There is no doubt that watching the Badgers basketball team has been a roller coaster ride of a lifetime this season. Just when you think you have them figured out something surprising, new, and even old pops up to remind us all that we know very little about which version (good or bad) of this team will show up from game to game. If the fan base is on a roller coaster ride it's really got to be hard to be one Ryan Evans these days - his personal roller coaster ride has been considered by some as the reason for Wisconsin's ups and downs this season.
Evans seems to be the favorite whipping boy of the fans when things are going wrong. But, is it really fair to put it all on his shoulders?
After all, he is one of five players on the court at any given time and unless your name is Deshaun Thomas you aren't going to be able to put your team on your back and will it to victory nearly every time out. That much should be a given.
However, on the other side of the equation are these stubborn things called stats and facts. Those stats and facts add up to a picture of both Wisconsin and Ryan Evans' roller coaster 2012-13 season. They also tell us that perhaps it is indeed fair to put the roller coaster ride on the shoulders of Evans.
In Wisconsin's 14 wins this season Evans has scored in double figures in all but two games and is averaging 11.8 points per game to go along with a healthy 8.5 rebounds per game. What's even more telling? How about the fact that in the 14 wins Evans is shooting 46.8% from the field.
On the flip side in the seven UW losses he has scored in double figures just once. His scoring average drops to 7.5 points per game with just 5.5 rebounds to boot. What's even more telling in the losses? It's the fact that Evans is shooting just 28.5% from the field.
It's funny, because we feel like we've been through this discussion before (oh wait, we have?) yet it seems a mystery as to what's behind the roller coaster ride that is Wisconsin's offensive output between the wins and losses. Call me crazy, but I think the numbers tell us it's rather simple - the Badgers, for better or worse, will go as far as Ryan Evans will take them.
Some have pointed to perhaps a lack of production from Jared Berggren not helping matters much, but the numbers don't bare that one out at all. In victory he is averaging 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Yet, in the seven losses Berggren is averaging 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. He's even shooting better in the losses (45.7%) than in victories (43.5%). Now, truth be told part of the numbers are skewed by his unreal 27 point performance in the loss to Creighton early on in the season, but that was one of 4 double digit point performances in losses - something that can't be ignored.
Look, we aren't in the business of calling out college kids, at least it's not something we enjoy, but avoiding facts and trends is also something we aren't in the business of doing either. As we explore Evans' numbers even deeper the split in the Big Ten, where Wisconsin is 5-3, paints an even more clearer picture of just how important Evans is to making Wisconsin victors or losers.
In the 5 wins Evans has scored in double figures in EVERY game - averaging 11.2 points and 8.8 rebounds - while shooting 52.9% from the field. On the flip side in the three losses Evans hasn't scored more than 6 points and is averaging just 4.6 points and 6 rebounds a game, while shooting a paltry 18.4% from the field.
Unfortunately for Badger fans it's quite clear that this team will only go as far as Ryan Evans will take it and that's clearly an issue. It's one thing if that player is putting up 15 and 6 every night out, but it's another when that player is averaging nearly 4 points, 3 rebounds, and nearly 15% less from the field between wins and losses.
Perhaps the Badgers are better off grooming Sam Dekker down the stretch and putting less of an emphasis on Ryan Evans? I mean, it's not as if Dekker hasn't shown he can't be just as good as Evans and he can't be much worse when things aren't going right, right? Clearly Dekker hasn't reached his ceiling, while Evans has and I'll take potential over inconsistent ceiling any day of the week.
So, as fans we have a choice, come to grips with the fact this team is all about Ryan Evans or continue to deny the fact and look to other players or things to blame the good and the bad on. One thing is for sure - Evans deserves a lot of credit when the Badgers are playing well, but he also deserves a lot of the blame when things aren't going well either. It's the nature of the beast when you're in the starting lineup and jacking up more shots than any other player on the team.
Finally someone calling out the data and explaining the weaknesses of the Badgers this year. Regardless of Evans being a Senior, this is a team sport and it is not in the best interest to build a team on one person, especially when that one person is so inconsistent. Like the article said it would be one thing if he was averaging 11 points a game and 8 rebounds and shooting 65-70% on free throws. But when losses are only gaining 4-5% on field goals and 4-5 rebounds and 33% from free throw line, come on man, bench him and develop some of the other players. I also think this grinding out each possession to the last second is not in the best interest of this team, they just don't have the offensive weapons to make the shot. Over the course of the game they are losing possessions and their opponents are taking advantage of it. In their loses to Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State they went well over 5 minutes without making a basket, that more than not translates into losses and that is exactly what happened. There was no excuse for the Michigan State loss or Ohio State lose. In both of those I am sure it translated into Evans poor shooting performance and the teams pathetic free throw percentages. One and done in the NCAA is they can make it to 20 wins. Even that could be challenging for this year's Badgers.