This has been a rough season for Wisconsin Badgers basketball, and it got a huge slap in the face last time out thanks to a loss to Rutgers.
But, this is Big Ten basketball and what is around the corner often isn’t any easier or better than what came before. Such is the case, as the Badgers travel to Nebraska to take on the Huskers (11-6, 2-2 B1G).
Wisconsin will test what has been an awful away record in one of the Big Ten’s most hostile basketball environs (that’s not hyperbole) in Lincoln, Neb. Does that spell trouble or will a bad loss to Rutgers snap UW back in to form?
Let’s dive in to The Starting 5 for Wisconsin’s meeting with Nebraska.
1. Away Woes for Bucky
Wisconsin experience perhaps its lowest point of the season last time out, as the Badgers dropped a game to Rutgers, who had just gotten done losing to Stony Brook, Hartford and Purdue the last three times out.
It was just another sign that something is very different about this team than other Badgers teams in the past. Not even Gard’s previously stellar record on the road has helped this season. With the loss to Rutgers, Wisconsin has dropped to 1-5 away from the Kohl Center in true road games.
Even that lone road win wasn’t easy, as the Badgers fought for a 64-63 win over Penn State at the near barren Bryce Jordan Center. Simply put, trusting the Badgers on the road is a recipe for disaster. Can they right the ship against Nebraska?
Let’s not forget the Badgers had to escape against a not-good Huskers team last season, needing to force overtime before winning 70-69 thanks to two late three-pointers. This year’s Badgers team isn’t capable of that kind of clutch play.
2. Nebraska’s Long and Athletic…and that’s a Major Problem
What happened against Rutgers? Wisconsin ran in to a long and athletic team that crushed Ethan Happ as the center of Wisconsin’s offense. He turned the ball over seven times out of 14 total turnovers alone.
It just so happens that Nebraska has remade its roster and this season they are much better due to an infusion of the same length and athleticism. You don’t need to take our word for it, just look at what Matt Painter said after Purdue beat the Huskers the last time out.
“Their two leading scorers had 38 points, and they didn’t play last year. It’s a different look. Their length and athleticism has been a plus for Nebraska.”
The player who could be most dangerous is James Palmer, who made Purdue’s dual 7-footers foul him time after time. He went to the line 10 separate times last time out and Wisconsin has had trouble staying out of foul trouble and from not turning the ball over. Palmer is averaging a healthy 15.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game as a guard. He’s also second on the team with 45 assists and is shooting 44 percent from the field.
Nebraska presents all sorts of trouble for Wisconsin. It’s their strength versus Wisconsin’s biggest weaknesses.
3. Can Happ Rebound?
Wisconsin is a one-man team right now, at least needing Happ to facilitate its offense. He was shut down in a major way against Rutgers and there just wasn’t enough help for the Badgers to make a run for a victory.
That Rutgers game was also not like Happ, as he turned the ball over way too easy and never adjusted to the defense that was being thrown his way all game long. Oh, and he couldn’t find the basket like normal, shooting just 4 of 10 from the field.
Sure, he had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists on the day, but he was just the third leading scorer and his seven turnovers to no steals or blocked shots were a major disappointment.
If the Badgers want to win this road game, Happ has to have a much more efficient game overall.
4. Wisconsin has Nebraska’s number
There are just some teams you struggle against and others you simply own. For Wisconsin you can bet trips to Penn State and Rutgers are always going to be a battle and you can bet seeing Indiana and Nebraska on the schedule are going to bring good things.
UW owns a four-game win streak in regular season play against the Huskers, but those came as the Badgers were becoming national championship contenders and the Huskers were sliding backwards in the Big Ten standings.
Things are different this time around, so can the Badgers history be the guide or will the Huskers break this streak?
5. Can UW’s New Starting Lineup Gel?
With D’Mitrick Trice on the mend and UW still struggling to find its way through a brutal stretch of three-straight road games, Gard has decided to shake up his starting roster. Instead of Brevin Pritzl in the mix it has been true freshman Nate Reuvers making the starting lineup.
Reuvers has earned the playing time with confident performances over the past few weeks. He responded to the starting lineup push with 10 points, just his third game in double figures for his short career to date, and had 4 rebounds and 3 blocks to his name.
Nebraska 75, Wisconsin 65
This Huskers team is dangerous anywhere, but when it is playing at home at Pinnacle Arena they are really dangerous. Wisconsin hasn’t played well away from the Kohl Center (and even that has been debatable).
Add in Nebraska playing some very confident basketball and you have the easy case for the Huskers winning this one. Perhaps the loss to Rutgers was a fluke, but it was more par for the course as Happ played some bad basketball and Wisconsin couldn’t give him any help.
Happ alone won’t be enough to beat Nebraska, as they beat UW thanks to some slashing 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.
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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