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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Maryland basketball preview

Can UW get back to winning ways against the equally struggling Maryland Terrapins?



At home or on the road, it hasn’t mattered much for the Wisconsin Badgers as of late. After a pair of home games earlier this week, the Badgers will hit the road for a clash with the Maryland Terrapins on Sunday afternoon.

Wisconsin comes in having dropped , but Maryland is struggling almost to the Badgers equal. The Terps have dropped six of their last eight games and three straight heading in to this game.

Could this be a matchup that ends the Badgers misery? Let’s take a look inside the game and our Starting 5 for today’s matchup with Maryland.

Tip is scheduled for Noon CT and can be seen on CBS.

Streaky Badgers

There’s no secret to what has taken the Badgers down this season — it’s inability to consistently score. Wisconsin comes in to this game averaging a woeful 61.8 points per game in Big Ten play, with only Rutgers being worse at putting points up in conference play.

Last time out this was on full display, as Northwestern raced out to an 18-1 lead before watching the Badgers claw their way back with a 10-1 run that made the game 19-11 with 11:23 to play in the first half. But, Northwestern answered with an 11-4 run to make it 30-15 immediately following UW’s hard work to get back in the game.

I think you get the point here — Wisconsin has to find a way to avoid being a streaky team. They have got to hold teams from big runs and the need to make huge runs to stay in games themselves. It forces UW in to being a perimeter team, and that isn’t their strength at all this season.

Let’s see if the Badgers can avoid the massive swings in scoring.

Happ-ily Take Advantage of Maryland?

Ethan Happ is Wisconsin’s best player by a mile this season, and teams have taken to triple and quadruple-teaming him at times. But, Maryland comes in to this game likely without starting center Michal Cekovsky.

That means a mix of four other players that have varying degrees of experience in the mix. It’s most likely that the trio of Bruno Fernando, Sean Obi and Joshua Tomaic will see the majority of minutes and rotate against Happ.

Some teams have taken to the hack-a-Happ defense and if he shows signs of struggling from the line, having three bodies to rotate on Happ could work to their advantage. However, Happ may be able to equally abuse this group down low on both ends of the court. Such is the skill set that Happ brings to the table, and such is Wisconsin’s best hope for victory on Sunday.

Hard-Fighting Teams

This season is reduced to playing for pride for the Badgers, well pride and learning experience for the youngsters. Much is the same for Maryland, who are nearly UW’s equal in terms of what has happened to them this season on the injury front and in experience this season.

With the season’s over in terms of post-season play for both of these teams, the interesting thing is watching just how hard they are still playing. Both of these teams fight hard, with Maryland playing a ton of close games and the Badgers never giving up even if they are down a lot.

Mark Turgeon and Greg Gard have their teams still playing hard despite less than stellar results. Turgeon specifically mentioned that earlier this week.

“There’s a lot of fight in this team,” Turgeon said. “Considering the circumstances, I think we’re pretty confident. I think we believe in each other. It’s just putting a complete game together. … Playing smarter for 40 minutes is big for us.”

Sound familiar?

I know “trying hard” and “playing hard” are not substitutes for winning basketball games, but good coaches find ways to keep even their worst of teams motivated. Both are doing that to date, which one will see that hard-fighting spirit pay off on Sunday?

Iverson’s Unlucky Emergence

Say what? Isn’t it a good thing that the Badgers have found a second consistent scorer? Sure it is in theory, but in practice it hasn’t mattered much for UW this season.

Iverson is now averaging 9.3 points per game on the season, but he’s been an even bigger scorer as of late. He’s scored in double figures in four of the last five games and has hit in double digits in 6 of Wisconsin’s 11 Big Ten games to date. Over the past five games, Iverson is averaging a healthy 13.4 points per game.

Last time out, Iverson led the Badgers in scoring with 15 points and also pulled down 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists and 2 blocks.

Yet, Iverson’s emergence hasn’t mattered one bit to the win and loss column. Against Maryland, his athletic ability and ability to slash could be the difference maker. Will the duo of Happ and Iverson scoring in double figures finally pay off with a win in the record books? It’s only happened twice this season in Big Ten play.

Beyond Frustrating from Beyond the Arc

Wisconsin’s perimeter game has been downright dreadful, as UW is shooting just 33.1 percent on the season and an even worse 30.8 percent in B1G play.

Brad Davison’s injured left shoulder hasn’t helped his shooting touch and Brevin Pritzl is the most shy sharp-shooter I’ve ever seen. Couple that with Khalil Iverson’s 0-for-his career and Nate Reuvers inconsistency and you can see why the Badgers are struggling from deep. At least Aleem Ford can bury a needed triple or two off the bench.

So, three-point shooting isn’t exactly the Badgers strong suit. Apparently defending against the three-point shot isn’t Maryland’s strength either this year, as they rank 13th in three-point defense during Big Ten play (41.5 percent).

If the Badgers want to win on Sunday, getting something going from deep would be a huge help to Happ and Iverson’s inside game.

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Badgers 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.

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Carlson commits to Badgers 2020 basketball class



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



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



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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