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The Starting 5: Wisconsin at Northwestern basketball preview

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Three games in one week will challenge the Wisconsin Badgers, especially since the middle game will be in a place they haven’t played in in a very long time. Yes, the Badgers will take on the Northwestern Wildcats, but it won’t be at venerable Welsh-Ryan arena. Instead, we’ll get the treat that used to be DePaul’s home court — the Allstate Arena.

It will be a new venue for the Badgers, who have never played at the arena in any capacity before.

These two teams also come in to this one in vastly different shape than they did in the first meeting, a 60-52 win for Northwestern over the Badgers. UW is on a multi-game win streak, while Northwestern is on a four-game losing streak.

Can Confident Pritzl Continue Hot-Hand?

As Brevin Pritzl was busy dropping three-point bombs on Minnesota in an overtime victory, many fans were left wondering where this version of Pritzl has been. He was super confident, played well on defense and got himself major playing time.

By the end of the game, Pritzl had put up a career-best 20 points and virtually willed the Badgers to victory over arch-rival Minnesota.

It turns out, the defensive side of the ball may be where the confidence and the new-look Pritzl is coming from. According to head coach Greg Gard, his junior shooting guard just hasn’t put it all together on the other end of the court to go with the shooting prowess everyone has seen except in the majority of games.

“The kid can shoot the ball, but that’s not the only part of a game,” Gard said earlier this week. “He’s growing in those other areas and is now becoming a more reliable, dependable, consistent player.”

Expecting Pritzl to bomb away for 20 points a night might be too much to ask, he has indeed become a much more consistent player over the past few weeks. He’s scored in double figures in three of the last four games and is averaging a healthy 14 points per game over that four-game stretch. Pritzl is also averaging 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and is shooting 58 percent from the field while only turning the ball over twice in those four games.

That’s a mark of someone who appears to have fully turned the corner and someone the coaching staff has confidence in once again.

Considering Northwestern’s defensive issues, having a hot-shooting and more consistent playing Pritzl on board is a good sign for the Badgers. Just how long will it last though?

Gard Needs to Erase Bad Start vs. Northwestern

For all the good that has happened in the nearly three full years of Greg Gard at the helm of the Badgers program, playing the Wildcats of Northwestern hasn’t been good times.

UW is just 1-3 against the Wildcats in the last four games as the head coach and the lone win was a 76-48 blowout victory in last season’s Big Ten tournament. Maybe a “neutral” site will help in this situation?

Additionally, Wisconsin has won five of the last six road games against Northwestern. Will that trend continue on Thursday or will Gard’s troubles in figuring out Northwestern rear its ugly head.

Northwestern Stumbling to the End

Wisconsin now owns its first multi-game win streak in Big Ten play, but the opposition on Thursday night is heading in the completely opposite direction. Northwestern has fallen apart down the stretch, losing four in a row and having lost five since that win at the Kohl Center.

A lot of the failures for the Wildcats comes down to simply not having the personnel on the court to win big games. Bryant McIntosh has been shut down for the season, and that’s a major blow against a Badgers team that has struggled up until late against perimeter shooters and slashers.

While its tempting to see Northwestern as a team in crisis, this season has taught us to not trust almost anything we’ve seen from the Badgers. UW looked like it was turning the corner in two wins against Illinois earlier this season, only to lay an egg in the very next game in each case.

Now the Badgers are red-hot and Northwestern is as cold as anyone in the Big Ten. Will that mean a Badgers victory or will the Wildcats snap out of their cold spell?

First to 60 Wins

It seems clichéd to say that, but it has been true for the Wisconsin Badgers this season, and it certainly has been true for the Northwestern Wildcats.

Wisconsin is 12th in Big Ten play, averaging 63.9 points per game and right behind them in 13th are the Wildcats, averaging 62.9 points per game themselves. Northwestern is also 13th in the league in field goal shooting, averaging just 40.1 percent as a team. The Badgers aren’t much better, shooting just 43 percent in Big Ten play themselves.

Point being, this game could either be really ugly for both teams or one. Good luck figuring out which team will show up on either part on Thursday night.

Prediction:

Wisconsin 66, Northwestern 50

Lost in the offensive firepower seen from Pritzl and Brad Davison of late has been UW’s ability to turn up the pressure on the other end of the court. Northwestern can be dangerous because of the length it possess in the starting five, but this group isn’t deep at all (even less so than the Badgers are).

I expect Pritzl to keep up with the double-digit scoring and I also expect Northwestern’s short bench to get tested by Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson down low.

Wisconsin exacts some revenge and blows out the Wildcats.

 

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Badgers Basketball

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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Badgers basketball land Davis twins

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After missing out on the Hauser brothers late last month, the Wisconsin Badgers added a different pair of siblings on Saturday night.

Following an offer to the brother of 4-star shooting guard Johnny Davis and an appearance at a team camp this weekend, the Davis brothers announced their pledge to the Badgers according to Badger247.

It took less than a week after head coach Greg Gard gave the O.K. to offer Jordan for the pair to commit to Wisconsin.

Johnny held offers from Marquette, West Virginia, Iowa, Minnesota, DePaul, UNLV and others.

Jordan had offers from UW-Milwaukee and Green Bay, while also becoming a sought after recruit on the football field as well. Once he became serious about wanting to play basketball first, it seemed like a matter of time before Wisconsin offered.

That time came after seeing Jordan play in a camp last weekend.

It also came because it was time to figure out if Johnny was serious about the Badgers or not.

With the July evaluation period coming up, Wisconsin’s coaching staff put the final chips in the middle with this recruitment and it appeared to pay off.

Johnny joins as the No. 141 ranked player in the country and the No. 14 ranked combo guard in the nation according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

The twins will join Detroit, Mich. native Lorne Bowman in the 2020 class.

Wisconsin still has one scholarship available in the class as well, which is likely being held for 5-star and Wisconsin native Jalen Johnson.

After missing out on talented in-state players over and over again, this was a major win for Gard and his coaching staff considering how hard schools like West Virginia and Marquette were after Johnny’s commitment.

As for Jordan, it appears the coaching staff believes he is improving enough to get a scholarship and continue his improvement with this program.

Offers don’t come out just because it may win over a different recruit at Wisconsin. That wasn’t Bo Ryan’s style and it also isn’t Greg Gard’s style.

The trio of players put the Badgers at No. 8 in the country and No. 3 in the Big Ten in the 2020 class as of today.

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Former Badgers get No. 2 seed in The Basketball Tournament Columbus regional

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Who doesn’t want $2 million? That’s the prize at stake for winning The Basketball Tournament and a group of former Wisconsin Badgers want in.

On Tuesday it was officially announced that the Kohl Blooded team — spearheaded by former Badgers point guard Kam Taylor — will be the No. 2 seed in the Columbus regional.

They will take on No. 7 seed Mid-American Unity, which is making its second appearance in the TBT after a year off. That group represents teams from across the Mid-American conference.

As for the Badgers, the roster will be made up of some very strong names from the past. The headline names include members of the back-to-back Final Four teams in Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown. Also joining will be Jordan Taylor, Ryan Evans, Trevon Hughes and recent grad Charles Thomas. You can see the full roster here.

The regionals will take place July 19-21 in Columbus with the winner of this regional meeting seven other winners in Chicago for championship week.

All games will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks, so you should be able to find them either streaming or on cable television.

Kohl Blooded vs. Mid-American Unity will tip at 1pm ET on Friday, July 19.

The winner will take on the winner of Red Scare (Dayton alumni) and The Region (players from Northwest Indiana) in the regional semi-final the next day.

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Badgers play final card in attempt to land 2020 G Johnny Davis

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A week after losing out on Joey and Sam Hauser, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program needs some positive momentum on the player acquisition front.

With three scholarships available in the 2020 class and two top in-state players in their sites, the Badgers coaching staff has been about as patient as possible.

On Wednesday, Badger247 reports that UW has offered Jordan Davis, the twin brother of top target Johnny Davis. It’s not a walk-on or grayshirt, but a full scholarship offer.

After two years of waiting for that offer to come, it finally did.

Jordan is an unranked player in basketball at this time, but I expect that to change once the scouting services catch wind of this offer. Johnny Davis is the No. 131 ranked player in the country, a 4-star rated prospect and the No. 3 ranked player in the state of Wisconsin in the 2020 class.

With the brothers set to make a weekend visit for team camp in two weeks, this is a move that undoubtably puts the pressure squarely on Johnny Davis at this point.

Simply put, the Badgers need to know if Davis is going to commit or if they need to move on.

Offering Jordan a full ride is about the only thing left in the Badgers quiver at this point. If getting the dream of playing basketball together at the same school and in-state no less doesn’t tip the scales, at least the Badgers know they can move on.

Is it a desperate move? In some ways one could see it as such. Clearly the Badgers want Johnny in a major way and they see offering Jordan as a critical move that could separate themselves from the competition.

However, this also isn’t a coaching staff willing to just throw away a scholarship in an effort to get a coveted player to play for them. That’s simply not Greg Gard’s style.

Jordan is also a player they see as a contributor, or he wasn’t getting an offer. Plain and simple.

There’s no doubt that this move ups the pressure, like I mentioned before. But, that’s not a bad thing, as UW needs to know where they stand heading in to July’s evaluation period.

If the Davis brothers can’t commit or at least internally give the coaching staff the information that will make them feel comfortable, they need to start getting offers out to other big time players whom they’ve been waiting to offer.

Consider UW is an underdog to land in-state five-star prospect Jalen Johnson, and you have to consider this move a smart one for the long term prospects of the 2020 class.

Will the Davis twins jump at the offer to play together at Wisconsin?

Some in the recruiting world believe this was the situation that was holding Wisconsin back all along. So, don’t be surprised to see this affect the recruitment of both players in a big way.

As for Jordan, his game has also caught the attention of Iowa and Minnesota and he did have scholarship offers from both Green Bay and Milwaukee prior to this one.

What may have really held the Badgers coaching staff and others back was the fact that Jordan is also a good player on the football side and wasn’t sure which sport he wanted to pick.

It seems like UW has gotten the clue that Jordan may be more receptive to a basketball future and pulled the trigger on the offer.

We’ll see how much longer the two stay uncommitted, but don’t be surprised to see something happen following July’s AAU season.

Letting that play out and getting all the offers out there on the table is just a smart move for the twins. From there, it’s up to them and clearly the Badgers have left no stone unturned in this situation.

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