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No. 12: Wisconsin Badgers

Oct 12, 2011, 9:50 PM EDT

spt-111010-jordan-taylor

Midnight Madness is Friday. So we’re kicking off our college basketball coverage with our men’s preseason Top 25. Look for five teams posted a day, all this week.

2010-11 record: 25-9 (13-5), 3rd in Big EastTen
Lost in NCAA tournament Sweet 16

Coach: Bo Ryan, 242-91, 11th year (272-118 overall)

Last NCAA miss: 1998

2011-12 roster [click here]
2011-12 schedule [click here]
2010-11 team stats [click here]

The good: The combination of Jordan Taylor – perhaps the player of the year – and Bo Ryan – perhaps the nation’s most underrated coach – is enough to make the Badgers a Top 25 mainstay, despite losing sharpshooter Jon Leuer and starters Keaton Nankivil and Tim Jarmusz.

No player is better suited to running a coach’s offense. That’s no small thing when said offense regularly produces points as efficiently as any other program. Taylor may not reproduce his incredible 2010-11 season, but he’s certain to be among the nation’s top players and dictate just how good the Badgers will ultimately be.

Not that guys like Josh Gasser or Tim Bruesewitz or just along for the ride. Both will be crucial for their experience and scoring.

The bad: Losing Leuer, Nankivil and Jarmusz isn’t an overwhelming obstacle, but I’m sure Ryan would rather deal with another Sullinger spitting incident first.

Gasser and Bruesewitz will be a start, but Ryan will need juniors center Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and senior Rob Wilson to improve and at least two of the newcomers – Jarrod Uthoff is the best among the five freshmen – to assume small and crucial roles.

If nothing else, they’ll need a sturdier defense if the offense slacks. The Badgers rarely allow a lot of points, but that’s standard for their style. Last season was one of the rare times when the perimeter defense was soft.

The unknown: Last season the Badgers struggled to find a third scoring option after Leuer and Taylor. It was technically Nankivil, but there’s probably not a clear-cut player this season.

Gasser seems like the best bet, but Ryan’s offense would be more effective if it were a big guy who could step outside and stretch the defense. That omits guys like Berggren and Wilson, while Uthoff might not be ready. Guess that leaves Bruesewitz.

(And yes, this section used to include a lengthy part about transfer Zach Bohannon. But he’s not eligible until 2012-13.)

Counting down the preseason Top 25

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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