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The Starting 5: Badgers vs. Iowa basketball preview

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An up and down season for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team took a turn for the better last time out. The Badgers return to the Kohl Center resulted in a blowout of the previously winless in the Big Ten Illinois Fighting Illini.

On Tuesday night, Wisconsin goes to a place it hasn’t really liked much in the past — Carver-Hawkeye Arena — to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Sure, Wisconsin is on a three-game win streak at Iowa, but that is just the second longest streak it has had in program history away to the Hawkeyes.

A win would move these Badgers in to a tie with the 1912-18 versions of the team for the longest win streak on the road vs. Iowa.

With tip scheduled for 6pm CT on ESPN2, this is a massive opportunity for this team to get some big time momentum going. But, what are the points of interest in this contest?

Let’s get down to The Starting 5 for Badgers vs. Hawkeyes, the basketball edition.

Growing Pains

Wisconsin has had a rough go of it after losing four starters off lat season’s team, but they aren’t the only former Big Ten contender that has struggled this season.

Meet the Iowa Hawkeyes, who are just 1-7 in Big Ten play entering this game and struggling with a lot of young players taking on key roles for the team too.

However, Iowa has two big men that could give the Badgers something to worry about. The combination of Tyler Cook and Luke Garza are averaging a healthy 31 points per game in 10 home games this season. They are averaging 25.4 points per game combined on the season as a whole too, so the Badgers lack of height up front could be an area of concern, even if the two are younger players going up against vets like Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson.

But, those big men are also part of a team that hasn’t stopped anyone in Big Ten play and Wisconsin is coming off it’s best overall game of the season.

Is this going to be the case of Wisconsin on the upswing and Iowa continuing to struggle to figure out who it is?

Bohannon Alert

It was fun to have a Bohannon on the Badgers side of things, but not so much when the third brother chose the Hawkeyes after Wisconsin refused to offer him. He took that anger out on the Badgers last season, hitting the game-winning three pointer to lift his team to victory in Madison…all of it after his team was down by as many as nine points late.

This season, Bohannon is pouring it in at a 13.9 points per game clip, which is second on the team amongst four players averaging double figures. That includes five made three pointers in each of the last three games for Iowa…and we all know the Badgers’ struggles in perimeter defense. He’s also becoming a dangerous passer of the ball, with four games of 10-plus assists.

Wisconsin simply has to shut him down, and a one-armed Brad Davison against Bohannon will certainly be interesting to watch.

Bad Defense, Badgers Advantage

If there was any bigger clue as to why Illinois is winless in the Big Ten this season, watching Wisconsin’s struggling offense just shred the Illini defense should’ve ben a big clue.

Let’s just say defense hasn’t been a foray of the Hawkeyes much this season either. Iowa comes in to this game dead last in team defense in Big Ten games only (84.5 points per game), while allowing teams to shoot 50 percent from the field and is also dead last in scoring margin in Big Ten games only.

Couple that with the confidence gained against an equally bad Illinois defense and one has to wonder if the Badgers confidence goes on to do something great in this game too.

Single Digit Game?

History suggests these two teams put on a good show for the neutral watcher (not sure there are a lot of those for these two mediocre teams), as nine of the last 11 games have been decided by single digits. That certainly makes for entertaining finishes.

Yet, that history is likely to be tested by two teams who are used to blowout games in Big Ten play. Iowa has only had three games in league play not be losses by 10-plus points, including its lone win which came in overtime against Illinois.

Wisconsin has been blown out a lot too, but they have been just as capable of blowing teams out too. Don’t forget those wins over Illinois and Indiana, because Wisconsin has picked apart those bad teams and Iowa is up there on the bad team scale.

It seems like this one is ripe for not being a close one for a change.

Trice Watch

Wisconsin seems on the upswing with its last performance, but it was just one game and more reinforcements would certainly be helpful. There’s a chance for that to happen sooner than later, as sophomore point guard D’Mitrick Trice is on the mend after foot surgery in December.

He has been seen working his way back in to shape on the court with the Badgers in practice. However, we still don’t know exactly when he will be back in uniform for a game. Could it happen on Tuesday night against the Hawkeyes?

Prediction:

Wisconsin 77, Iowa 60

Confidence can be a dangerous thing for a young team like Wisconsin and I’m banking on that being a good dangerous thing. Illinois was the performance this team needed, as Davison did some dirty work (10-10 from free throw line), Happ continued being a double-double machine and Brevin Pritzl helped from beyond the arc.

Iowa’s defense is equally as bad as Illinois and despite the Jordan Bohannon effect, this one should be an easy road win for the Badgers. If not, you can kiss making a crazy run through February goodbye.

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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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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 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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