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Thursday, September 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 55.0° F  Overcast
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Tough times for Wisconsin Badgers' hoops
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The Badgers miss Gasser's experience.
The Badgers miss Gasser's experience.
Credit:David Stluka / UW Athletic Communications

Fifteen games into the 2012-13 men's college basketball season, the numbers aren't telling a hopeful story about the home team.

The Badgers are shooting just 44% from the field, 134th best out of 347 Division I teams in the country. And from three-point range, they're hitting 35%. Based on those stats, the Badgers would be well advised to pursue an inside game, attacking the rim and drawing fouls. Except they're converting just 61% from the free-throw line, 326th in the country. Starting forward Ryan Evans, a senior, is hitting just 36.5% of his free throws and is three of 14 in Wisconsin's two conference games.

So how have they managed to achieve an 11-4 record? Their nonconference schedule was pretty tame, seventh strongest in the Big Ten. And their Big Ten opponents - Nebraska and Penn State - tied for last in the conference last season.

This year's Badgers are lacking a leader like departed point guard Jordan Taylor. Taylor was the straw that stirred the drink for much of his career in Madison, drawing double-teams, playing unselfishly, and allowing his teammates to benefit from his aggressiveness. With Taylor's successor, Josh Gasser, out for the season with an injury, coach Bo Ryan has been forced to use inexperienced players like sophomore Traevon Jackson and freshman George Marshall at the point, neither of whom is averaging over 2.5 assists per game.

To its credit, Wisconsin continues to be a remarkably efficient team, as has always been the case under Ryan. The Badgers average over 1.1 points per possession this season, 24th best in the country.

Starting Saturday, when they host 12th-ranked Illinois at the Kohl Center (2:15 p.m., BTN), the going gets appreciably rougher. There are six Big Ten teams ranked in the AP's Top 25, and Wisconsin plays five of them before the end of the month.

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