First off, the way Florida played on Wednesday night, it would have taken a near-perfect effort from the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team to beat the Gators.
Florida is a legitimate top-10 team right now. UW, while ranked No. 22, isn’t a legitimate Top 25 team right now.
But let’s play the what-if game for a second. UW coach Bo Ryan broke down what went wrong in the 74-56 loss to the Gators – the Badgers didn’t follow their rules on defense, for starters – but here are two things that may have led to a more pleasant experience for UW at the O’Connell Center.
** Junior point guard Josh Gasser being in the lineup.
Gasser was UW’s best defender before he went down with a season-ending knee injury and would have helped in that area against the Gators, but where I think the Badgers missed Gasser the most was not having an emotional leader on the court to help guide the team through rough stretches.
In a tough road environment, you need as much experience and leadership as possible. That’s where Gasser’s absence hurts the most.
That said, you won’t hear Ryan playing the we-miss-Josh card this year.
When asked about life without Gasser on Wednesday night, Ryan said, “Josh isn’t here. So this is November. You won’t hear me talk about it. We just have to get better.”
** Previous experience on the road this season.
It got so loud at one point at the O’Connell Center that the officials couldn’t hear Ryan trying to call a timeout as his team was struggling to beat the 10-second count and get the ball past midcourt.
This Badgers – especially some of the young players – weren’t ready to play in this type of environment, and it showed early in the game.
UW’s scrimmage against DePaul was at the Kohl Center, so this was the Badgers’ first game away from home this season. What a way to start.
“I thought we had some looks that, we’ve got guys in practice that hit those same shots,” Ryan said. “But we’re on the road. Our scrimmage was at home. First time for these guys. … What you’d like to do is get them away somewhere before you come in and play a game like this, but that didn’t happen so this is where you have to pay your dues.”
I’ll close with this: Don’t panic. Wednesday night’s defeat, as difficult as it probably was for fans to watch at times, gave UW some valuable lessons. The Badgers will get better.