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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Milwaukee basketball preview



After a hot start to the 2017-18 season, the Wisconsin Badgers have run in to trouble with top competition. However, a return home to the Kohl Center for a Black Friday affair with the Milwaukee Panthers could be just what the doctor ordered.

Wisconsin comes in having lost three straight, all to ranked opponents (No. 15 Xavier, No. 22 Baylor and No. 23 UCLA). The temptation may be to think the Badgers are going to get back on track easily with the return home against an in-state foe, but Milwaukee comes in with plenty of confidence of its own.

Can a return home be enough or will the Panthers prove too tough a test for the changing Badgers? Let’s take a look at the five things to know about this game.

1. Milwaukee comes in with just one loss so far this season

The temptation always is to think of an in-state Horizon League foe as easy pickings for the Badgers, but the Panthers come in to this one at 4-1 on the season. It’s not just the hot start, one of those four wins came over Big 12 power Iowa State. So, Wisconsin better be on its game or it could be in for an upset at the Kohl Center. The Panthers certainly aren’t going to be intimidated. On the flip side, Milwaukee’s one loss was a bad one, coming against D2 opponent Concordia-St. Paul in the Black and Gold Shootout earlier this month.

2. Wisconsin is still well-respected by the stat machines

A 2-3 start was not ideal for Wisconsin, especially with all three losses coming to ranked opponents. However, there isn’t a lack of respect for the Badgers by the numbers. Wisconsin comes in to today’s matchup ranked No. 32 in the country by What is really interesting is to see the Badgers evened out in the offensive and defensive categories. UW comes in to the game No. 52 in adjusted offense and No. 24 in adjusted defense, meaning they actually measure out well against the rest of the country despite the shaky start to the season. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ve played the No. 66-ranked schedule in the country either.

3. Three starters are averaging double figures for Wisconsin

Despite some of the troubles the Badgers have had with stopping opponents on the other end, scoring hasn’t been a problem for this team on offense. With the emergence of freshman Brad Davison in the starting lineup, Wisconsin now has three starters averaging double figures coming in to this game. Star forward Ethan Happ leads the way, averaging 19.0 points per game. Davison is second on the team with 10.4 points per game and fellow guard D’Mitrick Trice is averaging 10.2 points per game. Trice may be the most interesting one to watch in this trio, as he struggled against both Xavier and Baylor, scoring just 12 points combined in those two games. He rebounded with 14 points in the loss to UCLA on Tuesday though.

4. Milwaukee’s new head coach has had past success against the Badgers

UWM had to hire a new head coach this offseason, and they dipped in to the Big Ten to find said new head coach. Former Northwestern assistant Pat Baldwin took over the program in June, and you can bet he’s very familiar with the Badgers. Baldwin coached under Chris Collins for the last four years in Evanston and went 3-3 against the Badgers in the regular season during those four years.

5. Happ is reaching historic territory already

It’s early in the season, but the numbers Ethan Happ is putting up are out of this world. He’s not only averaging 19.0 points, but also has 9.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game to date. Those numbers lead the Badgers in each category, but Happ is also the only major conference player to average those numbers in the entire country. If he can keep up or even improve on those numbers, Happ could becoming only the third player in the country to average at least 19 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists per game. The other two were pretty dang good players too — Ohio State star Evan Turner and LSU’s Ben Simmons.

Prediction: Wisconsin 80, Milwaukee 66

There is some reason to be measured in this contest, as Milwaukee found a way to bite the Cyclones already this season. However, they also went ahead and lost to a D2 school. Having seen some of the film on the Panthers already this season, I’m convinced the Iowa State win was more fluke than indicative of anything great the Panthers are going to accomplish. Add in the fact that Wisconsin has been competitive in three losses to ranked opponents and this should be the medicine needed before a trip to Virginia in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Look for Happ to dominate down low and for Davison to have a huge game on the outside.

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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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Badgers Basketball

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 Basketball

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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Badgers Basketball

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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