The 2018-19 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball season is almost upon us. After an 82-70 exhibition win over Wisconsin-Oshkosh on Friday, the games will count for real starting with a visit by Coppin State on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
That game will air on BTN Plus and be available via the Badgers radio network as well.
As we inch closer to the season, many familiar faces will be back. Heck, UW returns just over 94 percent of its scoring from last season.
Despite all that returning talent, the Badgers of 2017-18 were a team that broke a famous streak — missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years.
So, what will be different in 2018-19? Wisconsin will start the season nearly 100 percent healthy. UW will have guards D’Mitrick Trice and Kobe King back and will only see sophomore forward Aleem Ford on the shelf to start the season (he is expected back during the season).
After watching the exhibition game and knowing all that troubled the Badgers last season, let’s explore the biggest questions that face the Badgers heading in to the season opener.
Where will the outside scoring come from?
This has been an ongoing issue for the Badgers, one that doomed them time after time last year. Simply put, UW’s swing offense is predicated on getting an inside-out game going.
It didn’t work last season and if the exhibition game was any indication there’s a lot of work to be done there heading in to 2018-19 as well.
Wisconsin was just 4 of 16 from deep with Happ, Iverson, King and Trice each getting one deep ball to go down. Now, it was nice to see Happ extending his shooting range, but Davison, King and Trice all need to show they are more deadly than the combined 3 of 9 they shot in that game.
If that trio can’t get going from beyond the arc, it could be trouble for the Badgers this year. The smart money says that a healthy Davison and King are a good combination to get going from deep, but we need to see it in action to be confident in it actually happening.
How quickly will the backcourt rotation settle itself?
One thing was clear in the Badgers exhibition game — UW’s coaching staff has little idea what rotation makes the most sense. Of course, the exhibition game is time to experiment, but at one point the Badgers had four guards and Happ on the floor and had played six guards overall in the first 10 minutes of the game.
It appears the likely group of starters will be D’Mitrick Trice and a healthy Brad Davison along with either Kobe King or Brevin Prtizl getting looks as a starter as well.
But, could the Badgers take one of those spots away in hope of getting Ethan Happ, Khalil Iverson and Nathan Reuvers on the court together too?
What about Prtizl’s defense and tenacity? There’s also Green Bay transfer Trevor Anderson and freshman Tai Strickland who looks to be a primary backup to Trice.
How do you fit all of those pieces together to a cohesive unit in the backcourt?
Will Happ have help on the inside?
For most of the 207-18 season it was as Happ goes, so go the Badgers. There was very little help on the inside either, with a physically overmatched freshman in Nathan Reuvers thrown in to the mix because they had no one else they could trust up front.
Reuvers responded by averaging a decent 5.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks while playing an average of 16.6 minutes per game.
Wisconsin hasn’t been able to trust either Charlie Thomas or Alex Illikanen and judging by the fact that neither showed up in the exhibition game until it was well in hand, that appears to be the case in 2018-19 as well.
The good news is that Reuvers adds some outside shooting help when paired with Happ. If the two bigs can co-exist it could be a good thing for the Badgers in 2018-19.
But, the Badgers front court needs to be more than a two-horse race. This is where senior Khalil Iverson comes in to play. His offensive inconsistency was a big hinderance last season and that needs to change, because his ability to slash and get to the rim is badly needed. That was on full display in the win over Oshkosh on Friday, as Iverson basically lived at the rim and poured in 13 points. He was just 6-12 shooting from the field, but that’s a bit misleading as a lot of “missed” shots came as he was crushed going to the basket.
This threesome seems to be the Badgers only group of front court players that will see significant minutes in 2018-19, as recruits Taylor Currie and Joe Hedstrom will likely redshirt this year.
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.
Carlson commits to Badgers 2020 basketball class
It appears the 2020 Wisconsin Badgers basketball class has come to a close.
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.
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.
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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