Braun: Centers’ shoes too big to fill?

first_imgThough it was only an exhibition game, two big things became evident during the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s recent victory over Augustana.No Brian Butch and no Greg Stiemsma.Yes, they won by 24 points and outrebounded the Vikings by 12, but the presence inside that the Badgers have had over the past few seasons was no longer there — and it was noticeable.Looking back to last season, when Wisconsin faced CSU Fullerton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, it had a huge size advantage over the Titans — Fullerton’s tallest player matched up to Wisconsin’s 6-foot-7-inch forward, Marcus Landry.Now, the Badgers will have to make up for the near-7-foot voids left by Butch and Stiemsma and fill it in with … Keaton Nankivil?He may be a talented young player, but sometimes size is what a team needs, and right now the Badgers’ only players 6-foot-10-inches or taller are sophomore Jon Leuer and freshmen Ian Markolf and Jared Berggren — the latter two will probably be used in limited roles throughout the season, if at all.I’m not saying there’s a need to panic — it just looks like the Badgers might have to work a bit harder to get their points in the paint.This wasn’t the case in their lone exhibition game. They completely dominated the key against Augustana, outscoring them 30-16.But then again, the Vikings weren’t really supposed to challenge the Badgers — they were simply supposed to provide them with a warm-up game.Instead, think about the possible matchups the Badgers will have in the Paradise Jam Tournament come Nov. 21 — Connecticut or Miami — both of which present major challenges inside.Connecticut has Hasheem Thabeet, a 7-foot-3-inch junior who is very athletic and regarded by many as one of the top big men in college basketball.Miami, though not as deep a team as Connecticut, has Dwayne Collins, a 6-foot-8-inch power forward who averages 8.6 points and 6.5 rebounds in a part-time role as a sophomore. He’s known for playing exclusively in the paint and boxing out opponents with his strong body.How will the Badgers match up to these two forces? Frankly, it looks like it’s going to be a tough task to stand up to.There is at least one upside to all of this: Both Leuer and Nankivil are young enough to learn as the season progresses.Even Leuer — who averaged only 8.6 minutes a game last year — came off the bench against Augustana and lit up the Vikings presence down low. In only 14 minutes of play, he scored 15 points and grabbed 3 rebounds.Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft will be the leaders everyone at UW expects them to be. They will probably lead the team in rebounding, and Landry will most likely be Wisconsin’s biggest scoring threat.Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon will hit the open three, manage the game well and make sure the swing is in full effect.Sometimes though, it takes an entire team to bring about success. On Bo Ryan-coached teams, this is almost always the case.Now, having four out of five returning starters is a pretty good situation for any team to be in — but when that fifth player is one that can’t match up to some of the bigger and better big men in the nation, some problems could arise.This is not to say that Wisconsin basketball is in a rebuilding year by any means. Last year, similar questions were pointed to the fact that Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor, the Badgers’ two best players, graduated.And what did they do to make up for their absence? They worked a lot harder and did something they hadn’t done in quite some time — win an outright Big Ten Championship.Expect the same this year, and watch Ryan find ways to make the void left by Butch and Stiemsma nothing more than a memory.Jonah is a sophomore hoping to major in journalism. Thinking too much about the void left by Brian Butch and Greg Stiemsma? Think Nankivil and Leuer will do just fine down low? He can be reached at jbraun@badgerherald.com.last_img

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