Found November 14, 2013 on Fox Sports Wisconsin:
MADISON, Wis. -- The aches and pains that come with playingextended minutes at the highest level of college basketball have not set injust yet. We are, after all, only two games into a 31-game regular season.So right now, we can't know whether Wisconsin can sustainusing a seven- or eight-man playing rotation for the long haul. No one knowswhether it's feasible given potential foul trouble, fatigue and other issues.Through one week, however, that's exactly what the Badgershave tried. And while relying on veteran players is not unique in collegebasketball, it is unusual to play with such a short bench so early in theseason.No. 20 Wisconsin (2-0) will continue its quest to find aplaying rotation when it travels to face Green Bay (1-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday inthe Resch Center. And judging by the first two games, the minutes may betougher to spread around than initially anticipated.Most coaches at this time of year would rather extend therotation to involve as many players as possible and allow them to gain valuableexperience. Badgers associate head coach Greg Gard noted that idea was easiersaid than done, particularly with Wisconsin having opened the season againstSt. John's and Florida."Those two games, it's been hard to experiment,"Gard said. "It's not going to get any easier on Saturday. We've just gotto continue to rotate guys in and out in practice, have guys keep gettingbetter and keep working at it. But we'd obviously like to be deeper, and wewill be in time."Obviously with these two games right out of the gate,you have a tendency to lean more on experience and guys that have been there. Ithink we'll have a lot of the same thing on Saturday night."Competition level, combined with a lack of experience offthe bench, has contributed to the high number of minutes for some players.While most teams load up on easier nonconference opponents to begin the year,the Badgers have not done so. Wisconsin, in fact, is one of just three teams inthe country to own a pair of victories against teams from the "Power 6"conferences, joining UMass (wins over Boston College and LSU) and Baylor (overSouth Carolina and Colorado) in that regard.Four Wisconsin players are averaging at least 32 minutes pergame thus far -- guard Ben Brust (36.0), forward Sam Dekker (35.0), guard JoshGasser (33.5) and guard Traevon Jackson (32.0).Consider that only one other Big Ten team -- Penn State --has a rotation with three players averaging at least 30 minutes per game. Fourconference teams have two players that average 30 minutes per game, four haveone player that averages 30 minutes per game and two don't have a single playerthat eclipses the 30-minute mark."I think it'll change a little bit," Gasser said."It's still really early in the year. Some of the freshmen, not that theywerent ready necessarily, but it's a big stage for this early on. Coaches wentwith some veteran guys early on in the year. As time goes on, some of theyounger players will get a little more experience, a little more confidence,understanding what we're looking for more."As the year goes on, you'll kind of see people rise upto the occasion and some who dont. We're always looking for guys who cancontribute. All 17 guys need to help, so it'll come."The biggest problem for Wisconsin is a shortage ofexperience beyond the team's starters -- although the only way to gainexperience is to play in games. The Badgers' five starters of Jackson, Brust,Gasser, Dekker and center Frank Kaminsky have combined to play 6,959 careerminutes. Backup point guard George Marshall has played 577 career minutes. Noother player on the active roster this season has played more than 80 minutesat Wisconsin.Even Marshall's role with the team is up in the air. DuringWisconsin's 59-53 victory against Florida, he played just three minutes and didnot appear in the second half. Instead, Badgers coach Bo Ryan kept Jackson inthe game despite him turning the ball over five times.Gard said Marshall needed to demonstrate more consistencyand play slower to allow him to see more court time."I think we'll be successful either way," saidJackson of the playing rotation. "We have depth. We can always go deep.We're not really in control of that. So we just have to be ready for whatever.I think we have to take care of our bodies either way and prepare foranything."Only one freshman -- forward Nigel Hayes -- has takenadvantage of an opportunity to play. Hayes is averaging 5.0 points per game in13.0 minutes of action. Freshman forward Vitto Brown has not yet made anappearance, and freshman point guard Bronson Koenig played one minute in theseason opener against St. John's.Gard said part of the challenge was getting the youngerplayers to understand concepts and play older than they really are. Wisconsinwill no doubt need that maturation as the grind of the college basketballseason continues."It's hard to play 38, 39 minutes at the level we expectguys to play," Gard said. "It's hard. I'm sure it can be done. But Ithink you also get to a point of diminishing returns. We definitely would liketo be able to go a little deeper and spread some things out a little bit." Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter
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