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Koenig, Hayes lead Wisconsin Badgers back to Sweet 16 in upset of Villanova



Coming in to the season, the Wisconsin Badgers had dreams of a Final Four run. Those dreams seemed fool’s gold during the regular season.

However, after a huge 65-62 upset of No. 1 seed Villanova on Saturday, those dreams are certainly alive and well once again.

Led by three seniors in double figures, the Badgers pulled off the first real big upset of the 2017 NCAA tournament. Nigel Hayes led the way for Wisconsin, pouring in a game-high 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

He also happened to hit the game-winning lay-up with 12 seconds left to play.

Fellow seniors Bronson Koenig and Vitto Brown joined Hayes in double figures, scoring 17 and 10 points respectively. Koenig fought through foul trouble to hit 7 of 11 from the field including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.

Hays and Koenig took this team on their backs late, helping to put UW on course for a 15-5 run to end the game. The duo combined for 12 of the Badgers’ 15 points to end the game.

Sophomore forward Ethan Happ also chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds despite also battling foul trouble for most of the game.

No one would accuse the 2016-17 Wisconsin Badgers for being a consistent team. After winning in the first round, many wondered how UW would come out in this one.

The answer was relatively on fire.

After Josh Hart put Villanova up 3-0 with a jumper and a made free throw, the Badgers responded with a 9-0 run to go up by six points. That early run helped Wisconsin stay in front of the Wildcats for all but 16 seconds of the rest of the first half.

Villanova took a brief lead as Donte DiVincenzo hit a three-pointer with 13:18 to go in the half. Vitto Brown hit his second triple of the first half to re-take the lead just 16 seconds later though, as UW went up 12-10.

Wisconsin led by as many as eight points in the first half, coming as Nigel Hayes hit a free throw with 9:23 to play in the half. Hayes would only produce five points in the half, but also added four key rebounds.

The two teams traded small runs from there, with both teams going 4 of 11 from beyond the arc.

However, it was Wisconsin’s defensive effort that won the first half for them. UW held Villanova to just 29.6 percent field goal shooting.

Nova stayed in the game in large part thanks to its offensive rebounding effort, collecting 10 boards on offense. With the score at 31-27 at the half it seemed like the magical could happen.

However, there were signs that Villanova was closer to controlling this game than Wisconsin and Greg Gard made note of that during his halftime interview.

It turns out he wasn’t wrong, as the Wildcats and Badgers traded buckets to start the second half. Eventually Villanova got Wisconsin rattled and took advantage of it, going on an 13-4 run to open up a 46-41 lead with 10:44 to play.

frustration was mounting for the Badgers at that point, with an offense out of sync and both Happ and Koenig in deep foul trouble. Wisconsin just wouldn’t let up though, fighting to keep the game close and never going down by more than seven points.

That’s where things completely turned around though. As DiVincenzo hit a three-pointer with 5:28 to play, little did he know it was also the spark under Wisconsin’s comeback.

Hayes and Koenig combined to rattle off seven straight points to even the game up within two minutes time. A lay-up by Happ with 2:33 put the Badgers up 59-58 and ironically it came down to the free throw line for the win.

Villanova came in to the game leading the country in free throw percentage. However, the pressure got to the Wildcats, as they only made 2 of 4 to end the game.

That allowed the Badgers to control the game late and after Hayes’ lay-in, Vitto Brown iced the game away with a made free throw with three seconds left.

Wisconsin moves on to the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season. They will take on the winner of the No. 4 Florida vs. No. 5 Virginia game next Thursday. Tip time and television will be announced after all games are completed today.

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Badgers Basketball

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.

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Badgers Basketball

Carlson commits to Badgers 2020 basketball class



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



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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Badgers Basketball

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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