With the University of Wisconsin football team in a frightening downslide and the Packers on vacation, it's time to discuss the happy arrival of Wisconsin men's basketball season. Bo Ryan's team already had its "Night of the Grateful Red" last week, officially marking the start of practice (although I'm totally unclear about how all of the quasi-practices, like supervised running of the hill in Elver Park aren't practice, but whatever). The first exhibition game is eight days away, on November 1, against Augustana. Plus, there's an intra-squad scrimmage on Wednesday night, which I'm disappointed that I'll have to miss.
And that's because the team is in an interesting spot. Although it only has three starters returning, that number is misleading. Really, counting Jason Bohannon, who played more than 20 minutes a game last year, the team has four starters back. The backcourt, with Trevon Hughes and Bohannon is set. As are the two forward slots, with seniors Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft at the 4 and the 3, respectively. These four guys look to receive the lion's share of the team's minutes, with Landry, Hughes and Bohannon likely to be the team's top three scorers, and Krabbenhoft the main candidate for leading rebounder. The team's fortunes this season will largely rest in the hands of this upperclassmen quartet, and if they can continue to grow and improve, as we've seen them do over the past two to three seasons, Wisconsin should have another excellent, exciting year.
But that's predictable. What's interesting to think about this year is all of the question marks behind these guys. We have three true sophomores, redshirt soph J.P. Gavinski, a walk-on senior in Kevin Gullickson, and then five true freshmen on the team. Several of those ten guys will get legit playing time, but the majority will ride the pine, and have to make their marks in practice. My guess for members of the rotation are Gullickson, frosh point guard Jordan Taylor, and the sophomores Keaton Nankivil, Jon Leuer and Tim Jarmusz.
But I still find myself wondering: of this bunch, who is the fifth guy is going to be? I don't mean the fifth starter. As Bo often says, that's kind of irrelevant. What matters is who's on the floor at crunch time-- who do you put out there in the closing seconds when the game is on the line? Some argue that it will be Leuer, based on his Dirk Nowitzki like potential and somewhat bulked up physique. Others claim it will be Nankivil, as the team will need a muscular rebounding interior presence, and the former Madison Memorial Spartan is perhaps the Badgers' best combination of brawn and athleticism.
But I'm going with the unsexy Tim Jarmusz. The steady swingman from Oshkosh played more as last season progressed, even with an outstanding three guard rotation of Hughes, Bohannon and Michael Flowers ahead of him. Plus, he's smart with the ball, plays solid defense, has a deft shooting touch, and can guard nearly every position on the court except the 5 spot. I really see Tim getting a bunch of minutes, especially late in games when big guys may have fouled out and things tend to become more guard-oriented. I'm not saying Jarmusz will start-- I bet Bo goes with a traditional big like Nankivil to fill out the starting lineup. But I pick Tim as my fifth finisher, along with the upperclassmen quartet. He's a gamer. What say ye?