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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

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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Badgers Basketball

Badgers basketball land Davis twins

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After missing out on the Hauser brothers late last month, the Wisconsin Badgers added a different pair of siblings on Saturday night.

Following an offer to the brother of 4-star shooting guard Johnny Davis and an appearance at a team camp this weekend, the Davis brothers announced their pledge to the Badgers according to Badger247.

It took less than a week after head coach Greg Gard gave the O.K. to offer Jordan for the pair to commit to Wisconsin.

Johnny held offers from Marquette, West Virginia, Iowa, Minnesota, DePaul, UNLV and others.

Jordan had offers from UW-Milwaukee and Green Bay, while also becoming a sought after recruit on the football field as well. Once he became serious about wanting to play basketball first, it seemed like a matter of time before Wisconsin offered.

That time came after seeing Jordan play in a camp last weekend.

It also came because it was time to figure out if Johnny was serious about the Badgers or not.

With the July evaluation period coming up, Wisconsin’s coaching staff put the final chips in the middle with this recruitment and it appeared to pay off.

Johnny joins as the No. 141 ranked player in the country and the No. 14 ranked combo guard in the nation according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

The twins will join Detroit, Mich. native Lorne Bowman in the 2020 class.

Wisconsin still has one scholarship available in the class as well, which is likely being held for 5-star and Wisconsin native Jalen Johnson.

After missing out on talented in-state players over and over again, this was a major win for Gard and his coaching staff considering how hard schools like West Virginia and Marquette were after Johnny’s commitment.

As for Jordan, it appears the coaching staff believes he is improving enough to get a scholarship and continue his improvement with this program.

Offers don’t come out just because it may win over a different recruit at Wisconsin. That wasn’t Bo Ryan’s style and it also isn’t Greg Gard’s style.

The trio of players put the Badgers at No. 8 in the country and No. 3 in the Big Ten in the 2020 class as of today.

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Badgers Basketball

Former Badgers get No. 2 seed in The Basketball Tournament Columbus regional

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Who doesn’t want $2 million? That’s the prize at stake for winning The Basketball Tournament and a group of former Wisconsin Badgers want in.

On Tuesday it was officially announced that the Kohl Blooded team — spearheaded by former Badgers point guard Kam Taylor — will be the No. 2 seed in the Columbus regional.

They will take on No. 7 seed Mid-American Unity, which is making its second appearance in the TBT after a year off. That group represents teams from across the Mid-American conference.

As for the Badgers, the roster will be made up of some very strong names from the past. The headline names include members of the back-to-back Final Four teams in Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown. Also joining will be Jordan Taylor, Ryan Evans, Trevon Hughes and recent grad Charles Thomas. You can see the full roster here.

The regionals will take place July 19-21 in Columbus with the winner of this regional meeting seven other winners in Chicago for championship week.

All games will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks, so you should be able to find them either streaming or on cable television.

Kohl Blooded vs. Mid-American Unity will tip at 1pm ET on Friday, July 19.

The winner will take on the winner of Red Scare (Dayton alumni) and The Region (players from Northwest Indiana) in the regional semi-final the next day.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers play final card in attempt to land 2020 G Johnny Davis

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A week after losing out on Joey and Sam Hauser, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program needs some positive momentum on the player acquisition front.

With three scholarships available in the 2020 class and two top in-state players in their sites, the Badgers coaching staff has been about as patient as possible.

On Wednesday, Badger247 reports that UW has offered Jordan Davis, the twin brother of top target Johnny Davis. It’s not a walk-on or grayshirt, but a full scholarship offer.

After two years of waiting for that offer to come, it finally did.

Jordan is an unranked player in basketball at this time, but I expect that to change once the scouting services catch wind of this offer. Johnny Davis is the No. 131 ranked player in the country, a 4-star rated prospect and the No. 3 ranked player in the state of Wisconsin in the 2020 class.

With the brothers set to make a weekend visit for team camp in two weeks, this is a move that undoubtably puts the pressure squarely on Johnny Davis at this point.

Simply put, the Badgers need to know if Davis is going to commit or if they need to move on.

Offering Jordan a full ride is about the only thing left in the Badgers quiver at this point. If getting the dream of playing basketball together at the same school and in-state no less doesn’t tip the scales, at least the Badgers know they can move on.

Is it a desperate move? In some ways one could see it as such. Clearly the Badgers want Johnny in a major way and they see offering Jordan as a critical move that could separate themselves from the competition.

However, this also isn’t a coaching staff willing to just throw away a scholarship in an effort to get a coveted player to play for them. That’s simply not Greg Gard’s style.

Jordan is also a player they see as a contributor, or he wasn’t getting an offer. Plain and simple.

There’s no doubt that this move ups the pressure, like I mentioned before. But, that’s not a bad thing, as UW needs to know where they stand heading in to July’s evaluation period.

If the Davis brothers can’t commit or at least internally give the coaching staff the information that will make them feel comfortable, they need to start getting offers out to other big time players whom they’ve been waiting to offer.

Consider UW is an underdog to land in-state five-star prospect Jalen Johnson, and you have to consider this move a smart one for the long term prospects of the 2020 class.

Will the Davis twins jump at the offer to play together at Wisconsin?

Some in the recruiting world believe this was the situation that was holding Wisconsin back all along. So, don’t be surprised to see this affect the recruitment of both players in a big way.

As for Jordan, his game has also caught the attention of Iowa and Minnesota and he did have scholarship offers from both Green Bay and Milwaukee prior to this one.

What may have really held the Badgers coaching staff and others back was the fact that Jordan is also a good player on the football side and wasn’t sure which sport he wanted to pick.

It seems like UW has gotten the clue that Jordan may be more receptive to a basketball future and pulled the trigger on the offer.

We’ll see how much longer the two stay uncommitted, but don’t be surprised to see something happen following July’s AAU season.

Letting that play out and getting all the offers out there on the table is just a smart move for the twins. From there, it’s up to them and clearly the Badgers have left no stone unturned in this situation.

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