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How One Season-Ending Injury Reshapes A Season

On a day when Marcus Lattimore was injured and shocked the college football world, the college basketball world got horrible news as Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser tore his ACL. Gasser hasn’t been the only college basketball player to get horrible news lately. In the four days since my ESPN the Magazine rankings went to print, we’ve seen Dayton’s Matt Kavanaugh get suspended, BYU’s Stephen Rogers admit his career is over, and Wake Forest’s Daniel Green also tore his ACL. And I’m not even counting the suspension of Missouri’s Michael Dixon. (In my experience, “indefinite suspension” means no more than four games out of the lineup.)

Realistically, injuries and suspensions are part of the game, and all coaches have to deal with them. But the loss of Gasser should get our attention for a number of reasons. First, Wisconsin was a Top 25 team in almost everyone’s preseason rankings, and their returning tempo free numbers suggested they were a borderline Top 10 team. So any injury for Wisconsin should get our attention nationally. But more importantly, Wisconsin doesn’t have any natural substitutes for Gasser in the lineup. He was expected to carry a tremendous load for Wisconsin as a ball-handler this season, and the type of players who will replace Gasser in the lineup have substantially lower expectations. Gasser might not be a preseason all-conference selection, but because of the drop-off at his position with Gasser not in the lineup, Wisconsin’s expectations now plummet. While the tempo free numbers suggested Wisconsin was the 12th best team in the nation prior to the injury, my model now pegs them as the 33rd best team in the country.

Here was Wisconsin’s projection a few weeks ago before we heard that Mike Bruesewitz would be out for several weeks and before Gasser tore his ACL:

Wisconsin

Ht Ft

Ht In

RSCI Rank

Class

Pred ORtg

Pred Min

Pred Poss

Josh Gasser

6

3

 

Jr

120.3

85%

15%

Mike Bruesewitz

6

6

 

Sr

111.0

73%

18%

Jared Berggren

6

10

100

Sr

103.0

68%

24%

Ben Brust

6

2

 

Jr

103.5

55%

20%

Ryan Evans

6

6

 

Sr

97.9

47%

25%

Sam Dekker

6

8

19

Fr

105.0

44%

23%

Zak Showalter

6

2

 

Fr

96.1

40%

19%

Evan Anderson

6

10

95

So

92.0

35%

20%

Frank Kaminsky

6

11

 

So

99.4

32%

19%

George Marshall

5

11

 

Fr

95.9

22%

19%

Traevon Jackson

6

2

 

So

85.9

   

Duje Dukan

6

8

 

Jr

86.6

   
       

SOSmod

1.039

   
       

Pred Off

108.2

   

And now here are Wisconsin’s projections without Gasser and with Bruesewitz missing several games due to injury:

Wisconsin

Ht Ft

Ht In

RSCI Rank

Class

Pred ORtg

Pred Min

Pred Poss

Jared Berggren

6

10

100

Sr

102.8

73%

23%

Ben Brust

6

2

 

Jr

103.2

66%

19%

Mike Bruesewitz

6

6

 

Sr

110.7

63%

17%

Ryan Evans

6

6

 

Sr

97.8

50%

24%

George Marshall

5

11

 

Fr

95.9

50%

18%

Zak Showalter

6

2

 

Fr

95.9

48%

18%

Sam Dekker

6

8

19

Fr

104.9

47%

22%

Evan Anderson

6

10

95

So

91.8

38%

19%

Frank Kaminsky

6

11

 

So

99.2

35%

18%

Traevon Jackson

6

2

 

So

85.9

30%

19%

Duje Dukan

6

8

 

Jr

86.6

   
       

SOSmod

1.039

   
       

Pred Off

104.1

   

Typically, when a highly efficient player leaves the lineup, that has spillover effects on the other players. And we see a little bit of that with Jared Berggren, Ben Brust, and Mike Bruesewitz’s ORtgs falling slightly. But since Gasser was such a passive offensive player, using only 13% of his team’s possessions when on the floor last season, and predicted to use only 15% of his team’s possession when on the floor this season, the offensive impact of Gasser on his teammates is somewhat muted.

But where Gasser’s loss hurts the team the most is that inexperienced players will now have to play major minutes. George Marshall was expected to quietly transition into a back-up PG role this season, but now he will likely have to play major minutes in key situations for his team. And Traevon Jackson, an inefficient two-guard a year ago, will now have to handle some ball-handling duties for the Badgers. (I wouldn’t even be surprised to see Bo Ryan use one of his walk-on upperclassmen at the PG slot this season.)

The result is that the Badger offense is expected to plummet from 108 to 104 this season. Luckily for the Badgers, the team is deep in the post. Most Big Ten coaches would start a player like Sam Dekker, and Bo Ryan has been raving about Frank Kaminsky. So Wisconsin’s defense should be able to stay at an elite level, even if Bruesewitz has to miss a few games.

A few other notes:

Ryan Evans was not an efficient player in his first two seasons for the Badgers, and while he broke out last year, the model is a little skeptical that his development was for real. How much of his success last season was being surrounded by a lineup of efficient players and having Jordan Taylor get him a ton of wide-open looks?

Also, I loved to hear that Bo Ryan thinks Frank Kaminsky will be a factor this season (and the numbers suggest moving him ahead of former Top 100 recruit Evan Anderson may be warranted.) But even accounting for Ryan’s aversion to freshmen, the model certainly thinks Sam Dekker is going to get a chance to play this season.

 

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