By JIM RUTLEDGE
When Vander Blue backed off his verbal commitment to Wisconsin and decided to go to in-state rival Marquette, there were a lot of upset Badger fans.
Blue was a four-star, Madison area kid who gave his word that he would play for Bo Ryan. The Badgers believed in him before other schools did and they were not rewarded with the same loyalty they showed Blue.
Now Badger fans should be thanking Blue for realizing that his best chance for success was with the Golden Eagles not the Badgers. The swing offense is based on the theory of moving the ball, touching the post, being smart with the ball and knocking down shots. Blue is averaging two turnovers in just about 25 minutes per game this season and is shooting 44 percent from the field and 29 percent from downtown.
Those numbers are vastly improved from 39 and 16 last season but are still not numbers that indicate success or minutes with the Badgers. No Badger guard who plays more than 10 minutes a game shoots less than 33 percent from downtown and no player on Wisconsin’s roster averages more than 1.5 turnovers per game.
The other reason Badger fans should be happy that Blue broke his verbal commitment, is Josh Gasser. Gasser ended up with the scholarship originally earmarked for Diamond Taylor, but once Taylor ran into legal trouble Gasser wound up receiving and accepting an opportunity to play for the Badgers.
(Editor's Note: It could be argued that Gasser would have never received the scholarship he did had Blue stuck with his original commitment.)
Gasser is arguably having a better career than Blue would have had with UW. Gasser has been a starter since his freshman year because he does take care of the ball and he shoots the ball well.
As a freshmen Gasser averaged 28 minutes per game, shot 47 percent from the field, 30 percent from downtown and averaged less than one turnover per outing. He’s become even more efficient this season shooting 46 percent from the field, 47 percent from downtown and is averaging just over a turnover a game in 34 minutes per.
I know both players have different games, but that’s my point. At this point in his career Blue is a slasher that is still finding his way in the college game. On the other hand, Gasser is a shooter who was ready made to play in the swing offense. Blue made the right choice for himself and subsequently the Badgers when he chose Marquette. Below is a closer look at the numbers for Blue and Gasser.
19 minutes per game
FG: 39%, 3pt: 16%, 3 rebounds, 2assists and 5 points per game.
25 minutes per game
FG: 44%, 3pt: 29%, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 8.5 points per game.
28 minutes per game.
FG: 47%, 3pt: 30%, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 6 points per game.
34minutes per game
FG: 46%, 3pt: 47%, 4 rebounds, 2 assist and 7.5 points per game.
Looking at the numbers you could argue that Blue could provide the scoring and aggressiveness that Wisconsin could use this year. At first glance you may have a case when you see that Blue is averaging a point more per game than Gasser (this season) in fewer minutes. Looking deeper at the numbers, though, you’ll see that Blue is playing in an offense that is more up-tempo than Wisconsin. Marquette averages nearly 14 more points per game than Wisconsin. With increased tempo comes increased chances to score and that is why Blue is averaging more than Gasser.
It is speculative on my part to assume that Blue would not have the same success that Gasser is having with UW, but I think there is strong case here that Blue’s best chance for success is with Marquette. Figuring out who is the better player is the tough question.
Blue is more athletic with a high upside but there is no guarantee he’ll follow in the steps of other Marquette guards who made a big jump later in their careers. Gasser is a more efficient player who fits perfectly into what Wisconsin tries to do, he’s been a starter for two seasons already and his freshman numbers are arguably better than Blue’s sophomore numbers.
For Wisconsin, Josh Gasser is a better player than Vander Blue would have been. Blue made the right choice going to Marquette because it’s the best place for him to grow his style of play. The Golden Eagles and the Badgers benefitted from a young man changing his mind.
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