The college basketball season is officially in offseason mode after former Wisconsin Badgers basketball assistant and Green Bay native, Tony Bennett, led his Virginia Cavaliers to the national championship.
For the Wisconsin Badgers the offseason has been underway for three week now thanks to a first-round exit at the hands of Oregon in the NCAA tournament.
So, as we close out the 2018-19 season, it’s a perfect time to start figuring out where things go from here. So, here’s what I believe needs to be the Badgers offseason to-do list for the 2019-20 season.
Move on from Happ
With one of the best Badgers of all-time graduating, head coach Greg Gard and his coaching staff is going to have one of the biggest challenges of their tenure in Madison.
How do you replace a guy who set nearly every record you can think of in a Badgers uniform and averaged 17.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this season?
The answer likely won’t come in the form of a like-for-like swap though, because UW simply doesn’t have anyone on its roster with that kind of skill set. What that does mean is that UW will have to figure out a whole new way of playing in 2019-20.
Sophomore big man Nate Reuvers showcased a good skill set and an ability to be a reliable player on both sides of the ball this past season. But, he’s better as a slasher and stretch-forward on offense as well as a shot-blocker on the defensive end of the floor.
UW’s best players are guys who are best outside the three-point line and so the whole pass the ball to the big man, kick it out and shoot away offense of the past few seasons is going to have to go away.
Will that mean a switch back to the more traditional swing offense or a more fluid look to free up the athletic players like Kobe King or Brad Davison to be catalysts for the offense?
Wisconsin has to figure out who can represent a consistent post threat on offense or if they need to get more guard heavy instead. If they don’t have that, then it’s on the coaching staff to start to transform this team in to a more athletic group of perimeter orientated players.
Let’s just say the look and feel of this team is going to be priority No. 1 this offseason.
Find Out Potter’s Status
Speaking of the front-court question marks — none looms larger than the status of Ohio State transfer Micah Potter. He transferred this past year, but during the first semester and may not be eligible to start the season.
As of this writing, the NCAA has not ruled on his waiver request.
If he can’t be in the mix from the get-go, UW may have a big dilemma on its hands thanks to a lack of experience and readiness behind Reuvers. Both Joe Hedstrom and Tyler Currie appear to be more developmental talents than plug-and-play guys at this point in their careers.
Potter could be that post presence the Badgers need and would be a great complement to Reuvers in the front-court. Having him for a full season is going to be vital. Otherwise, perhaps the Badgers need to find a forward via the graduate transfer route.
Get King Ready For Bigger Role
Last season we saw glimpses of just how good redshirt freshman Kobe King could be. But, those glimpses were far too few to know that he’s going to be the leader of UW’s offense in 2019-20.
But, if the Badgers offense is going to transform with Happ gone, King is a focal point of that transition. He showed an ability to slash, create his own shot and get to the lane as a guard.
Without the focal point being a big man in the lane, the actual lane to the basket may be more open this upcoming year.
King also was coming off a knee injury and sometimes it can take a full year to get back to feeling confident and healthy on said knee. It appeared that King got more aggressive as the season wore on, so that is good news.
Make no mistake about it, King has to start showing why he was a top 200 player and the No. 2 player in the state of Wisconsin coming out of the 2017 class.
Let’s see if King can make that sophomore leap we see a lot of players make.
Hit on Something Big on the Recruiting Trail
To say the Wisconsin fans are restless when it comes to basketball recruiting would be an understatement. UW has lost out on major in-state talent after major in-state talent since Gard has become head coach and that isn’t fun.
No one will begrudge a kid for choosing whatever school they want, but it seems as if Wisconsin isn’t offering much to transformative talent from the home state these days.
Tyler Herro’s late flip to Kentucky was a massive blow, and makes me wonder if we’re even having these thoughts or discussions should he have stuck with his original commitment to the Badgers.
Still, Herro left and almost every indication is that top 2020 recruit Jalen Johnson will do the same.
Couple that with the fact that UW has put its eggs in the baskets of a handful of prospects, only to be left with nothing at the end with names like DJ Carton, Zeke Nnaji and Joey Hauser to name a few.
Let’s see if this coaching staff pulls out a miracle and gets Johnson to stay in-state or if they can hit on a big name on their board for once. Settling for options like Tai Strickland and lower ranked big men haven’t worked out that well for UW in the past.
Missing out on the window of opportunity that was the Final Four runs is a huge disappointment and some life in recruiting would be hugely helpful.
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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