That crazy time between Christmas and New Year’s is here, and if you’re like most of us here at talking10 chances are you only count your days in bowl games and basketball games.
Luckily for you, the Badger fans out there, there are three games between the two sports to go between those two big holidays. Up first is Badger basketball playing host to Chicago State tonight from the Kohl Center.
Chicago State comes in just 2-13 on the season and is one of the worst teams in D1 basketball by just about every metric. So, as bad as you may think things are in Madison, it could really be worse.
With a mismatch in the making, what are the 5 things we’ll be watching?
Will Disparity in Talent Matter?
There’s no question who the better team is heading in to this game. But, Wisconsin has a crazy history of playing down to its level of competition. We’ll be looking to see if the Badgers can avoid complacency and avoid the trap.
Ethan Happ is a massive advantage for the Badgers and young point guard Brad Davison is taking full advantage of his increased role. He scored a game-high 18 points in the blowout win over Green Bay last time out, and he’s had double digits in 8 of the last 11 games. It’s been impressive considering the pressure he’s been under.
But, let’s see if Davison and UW as a whole doesn’t let down against the Cougars.
Can Wisconsin Get Bench Experience?
On paper, this is a massive mismatch between the Badgers and Cougars. That in theory should mean plenty of playing time for some of the younger players on the UW bench. Those minutes could be really important going forward.
With Kobe King out for the rest of the season and D’Mitrick Trice likely not back until the middle of January at the absolute earliest, there is a desperate need for help in the backcourt. So far we’ve seen former walk-on T.J. Schlundt and walk-on Walt McGrory get some bigger minutes in relief.
Getting both of them good minutes is going to be helpful, with just one other game coming before Big Ten play starts in earnest.
Can the Hot Shooting Badgers Continue to Stay Hot?
Disappointment may be the word most fans think of when it comes to the Badgers non-conference results. However, what is getting very little publicity is the fact ever since the Marquette game, the Badgers have found their shooting stroke in a major way.
Over the last two games, Wisconsin is shooting a very healthy 52.4 percent from the field. Combine that with the fact that opponents are shooting 49.4 percent from the field against Chicago State and this one could really get ugly.
Brevin Pritzl has gotten better, Aleem Ford has also stepped up his shooting game and it has been a big help to the two workhorses in Ethan Happ and Brad Davison.
More importantly, a third straight game of quality shooting could be just the confidence boost this team needs to make a crazy run in the Big Ten.
What Changes has Gard Implemented?
Greg Gard went back to the coaching board after an embarrassing loss to Marquette earlier this month, and it paid off in a major way. UW clearly came out as a different team in wins over Western Kentucky and Green Bay.
Scoring 81 points in two game combined might have been expected of the Badgers after the previous few weeks. Instead, Wisconsin poured in 81 points in each of the last two games thanks to the tweaking done by Gard.
UW hasn’t played in five days and there likely wasn’t a whole lot of practice being done around the holidays. Still, with a chance to reflect on what has taken place, will we see some more tweaks or attempts to iron out the rotation even more? A game like this is great to experiment in.
Can Wisconsin break the 90-point mark for the 1st time this season?
Coming in to the Chicago State game, the Badgers best point total was 89 in a 89-61 win over Yale in game two of the season. However, three other Big Ten teams have set the expectation for results against the Cougars — as Iowa, Northwestern and Purdue have each put up at least 90 points a piece on Chicago State.
Those wins where 95-62 for Iowa, 111-42 for Purdue and 96-31 for Northwestern. KenPom has the Cougars ranked No. 346 in the country out of 351 teams. Simply put, this may be the worst team we’ve ever seen come in to the Kohl Center.
If the Badgers don’t break 90 points I’d be kind of upset with the performance to be honest.
Wisconsin 92, Chicago State 55
Ethan Happ cleans up the boards, dominates down low on the other end. Brad Davison is hot early from beyond the arc and Aleem Ford shows he may be a true third scoring option. It all adds up to Wisconsin just crushing the visiting Cougars.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what guys like Nate Reuvers, T.J. Schlundt, Aaron Moesch and Walt McGrory can do with a lot of playing time. Those minutes are going to be invaluable to their learning experience heading in to Big Ten play.
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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