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What Can We Learn From Wisconsin Basketball’s Foreign Trip?

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Beginning on August 12th, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team will take a trip to the Down Under, where they will play five games against various New Zealand and Australian professional teams. The goal of the trip is the same as is was when the Badgers last took an international trip back in 2014: To build chemistry, experience, and comfort. Aside from the obvious benefit it should give to the team heading into the regular season, it will also answer some of the questions fans have about this new collection of Badgers.

How will Ethan Happ’s outside shot translate to games?

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news this off-season, you might be rubbing your eyes and thinking you misread that. “What do you mean Ethan Happ’s outside shot? He doesn’t have an outside shot.” But is has been reported by CBS’s Matt Norlander that Happ has been working on his jump shot, and is now ready to begin taking three-pointers in games.

While it is great that Happ is expanding his game, it is fair to be skeptical. This is a guy that attempted only three shots outside the paint in his entire career. His form looks more like an Olympic style shot put than a basketball shot, and his free throw percentage last season was 50%. So it’s hard to believe his is going to have a consistent jump shot this season.

The games in Australia will be the first chance for Wisconsin fans to see what the shot looks like when he is actually being guarded. If Happ can actually be a consistent threat from outside, the sky is the limit for both him and the team for the next two years.

How will Happ adapt to being the leader of the team?

Aside from his jump shot, it will be interesting to see how Happ adjusts to being the focal point of the offense. He was already the best player on the team last season, but he had a pair of senior stars in Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes to provide support. This season, it is going to be him surrounded by a bunch of question marks.

Because of his new role, he is going to have to play a little differently. He will probably see even more double teams this season, so he’ll have to do a better job picking it apart and finding the open man. He will also need to stay out of foul trouble, something he struggled to do in big games last season. Most importantly, he’ll have to be a vocal leader. For the last to years, Hayes, Koenig, and even Zak Showalter were vital in their leadership roles. With so many young players on the team this year, it is going to be very important for Happ to do the same. The trip to Australia will be his first chance to do that in real game situations.

Can D’Mitrik Trice be a reliable starting point guard?

Trice had a successful season as true freshmen, averaging 5.6 points and 1.7 assists in relief of Koenig. He showed flashes of his sky-high potential with his sweet shooting stroke and his outstanding court vision. But going from the backup point guard to actually having to command the offense for 30-35 minutes per game is a huge transition.

This five game stretch in Australia will be a great opportunity for Wisconsin fans and coaches to see just how close Trice is to being ready to lead the team, both on the court and off it. How he plays this season will in large part determine how successful the Badgers are, so this is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Will Brevin Pritzl find his shooting stroke?

The offense will obviously run through Happ. As a returning All-American, Happ should be one of the best big men in the country this season. But who else will put the ball in the basket for Wisconsin? Every good team needs at least three reliable options.

One potential candidate is Brevin Pritzl. He came into Wisconsin as a four-star recruit known for his shooting ability. Since than, there have been plenty of practice reports about his shooting prowess. Hayes even called him the best shooter in the country. It hasn’t translated to games yet, as Pritzl was just 24% from deep as a freshman. Australia will be a good opportunity for him to get confident shooting in games.

Is the Aleem Ford hype warranted?

https://twitter.com/MTProductions__/status/867842437074518018

The Wisconsin basketball program has made a habit of finding diamonds in the rough, and the 6’8 Ford could be the latest example. Wisconsin’s coaches certainly think so. According to 247’s Evan Flood, Lamont Paris said that “there is no doubt Ford has all the tools.” Flood also reported that Wisconsin coaches agree that Ford has a chance to be an absolute star.

The Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin tweeted that he thinks Ford has “the potential to be really good.” It seems like all the coaches, reporters, and anyone else that has seen Ford play agree. The only thing left is to see Ford in live game action. Australia will be a great test to see if Ford can indeed follow in the footsteps of Ethan Happ and be a star as a redshirt freshman.

Will any of the junior big men step up?

Expectations were high for the trio of Alex Illikainen, Andy van Vliet, and Charles Thomas when they came to Madison as freshmen. But as juniors, those expectations have vastly receded. Illikainen and Thomas have both shown flashes of being good role players, but neither of them has demonstrated anything remotely resembling consistency. Meanwhile, van Vliet has struggled to find the court.

Although fans may be disappointed in the groups first two seasons, it is too early to give up hope. For every Sam Dekker, Hayes, Koenig or Happ at Wisconsin, there is always a Frank Kaminsky, Vitto Brown, Ben Brust, or Jared Berggren- players that struggled early, but broke out later in their careers.

Brown, the most recent example, barely played at all during his first two seasons, but became solid starting power forward over his last two. Hopefully, the trio of Illikainen, Thomas, and van Vliet can follow in Browns footsteps. The first step to making that goal a reality is a strong showing in Australia.

Which freshmen can make an immediate impact?

Wisconsin’s three man freshman class is one of their most highly regarded classes in the last decades. Brad Davison is a four-star point guard that has great intangibles and can really shoot. Kobe King is  an athletic four-star slashing wing that is adept at putting the ball in the basket. The prize of the class, Nathan Reuvers, is a 6 foot 11 center with the ability to stretch the floor. This class is special, and the games in Australia will be their first chance to show it.

Which players will earn the last three starting spots?

Anything short of World War III starting (no North Korea, this is not a challenge) and Ethan Happ will be starting for the Badgers. It is probably safe to pencil in Trice as the starting point guard. The last three sports are up for grabs though, and the games in Australia are a good chance for players to make their early push for the spots.

At shooting guard, Pritzl will try to fend off King and Davison. The competition at small forward is between Iverson and Ford. As for power forward… I honestly have no idea. It’s going to be complete chaos. Illikainen, Thomas, and van Vliet will all have chances to earn the spot. Reuvers also has the talent to put up a fight. Even walk-on Aaron Moesch could win the spot. The Badgers also could elect to go small and put Ford at the four. Either way, it will be interesting to see how all the battles play out in Australia.

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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 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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