Sunday , Nov , 12 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

No. 9 Wisconsin kicks off season against overmatched Mercer

Madison, WI (Sports Network) – The ninth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers are set to
open the 2006-07 season against the Mercer Bears in what appears to be a
lopsided matchup. Mercer finished in the lower half of the Atlantic Sun
Conference standings last season, posting just seven victories against 13
defeats. With the two top scorers gone from that squad, it is hard to be
optimistic about this year’s group, and the Bears are clearly enormous
underdogs today.

As for Wisconsin, it lost its final four games last season and finished
with a rather disappointing 19-15 record. Bo Ryan’s team does have reason
for optimism, however, as there are a few key contributors back in place. The
Badgers were 14-2 at home in 2005-06, as they are nearly impossible to beat
at the Kohl Center.

This game marks the first-ever meeting between Mercer and Wisconsin in men’s

A total of 50 percent of last season’s scoring punch is gone for Mercer, so
some unproven performers will be asked to elevate their level of play. Forward
Sam Dolan is the team’s top returnee after averaging 9.2 ppg and 5.7 rpg last
season. He will be flanked in the frontcourt by Calvin Henry, a 6-6 performer
with little experience. The hope is highly regarded freshman James Florence
will be able to run the team from the point guard position right away, but he
may need some time to adjust to the college game. Ross Alacqua (7.3 ppg) and
Montavious Waters (7.1 ppg) add some scoring punch to the lineup, but this
team will be lucky to finish anywhere near .500.

Wisconsin standout Alando Tucker was recently named the Big Ten Preseason
Player of the Year, and that selection is certainly justified. He scored 19.0
ppg thanks to his ability to score both inside and out. The knock on Tucker is
that he is a poor free throw shooter (.545 in 2005-06), and he must improve in
that area for late-game situations. Kammron Taylor represents the other half
of the club’s dynamic duo, and he netted 14.2 ppg despite his erratic 38.5
percent shooting from the field. If Taylor can be more selective, this team
would benefit tremendously. Brian Butch is a 6-11 junior who has been a bit
inconsistent up front, but he certainly has the potential to be one of the
better big men in the Big Ten.

Clearly, Wisconsin should be able to roll to victory here. Tucker and Taylor
form arguably the top duo in the Big Ten, and they will get plenty of help
from their teammates against Mercer.