It’s that time of the Big Ten season already for the Wisconsin Badgers..and by that we mean it’s time for the return matchups to begin.
The first of which will be a huge battle between two top 25 programs, with No. 21 Maryland coming to the Kohl Center to take on No. 24 Wisconsin.
Last time these two teams met, the Badgers dug a deep hole and nearly climbed all the way out of it in a 64-60 loss in College Park, Md.
Can home court advantage come in to play again and who will assert themselves smack dab in the middle of the Big Ten title race?
We’ve got 5 things to know for this matchup, so let’s dig in to that.
5: Maryland is about to start a 5-game stretch against teams in the Top 30 of the NET rankings
Friday night starts the gut-check time for both the Wisconsin Badgers and Maryland Terrapins, but more so for the Terps who will face five straight games against teams in the top 30 of the NET rankings.
Following tonight’s contest it will be a trip to Nebraska, home to Purdue, at Michigan and at Iowa. That’s a brutal stretch outside of a Nebraska team that seems to be in trouble without their star senior Isaac Copeland.
As for Wisconsin, things are easy for them either. In fact, three of the next four games are against ranked opponents in Maryland, Michigan and Michigan State. The only game not against a ranked opponent isn’t easy either as UW travels to Minnesota.
It’s safe to say, getting off on the right foot is going to be very important both teams making a positive move up the Big Ten standings.
4: Maryland leads the series with 4 wins since joining the Big Ten
While this is a fresh series in the grand scheme of the Big Ten’s history, arguably no series has been more heated since Maryland joined the conference than the one with the Badgers.
That’s because Maryland has four wins over Wisconsin since joining the B1G, but they also are just 4-3 overall in the seven games as a conference member.
A win by Wisconsin would mean a 4-4 overall mark between the two teams and dare I say they are indeed basketball rivals of the Badgers? Given how intense most of these games have been, this isn’t a far stretch.
In the seven games in conference play, the average win is by 6.7 points per game no matter the winner. So, expect a hard-fought and close battle.
3: Bruno Fernando has had 3 fouls in just 5 games this season
If you were paying attention to the last game between Wisconsin and Maryland, then you know Bruno Fernando was a big player in that game. Not only was he a big scoring threat, but his foul trouble in the second half allowed the Badgers to get back in to the game.
It was no coincidence that UW’s big comeback happened with Fernando on the bench with 4 fouls.
Fernando is no stranger to foul trouble and that’s why I point out the fact that he’s recorded 3 fouls just five times in 22 games to date. He’s fouled out just once, but has recorded more than 3 fouls in eight games.
Given the battle that is likely to happen down low between Fernando and Happ once again in this matchup, keeping Fernando on the floor and out of foul trouble is going to be huge.
2: Ethan Happ has just 2 double doubles in the last 5 games
It may sound crazy to say “just” 2 double doubles for a player in any given time, but earlier this year Happ was a near-lock for a double double. In fact, he had double doubles in 9 of the first 12 games including one triple double to start the season.
His work has slowed as of late and it really started with a rough game the last time out against Maryland. Happ finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds, which isn’t terrible my most standards, but not by Happ’s.
Let’s not forget he was just 5-10 from the field and has 4 personal fouls.
That can’t happen against the Terps top line in this matchup and expect the Badgers to win.
Oh, and did we mention that sophomore big man Nate Reuvers happens to love playing against the Terps? He set a then career-high with 18 points in that game, but has since topped it (all within the same five game stretch).
1: Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting
Yes, this stat will continue to be important, as the Badgers are shooting 39.9 percent as a team from beyond the arc. It’s equally important to this matchup, because the last time Wisconsin failed miserably from the 3-point line, missing the first 10 of those shots.
Eventually the Badgers got hot and finished the game 11-30 from beyond the arc. But, they can’t get off to a slow start on the perimeter in this one and expect to lean exclusively on Happ and Reuvers in the post.
Maryland is too good on the inside to not force them to defend the perimeter and work hard there too. Reuvers recent ability to hit from deep on a consistent basis should also be a huge help in spreading out the Terps.
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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