Keaton Nankivil. How many people have heard of him? Either you're in the elite percentage of college basketball fans or a Wisconsin badger fan. Even Coach Bo Ryan thought it would be extremely difficult to cope with the loss of 6'10" junior forward, Jon Leuer. Not only did Leuer provide 15.4 points (2nd on the team) and 6.2 rebounds (1st), he was an inside-outside presence that opened the lane for slashing guard Trevon Hughes or the outside shooting of Jason Bohannon. I wrote off the Badgers in NBA-Draft.com's midseason review.
But since Leuer went down, a former role-playing Keaton Nankivil, a 6'8" junior has stepped in to fill Leuer's shoes; he has averaged 13.3 points in six games, while coming down with 6.2 rebounds per game. Nankivil has been just as strong as a rebounder as the 6'10" Leuer, but he has also been an improvement from the perimeter. He almost single-handedly upset Purdue in West Lafayette by going off for a career-high 25 points, most of which came on his 7-for-8 shooting from behind the arc.
With the defeat of #5 Michigan State in Madison, Wisconsin last night, the Badgers not only stayed perfect at home (13-), but they also handed the Spartans their first Big Ten loss of the season. With eight conference games remaining, the Badgers have a favorable schedule, facing Illinois at home and on the road, while the remaining Big Ten games are against the bottom feeders of the conference. Michigan State, on the other hand, still must play Purdue twice (home and away) and a rejuvenated Ohio State squad.