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.
REPORT: Badgers amongst 4 schools getting visits from Hauser Bros.
Simply put, no offseason storyline will get more attention for the Wisconsin Badgers than the second pursuit of the Hauser brothers.
After announcing they were leaving the Marquette program a few weeks ago, plenty of speculation pointed to them landing in Madison. Now we have confirmation they are certainly in the running.
According to a report by CBS Sports Jon Rothstein, Wisconsin is amongst four schools that will get a visit from the brothers prior to them making a decision. UW is joined by Iowa, Michigan State and Virginia according to the report.
There’s no doubt that ties are strong between the Badgers and the Hauser family.
Now head coach and then assistant coach, Greg Gard, was hard after Sam in the 2016 recruiting class. However, with a small scholarship pool to work with, Bo Ryan decided to go with a point guard and ended up taking D’Mitrik Trice once it was all said and done.
It arguably was the biggest reason in not getting Joey to sign in the 2018 class as well.
But, just which of the four has the best chance to land the duo? This is where the Badgers could have the biggest advantage.
As of right now, UW has two scholarships open to take the brothers for the 2019-20 season.
Iowa has a personal connection in Fran McCafferey, who closely recruited both players while they were in high school and have a few players whom the Hauser’s would be comfortable with.
Additionally, the style of play in Iowa City is very similar to that of Marquette and if playing style is the key factor, the Hawkeyes could be attractive.
On the other hand, fellow Big Ten team, Michigan State, seems to be a pie-in-the-sky scenario. The Spartans only lost one of the two players they would have needed in order to land Joey and Sam. Instead, only Nick Ward is gone to the NBA after hiring an agent.
Add in three scholarship players coming in to the program and the Spartans have just one open spot available. Sure, maybe one of them pays their own way for a year before joining on scholarship in 2020-21, but that would be a significant hurdle to overcome.
Virginia could be the front-runner, in large part thanks to the decisions of its three biggest names from this year’s national championship team. De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome have all declared and hired an agent.
A few weeks ago, that wasn’t so certain. With those three scholarships opening up, only one official signee in the 2019 class and another player entering his name in the transfer portal this could be the Badgers biggest competition.
The question comes down to what the Hauser brothers are going to value most in their next destination. Will personal connections matter more or will getting to play for a program that just won a national championship matter more? What about distant from home?
All of this will be settled shortly, but don’t be surprised to see this be a Badgers vs. Cavaliers battle for the brothers services.
Big Ten hands out opponent assignments for Badgers basketball in 2019-20
The 2018-19 season has been over for just a few weeks now, but the Big Ten is already looking forward to the 2019-20 season.
On Wednesday afternoon it announced the conference opponents for the 20-game slate for each team.
With the switch to the 20-game conference slate last season it means every team will play three team only at home, another three only on the road and the other seven teams in a home-and-home scenario.
Fans will see Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern travel to the Kohl Center for the lone game between them. Wisconsin will travel to Iowa, Michigan and Penn State only.
That leaves home-and-home games against Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue and Rutgers.
Wisconsin’s faithful followers will see five of the Big Ten’s representatives in this past year’s NCAA tournament come to the Kohl Center at some point next season.
Only Michigan shows up as a lone road game against a Big Ten team to make the tournament this past year as well.
UW will also host Fred Hoiberg, the new coach at Nebraska, for the first time and that should certainly be interesting.
The Big Ten has not released a full schedule of the order of games, but it looks like the Badgers are going to have to fight hard given the teams they will face in home-and-home scenarios.
Could Badgers land Hauser brothers after all?
Few in-state recruiting battles have been as fierce or potentially game-changing for the Wisconsin-Marquette rivalry as those of Joey and Sam Hauser.
On Monday, the brothers announced their intentions to transfer from the Golden Eagles program.
A report by Steven Watson of WISN-TV in Milwaukee says that the Badgers are in the mix to land the two of them. However, the same report notes that the defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers are the front runners to land the brothers.
Joey and Sam have always been a pair of players that were likely to go to the same team no matter what.
With the Badgers having open scholarships and the likelihood that 5-star recruit Jalen Johnson won’t sign with the Badgers in 2020, this could be a great way to buffer that kind of loss.
Sam, the older of the two brothers, won’t be able to graduate in May, so he will have to sit out this upcoming season and have just one year of eligibility left.
He averaged 33.4 minutes per game and was one of the most reliable scorers for Marquette — averaging 14.9 points to go with 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Sam also shot an impressive 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Joey on the other hand, would have three years left after sitting out next season. He finished his freshman season averaging 9.7 points, 2.4 assists, and 5.3 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game.
If the Badgers were to land the brothers, it would certainly be a help to the front court of this team. But, it would also ratchet up one of the most underrated rivalries in all of college basketball.
While the pieces would fit with the Badgers, would transferring to Wisconsin make much sense for the pair? It would be much more of a lateral move in the basketball sense, especially with Markus Howard coming back to the Golden Eagles in 2019-20.
Given the production on the court, it would make sense to make this move to a program up the ladder. About the only thing that could make this move happen for the Badgers would be a feeling that it would be the right course for them — especially if they wanted to still stay close to home.
Just don’t get your hopes up too high that the Badgers would win this transfer situation. There’s a reason they lost out on both in the first place.
Is 2020 recruiting class make-or-break for Badgers & Gard?
Wisconsin saw its streak of NCAA tournament appearances end in 2018. A year later and the Badgers finished 4th in the Big Ten and took a trip back to the NCAA tournament.
But, a first round defeat at the hands of Oregon has many wondering if the program is heading in the right direction now that the roster is full of players who Greg Gard has personally signed off on as the head coach.
One indicator of future success is getting top-of-the-board players in the fold. That has been a struggle for Gard since he took this program over and it’s fans biggest gripe — even more so than the lack of free throw shooting ability or the on-going offensive slumps that has plagued this team.
So, as the beginning of the spring AAU season kicks in to high gear, now is a good time to understand where the program sits and what could be happening over the next few months.
One thing is for sure, the next four months or so are going to go a long way towards determining if Gard can get this program to the consistent level that was seen just five years ago.
Wisconsin appears set on its 2019 recruiting class, as 6-7 Minnesota native Tyler Wahl will be the only incoming freshman.
After seeing point guard Tai Strickland leave the program this offseason, UW has three available scholarships. Will one of them be used in 2019 to attract a grad transfer? Even if that answer is yes, it won’t affect the 2020 recruiting class.
It just so happens that the class is loaded with talent and UW is waging a big time battle or two. Let’s break down the state of 2020 recruiting.
First, the Badgers have one scholarship spoken for as 3-star point guard Loren Bowman committed to the program a few months ago.
He offers UW a bit of length at the position as well as the ability to get more athletic. Bowman’s game is largely about penetrating the opposing defense and creating shots for others.
But, as nice as it is to have Bowman in place, Wisconsin has to restock its roster in a major way. So, let’s look at the targets still in play.
The Sun Prairie, Wis. native moved to Nicolet High School for this past season and has formed a super-team of sorts in the Milwaukee suburb. He also has seen his recruitment blow up over the past year.
Offers from all the blue bloods came in as they found out what Wisconsin knew from the very get-go with Johnson. Now he’s considered one of the nation’s best recruits — sitting at No. 3 in the country in the 247Sports composite rankings, as well as the No. 1 small forward and the No. 1 player in the state of Wisconsin.
The Badgers have literally done everything outside of backing up a truck of money (and that’s highly against the NCAA rules) outside of Johnson’s house.
Will the Badgers pull this one out? It’s hard to see him not going to Duke at this point, but if he doesn’t go there, look for the Badgers to be his choice.
Gard has been hard after him, he knows the program as well as any recruit in the country and he knows the program would build around him.
Getting his commitment would be a game-changing moment for Gard and for the program.
Plan A Guys
As much as getting Johnson in to the fold would be a game-changer, this group of players are Gard’s biggest bets in the 2020 recruiting class to date. They will form the backbone of what the Badgers do and don’t accomplish on the recruiting trail and should be how Gard’s recruiting is judged by in this class.
If Jalen Johnson doesn’t go to Wisconsin, the one player I would put at the very top of the wish list is Ben Carlson.
Wisconsin seems to agree, putting a ton of attention on him on the recruiting trail. The 6-9 4-star recruit out of Minnesota is the No. 71 ranked player in the country and a pairing of Tyler Wahl and Carlson could be a dynamic one in the front court for the Badgers.
But, this recruitment is far from a slam dunk for the Badgers. Getting Carlson to commit to Gard and this program would be a major win given an offer list that includes the likes of Michigan, Minnesota, Stanford and Xavier.
At some point, a priority recruit signing on the dotted line needs to happen. Will the Badgers be able to beat out the competition?
LaCrosse has been a recruiting hot bed in the state of Wisconsin for the better part of four or five years now. After nabbing Kobe King in the 2017 class, the next big name is Johnny Davis.
The 6-4 combo guard is someone the Badgers want, but has begun to see even more interest early on in the spring AAU season. UW has done all it can to attract him to the program, but he’s been playing out his recruitment pretty slow and that may make the Badgers move on other guards this spring or late summer to put some pressure on this recruitment.
Davis just received an offer from West Virginia and also holds five other offers. So, it will be interesting to see how long he plays his recruitment out.
As for his game? Davis has a lot of athleticism to his game and can attack the rim. UW really could use his style to help open up defenses going forward. There’s some work to be done on his shot from outside, but he isn’t bad beyond the arc.
With Jalen Johnson a highly unlikely get for the Badgers, they need an athletic small forward and Morton could represent that very thing.
Morton isn’t really a “backup plan” per say, because he’s the No. 43 player in the country and No. 1 player out of Pennsylvania. But, when you are after one of the top 5 players in the country, you can’t put a full-court press on anyone else.
What are Wisconsin’s chances of winning this recruitment? I wouldn’t count on it happening, but if Johnson makes a decision in the next few weeks or early on in the summer, UW could get themselves right back in the picture.
If Ben Carlson ends up elsewhere, the Badgers have been waiting in the wings and watching 6-7 forward Seryee Lewis out of Chicago.
Right now the offer list is not super impressive, with a lot of mid-major offers and only Illinois and Wisconsin looking in to him as a potential offer at the Power 5 level.
Lewis progression this spring and summer is going to be a make-or-break as to if the Badgers are interested in extending an offer. But, personally, I like his game and what it could potentially add to the program.
His tape shows someone who works hard on the defensive end and has some athleticism on the other end of the court, where his AAU teammates see him living above the rim.
He’s going to need to continue to get stronger and work on his outside shot, but those are things that are already improving. We’ll see if he can impress enough to earn an offer this summer.
Wisconsin has some scholarships to play around with in the 2020 class, but the Badgers have to find a backcourt player no matter what.
Madsen is a player the Badgers have watched a lot over the past year or so and could be in line for an offer should Johnny Davis not commit. That’s especially the case with Cashius McNeilly making a verbal pledge to Texas A&M on April 13.
He’s got offers from Marquette, Northern Iowa and Wisconsin-Green Bay so far and both Minnesota and Wisconsin are watching but have yet to offer.
Much like Lewis, Madsen has a lot of work to do on his game for the Badgers to offer but if it all comes together, Wisconsin could be a good position to get another steal out of the state of Minnesota.
It will be interesting to watch how this AAU season unfolds for Madsen and what it means for his potential offer by the Badgers. Personally, I think he’s worth the offer, but I would hesitate with his ability to create his own shot.
Other names to watch include Isaac Lindsey, Carter Gilmore, Even Bruns and Chris Conway. None of them have offers yet, but it is still early in the process and once the picture becomes clearer with the top targets, offers are likely to come to one or two of the names above.
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