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Badgers Basketball

UCLA breaks Badger hearts in Hall of Fame Classic Finale

Wisconsin losses on a last-second heartbreaker to No. 23 Bruins, because that’s what happens to Badgers teams who try to have nice things in basketball.

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Late game tournament heartbreak? Let’s just say the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball program is used to it and it happened again on Tuesday night. No. 23 UCLA hit a lay-up with less than a second left on the shot clock and the game clock, leading them to a 72-70 win over Wisconsin.

It came despite a great effort from a changed Badgers lineup and a star-like performance from one of the new starters. Freshmen Brad Davison poured in 14 points and continued to be a catalyst for UW, while star Ethan Happ led the team with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. All of it didn’t matter though, as a string of bad turnovers and UCLA buckets late gave the Bruins the ability to control the game late.

Even four of five starters hitting in double figures wasn’t enough to get the Badgers over the hump against quality competition once again. Instead, it was Aaron Holiday who did the final bit of damage and led the Bruins with 18 points. Holiday was already leading the team in scoring, but put the final nail in the Badgers coffin by driving and hitting a lay-up just in the nick of time with UW pressuring given a low shot clock.

Holiday found a way to get through the trap and had a clear lane to the basket, which went in just before the shot clock expired. Replay confirmed it and UW couldn’t handle a deep pass with 0.9 seconds left to end the game.

UW will come home for an in-state tussle as they host Milwaukee (who owns a win over Iowa State already) and then go on the road to Virginia in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge in the next 7 days.

What did we learn from this one? Let’s take a look at some lessons and grades…

Change Worked for Badgers Lineup…Mostly

Something needed to change after the Badgers came out sluggish and were getting none of the needed production out of the perimeter players on Monday night against Baylor. Head coach Greg Gard hinted at some changes, and he inserted freshmen Brad Davison and Aleem Ford in to the starting lineup.

The energy from the team was just different from the opening tip on, with Kahlil Iverson and Ethan Happ owning the paint early and often. But, it wasn’t just the fact that the ball was getting inside more that was impressive, it was just the different energy on both sides of the floor.

Perhaps the best bit of news from the change is that Davison made his coach look really smart for making the move. His 14 points and most importantly, his three made triples (the only one to make more than one for the Badgers), gave plenty of hope for the future.

To Be sure, Ford didn’t light up the stat sheet, but he was solid when needed and unlucky to not have a pair of open three-pointers go in of his own. As far as the changes go, it appears that Gard has found a starting five that can get off to a quicker start and sustain things more long-term. Let’s see if he sticks with this group for a bit longer.

Gard Still Searching for Front Court Rotation

Ethan Happ and Kahlil Iverson play a good game on the inside for the Badgers because their games complement each other. But, could the Badgers get anything out of the likes of juniors Charles Thomas and Alex Illikainen? Gard decided to test that theory early and often in the first half. It was part because there wasn’t much to lose and part to avoid foul trouble for the two starters.

Few answers came though, as Thomas continued to have stone hands on the offensive side of the ball and commit too many errors on defense. Meanwhile, Illikainen did little more than become a decoy on both sides of the ball. The two combined for exactly zero points, no attempted field goals and just two combined rebounds.

Of course, those two aren’t and shouldn’t be expected to be offensive dynamos. Yet, should anything happen in terms of foul trouble to Happ or Ford those two didn’t exactly make the case for the Badgers not to just go small. In fact, there were times where Wisconsin was best off playing Iverson, King, Davison, Trice and Ford (or Pritzl) instead of either of them in the game. There has to be more production from these veteran players if they want to continue to see more than 15 combined minutes a game.

Five Scorers Not Enough

Wisconsin is supposed to be a team built to have multiple players with big efforts, but on Tuesday night only five players scored at all for the Badgers. Four of those five were in double figures, as starters Davison, Happ, Iverson and Trice combined for 61 of the 70 points scored for Wisconsin on the night.

Points and minutes have begun to dry up for the likes of Brevin Pritzl and Andy Van Vliet, and rightfully so given the opportunities they have had and the ineffective play given on the court. But, it sure would be nice to know the guys who started red-hot against South Carolina State had any sort of confidence they could score against better competition.

Relying on just five scorers in Big Ten play isn’t going to cut it, unless all five of them are capable of hitting in double figures every night. But, that is walking a tight rope no one wants to see happen. Here’s hoping Pritzl, Ford, Van Vliet or anyone else can show they can score consistently enough going forward.

Grades:

D’Mitrick Trice: B

Trice needs to be making three-pointers for this team to be really dangerous and to get teams to back off of Happ down low. That didn’t happen on Tuesday night as he was just 1-5 from deep. However, he was efficient inside the arc and was good off the dribble, hitting 4-5 from inside the arc. It wasn’t a great night, but with 14 points it’s hard to be too nit-picky here.

Aleem Ford: F

It may seem harsh, but he was the lone starter to not put up any points and was 0-3 from the field. He also committed three personal fouls and the only other stat was one steal en route to a -2.0 efficiency rating. Ford is a good swing forward in Wisconsin’s offense, but this was not his night. At least he’s got a confident stroke from beyond the arc. It’s not as if anyone else is making moves for starting minutes up front.

Ethan Happ: A

What was there to not like about Happ’s game? Once again he led the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Well, he also managed to lead the team in turnovers (with Iverson) at four in this game. A lot of those turnovers came in crucial moments between the two forwards and really need to be cleaned up. So, that’s why he’s not getting an A+ from me at the moment.

Brad Davison: A

Few have made as big an impact in as few games in their career as Davison had coming in to this one. He earned the start and didn’t disappoint in the least. It’s becoming clear who the energy of this team comes from, and that is Davison. It doesn’t hurt that he’s an effective scorer and teammate. Like Happ and Iverson, we’d like to see him cut down on the turnovers (3) and pick up the assists (0), but there’s plenty of time for that. Let this be the day that Davison cemented himself in the starting lineup and became a star for the Badgers.

Kahlil Iverson: B+

I know, getting a 14-point day out of Iverson is good news. But, he missed a few short looks and there was the team-high 4 turnovers to factor in. Iverson was almost unstoppable with his baseline cutting in the first half and overall this was a solid effort. It’s just that we all see the potential and it seems as if he can’t put it all together at once. Overall, a good night for Iverson when he really needed it.

Kobe King: A – 

After seemingly becoming buried in the rotation, coming in after the likes of Alex Illikainen, Andy Van Vliet and Charles Thomas, King made sure he was going to make himself useful. He showcased a nice post game a few times and score 9 points on 3-4 shooting in 17 minutes of action. It was a good way to make sure he’s moving to the front of the rotation again.

Brevin Pritzl: F

Pop quiz? Who was only other player with a negative efficiency rating to play in this game for the Badgers? The answer was Pritzl, and that’s because he was 0-3 from deep, had just one assist and did nothing else in 10 minutes of play. For a guy who’s game is a spot-up three-point shooter, he’s been very shaky at that. At least you could live with it when he was also making plays in other facets of the game. Davison’s rise and Pritzl’s inability to hit from deep mean we’re likely to see less and less of Pritzl this season.

Alex Illikainen: F

At least he grabbed an offensive rebound and had an assist on the night, but once again it is getting tougher and tougher to see how he see’s the floor for double-digit minutes unless Happ is in foul trouble. Wisconsin is getting nothing, literally nothing out of him to justify the minutes he is seeing. Tonight would’ve been a good night to showcase something good, and there was just nothing there.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers basketball lands pair of 4-star players in 2021 class

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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

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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 add 4-star center to 2020 basketball class

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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

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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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