MADISON - Now that the dust has settled from another successful season for the Wisconsin men's basketball team, BadgerBlitz.com hands out its yearly awards.
Publisher Jon McNamara and staff writer Tom Lea recap some of the better moments of the 2010-2011 year.
Player of the year:
McNamara: Tough to argue with the selection of Jordan Taylor, who was named a second-team All-American by the Associated Press on Monday. The junior point guard averaged 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists in leading the Badgers to 25 wins this season and also posted a nation-best 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Minnesota native continues to improve each year and will be relied upon heavily in his final season at UW.
Lea: I don't think there is any question that Jordan Taylor takes home this honor. Jon Leuer was good, sometimes great, throughout the year, but Taylor and his showstopping ability to take over games in key stretches was unbelievable. Then you consider the amount of minutes he played (around 39 per game) and take into account the way he took care of the ball and it's obvious he deserves every accolade he received this year.
Play of the year:
McNamara: Josh Gasser's desperation 3-pointer off the backboard at the buzzer against Michigan was the top play of year. The bucket gave UW a 53-52 road win over a tough Wolverine squad that went on to play well in the NCAA tournament. With Michigan fans in disbelief, the Wisconsin bench emptied and piled on top of Gasser near mid-court as the Badgers escaped Ann Arbor with a win.
Lea: I agree with Jon's assessment of Gasser's prayer at Michigan that won that game, but I am going to take it one step further. During UW's second round game with Kansas State, I thought the sequence where Taylor stepped in front of the entry pass to Curtis Kelly and swiped the ball. That jumpstarted the fast break that eventually led to Mike Bruesewitz's huge 3-pointer that gave UW the lead it wouldn't relinquish. That, with the magnitude of the situation, is my play of the year.
Game of the year:
McNamara: While wins against Michigan on the road and Ohio State at home were instant classics, Wisconsin's tournament win over Jacob Pullen and Kansas State may have been the best game of the year. The Badgers' team effort prevailed over Pullen's 38 points in what was one of the more physical games during Bo Ryan's time at Wisconsin.
Lea: When Ohio State took a 15-point second half lead against Wisconsin inside the Kohl Center it just seemed as though the Buckeyes were on the verge of blowing the Badgers out on their own floor. Then Jordan Taylor got hot.
UW rallied back, eventually tied the game, and then eventually took control in the waning minutes in front of one of the more electrifying crowds in Kohl Center history. The electricity flowing through the building and the way the team came together both offensively and defensively was truly something special.
Moment of the year:
McNamara: Celebrating a win over previously undefeated Ohio State was clearly the most memorable moment of the 2010-11 season. Taking a page from the football team's playbook earlier in the year, UW toppled the Buckeyes on the hardwood as fans stormed the court to celebrate a win over the No. 1 ranked team in the country.
Lea: This is probably not what people had in mind, but my moment of the year happened shortly after the Badgers snuck past Iowa with an overtime win in Iowa City. During post game interviews it was apparent that Taylor was absolutely spent after playing well over 40 minutes in that game.
Normally happy and willing to address the media, Taylor only spent about one minute talking with reporters because he was so exhausted. While that moment brought a little bit of concern about Taylor's fatigue levels, it also proved that he is a guy that puts everything he has out on the floor each and every time he plays. That was the most impactful moment of the season in my eyes.
Player that stepped up the most:
McNamara: Gasser became the first true freshman to ever start under Ryan and was one big reason for the team's success this season. The Port Washington native was third on the team in minutes played per game (28.1) and defended well all year against a tough collection of Big Ten guards. Gasser's role will increase next season as he will be relied upon to score more often from his shooting guard position.
Lea: It's hard to think where Wisconsin would have been this year without immediate production from its freshman guard Josh Gasser. With a relative lack of depth at the position, Gasser was asked to do a lot from the moment he stepped foot in Madison. The best part about his production is that he gained a lot of confidence as the year went on and seems to be a guy UW can and will depend on moving forward.
Player I was most impressed with...
McNamara: Though he didn't play his best in UW's final game of the season, senior forward Jon Leuer showed flashes of greatness this year. At 6-foot-10, Leuer displayed a solid perimeter game and was able to score in the paint. He's likely hear his named called in the 2011 NBA draft later this year.
Lea: I was very impressed with Keaton Nankivil the more the season drew on. Though he never really developed a post game that I, and so many others clamored for throughout his career, he did evolve into a very reliable outside threat.
His jumper, especially for a 'big,' opened so many avenues for the Badger offense. His confident stroke will be missed next year, as will his post defense and ability to block shots around the rim.
The best part of the season...
McNamara: It's not often you're able to secure victories over each conference foe in a single season. Without a major postseason run, this accomplishment takes the cake.
Lea: Watching yet another team the national pundits said would finish in the lower half of the Big Ten rise to the occasion and make a run to the Sweet 16. Yes the finish was disappointing especially since there seemed to be room for the Badgers to play better against Butler, but the entirety of the season was one magical ride that included plenty of highs en route to a third place league finish.
Who UW will miss the most:
McNamara: No question Wisconsin will miss Leuer the most. It doesn't return a player of his ability and versatility next season.
Lea: Clearly losing a guy that averaged around 19 points per game is going to hurt. But like Bo Ryan teams do each and every year, they'll find a way to make up for the loss of Jon Leuer's production.
Who will step up the most...
McNamara: Wisconsin is losing six seniors and three starters from its Sweet 16 team, meaning plenty of minutes will open up next season. Of the returning players, you'd expect center Jared Berggren to step up and fill a good chunk of the scoring void left by Leuer and Keaton Nankivil.
Berggren can shoot from outside and also has shown a nice touch around the rim. If Wisconsin expects to go anywhere, they will need a big contribution from sophomore post player.
Lea: Mike Bruesewitz strikes me as a guy that will really hit the off-season conditioning program as hard as he can with hopes of coming back better than ever for his junior year. Other than him, though, I expect a huge progression from Jared Berggren. He is really one of the few players on the roster with a legitimate back-to-the-basket game in the post.
The way he can stretch the defense and knock down shots around the perimeter will also be huge moving forward. I think Berggren has the potential to serve a role very similar to what Brian Butch did during his upperclass years as a Badger.