It was over from the opening tip at the Kohl Center, and not in the way Badgers fans were hoping to see. Northwestern gathered in the opening tip, nailed a three-pointer and raced to an 18-1 lead before UW knew what hit them.
Wisconsin made runs of their own in the game, but the 17-point deficit was simply too much to overcome. The loss was the seventh in the last eight games for the Badgers and dropped them to 10-14 overall and 3-8 in the Big Ten.
Not even a team-high 15 points from junior forward Khalil Iverson was enough for the Badgers to fend off an equally frustrated Northwestern squad.
So, what do we take away from arguably the most disappointing loss of the season? Here are our three takeaways from the game:
This isn’t a completely lost season
Sure, in terms of the larger goals of making the NCAA tournament and contending for a Big Ten championship, it is indeed a lost season. There’s no denying that fact. But, it isn’t the whole story either. With a young group of players having to play major minutes, this season is far from being a lost one.
It is in fact a valuable lesson for players like Brad Davison, Aleem Ford and Nathan Reuvers. Let’s also not forget that we have begun to see the version of Khalil Iverson we all thought we’d see earlier in the season. He’s becoming a force for the Badgers and gives them the second scoring option they need to go with Ethan Happ. In the eight-point loss to Northwestern, it was Iverson that led the team in scoring with 15 points. He also was 5 of 8 from the field and 5 of 6 from the free throw line and had 9 rebounds and 2 assists.
More importantly, Iverson is becoming a consistent scoring threat overall. He’s now averaging 10.2 points per game and has scored in double figures in four of the last five games. Of course the sad news is that even Iverson’s improvement and consistency hasn’t been enough, as only one of the last five games was a win.
Still, the point here is that this isn’t a lost season for player development. It may be in terms of wins, losses and post-season play, but there is plenty left for this team to work on and learn from for next season.
This Loss Stung
This was the game this Badgers team needed to have. UW was going up against an equally struggling Northwestern team and it was playing at home. Instead of getting off to a fast start, it was the visiting squad that did most of the early scoring and simply choked any life out of the Kohl Center crowd and the Badgers hopes.
The loss also stung because there was a large fight in this team after that 18-1 hole it dug itself. Yet, that fight was never enough to really get back in the game.
Finally, the fact that Thursday marked the first time since 2009 that the Badgers have lost four consecutive Big Ten games and that Northwestern’s back-to-back wins in Madison marked a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1969-70 just added to the pain of this loss.
It’s a strange feeling, because usually any pain of a loss came because UW was fighting for a conference title or a deep run came to an end in the NCAA tournament. Now, the losses are coming fast and furious and it’s not fun to be in this position.
Wisconsin Isn’t Alone Amongst National Powers Struggling
It is easy to take this season in a vacuum and see it as awful, this team as “talentless” and countless other negative remarks that have littered Twitter in the past few weeks. No doubt the standard of acceptable basketball has been raised at Wisconsin, but this is one bad season in nearly 20 years of NCAA tournament-level basketball.
That’s gotten me to think about the bigger picture here. Let’s step away from the Cardinal and White-colored glasses for a second and take a look at the rest of college basketball. When you do that, guess what? Wisconsin’s bad season isn’t the only one for long-time nationally recognized programs.
Kentucky is having one of its worst seasons under John Calipari with three losses in conference play (12-6 is the worst UK has done under him), Indiana is below .500 in conference play, UConn is a shadow of its former self, Pitt and Notre Dame are two of the bottom three teams in the ACC, Baylor and Iowa State are last in the Big 12 and the once-proud Vanderbilt program has just eight wins all season.
The point here is that Wisconsin isn’t the only big-named program to have struggles this season or in any season, and we should be remembering that what the Badgers accomplished since the 1999-2000 season is an exception to the ebbs and flows of college basketball.
Right now, the Badgers are experiencing the first down year in nearly a decade. It’s painful to watch, but some of what we’ve seen from the fanbase is completely ridiculous. Some are acting line spoiled brats who didn’t get that candy bar they wanted at the store or the toy at the local Shopko or something.
What a talentless squad
— The Mad Tweeter (@kdubbs36) February 2, 2018
Arguments like this can be found in numerous parts of the Twittersphere. If you want to point to the 5-man junior class and note that 4 of the 5 are failing to contribute in ways that are good enough, you’ve got no qualms from me. But, to suggest that Happ, Davison, Kobe King, Aleem Ford and others lack talent is just patently false. All except Happ are young, playing injured, out for the season or just growing in a developmental program and showing glimpses of the talent they are developing.
Wisconsin isn’t going to be a program that plugs and plays freshman every season, they simply aren’t recruiting at that level and never really have. Now, are they recruiting at a higher level lately? You bet, but with two-thirds of the class injured there’s not a lot to go on in terms of their “talent” level. Let’s see a full healthy season from Davison and King and then judge.
Furthermore, we wouldn’t even know these guys’ struggles or triumphs this season if the 5-man class that Bo Ryan swung and missed on would be playing up to their potential. Davison likely would be playing, but Ford, King and Reuvers likely wouldn’t even see the floor had the junior class not been a big miss.
I mean, it’s gotten to the point that some in the Badgers fan base are calling out Ethan Happ as a bum and the problem for this team. Even Iverson, who is playing his best basketball of his career is getting roasted by some.
Christ Iverson is awful. Never shoot the ball again.
— The Mad Tweeter (@kdubbs36) January 30, 2018
Yes, that All-American who is leading the team in every single stat category is the problem. Lashing out at players like Happ is just ridiculous, because he’s doing all he can for the program.
Chill out on the negativity a bit, chalk this up to being a season of transition. Few programs not named Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke could see 4 starters gone, replace them with all new faces to the program and still survive.
There’s a difference between being angry/disappointed in the results of the team and going full-on rage tweets. Luckily there are some even-keeled thinkers in the Twittersphere.
Well now we know that years in which there are no scholarship bench guards and freshmen/sophomores have to play 35 min/game aren’t going to go well.
— Hornibrook Appreciator (@TheRealEBohl) January 24, 2018
The Badgers suck, yes. Bo’s last few recruiting classes were horrendous obviously. Gard has some talent with this freshman class, and injuries haven’t helped. But to say they in trouble as a program after one down year, you’re starting to lose it, Doug.
— Michael Graber (@Graber2Graber) January 24, 2018
If the Badgers didn't have Happ, I don't think they would even have a win this season. Sucks that the streak of making the tournament is going to end this year. Unless they somehow pull off a miracle and win the B1G tourney.
— Jacob Nichols (@jnich24) January 30, 2018
Wisconsin’s season doesn’t get any easier from here on out with the likes of Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue still to go on the schedule. Could wins even come against equally struggling teams like Maryland or Minnesota? Perhaps those are places for glimmers of hope in a dark season for the Badgers.
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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