Michigan State was supposed to beat Wisconsin on Friday night and that’s exactly what they did, winning 76-61 at the Breslin Center.
It was the third straight loss in the series with the Spartans and the fifth in the last six games for Wisconsin. The Badgers drop to 3-6 in Big Ten play and are two games under .500 overall on the season. As for the Spartans, it was a much-needed win with all that is surrounding the athletic department and the program specifically.
So, what do we take away from yet another loss for UW? Let’s get in to our three takeaways from Friday night.
Effort was there against an elite team
Yes, this is where the Badgers program is at this season — we’re talking about effort.
Unlike the last few times Wisconsin has played against the upper echelon of college basketball, at least this time they put up a big fight and made Michigan State work for it. Blowouts to Ohio State, Purdue and Marquette earlier in the year suggested this one was going to be over before it even started.
However, the Badgers fought hard and clawed their way to within single digits at points throughout the game. UW was down just 46-40 with just under 10 minutes to go in the game, but the Spartans responded right back to make it a nine-point game and the Badgers never got closer.
Michigan State had an answer for every run the Badgers made, but this was a strong showing in terms of a full team effort in this one. That’s a positive and if they can play with this effort against the rest of the Big Ten, there may be an upset or two brewing for this team.
Perimeter Shooting Sucks Again
As much as the defense has been the Badgers Achilles heel this season, so has the shooting from anywhere not within 5-feet of the basket.
That was on brutal display against Michigan State, as the Badgers shot an awful 36.2 percent from the field and an even worse 20.8 percent from beyond the arc. UW made four three-pointers in the first half, but only mustered up a single made basket from beyond the arc in the second half.
It’s a shame too, because there were plenty of good looks and this was a game just begging for those shots to go down for Wisconsin. Make three or four more and a 15-point loss would’ve been a very different game.
Point guard Brad Davison’s shoulder is clearly affecting his long-range shooting, while Brevin Pritzl can’t hit the broad side of the barn when it matters most. The two combined to go just 3 of 15 from beyond the arc, with Davison shooting a woeful 0 of 6 on his end of the deal.
While nothing at this point isn’t an unknown with the Badgers, this game highlighted the fact that a perimeter game is badly needed. Simply put, Wisconsin had a legit shot to win this game if it could’ve strung together anything from the outside.
UW couldn’t and here we sit with a pat on the back for a nice effort in a losing situation.
Gard Through In the Kitchen Sink
No seriously, he couldn’t have thrown anything more at this game in terms of trying to get something consistent going from beyond the arc.
Case in point…Andy Van Vliet actually made a token appearance in this game. Sure, he only played two minutes of the game but he’s been buried so far on Gard’s bench that any sighting is worth noting. He didn’t take a single shot, but did record a rebound for his time on the court.
Beyond that, Alex Illikainen saw 14 minutes, Charles Thomas saw 11 and T.J. Schlundt saw 10 minutes too.
If that isn’t throwing everything in hoping to get a positive result somehow, I don’t know what is.
Clearly Gard is frustrated because he knows there are winnable games happening but his team is simply not performing up to standard. That’s how you get completely underperforming players like Illikainen, Thomas and Schlundt coming in for double-digit minutes in the middle of a road game in which you are contending, but just can’t get over the hump.
At this point, there really isn’t much more that Gard can do if the players he is putting in won’t show up the way he needs them to.
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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