As the calendar turned to February, unfamiliar territory became reality as the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball program tumbled down the Big Ten standings and towards missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in nearly 20 years.
But, as the season has wound down, the Badgers haven’t given up on themselves or the future of this team.
That was on full display on Thursday night in a 70-64 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats. UW is now on a three-game win streak, its longest since a five-game win streak to end non-conference play and begin Big Ten play version 2.0.
Ethan Happ has an idea as to why the turnaround has happened, and it’s a simple solution.
“I think early we were finding ways to lose games,” Happ said, via the Wisconsin State Journal. “and now we’re finding ways to win them.”
While beating Minnesota and Northwestern should be expected of this team regardless of the season they are having, winning against fellow bottom half teams has been anything but a given for most of the season for this Badgers team. Confidence certainly grew on Frank Kaminsky’s jersey retirement night, beating at top 10 team in Purdue, and it seems as if the momentum has been contagious.
Once left for dead, juniors Andy Van Vliet, Brevin Pritzl and Khalil Iverson were the backbone of UW’s success against the Wildcats. Pritzl continued his hot-shooting with his fifth double figure scoring effort (11) in the last six games. Van Vliet put up his best effort in the Big Ten season, scoring 14 points and playing a season-high 24 minutes in the process. Iverson had 16 points, 6 rebounds and was 4 of 5 from the free throw line.
It was an effort that few saw coming, but also a sign that all three have been working tirelessly to get themselves in a position to be counted on down the stretch. Iverson has come on sooner than the other two, but Pritzl’s late-season resurgence and Van Vliet’s effort on Thursday show that hope isn’t actually lost for a class that largely (and rightfully) blamed for the Badgers struggles earlier in the season.
Credit has to go to the players and to the coaching staff. Both kept working through some hard times this season and the fruits of that labor are coming just as a seemingly lost season is coming to a close.
Gard could’ve just given up on Pritzl and Van Vliet, and he certainly punished them for a lack of quality play with seats deep on the bench through large parts of the season. But, he also recognized the work they put in, was willing to give a second chance and saw that faith pay off.
While one game and one stretch of wins doesn’t a guaranteed turnaround make, it’s the details of that effort that matter most.
No longer are the Badgers Ethan Happ and no one else. Happ is certainly the cornerstone of this team, as his 15 of 19 points in the second half performance demonstrated, but no longer is this a team that can only count on him to score and get a team going offensively.
It’s led to three straight games where slow starts really haven’t been the case offensively and a defensive turnaround that has been really helpful. Four of Wisconsin’s lat six losses came as teams scored over 70 points, meanwhile in each of the last three wins no team has scored in the 70’s and no team has scored more than 64
Sure, the Wildcats are struggling down the stretch and are on a now five-game losing streak, but the Badgers team that lost to Northwestern at home was not on display on Thursday night and hasn’t been on display in the final two weeks of the season really.
Instead of giving up massive leads due to cold shooting and bad defense, Wisconsin has maintained an even approach and worked to get better despite some in the fanbase giving up on this “talentless” team.
Three wins in a row for the Badgers. Still some things to work out, but for the most part this team looks infinitely better than they did in January. Really fun to watch this young team grow.
— Badger Sports Talk (@BadgerSports1) February 23, 2018
While he season won’t end with the Badgers in the post-season unless they make a run to the Big Ten tournament, it is clear this team is growing.
That’s a good sign for a young team and one that will get to hit the reset button next year thanks to season-ending injuries to both D’Mitrick Trice and Kobe King. Add those pieces to a puzzle that is finally fitting together well and this could be a very dangerous team very quickly next season.
The question will be if the late-season momentum can carry on or will it die off? Considering the players who haven’t given up on themselves, the future seems brighter than it did just a month ago.
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.
Badgers basketball land Davis twins
After missing out on the Hauser brothers late last month, the Wisconsin Badgers added a different pair of siblings on Saturday night.
Following an offer to the brother of 4-star shooting guard Johnny Davis and an appearance at a team camp this weekend, the Davis brothers announced their pledge to the Badgers according to Badger247.
It took less than a week after head coach Greg Gard gave the O.K. to offer Jordan for the pair to commit to Wisconsin.
Johnny held offers from Marquette, West Virginia, Iowa, Minnesota, DePaul, UNLV and others.
Jordan had offers from UW-Milwaukee and Green Bay, while also becoming a sought after recruit on the football field as well. Once he became serious about wanting to play basketball first, it seemed like a matter of time before Wisconsin offered.
That time came after seeing Jordan play in a camp last weekend.
It also came because it was time to figure out if Johnny was serious about the Badgers or not.
With the July evaluation period coming up, Wisconsin’s coaching staff put the final chips in the middle with this recruitment and it appeared to pay off.
Johnny joins as the No. 141 ranked player in the country and the No. 14 ranked combo guard in the nation according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
The twins will join Detroit, Mich. native Lorne Bowman in the 2020 class.
Wisconsin still has one scholarship available in the class as well, which is likely being held for 5-star and Wisconsin native Jalen Johnson.
After missing out on talented in-state players over and over again, this was a major win for Gard and his coaching staff considering how hard schools like West Virginia and Marquette were after Johnny’s commitment.
As for Jordan, it appears the coaching staff believes he is improving enough to get a scholarship and continue his improvement with this program.
Offers don’t come out just because it may win over a different recruit at Wisconsin. That wasn’t Bo Ryan’s style and it also isn’t Greg Gard’s style.
The trio of players put the Badgers at No. 8 in the country and No. 3 in the Big Ten in the 2020 class as of today.
Former Badgers get No. 2 seed in The Basketball Tournament Columbus regional
Who doesn’t want $2 million? That’s the prize at stake for winning The Basketball Tournament and a group of former Wisconsin Badgers want in.
On Tuesday it was officially announced that the Kohl Blooded team — spearheaded by former Badgers point guard Kam Taylor — will be the No. 2 seed in the Columbus regional.
They will take on No. 7 seed Mid-American Unity, which is making its second appearance in the TBT after a year off. That group represents teams from across the Mid-American conference.
As for the Badgers, the roster will be made up of some very strong names from the past. The headline names include members of the back-to-back Final Four teams in Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown. Also joining will be Jordan Taylor, Ryan Evans, Trevon Hughes and recent grad Charles Thomas. You can see the full roster here.
The regionals will take place July 19-21 in Columbus with the winner of this regional meeting seven other winners in Chicago for championship week.
All games will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks, so you should be able to find them either streaming or on cable television.
Kohl Blooded vs. Mid-American Unity will tip at 1pm ET on Friday, July 19.
The winner will take on the winner of Red Scare (Dayton alumni) and The Region (players from Northwest Indiana) in the regional semi-final the next day.
Badgers play final card in attempt to land 2020 G Johnny Davis
A week after losing out on Joey and Sam Hauser, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program needs some positive momentum on the player acquisition front.
With three scholarships available in the 2020 class and two top in-state players in their sites, the Badgers coaching staff has been about as patient as possible.
On Wednesday, Badger247 reports that UW has offered Jordan Davis, the twin brother of top target Johnny Davis. It’s not a walk-on or grayshirt, but a full scholarship offer.
After two years of waiting for that offer to come, it finally did.
Jordan is an unranked player in basketball at this time, but I expect that to change once the scouting services catch wind of this offer. Johnny Davis is the No. 131 ranked player in the country, a 4-star rated prospect and the No. 3 ranked player in the state of Wisconsin in the 2020 class.
With the brothers set to make a weekend visit for team camp in two weeks, this is a move that undoubtably puts the pressure squarely on Johnny Davis at this point.
Simply put, the Badgers need to know if Davis is going to commit or if they need to move on.
Offering Jordan a full ride is about the only thing left in the Badgers quiver at this point. If getting the dream of playing basketball together at the same school and in-state no less doesn’t tip the scales, at least the Badgers know they can move on.
Is it a desperate move? In some ways one could see it as such. Clearly the Badgers want Johnny in a major way and they see offering Jordan as a critical move that could separate themselves from the competition.
However, this also isn’t a coaching staff willing to just throw away a scholarship in an effort to get a coveted player to play for them. That’s simply not Greg Gard’s style.
Jordan is also a player they see as a contributor, or he wasn’t getting an offer. Plain and simple.
There’s no doubt that this move ups the pressure, like I mentioned before. But, that’s not a bad thing, as UW needs to know where they stand heading in to July’s evaluation period.
If the Davis brothers can’t commit or at least internally give the coaching staff the information that will make them feel comfortable, they need to start getting offers out to other big time players whom they’ve been waiting to offer.
Consider UW is an underdog to land in-state five-star prospect Jalen Johnson, and you have to consider this move a smart one for the long term prospects of the 2020 class.
Will the Davis twins jump at the offer to play together at Wisconsin?
Some in the recruiting world believe this was the situation that was holding Wisconsin back all along. So, don’t be surprised to see this affect the recruitment of both players in a big way.
As for Jordan, his game has also caught the attention of Iowa and Minnesota and he did have scholarship offers from both Green Bay and Milwaukee prior to this one.
What may have really held the Badgers coaching staff and others back was the fact that Jordan is also a good player on the football side and wasn’t sure which sport he wanted to pick.
It seems like UW has gotten the clue that Jordan may be more receptive to a basketball future and pulled the trigger on the offer.
We’ll see how much longer the two stay uncommitted, but don’t be surprised to see something happen following July’s AAU season.
Letting that play out and getting all the offers out there on the table is just a smart move for the twins. From there, it’s up to them and clearly the Badgers have left no stone unturned in this situation.
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