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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. South Carolina State basketball preview

Wisconsin begins its 2017-18 season with a home game against the South Carolina State Bulldogs. We preview what to watch for.



Wisconsin Basketball is finally back! After the Australia trip and three exhibitions, Wisconsin’s tilt with South Carolina State will be their first real game of the season. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. Unfortunately, the game will air on BTN Plus and cost $10 to watch, which is ridiculous. But hey, it has been a long off-season, and it is great to have Badger basketball back on TV (kind of).

Now it’s time for the Starting Five, which is the name of our all new preview format in which we give you five interesting facts, stats, observations, or things to watch for the upcoming game.

1. South Carolina State is projected to be the fourth worst team in the country.

Yeah, that’s not very good. Out of 351 division-1 basketball teams, the Pomeroy Ratings projected the Bulldogs to be 348th. This should be a blowout for Wisconsin, which will be a good way for some of the young Badger players to gain some confidence with Yale, Xavier, and Baylor coming up shortly. Look for Greg Gard to tinker with the lineup all game, as he is still likely trying to figure out the best combinations.

2. Potential Nathan Reuvers Redshirt

This will actually be the part of the game that has the biggest impact on not only this season, but the next five seasons of Wisconsin Basketball. The 6’10 power forward was a 247 Sports Composite top-75 player and four-star recruit. However, the Badgers have a lot of depth at power forward and center, so minutes could be hard to come by. In addition, he is still a too skinny for a Big Ten player. For that reason, he has a big decision to make. If he plays, he would likely contribute in garbage time for the first half of the season before getting a few rotation minutes in the second half. But by taking a redshirt season, he could use the time to bulk up, develop, and still have four seasons of eligibility left.

3. Ethan Happ three-pointers

So Ethan Happ shoots three-pointers now. No, seriously. He went 1-2 from beyond the arc in Wisconsin’s exhibition win against University of Northern Iowa. For those of you that need to see it to believe it, here you go.

He will likely have the opportunity to attempt a few tonight. If the Badgers are up big, which they should be, Happ will likely have the green light to fire at will. This type of game is perfect to test out new skills and gain confidence.

4. Frontcourt Rotation

Junior Andy Van Vliet has likely locked up the starting big man spot next to Happ. But after that? The front court rotation is anyone’s guess. Junior Alex Illikainen is the most experienced of those bigs, but he has struggled in live game action. Junior Charles Thomas is huge and has shown flashes but is inconsistent. Redshirt freshman Aleem Ford has loads of talent but hasn’t put it all together yet. All of those guys are fighting for a spot in the rotation, and tonight’s is a great chance to build some early momentum.

5. The Freshman Guards

Freshman guards Kobe King and Brad Davison have generated a huge amount of hype in the preseason. King, like the player he was named after, is a gifted scorer. He can drive, post-up and shoot from  beyond the arc and mid-range. Meanwhile, Davison is going to be a fan favorite. He’s a natural leader that will do whatever it takes to win. However, he’s not just a glue guy. He can also be a scorer, as he is a sharpshooter from deep and can use his strength to get to the rim. Tonight will be the first of their many wins as Badgers.

Prediction: Wisconsin 85, South Carolina State 53

Wisconsin is going to win this game, and it won’t be close. I know the Badgers lost their opener two seasons ago to Western Illinois, but that was a completely different situation. First of all, South Carolina State is not a good basketball team. As we established earlier, they are actually one of the worst teams in the country. Second, Wisconsin has a lot of games under its belt. This game is interesting because it is our first actual look at a brand new team, and we don’t really know what to expect. The actual game itself will not be interesting at all.

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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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