The college basketball analyst I'm paying most attention to these days is Mark Titus from Grantland.com. Titus blogged his way through a benchwarming career at Ohio State, where one of his favorite subjects was Wisconsin. He dubbed them "Buzzcuts" after noticing that "pretty much every white guy who has played for Bo Ryan has had a buzzcut."
Like many of the national talking heads, Titus called attention to the fact that Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor's numbers are down from last year. A simple glance at a stats sheet reveals that Taylor, a preseason All-American with high expectations, is scoring less and turning the ball over more than last year. But unlike the chuckling panelists on CBS and ESPN, Titus seems to be actually watching the Badgers' games. "He's playing well when it matters most," Titus writes this week.
Yes, Taylor is scoring less, averaging 14.7 points per game compared to last season's 18.1. But he's also shooting less and, instead, setting the offensive tone by slowing the game down to limit possessions and maximize efficiency. In Wisconsin's biggest wins of the year - at Purdue on Jan. 12, at Ohio State on Feb. 26, vs. Indiana on March 9 - his free-throw shooting and passing were the difference, not fireworks from outside the arc.
Critics of the Badgers hate their patient, deliberate approach, calling it antiquated and tedious. An anonymous Big Ten coach interviewed by Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis said they "cheat the game" with their style of play. But when a program's success is measured by advancing in the tournament, it's wins that count, not style points. And Taylor has made the Badgers better when it matters most.