ROSEMONT, Ill. When Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan discussed his team Thursday morning during the Big Ten basketball media day, he casually slipped in that Josh Gasser would take over the starting point guard role for graduated senior Jordan Taylor this season.
If media members and college basketball fans are interested to see how the transition works, so are Big Ten players themselves.
The biggest question mark surrounding a Wisconsin team that returns four starters, not surprisingly, was the most talked about aspect of the Badgers on Thursday.
"I think Gasser is a good person to put at that position," Iowa guard Roy Devyn Marble said. "Hes experienced. A heady guy. He knows what hes doing. Im still really interested to see how this team plays without seeing Jordan Taylor on that team."
Taylor averaged 36.0 minutes per game last season and made virtually every major decision on the floor for Wisconsins offense. He led the team in points (14.8) and assists per game (4.1).
Gasser, meanwhile, played the second-most minutes on the team (34.1). He averaged 7.6 points and 1.9 assists per game. The consensus from the leagues players seemed to be that, while Taylor provided steady on-court guidance, Wisconsins program is molded to more easily replace parts.
"Coach Ryan does a good job of just plugging in different guys," Nebraska forward Brandon Ubel said. "As soon as he loses one, hes plugging somebody else in. Theyre another team thats very disciplined. They dont make many mistakes.
"It will be interesting to see how they replace Jordan Taylor at point guard. Because he really made them go last year. If they didnt have a shot the last 10 seconds, he was the one making the decision. So thatll be interesting to see. But theyre always going to be a good team because of the way coach Ryan does things. And theyve got a lot of guys back. Thatll probably help them replace that leadership that Jordan Taylor had."
Wisconsin was picked by 24 of the leagues media members to finish fifth in the Big Ten, behind Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State despite the Badgers being ranked 21st in the preseason coaches poll. During Ryans 11 seasons as head coach, the Badgers have never finished worse than fourth in the Big Ten.
"The thing thats always stuck out about Wisconsin is just that it doesnt matter who they lose," Michigan forward Jordan Morgan said. "Its always somebody that steps up and fills that role. You kind of just always have to expect them to be good. Theyve always been competitive.
"I just can remember thinking like, Oh they lost such and such. The next year, its like somebody else has filled that role and filled it well, too. Obviously theyve got a great coach whos not just good at winning games but developing his players. When the time comes, they always have somebody to step up and fill that role."
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said it appeared Ryan had "loosened up the reins a little bit" in past seasons to allow his teams to shoot more quickly. But with Taylor gone, things could be different.
"Hes going to look and see whats best," Carmody said of Ryan. "Jordan was terrific. He went off on his own. He was a good decision maker and made some unbelievable plays and unbelievable shots and won games single handedly. It might not be the same this year, but Im not sure. Im sure Bo is trying to figure it out."
Chances are, Ryan wont stray too far from the slow-tempo offense and tough-minded defensive principles that have led to Wisconsins success in the first place. Ryan said Gasser doesnt possess the same ability as Taylor to beat players off the dribble, but his style of play was equally effective.
In other words, Gasser will find a way to fit the mold at point guard so Wisconsin can continue its string of conference success.
"They seem to be the same every year, but they always surprise you every year," Minnesota forward Rodney Williams said. "Theyve always got great shooters out there and they always bring guys that you never really know about, but theyre really good. Wisconsin is a team that you never look past."
No surprise there.
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