Wisconsin got a big taste of its own medicine on Tuesday night, getting beat down bad by Iowa just one game after doing the beating down to Illinois.
It leaves the Badgers at 3-5 in Big Ten play and struggling to find any real rhythm on the season and likely gives the final blow to any lingering hopes of a late run to another NCAA tournament.
But, what did this game teach us? Let’s take a look at our three takeaways from the game.
Iverson needs to take this offense over
After coming out and staying hot against Illinois, the Badgers opened the game in a massive funk on both ends of the court.
It resulted in a 12-2 run to start the game for Iowa and Wisconsin shooting just 3-17 to start the half. However, Iverson decided to take the team on his back and it resulted in getting UW back in the game.
The junior took over point guard duties with most of the starting backcourt in trouble and Iowa going all 2-3 zone on the Badgers. It resulted in Iverson putting up 13 of his 17 points in the first half. He also shot 6 of 8 from the field in the first half.
But, Iowa adjusted to what Iverson was able to do well in the first half and frustrated him in the second half. They turned him in to a jump shooter only and Iverson ended the night shooting just 7-16 from the field.
Iverson’s night wasn’t just defined by playing well on offense for a half either, he was also the facilitator when the offense was stagnant and had a solid effort on the defensive side of the ball (something we’ll talk about later). Iverson finished with 4 assists and 7 rebounds to go with his 17 points.
With Wisconsin down 12 at 29-17 with 6:36 to play, Iverson took this team on his back. He hit a pair of shots and a free throw in three straight possessions, putting the Badgers down just seven.
After the 3-17 start to the game, Wisconsin finished off the half shooting 9 of 14.
It’s no coincidence that Iverson getting hot and attacking the basket freed up everyone else either. It’s also no coincidence that as soon as he was taken out of the game in the second half by Iowa that things went from bad to worse.
Gard would be wise to find a way to have the offense run through Iverson on the perimeter and Happ on the block, but also get Iverson free to the hoop more often. It was UW at its best against Iowa.
Gard’s Lineup Insanity
As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Yet, that’s exactly what Gard seems to be doing every game when he trots out Alex Illikainen and TJ Schlundt off the bench. On Tuesday, the two combined for 17 minutes on the court and exactly nothing but a headache to show for it.
They combined for no points, no rebounds, no assists, no turnovers, no nothing…except for Illikainen’s 0-2 night from the field (which included an airball three-point attempt).
I know this much, Gard is literally throwing everything out there and seeing what sticks. That’s what happens when a coach runs out of an idea of what to do with a team.
A lot of this is on players who should be showing up and contributing in big ways, but some of this is on a coach who can’t seem to motivate a team to show up consistently from one game to the next.
We get that Gard is limited in what he can do in terms of personnel, but I’d rather see a bad game and a learning experience from a freshman like Nate Reuvers than a third-year player playing like a freshman would any day of the week.
Gard’s choice of an almost exclusively all-bench lineup for about 5 minutes of this game was brutal and Illikainen and Thomas’ defensive deficiencies were a huge part of that.
Congrats to Thomas for turning his opportunity in to success, scoring 10 points and pulling in 5 rebounds in 17 minutes played. But, that is a needle in the haystack of his career to date.
Maybe it’s a glimmer of hope, but we’ll see if Gard falls in to the trap of thinking this means Thomas needs more minutes consistently or not..because a quick look at his overall defensive night suggests the numbers aren’t as good as you’d think.
Then again, what choice does Gard have with a lineup full of people who don’t take opportunities and run with them like Thomas did?
Wisconsin’s defensive deterioration
There is no bigger indictment of this team than its defensive effort (or lack there of) on the season and especially on Tuesday night.
If there is a hallmark of Badgers basketball since the arrival of Dick Bennett, it has been that success comes from defense first. Even the back-to-back Final Four teams were built on defense driving everything else.
You could make the case that is happening again in 2017-18, only not to success but to failure.
Wisconsin has been terrible on defense against any sort of competent opposition so far this season. That was certainly the case on Tuesday night, as Wisconsin had no answer for the inside duo of Tyler Cook and Luka Garza.
Iowa’s big men combined for 34 points, 21 rebounds and shot 68.1 percent from the field on the night. As a team, the Hawkeyes shot 52 percent as a team.
It’s been a trend all season though, as UW is 11th in the Big Ten in opponent field goal percentage. They are allowing opponents to shoot 47.6 percent in conference games and are dead last in the Big Ten in opponent field goal percentage overall (46.2 percent).
That is a massive problem and if you want to put your finger on one reason for this team’s struggles, it all starts with defense. It’s even trickled down to UW’s best player, Ethan Happ.
He was awful against Iowa’s movement, while Charlie Thomas wasn’t much better and simply got out-worked more often than not on the boards. It’s why the Hawkeyes had a 41-32 advantage on the boards and a 12-6 advantage in second chance points.
This team hasn’t been good on defense all season, even in most of its wins. Some of this is on coaching to say the least, because effort seems to be lacking. I’ll take making mistakes by young players as long as the effort is there and outside of Davison and Happ, the effort on defense has been largely lacking.
Can this game film correct some of those mistakes or will the team tune Gard out like it seemingly has most of this season. After all, it’s the same tune every game.
Badgers basketball lands pair of 4-star players in 2021 class
Witnessing a win over the Northwestern Wildcats must have done the trick, because two of Wisconsin’s biggest targets in the 2021 class both committed on Sunday.
First to commit was the more surprising name, as Top247 point guard Chucky Hepburn.
The No. 23 ranked point guard and No. 141 ranked player in the country per the 247Sports composite rankings chose the Badgers over offers from Minnesota, Nebraska, and Creighton. He also was beginning to see interest from some of the bigger names in college basketball, but chose to pick a team that had been on him for awhile.
“I called coach Gard 30 minutes ago and committed,” Hepburn told Badger247. “The education part was really great. I loved all the academic advisors are part of the basketball program and how they work with them.
“With the basketball side, I fit perfectly with the system they run. I feel like the assistant coaches will help me get where I want to be, because they all played professionally before.”
But, not long after that news broke, word of the biggest target on UW’s list committing would break as well.
Wisconsin would add 4-star forward Matthew Mors to the mix as well.
Mors comes to the Badgers ranked as the No. 115 player in the country and the No. 22 power forward in the nation as well.
The Badgers had been on Mors since his eighth grade year and the persistence paid off, despite other offers across the Big Ten and Big 12 coming to him.
Mors chose Wisconsin over names like Creighton, Iowa State, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, TCU, and more.
With these two pledges, the Badgers have solidified their 2021 recruiting class rather early and they hit on all their top priority prospects as well.
Hepburn and Mors join fellow 4-star player in 6-8 power forward Chris Hodges. With three 4-star players to their name, the Badgers currently own the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.
Yes, Wisconsin isn’t likely to own that No. 1 ranking by the end of the class, but there’s no doubt that the Badgers have done something special in the 2021 class.
It is a huge statement for head coach Greg Gard after the program missed out on some massive in-state names in the past few classes. Many had begun to wonder if the Badgers could ever hit on big targets with Gard as the head coach.
Those thoughts should be put to rest with this class and how the Badgers closed out the 2020 class prior to this.
It should also be noted that assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft was the lead recruiter on each of the last four overall commitments for the Badgers, including 2020 names Steven Crowl and Ben Carlson.
Of course, we won’t know for a while how these big recruiting numbers stack up once they get on the floor for some time. But, winning on the recruiting trail like this puts the Badgers in a much better spot to be competitive for a very long time than previously thought.
Carlson commits to Badgers 2020 basketball class
It appears the 2020 Wisconsin Badgers basketball class has come to a close.
The four-star center chose the Badgers over a who’s who of basketball offers in the Midwest including Ohio State, Xavier, Stanford, Purdue, Creighton, Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa State, Kansas State, Wake Forest, and others.
Much like Crowl, Carlson took his official visit to Madison earlier this month for the Central Michigan football game.
Carlson comes to the Badgers as the No. 15 ranked forward in the entire country per the 247Sports composite rankings, the No. 82 ranked player overall and with a .967 grade from the composite.
He was high up the Badgers list for a long time, even as they targeted other highly rate options at forward like Jalen Johnson. However, as the board began to shake out, it was clear the Badgers wanted Carlson no matter what Johnson or anyone else was going to do in this class.
It appears that the relationship that Carlson formed with the current roster while on his visit is what put the Badgers over the top in this lengthly recruitment.
“A big focus was on getting to know the players, so I hung out with them a lot,” Carlson told Badger247. “They talked about how the coaching staff tells you straight-up how everything is going to be, they don’t sugarcoat anything. They told me about how much they liked it there.”
“I had a pretty good idea of how Wisconsin was going in,” he continued. “The biggest thing was getting to know the players and I really liked them. I know about the history and the campus, but getting to know the players was big for sure.”
Adding this type of nationally known name to an already big class is huge for the Badgers. In fact, UW has the No. 4 ranked class per the 247Sports composite team rankings.
It would be the highest the Badgers have ever finished in the rankings, with the 2006 class under Bo Ryan the next highest at No. 20 in the country.
Wisconsin is getting easily one of the most skilled big men in the class and an instant impact type of player. What has been a question mark up front could easily be a strength of this team quickly thanks to Carlson and Crowl’s commitments to the class.
Badgers add 4-star center to 2020 basketball class
What could be a historic recruiting class for the Wisconsin Badgers got another boost on Tuesday as 4-star center Steven Crowl verbally committed to the Badgers.
He went on his official visit this past weekend and apparently it was all he needed to see.
Crowl has since cancelled trips to other contenders like Colorado, Iowa, and Northern Iowa. He also had an offer from the in-state Gophers and was thinking about a visit there.
However, his official visit for the Central Michigan football game weekend was all he needed to pull the trigger on a commitment to Gard and the Badgers.
Crowl joins an already loaded Badgers 2020 class that includes in-state star Johnny Davis and his twin brother Jordan Davis, as well as the No. 25 ranked point guard in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings, Lorne Bowman.
This class also already has preferred walk-on Carter Gilmore, who chose that offer over other mid-major D1 offers and saw his recruitment pick up considerably in the July evaluation period.
While his name wasn’t a hot one on the recruiting trail, he was a late riser and currently sits as the No. 102 ranked player in the class overall and the No. 17 center in the nation per the 247Sports composite rankings.
The St. Paul, Minn. native is also continuing the pipeline of players coming from the cross-border rival Gopher state. He comes from the same AAU program — Minnesota D1 — that produced both Tyler Wahl and Nate Reuvers.
With Crowl in the fold, Wisconsin has added 12 players from the state of Minnesota in the 247Sports composite era, according to Badger247.
When you take a look at Crowl’s film, what you see is someone that has begun to both physically and mentally mature. He’s got the skill set that UW likes out of their bigs as well, with a nice looking shot from the outside.
However, what you also see on tape is someone that may need to take a year to adjust to the college game and that may be perfectly fine with the coaching staff as they still will have Nate Reuvers and Tyler Wahl to work with up front as starters.
It will be interesting to see how Crowl digests the speed of the college game early on. If he can adjust to that and the physicality, he may indeed find himself in the rotation quickly though.
He is certainly in the mold of what has become the classic Wisconsin big man.
Former Badger Jon Leur traded to Milwaukee Bucks
They say you can always go home, and for one former Wisconsin Badger he’s coming back to a state he called home for four years.
Former Badgers forward Jon Leuer was traded early on Thursday morning from the Detroit Pistons to the Milwaukee Bucks. In exchange for Leuer, the Bucks gave up the 30th overall pick in tonight’s NBA Draft and traded away Tony Snell.
Last season, Leuer played in 41 games for the Pistons and made just one start. He averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in his ninth season in the NBA.
Leuer is a very similar player to Snell, but comes at a much more team-friendly salary.
In trading away Snell, the Bucks free up an additional $4 million in salary this year and another $12 million next year.
This could be seen as a way for the Bucks to pony up the big money that Khris Middleton wants from the team in order to stay in Milwaukee.
As for Leuer, he is 17th on the all-time Badgers scoring list with 1,376 points to his name. He also finished his career with 551 rebounds.
Leuer’s final season in Madison was his best statistically, as he helped lead the 2010-11 Badgers team to the Sweet 16. He averaged 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game that year.
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