Fiammetta: Leuer lacking dominance for UW

first_imgPlayer X averages 19.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring and seventh in rebounding.Player X is a 6-foot-10, 228-pound forward who also has the ball skills of a 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard. He leads his team in three-point shots made, and his .463 percentage from behind the arc is seventh in the Big Ten.Player X entered the 2011 season on the Naismith preseason watch list, and he has been projected as a NBA Draft lottery pick. His aforementioned statistics are impressive, but Player X has not played like a Naismith Award candidate or a NBA Draft lottery pick.Player X is Wisconsin Badger Jon Leuer.In his three and a half years at UW, Leuer has gone from heralded recruit to standout freshman to honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2010. Last season, despite the presence of senior captains Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon, Leuer proved himself as the team’s most important player when he went down with a broken wrist in early January. Head coach Bo Ryan compensated for his loss by moving to a three-guard lineup, inserting Jordan Taylor into the starting five.Wisconsin did go 6-3 with Leuer out of the lineup, but the loss of its top big man left them undermanned and undersized. The Badgers finished a game behind regular season conference champions Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan State and lost to Illinois in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.This year, Leuer started off the season with a bang. His knack for knocking down outside shots early in the first half of games frequently set the tone for the Badgers in non-conference play. Leuer averaged 19.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in that portion of the schedule.Yet, those non-conference games featured the likes of Prairie View A&M, South Dakota and Coppin State as opponents. In the Badgers’ first loss of the season, game five Nov. 20 at UNLV, Leuer was saddled with foul trouble for most of the first half. He finished with only 10 points on just 3-ofj-11 shooting. The Badgers’ next loss to a strong Notre Dame squad can’t be put on Leuer, though, as he led all players with 19 points.Thus, as it is in the world of college basketball, conference play is where it starts.The day after the Rose Bowl, when most Badgers were seemingly too drunk with sorrow (or actually just too drunk) to care, Leuer led his squad into Champaign, Ill., to take on the Fighting Illini in the second game of Big Ten season. UW fell, 69-61, mainly due to ice-cold second-half shooting. Wisconsin shot 28.1 percent (9-32) from the floor in that half, 20 percent (4-20) from three-point range and 35 percent from the floor for the entire game (21-60). Ice, ice cold.Leuer himself contributed 19 points and five rebounds, shooting 7-18 from the field and 2-8 from behind the arc. Those shooting percentages – 38.9 and 25 percent, respectively – are disappointing. Remember, Leuer is currently shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 46.3 percent from three-point land.But, as sage-advisor-of-all-things-college-basketball Ken Pomeroy would tell you, simple shooting percentages are quite often useless. Who knows what factors into each shot? Could be fatigue, defensive pressure, etc. Maybe Leuer and the Badgers had one eye closed each time. Regardless, KenPom and others have devised a seemingly infinite number of advanced statistical measures to evaluate athletes’ aptitude more accurately.Yet, this isn’t about the numbers. Jon Leuer has good numbers. This is about something that’s perhaps less quantifiable – Leuer’s apparent hesitation to dominate.On a team that’s had 17 games to deal with the departure of Hughes and Bohannon, Leuer has naturally emerged as one of the Badgers’ two statistical top guns (Taylor being the other). However, those 17 games really haven’t been enough. Bo Ryan’s opening day starting five consisted of Leuer, Taylor, Keaton Nankivil, Wquinton Smith and Tim Jarmusz. The next game, after freshman guard Josh Gasser scored 21 off the bench in the first, had Gasser and Mike Bruesewitz in for Smith and Jarmusz. The lineup stayed like that until Jan. 5 against Michigan, when Jarmusz and Rob Wilson replaced Bruesewitz and Gasser, who were struggling offensively.Badger fans will tell you – and it’s really not hard to see for yourself – Jarmusz offers little outside of his ability to keep the offense swinging (quite literally). No, he’s not a defensive liability. Yes, if he saw more playing time, he’d lead the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. Bruesewitz is a fan favorite, mostly for his red-orange afro-thing but also for his shooting range and ability and rebounding prowess. Gasser stormed onto the scene with the second-highest scoring freshman debut in UW history and boasts impressive confidence for a freshman, but he’s cooled off.Thus, the fact remains, outside of Leuer, Taylor and Nankivil (who finally seems to have found some offensive consistency, averaging 9.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while shooting 50 percent from behind the arc), Wisconsin’s roster raises far more questions than the answers it does provide.Simply put, the Badgers’ Big Three need to be even bigger, and none more than Leuer. Taylor has emerged as one of the nation’s top point guards and a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, and he’s averaging nearly four full points more in Big Ten play (17 ppg for the year, 20.8 in conference games). Nankivil has been spoken for. Now, it’s Leuer’s turn.His aforementioned non-conference stats are impressive. He plays well at home too, averaging 21.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in games at the Kohl Center. But then again, everyone wearing red plays well there.Leuer is currently averaging just 14 points in Wisconsin’s four road games, which included UNLV, Marquette, Illinois and Michigan State. His rebound numbers are also way down, to 5.5 per game, as are his shooting percentages (52 percent at home, 37.7 on the road; 53.1 percent from three-point range at home, 37.5 on the road).At Michigan State Jan. 11, the Badgers held a nine-point lead with 2:37 left in regulation. Yet, UW collapsed, and the lead wasn’t far behind. Turnovers, forced shots, poor clock management – all evident of a loss of composure; unheard of from a Bo Ryan-coached team, but it happens. Michigan State needed that game badly, and their home crowd reminded them of it all game long. The Spartans won in overtime, 64-61. Leuer touched the ball once in the extra period. Just once, at the top of the key, on a quick handoff.The Spartans ratcheted up their defensive intensity – quite intensely – and the Badgers had no answer. Leuer had absolutely no answer. He finished with just 10 points on 3-9 shooting (only 1-2 from behind the arc) and seven rebounds.Meanwhile, MSU’s big men essentially won the game for the Spartans. Draymond Green led all scorers with 26 points and pulled down nine rebounds, and Delvon Roe shut Leuer down defensively.Yes, just one game. In fact, Leuer may have made a statement the next game against Illinois, scoring 26 points on 9-16 shooting while pulling down nine rebounds. But the trends are there, and the facts remain the same. Jon Leuer is, and has been, good, great and everything in between. For the Badgers to reach their full potential, though, he needs to be dominant.Mike is a junior majoring in journalism and communication arts. What are your thoughts on Leuer? Let him know at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @mikefiammetta.last_img

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