With another NCAA championship game in the books and another Big Ten team failing to end the drought that now stands at 18 seasons, it is officially time for all of college basketball to really start looking ahead to next season.
For the University of Wisconsin, that process has been underway for a month now. So, after resting the body and getting Spring Break out of the way, it is now time to look at what needs to be done this offseason.
Given Wisconsin’s fall from grace, there are a lot of things to figure out this offseason.
What are the biggest storylines to watch as the offseason unfolds? Let’s take a look at our top three.
Will Happ Stay or Go?
It seems almost certain that star center Ethan Happ will stay with the Wisconsin Badgers for his final season. We’ve documented our reasons why earlier this week. But, there’s no doubt that this team looks and plays very differently with or with him in the lineup.
Even if the Badgers and their fanbase firmly believe Happ is coming back, what version of Happ will the Badgers see? Will it be the same old reliable Happ down low, or will he be working hard on the points that NBA scouts give him in the draft process?
If it is the latter, Wisconsin could have itself a really interesting lineup next season. One that could be much more versatile and difficult to defend. Imagine defending against a 6-11 guy who can dribble, drive, has all the moves around the hoop and suddenly has developed a serviceable shot from mid-range…it certainly would change how UW looks.
But, should Happ get really good news and be a potential first-round pick, Wisconsin also looks very different next season…which brings us to our second offseason storyline…
Nate Reuvers’ Development
Speaking of issues up front, the Wisconsin Badgers clearly needed Nate Reuvers’ game in a big way last season. His ability to be a forward that could square up and shoot from outside of five feet was a big help to UW’s offense. It was a shame though, because Reuvers really could’ve used an entire year to just focus on his body and some of the finer points of the game.
That much showed down the stretch as his numbers began to dip and his presence down low was not a good thing defensively more often than not. His body just couldn’t handle it anymore.
But, he did end up averaging 5.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game in his first season in a Badgers uniform. Those were not bad numbers behind Happ to say the least.
As we turn to next season, there are a lot of questions about where Reuvers’ game will go.
Can he turn the in-game experience he got in to increased productivity? Will that only come now in the offseason as he focuses on adding weight and becoming a better defensive player for the Badgers?
The ability of Reuvers to be a starter opposite of Happ next season is going to largely depend on what he does with his body this offseason. If he can add the weight needed, look for the Badgers to find a way to get him starting minutes. If not, UW may be wiser to go with a three-guard look and allow Reuvers to come off the bench.
Wisconsin really needs Reuvers to develop this offseason, because it is clear they can’t count on soon-to-be seniors like Alex Illikainen and Charlie Thomas. Add in the loss of Andy Van Vliet to transfer and things get really interesting. Sure, UW adds 6-10 center Joe Hedstrom and Top 247 forward Taylor Currie to the mix, but Hedstrom is likely to gray-shirt and Currie was supposed to be a 2019 recruit before re-classifying to 2018. That means both could be in line to not play next season and thus still leaving the Badgers short-handed up front.
Gard’s Dilemma at Guard
Believe it or not, Wisconsin’s most pressing offseason situation may be at guard…and it may not be a bad thing at all. After UW had to throw freshman Brad Davison into his unnatural position of point guard in 2017-18, that shouldn’t be the case in 2018-19 thanks to a rebuilt point guard situation.
D’Mitrick Trice is likely to get a nearly lost season back with a medical hardship waiver, but either way his injured foot should be 100 percent ready to go this offseason. He’ll have competition for the starting job though, as former recruit and Green Bay transfer Trevor Anderson will become available and 2018 recruit Tai Strickland will join the group in the summer.
That should move Davison to his more natural position of shooting guard, but he’ll be on the sideline for part of the offseason after surgery to repair a bad shoulder. It also means that Kobe King’s roll is less a sure thing too.
Wisconsin has a lot of different combinations it can throw on the court this upcoming season. Sorting out the rotation and with combinations work best together will likely be Gard’s biggest issue this offseason.
Coming on the heels of a brutal 2017-18 at guard, a loaded group is a welcomed sight. So, just who will shine and how will the Badgers look heading in to the undetermined season opener in November? Anyone that pretends to know exactly how this group of guards will shake out has information even head coach Greg Gard doesn’t have.
Ultimately though, it may be Gard’s decision at guard that makes his fourth season at the helm of the program a success or keeps the Badgers in mediocrity. If it’s the latter, the pressure certainly will be on for Gard’s job. He simply has to get this guard situation right if UW is going to get back to winning a lot of basketball games.
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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