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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Rutgers basketball preview

Wisconsin makes a trip to a house of horrors in Piscataway. Can they come away victorious against Rutgers?

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What’s not to like about a five-game win streak and a trip to Rutgers? Oh, wait…that last part, that’s right.

For whatever reason, trips to Piscataway, NJ have not been fun for the Badgers. There have been big injuries and closer-than-they-should’ve-been games.

But, as with everything with this 2017-18 team perhaps it will be the unexpected that happens? Let’s take a look at how the Badgers (9-7, 2-1 B1G) and the Scarlet Knights (10-6, 0-3 B1G) match up on Friday night.

Here is tonight’s starting 5 for the game that tips at 6pm CT and will be seen on ESPN.

1. Can the Road Continue to be Kind to Badgers Under Gard?

Greg Gard has done what few coaches in the Big Ten have been able to do — figure out how to win on the road. The Big Ten is notoriously difficult on road teams, but Gard has done well in that regard so far in his career. Wisconsin is 10-8 in Big Ten road games under his leadership, which is the second-best mark of any team in the Big Ten over Gard’s span in the conference. Only Maryland’s 12-7 record is better on the road in conference play.

Wisconsin of 2017-18 on the road has been a bit different, but so is playing at the RAC, where the Badgers are 1-1 against Rutgers since they joined the Big Ten. Can Gard’s magic work on the road or will a different environment in New Jersey trip up the Badgers?

2. Happ Feasts on Rutgers

No team has been as willing to let Ethan Happ do his best work than Rutgers has over his career. All he’s done is average a whole 19.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game against the Scarlet Knights. That includes dropping 32 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists on Rutgers last season alone.

Combine that with the fact that Happ had his best all-around performance just this past Tuesday in a 10-point win against Indiana and this could be a fun night for the All-American. Wisconsin’s offense clearly revolves around Happ in some way, shape or form — whether it is him pounding the ball down low or drawing double teams and kicking the ball to open players or taking fellow big men off the dribble, Happ has finally taken the Badgers offense on his back and gotten positive results.

Can Happ continue the trend of big nights against the Scarlet Knights?

3. Got Your Six

While Happ has gotten off to a great start to 2018, the most important part is that the rest of his teammates are helping out a lot more than they were in the 2017 portion of the season. Happ doesn’t have to do it all on his own anymore, and ironically that is leading to him being able to dominate even more.

Aleem Ford has suddenly become a consistent double-digit scorer, Brad Davison does a bit of everything and even the walk-on players who are playing are finding a way to contribute in smaller ways. Since that Marquette loss, the rest of the team has begun to round in to form and get Happ’s back on both ends of the court.

Now, can Charlie Thomas please find some touch around the rim on offense to complete the rise of UW’s offense? Can the form of Ford and others continue on the road? If so, Wisconsin could find themselves comfortably ahead in this game.

4. Offensive Boards

If there is one area that could trouble the Badgers tonight, it is in the area of keeping Rutgers off the glass. While not much has been looking up for the Scarlet Knights during their current six-game losing streak, a potential advantage exists in this matchup thanks to a long and athletic front line.

It’s been an advantage all season long, with Rutgers owing 15.1 offensive rebounds per game alone. That number is third nationally, and runs counter to Wisconsin’s defensive strength — not allowing offensive rebounds. UW is allowing opponents just 6.3 offensive rebounds per game which is ninth in the country. Something is going to give tonight.

Wisconsin hasn’t played great defense all season long overall, so can they keep Rutgers from getting opportunities at second-chance points?

5. Please Don’t Bore Us

Along those lines of UW’s defensive effort, somehow, despite the perception, UW ranks inside the top 35 in scoring defense on the year. So do the Scarlet Knights.

For those of you who are a fan of high-scoring basketball, this may not be your game.

That means it could be a struggle to be entertained and a struggle to top 60 points from both of these teams. Let’s see if that’s to UW’s advantage or not.

Prediction:

Wisconsin 62, Rutgers 55

Something in me just doesn’t trust trips to New Jersey for the Badgers. However, this is going to be another grind-it-out victory for UW. Look for Happ to get going early and that lead to a big lead for the Wisconsin. The problem is that also means watch for Rutgers to make a nice second half run while UW’s defense relaxes a bit. It leads to a closer than expected win, but a sixth straight win for the Badgers nonetheless.

That sets up an interesting matchup with Nebraska on Tuesday night to say the least..if I’m right.

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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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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 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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