For the first time in four years and only the fourth time since Milwaukee went D-I in 1990, the Wisconsin Badgers will be making the trip to Brew City to take on the Milwaukee Panthers. The Badgers are 8-2, identical to the Panthers, but their resume is far more impressive.
Wisconsin boasts three guards – Jordan Taylor, Josh Gasser, and Ben Brust – that can beat you by themselves. Taylor is a pre-season All-American who runs the point and can do it all for the Badgers. While an ankle injury has slowed him down somewhat, he still can get the ball to Wisconsin’s scorers, giving UW a dangerous point man to run the show.
Josh Gasser was recruited heavily by the Milwaukee coaching staff that tried to import the entire Swing AAU club – Gasser, Kyle Kelm, Evan Richard, Chip Rank, and Marquis Mason – but failed to do so. Gasser is the point guard of the future, but right now is content with filling up buckets and playing the glue man when Taylor is on point.
Receiving a player that had committed to Iowa didn’t make a lot of headlines, but Ben Brust has proven that he is capable of being a big time scorer that the Badgers have lacked for quite some time. Brust is a streak shooter who occasionally catches lightning in a bottle and beats teams by himself. He scored 21 against BYU and 27 against UNLV in two games that proved you can’t leave him open on the arc (he was a combined 14-for-17 from three in the two games) under any circumstances. Outside of those two games, his effectiveness has been limited to low-majors (Kennesaw State, Colgate, UMKC) but he is still a dangerous shooter.
The big problem for Milwaukee could come on the front line, however. Kyle Kelm and James Haarsma had difficulty with UNI’s large front line, and the Badgers’ version is only better. Jared Berggren is the kind of center that doesn’t make mistakes and scores at a decent clip. Berggren may not be the big time banger on the glass, but usually he doesn’t have to be as the Badgers are a solid shooting team.
Ryan Evans could be the game changer for the Badgers tomorrow night. At 6’6”, Evans is tall enough to give guys like Paris Gulley fits trying to guard his size, but he’s also quick enough to get by Tony Meier or Kyle Kelm. He’s a good shooter inside the arc and, like Ricky Franklin or Kaylon Williams, has a nose for rebounds and wins rebounding battles against taller forwards.
In the end, though, it all comes down to Bo Ryan. The coach turned Wisconsin basketball from barely-high-major to full-on power program in a short space of time. Bo’s tenure at Milwaukee was short but helped our program springboard into our first real national success, and all that is due to his coaching and recruiting ability. While Ryan doesn’t tend to get many top-50 recruits, he does pick up a lot of players that do two things – shoot the ball well from anywhere on the floor at any size, and take care of the basketball.
The Badgers’ vaunted Swing offense has built them into a team that can beat just about anyone. The Kohl Center has become part of that identity too, a death trap for opposing programs.
But we’ve got some things that ‘ol Bucky may not be counting on. The Arena is no easy court to win in, especially when the place is full as it looks to be close to tomorrow. A high number of tickets have been sold to Panther fans, who are starting to come out of the woodwork with Milwaukee’s excellent start to the season. The Panthers also have built an identity on defense. Now, that identity may have been shaken by the events of last week, but the Badgers will not run the ball like DePaul and Milwaukee will not break down right after it did so at UNI.
Milwaukee can guard any team in the country, they just need to dig, to never stop digging in. The Panthers have legitimate three-point threats at every position on the floor, and if they close out on the arc they’ll be able to give Bucky fits all day.
This is the most important part. One of Wisconsin’s greatest strengths is that they do not make mistakes, and they sit and bide their time and wait for you to make yours. Once the mistakes happen, the Badgers grab hold of it and never let go.
It is very important that Kaylon Williams understands this last part. At UNI, in front of dozens of family and friends from Cedar Rapids, Williams forced himself into trying to impress them and do everything for the Panthers. This led to a lot of mistakes (seven turnovers in the box score, could have easily been nine) that UNI capitalized on and blew the game open.
Williams shot the ball well and found open players on the court, but he needs to settle down against Wisconsin and not let what they do fluster him on the court. Slow down, control the game, and good things will happen. Always, always, always take care of the ball, and Milwaukee will come out on top.
This is your opportunity, Milwaukee, to show the country that this is a program to be reckoned with.
TROUNCE ‘EM POUNCE
Filed under: Milwaukee, Previews | Tagged: ben brust, Bo Ryan, College Basketball, Evan Richard, jordan taylor, josh gasser, Kaylon Williams, Kyle Kelm, Mid-major, Milwaukee Panthers, NCAA, NCAAM, rivalry game, Rob Jeter, Ryan Allen, ryan evans, US Cellular Arena, UW-Milwaukee, UWM, Wisconsin Badgers | Leave a comment »