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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Virginia basketball preview

5 things to know about Wisconsin’s upcoming game against Virginia.



After falling to 2-3 because of three straight losses to AP Top-25 opponents, the Wisconsin Basketball team rebounded with a win against in-state rival UW-Milwaukee. But now they have to face yet another really good opponent. As part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Wisconsin will play a road game against the always-tough Virginia Cavaliers. The game will tipoff at 8 pm on ESPN2. Here are five things you need to know about the game.

1. Ignore the polls: Virginia is really good

Virginia is currently unranked in the AP Poll. But that is absurd. It’s almost as absurd as Kirk Herbstreit leaving Wisconsin out of his playoff top-4 for this week. While they will likely crack the top-25 when the new poll comes out on Monday, they will still be too low. They have wins against Rhode Island, Vanderbilt, and at VCU. According to the Pomeroy College Basketball Rankings, they are the third best team in the country, behind only Duke and Wichita State. Vegas odds makers agree, as Wisconsin is currently 8.5-point underdogs. For comparison, the Badgers were favored by one-point against Xavier and UCLA, and were one-point underdogs to Baylor. Wisconsin has played tough teams. But it doesn’t compare to playing a team like Virginia on the road.

2. Expect a painfully slow pace

There are only a handful of teams in the country that play a slower pace than Wisconsin. Virginia is one of them. In fact, the Cavaliers have the slowest adjusted tempo in the entire country. This game is going to be extremely slow. The lack of possessions will make it very low scoring. College Basketball fans are going to make jokes about it. NBA fans are going to use as a way to prove that college basketball stinks. Jay Bilas is going to propose a billion different rule changes because of it. This game is going to be absolutely brutal, similar to Wisconsin’s 48-38 win a few years ago. And that was when the Badgers had one of their best offenses ever.

3. Virginia point-guard Kyle Guy is a stud

You probably haven’t heard much about him, but he is quietly putting together a very impressive season. He is Virginia’s go-to scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game on 47% shooting from the field and 48% shooting from three-point range. Those shooting numbers aren’t anything new either. Last season, he hit 51 out of 103 three-point attempts. That is really, really good.

The Badgers will likely use Brad Davison to guard him. Guy isn’t the quickest uhhh… guy… around, so it might be a good matchup for the ultra-energetic Davison. If Davison can get a hand in his face and make him uncomfortable, Virginia’s offense will be forced to go to plan-B.

4. Wisconsin’s rotation is closer to being figured out

It isn’t perfect yet, but we finally have a bit more clarity on what Wisconsin’s rotation will be moving forward. The starting line-up will be Trice-Davison-Iverson-Ford-Happ. Brevin Pritzl and Kobe King will be the guards off the bench. Andy Van Vliet and Nathan Reuvers will be the first bigs to come in. Charles Thomas and Alex Illikainen will fight for scraps.

5. Hot shooting will be needed to pull the upset

As anybody that has watched any college basketball for the last 5 seasons knows, Tony Bennett and Virginia play a very stingy pack line defense. The only way to beat it? Get hot from three-point range. Now, Wisconsin will still obviously try to get the ball inside to Ethan Happ quite a bit. But the pack line defense is usually pretty successful at taking away post players.

In order to win, they are going to need explode from three-point range. The bad news is that Wisconsin has struggled from three-point range this season. The good news is that this team is due. They showed in the preseason tournaments and exhibitions that they can get hot. This is the time to do it.

Prediction: Virginia 59, Wisconsin 50

I still think Wisconsin is a good basketball team that is just playing a hard schedule. I still think they are going to win a lot of games this season. I just don’t see how this can be one of them. There will not be many possessions in this game, which means both teams are going to have to really make them count. Virginia is a lot better at doing that at this point in the season than Wisconsin is. They turn the ball over less, and are more efficient on offense and defense. I think Virginia will be in control of the game the whole way.


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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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