No point guard protected the ball better last season than Jordan Taylor, who led the nation with a 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio and helped Wisconsin set an NCAA record for fewest giveaways (7.58 per game). But after the Badgers' keepaway style carried them all the way to the Sweet 16, they couldn't avoid turning over their roster.
If Taylor hadn't returned to Madison for his senior year, Wisconsin would be almost completely rebuilding following the departure of three senior starters and two key reserves who accounted for 44.7% of the Badgers' rebounds, 48.6% of their scoring and 69.5% of their blocked shots. "Not to sound cocky," says Taylor, whose 1,241 minutes last season was a school record, "but teams are probably going to think there's me and not much else. That's going to be the fun part. We have a ton of guys who are ready to prove themselves."
One of those guys is sophomore Josh Gasser. Last year the 6'3" shooting guard showed a flair for the historic (the school's first triple double, with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 78--46 defeat of Northwestern) and for the dramatic (a 20-foot, buzzer-beating bank shot to steal a 53--52 victory at Michigan). With 2.5 assists for every turnover, Gasser can also run the point, giving Taylor more looks at the basket. But the guards' primary task will be bringing along three juniors up front—6'6" Ryan Evans, 6'6" Mike Bruesewitz and 6'10" Jared Berggren—who each appeared in at least 29 of the team's 34 games last season, but together averaged just 3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds. "Hopefully some of them will make the kind of jump I [made]," Taylor says.
The 6'1", 195-pound Taylor is a preseason All-America, but he was hardly a star entering 2010--11, when he increased his output from 10.0 points per game to 18.1, his assists from 3.6 to 4.7 and his rebounds from 3.2 to 4.1. Wisconsin's 25 wins included a come-from-behind victory over No. 1 Ohio State in which Taylor scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half. "[That was] about as complete an offensive season as you can have," coach Bo Ryan says. "Jordan's got a CEO look with an assassin's mentality on the court."
If the Badgers are to reach their 14th straight NCAA tournament, it'll be up to Taylor to keep the restructured business booming.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
COACH Bo Ryan (11th season)
2010--11 RECORD 25--9 BIG 10 13--5 (3rd)
NCAA TOURNAMENT Sweet 16
FREE THROW PERCENTAGE for the Badgers last season, tops in the country. They sank 436 of 533 attempts and finished just shy of Harvard's alltime mark (82.2%), set in 1984.
Josh Gasser's emergence gives Wisconsin a superb backcourt that takes pressure off the new starters and guides the team to a sixth straight 20-win season.
The offense becomes one-dimensional, relying too heavily on Jordan Taylor. As the juniors up front struggle, Bo Ryan plays his freshmen with an eye to next year.
JORDAN TAYLOR The senior improved in every category last season, scoring 18.1 points per game—fourth best in the Big Ten.