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Badgers Basketball Preview: 5 things to know vs. Michigan

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The Michigan Wolverines come in to the Kohl Center as one of the best teams in the country and the Badgers are looking to right the ship.

It’s hard not to think back to 2013 and the iconic “let’s play 5 more minutes in Madison” call from legendary radio voice Matt Lepay.

Wisconsin proceeded to knock off the No. 3 team in the country in overtime.

Fast forward six seasons and the Badgers face off with the No. 2 team in the country and an undefeated Wolverines squad at that. The task in front of a reeling Badgers team, who have lost four of the last five contests, seems daunting.

So, let’s look in to some numbers and things you should know ahead of this matchup at 11am CT on ESPN.

5: Wisconsin has lost to Michigan just six times since 2005

Yes, the Wolverines appear to be the big, bad team in college basketball in 2018-19. But, few teams in the country have had a better run against them than the Badgers have had historically.

Put aside that 2013 upset, UW owns a 19-6 record against the Wolverines since 2005 and that’s regardless of where the game has been played. Additionally, the Badgers are 8-5 in home games against top 10 ranked opponents over the last 10 seasons.

Clearly the Kohl Center is a magically place.

4: Nate Reuvers ranks 4th in the Big Ten in blocks per game

Wisconsin’s rising sophomore big man has become a huge help on both ends of the court as of late. His 1.7 blocks per game rank him 4th in the conference.

He’s also a dangerous offensive weapon as of late. Reuvers 18 points against Maryland was a career high and he’s scored in double figures in 6 of the last 9 games.

Interestingly enough, one of the three players ahead of Reuvers is Michigan’s Jon Teske, who averages 2.2 blocks per game.

With Reuvers also becoming a threat from anywhere on the floor, can UW do enough to neutralize Teske’s presence on the inside when the Badgers have the ball?

3: Wisconsin is looking to become just 3rd team to even come within 10 points all season against Michigan

You know you’re a dominant team when getting within single digits by the end of the contest is an accomplishment. But, such has been the case for only two of the 17 opponents Michigan has faced so far this season.

Only Western Michigan and Northwestern have kept their games inside 10 points so far this year.

Yes, a win is always the goal, but it seems like the key has to be keeping within striking distance for most of the game and that’s something most teams clearly aren’t capable of.

Michigan’s average scoring margin of +17.0 is second in the conference to MSU’s +18.0 on the year. The Wolverines also have a +12.5 scoring margin in Big Ten games alone.

It’ll be a tall task for the Badgers on Saturday.

2: Wisconsin is 2nd in the Big Ten in three-point shooting as a team

How do you combat a team like Michigan? Well, being able to shoot from the perimeter is a great place to start. The good news is that Wisconsin has been largely capable of doing that, to the tune of 39.1 percent from beyond the arc as a team. That ranks 2nd in the conference this season.

Only Michigan State’s 39.3 percent as a team is better in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin has gotten key contributions from beyond the arc lately from sophomore guard Brad Davison. Over the last 7 games, Davison is shooting a crazy 62.1 percent from three-point range (18 of 29). He is a great 43.8 precent from beyond the arc on the season.

Paring him with D’Mitrik Trice, who has cooled off a bit as of late, is a dangerous combination for teams to have to guard on the perimeter. But, Michigan is allowing opponents to only shoot at a 30.5 percent clip from deep.

Something is going to have to give there, and let’s also remember Michigan can be deadly from the perimeter too. They’re shooting a respectable 36.7 precent from beyond the arc to rank fifth in the B1G.

Both teams are going to have to defend against the perimeter well in order to win this game.

1: Michigan leads the conference in defensive rebounding percentage

If there is one glaring stat that should scare Badgers fans, it is this one — 76.9 — as in Michigan have a 76.9 defensive rebounding percentage.

Normally that’s not a big thing, because it just indicates how much a team relies on defensive rebounding versus offensive. But, when you pair that with the fact that the Badgers rank dead last in offensive rebounding, you see the potential for trouble.

Wisconsin has to be efficient on the offensive end and they can’t go in to prolonged scoring droughts, because Michigan will be able to take advantage of misses thanks to that glaring discrepancy on the glass.

In fact, UW’s ability to neutralize Michigan’s obvious advantage on the glass overall is going to be crucial to success on the day as a whole.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers basketball lands pair of 4-star players in 2021 class

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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.

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Badgers Basketball

Carlson commits to Badgers 2020 basketball class

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It appears the 2020 Wisconsin Badgers basketball class has come to a close.

A day after forward Steven Crowl committed, we now have word that top target Ben Carlson, a fellow Minnesota native, has committed to the Badgers as well.

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.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers add 4-star center to 2020 basketball class

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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.

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Former Badger Jon Leur traded to Milwaukee Bucks

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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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