If Wednesday night was any indication of what’s in store for Wisconsin at point guard, the hoops scene in Madison won’t be pretty by the time Big Ten play rolls around.
There were only two encouraging takeaways Bo Ryan could draw from his team’s 74-56 loss to Florida in Gainesville: Jared Berggren’s post defense is outstanding and Sam Dekker has a bright future. Beyond that, the Badgers were a mess. And they can point to shaky point guard play as the cause of the spill.
George Marshall, the redshirt freshman who started at point, was all out of sorts. Between his subpar court awareness, hesitant decision-making and inability to beat his man off the dribble, Marshall has been a walking disaster so far at point guard. When Marshall was running the offense on Wednesday, Wisconsin was a repeat offender of amateur mistakes, including three separate turnovers in the backcourt alone—a seldom-called 10-second violation, an errant pass and a Florida steal off an in-bound pass (Marshall did not actually throw the pass). Can’t happen at this level.
Ben Brust was hardly any better. The makeshift point guard and outside shooting specialist exposed his thorough lack of point guard instincts during his time filling in at the position. While spearheading the offense, Brust looked to score, not pass, and became all too predictable on his drives to the basket. The patented Ben Brust play: Lower the head, recklessly attack the hoop, embrace contact and throw up an off-balance, one-handed heave off the glass. A point guard should not resemble a bull charging down an alley.
Sophomore Traveon Jackson was Wisconsin’s best point guard of the night, and he’s a natural shooting guard. The likelihood of Jackson becoming a dependable option at the 1 over the full season is slim to none. Especially given that Jackson has spent the last year developing an outside shot, not working on his point guard skills.
The Badgers have enough problems on their plate as is. No one on the roster short of Ryan Evans can take his man off the bounce. The perimeter defense has taken a step back with the losses of do-everything senior Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser, who tore his ACL last month. And the team is vulnerable on the boards.
The one position on the roster Wisconsin where could ill-afford a major setback was at point guard. So much for that. The task of replacing Taylor was steep enough. Then having to replace Taylor’s appointed successor added more obstacles for a team running low on resources.
What remains in Madison are lots of loose pieces and a depleted glue bottle. Good luck, Bo. That’s all you’ll have to work with this year.