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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Northern Iowa basketball preview

Wisconsin begins its 2017-18 journey with a charity exhibition against Northern Iowa, we preview what to watch for in this matchup.

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The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball season officially gets underway on Wednesday night, well at least in terms of exhibition basketball. It will be a unique experience at the Kohl Center for sure.

Instead of Northern Iowa and Wisconsin meeting in a secret gym off both campuses, the two have gotten an NCAA waiver and will play for free in the Kohl Center. However, there will be funds raised for Team Rubicon, a charity our Andy Coppens has worked with in the past. It’s run by former Badgers football player and Marine, Jake Woods. All proceeds will benefit their first responders efforts by this all-volunteer veteran-driven organization all over the world, including their work in hurricane ravaged areas and the recent fires in the Pacific Northwest and California.

So, if you are in Madison and want to catch the Badgers for free while also donating to a good cause, this is your chance.

It also represents a chance for us to debut our new preview format, as we are calling it “The Starting 5” and we will give you the five most interesting notes, facts and observations about the game to come. So, enjoy our look at UW basketball all season.

1: This is Wisconsin’s 1st open exhibition of the season 

The University of Wisconsin has gotten some game time in already, but it played the University of Missouri in a closed-door scrimmage. So, that means this is the first look at the Badgers for the 2017-18 season. It also means our first real look in to how Gard sees this team lining up for the season. If the Mizzou scrimmage is any indication, don’t be surprised to see a starting five of D’Mitrick Trice, Brevin Pritzl, Khalil Iverson, Andy Van Vliet and Ethan Happ.

2: Northern Iowa’s Adam McDermott is on his second team and is a sophomore sharp-shooter

If you’ve ever seen the Panthers under head coach Ben Jacobsen, then you know this team has had its fair share of sharp shooters on the wings. That was not the case last season, but don’t be surprised to see that return in 2017-18 as the son of former UNI and now Creighton head coach Greg McDermott returns to the court. He was a beast from beyond the arc in his lone season at North Dakota, hitting on 40.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Wisconsin needs to show it has the ability to work on defense around the perimeter, and that likely starts with Pritzl vs. McDermott.

3: How will the three newcomers look in preseason for UW

Wisconsin had one of its best recruiting classes sign for the 2017-18 season, but this will be most Badgers fans first opportunity to see them play. That is unless you were staying up late for games in Australia and New Zealand. In-state legend Kobe King and Minnesota product Brad Davison seem the most likely to get major minutes, but I’m most interested to see how big man Nathan Reuvers looks in a game against fellow NCAA players. Wisconsin’s depth up front really lacks another post option to Happ. Can Reuvers be that man right away? It certainly feels like all three have the capacity to see minutes this year, but Reuvers has to likely beat out the defense-first mindset of Charlie Thomas if he is going to get those minutes. Keep an eye on him and the rest of the newcomers, because depth is going to come from them if it comes at all this season.

4: Wisconsin returns four players who saw major minutes last season, even if only one starter returns

While the Badgers technically only return one full-time starter from last season, it isn’t like the new guys are devoid of any experience at all. Lets not forget that D’Mitrick Trice played a ton of minutes and saw starting action with Bronson Koenig injured for parts of last season. Brevin Pritzl saw his minutes increase throughout last season and was one of Wisconsin’s most pesky defenders, while Khalil Iverson also became a defensive stopper to go with his high-flying offensive attack. Those three averaged 14 minutes per game, with Trice going for just over 18, Iverson just over 15 and Pritzl just over eight minutes per game. Let’s see how the increased roles fit them early on this season.

5: That is the number of made FT’s by Ethan Happ against Missouri

If there was an Achilles heel for the Badgers last season it was their inability to shoot well from the free throw line. Ethan Happ was a major reason for that issue, shooting just 50 percent on the season from the free throw line. Well, against Missouri Happ was highly efficient from the charity stripe, going 5 of 6 on the night. In fact, the Badgers appear to be a much better free throw shooting team as a whole entering this season. Given Happ’s work around the rim, it will be important to see him improve from the line.

Prediction: Wisconsin 75, Northern Iowa 62

This isn’t the Northern Iowa team of old, you know the one no one wanted to see in the NCAA tournament back in the day. Instead, head coach Ben Jacobsen has a roster in transition and in need of a big spark given all that left in the offseason for the Panthers and all the flaws that existed too. For as much transition as the Badgers are undergoing, UNI is doing it with less talent from top to bottom. They simply won’t have an answer for Happ, even if Bennett Koch is a good post player and the Badgers depth gets the win in the second half.

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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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