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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Penn State basketball preview

5 things to know and a prediction about Wisconsin’s upcoming basketball game against Penn State.



On Monday night, the Wisconsin Basketball team will travel to the Bryce Jordan Center to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Badgers are coming off an embarrassing 83-58 defeat at the hands of Ohio State in the Kohl Center. They currently sit at 3-5, while Penn State is 7-2 after a road win against Iowa. The game will start at 6 PM and air on ESPN2.

Penn State is favored to win this game

Yes, we currently live in a world when Penn State is favored to win a basketball game against Wisconsin. According to  BetOnline Sportsbook, the Badgers are 4.5-point underdogs. ESPN FPI gives the Badgers just a 29.1% chance to win the game. While it may seem crazy to think about, Penn State definitely deserves to be the favorite. They have been the much better team this season. In fact, at 7-2 with victories against Pittsburgh and at Iowa, the Nittany Lions have a chance to make a run to the NCAA Tournament. If the Badgers win this game, it is going to be a slight surprise.

Wisconsin needs a win

After losing to Ohio State, the Badgers fell to 3-5. All three of their wins came against teams outside of the Pomeroy Rankings Top-120. The Badgers still have a chance to make the tournament, but they are going to need quality wins. A road win against a very solid Penn State will go a long way in that regard.

But outside of helping build their resume, the Badgers really just need a win for confidence purposes. Until Saturday, the Badgers had four losses to good teams. UCLA, Baylor, Xavier, and Virginia all spent time in the Top-25 this season. Wisconsin was very much in the game against all of them except Virginia, which was on the road. They just came a little bit short. It was nothing to be ashamed of.

But on Saturday against Ohio State, they were abysmal. They left shooters wide open on defense, and the offensive execution was extremely poor. They got manhandled at home by a team that probably won’t even make the NCAA Tournament. It was embarrassing. Now the Badgers need come out and make a statement. This as must-win as a December basketball game gets.

Watch out for Tony Carr

Tony Carr is another in a long line of excellent Penn State guards. The sophomore point guard is averaging 20.6, 4.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. He is doing it efficiently too. Carr is shooting 59% from three, 47% from the field, and 84% from the line. Quite frankly, he has been one of the best point guards in the country so far. The Badgers have had trouble with quick, shot-making guards this season. Carr can give them a lot of trouble.

Ethan Happ needs to bounce back

Blaming Happ for what has happened over the last few game is ridiculous. The burden put on him on offense is extremely high. He has limited help around him, and the opposing defense is always focused on him. It isn’t an enviable position to be in. But even so, he needs to be better than he has been over the last two games. Against Virginia, he missed multiple bunnies, struggled to pass out of double-teams, and didn’t rebound or defend as well as he usually does. The Ohio State game was even worse. He had just seven points on 2-6 shootings to go along with four turnovers. Happ has one of the most difficult jobs in the country. But he needs to get back to producing at an All-American level if Wisconsin is going to turn its season around.

Will Greg Gard make any changes?

I don’t know exactly what he can or should do to turn this season around, but he needs to try something. Khalil Iverson isn’t cutting it in the starting lineup. He has been turning the ball over at a high rate and still isn’t a threat to score from the perimeter. Inserting Kobe King or Nate Reuvers into the starting lineup may give this team the offensive boost it needs. Again, I don’t know if that is the answer. But it feels like Gard has to try something new, right?

Prediction: Wisconsin 61, Penn State 60

Maybe I’m just naive or hopelessly optimistic. I did pick the Badgers to beat Xavier, UCLA and Ohio State this season. But I think the Badgers are going to come out extremely motivated and energetic. The Badgers will completely lock down on defense. Ethan Happ is going to do what he did to Rutgers last season. All of that will be just enough for Wisconsin to edge out their first win against a major conference team this season.

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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 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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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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