet to improve on last season’s three-point shooting, though, of course, 37 percent wasn’t bad for a skinny freshman.

At 6’11”, Greg Stiemsma is not only far-and-away the best shot-blocker on the roster, he’s also, along with Michigan State’s Goran Suton, one of the best passing big men in the conference. Nevertheless, standard-issue Badger depth in the frontcourt and, more importantly, Stiemsma’s habit of turning the ball over (ultimate Madison sin) have combined to affix the big guy securely to the bench about 75 percent of the time. Like Stiemsma, though in much more limited action, 6’0” guard Trevon Hughes has also displayed an unhappy knack for coughing up the ball.

This year’s crop of incoming recruits includes 6’10” power forward Jon Leuer, 6’9” power forward Keaton Nankivil and 6’6” wing Tim Jarmusz. All of the above, of course, have been billed on arrival as true Bo Ryan-type players.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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