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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Green Bay preview

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A 10-day layoff from games ends on Saturday afternoon as the Wisconsin Badgers take on in-state foe Green Bay at the Kohl Center. With a young team full of injuries, did the layoff allow the Badgers to regroup and refocus?

We’ll find out against a Phoenix team that got instantly better this past week with the insertion of former Marquette guard Sandy Cohen III. Plus, you know that Green Bay is going to give everything in this in-state contest.

UW and Green Bay will tip at 4:30pm CT and the game will be seen on the Big Ten Network.

So, what should we be watching for in this game? Let’s look at our Starting 5 for the Badgers vs. Phoenix.

1-2 Punch for Green Bay

Wisconsin has struggled a ton on the perimeter this season, and the debut of Sandy Cohen III for Green Bay gives the visitors a really good wing scorer to add to the mix. However, he was just 1-6 from deep and 6-16 from the field in his debut against Bowling Green earlier this week.

Could that have been knocking some of the game rust off? He’ll no doubt test the Badgers defense, but he’s not the only danger that GB possesses in this contest, as Cohen III is a great compliment player to leading scorer Khalil Small (16.2 points per game). Small is a dangerous player due to his versatility, as he’s shooting 45.2 percent from beyond the arc and 45.3 percent overall from the field on the year.

The Badgers have really struggled with players who can slash and dish to the perimeter and the Phoenix have two of those types in its uptempo offense. That should be something to watch in this contest.

Brad Davison’s Growth

The last time we saw Brad Davison, he was making one heady play and hitting a cool-as-ice free throw to win the game against Western Kentucky. We highlighted just how important that kind of on-court leadership and poise could be going forward.

Will that show against a Green Bay squad that loves to push the tempo and make teams play the entire length of the court on both sides of the ball? Davison hasn’t been short on effort or want-to, but he’ll be tested in a way he hasn’t been before this season.

He’s also potentially just the seventh freshman to average in double figures in his first season in a Badgers uniform. Davison is a good perimeter shooter, but also a confident one from mid-range and that can come in handy in this type of game. He can’t go cold against the style of defense Green Bay plays or it could be a long one.

Turnovers have been a bit of an issue for the freshman this season as well, as he’s committed 16 turnovers to just 23 assists. We’ll be watching how efficient Davison can make the Badgers and if he can help them control the tempo of this game.

Iverson and Turnovers, can he not commit them?

Speaking of turnovers, one of the keys to this game is going to be the play of Wisconsin small forward Kahlil Iverson. The junior has had a rough go of it in the turnover department and prior to injuries was beginning to see his minutes decrease because of it.

Iverson comes in to this game second on the team in turnovers with 27. Only Ethan Happ’s 34 are more on the Badgers. But, Iverson’s ability to hang on to the ball and make smart decisions on offense will be magnified under the pressure that Green Bay puts on opponents.

The Phoenix have forced an average of 15.4 turnovers per game and have turned opponents over more than they’ve turned the ball over despite the frenetic pace they like to play at. Iverson’s history of bad turnovers at inopportune times matters against those kind of results from your opponent.

He’s also going to be key because he’s the perfect player to bust loose against the pressure with his athletic ability.

Did the last 10 days settle Iverson’s mind down and let him focus on being a player to count on? We’ll get an answer early I have a feeling. If he’s not able to keep the ball under control it really stretches the Badgers thin having to go to walk-on’s or former walk-on’s like Aaron Moesch and T.J. Schlundt.

Third Scoring Option for Badgers

Davison and Happ have been a two-man scoring machine for the Badgers as of late, but that isn’t exactly a recipe for success as we’ve seen.

We’ve pretty much been asking for a consistent third scoring option for UW most of this season, and no one has emerged in that role. Junior guard Brevin Pritzl may be that answer though.

After being put on the bench in favor of Davison a few weeks ago, Pritzl has come back to the starting lineup due to injuries at guard. He’s stepped up nicely in the past two games, putting up 10 points in the loss to Marquette and 17 big points in the win over Western Kentucky.

If the Badgers can start to count on him to be a double-digit point scorer on a consistent basis it certainly changes the offensive equation for the Badgers.

Pounding the Boards

As much as UW’s ability to get a third scorer will matter, so to will its ability to exploit what should be a clear advantage on the boards. Green Bay has been downright awful on the boards against true D1 opponents this season. As in, 41.4 rebounds per game resulting in a 2-7 record against nine D1 teams.

That’s brutal, and even more so when you know the Badgers have a massive size advantage down low and have a 100-92 advantage in offensive rebounds this season too.

Green Bay will throw 6-8 forward David Jesperson up against Ethan Happ in what could be the biggest advantage in a player-on-player matchup for the Badgers. Let’s see if Happ and high-flying Khalil Iverson can get things done on the glass against a Phoenix team that doesn’t shoot the ball well. One-and-done possessions for Green Bay will likely equal a win for Wisconsin.

Prediction:

Wisconsin 82, Green Bay 70

As inconsistent as the Badgers have been, Green Bay has been its equal if not worse. They also don’t have the potential scorers that Wisconsin does. While the three-point shooting of Cohen III and Small are scary, so is their lack of an inside presence.

Look for Happ to have a big day all around and for that to make up for anything the Phoenix will or won’t do on the perimeter. As dangerous as GB could be, they have been wildly inconsistent and that’s what happens with six newcomers to the team and just 12 years of total experience on the team in general.

Wisconsin is young and inconsistent, but not near the level of the Phoenix. Wisconsin wins and keeps improving heading in to Big Ten play.

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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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