Backups must help fill Butch’s void

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first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoAs the No. 3 University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team readies for the onset of the postseason, it does so knowing Brian Butch will be watching the entirety of it from the sidelines.Butch, who will remain sidelined after a gruesome injury to his right elbow against Ohio State Feb. 25, will miss this weekend’s conference tournament, as well as most of Wisconsin’s NCAA tournament run.UW head coach Bo Ryan acknowledges that unless the Badgers find someone to fill his shoes, the team’s historic season might not have a storybook ending.”[Butch] is still the big with the best touch,” Ryan said. “So what you have to make up for is in stretching the defenses. That’s not a strength of our other bigs, so you deal with that and just get it elsewhere.”Two players who should be able to carry the additional workload are junior center Greg Stiemsma and sophomore forward Marcus Landry.Stiemsma, who stands 6 feet 11 inches, has been a key contributor off the bench all season. His play down low will be crucial to Wisconsin’s postseason run, as will his ability to sink open shots from the perimeter.Landry, also known more for his post play rather than his outside shooting ability, seemed to have found his stroke from beyond the arc when he connected on four of six 3-pointers against Michigan State Feb. 20. He has cooled off since then, however, going zero for four in UW’s last two contests.”Marcus is tough around the basket,” Ryan said. “He’s hit some threes, but as far as consistently, let’s face it — Brian’s ball rotation and his touch for his size is something that creates problems for other teams.”A lesson in defenseOn Feb. 17, in Wisconsin’s 75-49 trouncing of Penn State, senior guard Kammron Taylor was four of six from 3-point range and finished with 18 points. Since then, Taylor has connected on only four of 14 treys and is averaging less than seven points per game. Taylor’s offensive struggles have affected UW’s play, as it hasn’t cracked 60 points in the time Taylor has been cold.While the offense, with Taylor at the helm, has sputtered as of late, the Badgers’ defensive play has made up the difference, holding opponents to 55 points per game in their last three games.”Our momentum right now has been pretty much on the defensive end,” Ryan said.”We might be having some struggles in scoring, but we’ve also made it tough for other teams to get a lot of points per possession. It’s been some pretty physical battles in the last three games.”Familiar FaceDepending on the outcome of Thursday afternoon’s matchup between Michigan State and Northwestern, Ryan’s first round game plan could look very similar to Wisconsin’s last few games.If the seventh-seeded Spartans defeat the 10th-seeded Wildcats, the Badgers would have to face Tom Izzo’s squad Saturday for the third time in 18 days.”Michigan State we know a little bit about,” Ryan said, “Northwestern we haven’t [seen for a while], so we’ve got to do some Northwestern stuff to prepare for the backdoors and the different things that they do.”Wisconsin is projected to be a No. 2 seed for the NCAA tournament but could make a case for a No. 1 with a Big Ten tournament title.Asked if he was concerned about Wisconsin’s NCAA tournament seeding, Ryan tersely responded.”No, I’m not,” Ryan said. “It’s not a one-game thing. It isn’t as if you had a bowl-type situation, and you’re going to play one team. You’ve still got to win six.”For now, Ryan and the Badgers will concentrate on winning three games to capture the conference tournament title.last_img read more