The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team is about to break into two teams for a scrimmage and you get to coach one of the teams.
Who’s your first pick?
If that question would have been asked of me last week, I would have said junior Josh Gasser without hesitation.
You can make strong cases for senior frontcourt players Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans. A year from now, Sam Dekker may be the obvious pick.
But I would have taken Gasser, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice on Saturday, in heartbeat.
First of all, Gasser would run the point guard and make good decisions. He may not be explosive, but he’d get the ball in the right players’ hands. And he’d be good to drill a 3-pointer or two.
On defense, I could count on Gasser to guard the other team’s best perimeter player. Gasser would chase that player all over the floor and find a way to fight through hard screens. He’s also a heck of a rebounder for a 6-foot-3 guard.
But most of all, Gasser would have made his team tougher. The team would have taken on his blue-collar personality. Bottom line, I would have liked my team’s chances of winning if Gasser was on it.
As for Gasser’s replacements, I like redshirt freshman George Marshall a lot after watching him on the scout team last season. He gave Jordan Taylor fits on both ends of the court. Is Marshall ready to play 30 minutes a game? Time will tell.
And it’ll be interesting to see how sophomore Traevon Jackson responds with an opportunity for more playing time in front of him. Jackson didn’t play much last season, but what stood out about him most in practice was his willingness to scrap during loose-ball situations. His offensive game needs some work, but he’s a willing defender.
After digesting the news of Gasser’s injury, my first thought was that UW’s road in the Big Ten got a lot tougher. It was going to be difficult to win the league anyway this season; without Gasser, that task became monumental.
I also briefly wondered if UW’s streak of 14 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament might be in jeopardy.
Then I remembered who was coaching the team. It’d be silly to write off a Bo Ryan team, even without the guy I consider to be the most valuable asset to the team.
So stay tuned. It figures to be an interesting five months.