When: Sunday, March 5; 5pm CT
Where: Madison, Wis.; Kohl Center (17,287)
Spread: Wisconsin -6.5
All-Time Series: Minnesota leads 96-94 *vacated games excluded
Last Meeting: UW won, 78-76 (ot), on Jan. 21, 2017 (in Minneapolis, Minn.)
Senior Day is upon the University of Wisconsin, and it is a group that has done a whole lot of winning throughout their careers. However, UW comes in to this game needing a win in the worst possible way.
Iowa came in to the Kohl Center and got a victory on Thursday. It was a loss that eliminated Wisconsin from Big Ten regular season title contention, and the fifth loss in the last six games for the Badgers. Clearly something isn’t going right internally for this team, as Gard has thrown in the kitchen sink lately looking to get UW back on track.
No one seems to want to seize the opportunity given to players off the bench or as starters though. Instead, UW has found new and frustrating ways to drop games.
Meanwhile, Minnesota comes in to the game riding an eight-game win streak and playing some of the best basketball in the Big Ten right now. The Gophers have scored under 70 points just once in the win streak and are averaging 82.1 points per game as well. However, this will be the Gophers’ first time back to the Kohl Center since a 63-53 Wisconsin win in 2015. UW has played the last three games on the road in this series, winning all three of them.
Wisconsin’s four senior starters are likely to be jacked up for this game, but can they play consistent enough basketball to win their final game at the Kohl Center?
Minnesota Gophers (23-7, 11-6)
G Nate Mason — Jr. 6-2, 190 (15.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 5.3 apg)
G Akeem Springs — Sr. 6-4, 220 (9.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.4 apg)
G Amir Coffey — Fr. 6-8, 195 (12.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.1 apg)
F Jordan Murphy — So. 6-6, 240 (11.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 0.8 apg)
C Reggie Lynch — Jr. 6-10, 260 (8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 0.5 apg)
No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers (22-8, 11-6 B1G)
G Bronson Koenig — Sr. 6-3, 190 (14.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.9 apg)
G Zak Showalter — Sr. 6-3, 185 (8.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 apg)
F Nigel Hayes — Sr. 6-8, 240 (13.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.9 apg)
F Vitto Brown — Sr. 6-8, 235 (6.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.9 apg)
C Ethan Happ — So. 6-10, 280 (14.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.8 apg)
Matchup to Watch: Ethan Happ vs. Reggie Lynch
While plenty of attention will be paid to what the four senior starters will do for the Badgers in their last game at the Kohl Center, reality is it will come down to the only non-senior starter on the floor. Ethan Happ has struggled a ton as of late, averaging just 12.3 points per game in the last six games.
In fact, he’s scored in double figures in just three of the last seven games for the Badgers overall. He’ll be facing one of the tougher challengers up front in Reggie Lynch, who is one of the best rebounders in the conference as well. Can Happ regain the form that allowed him to poor in a then season high 28 points up in Minneapolis the last time these two teams met?
Jordan Murphy has had no issues with is production as of late, scoring in double figures in each of the last seven games for the Gophers. He is averaging 17.6 points per game during the last seven games as well.
Something is going to have to give up front between these two versatile big men. Can Happ finally get back on track and allow the Badgers to play through him consistently? If so, this could be UW getting back on track.
3 Numbers to Know:
— 6: That is Wisconsin’s current win streak over the Gophers. Richard Pitino hasn’t exactly had a lot fun coaching against the University of Wisconsin, owning a 1-6 overall record against the Badgers, with the lone win coming in the first meeting of the 2013-14 season. However, Wisconsin has won every matchup between these two teams since that matchup.
— 110: That is the number of wins for the senior class at Wisconsin. Currently this class sits third in the standings for most wins as a class, but a win against Minnesota would give them a tie for second at 111. The all-time mark is 115 for the 2013-16 class, meaning this group would have to rattle off six wins to tie that mark and would have to reach the Big Ten championship game along with the Elite 8 to get the top mark in school history.
— 5 of 6: That is the losing streak the Badgers are currently on. Ironically, the last time UW lost 5 of 6 games they went on to reach the Final Four back in 2014. However, that losing streak was followed up by Wisconsin ripping off eight wins in a row before dropping a game to Nebraska to end the season 12-6 in Big Ten play.
It is hard to see this Badgers team playing the way it needs to to win this type of matchup. Minnesota’s athleticism and length on the defensive end of the court is scary. The Gophers have forced an average of 12.2 turnovers per game.
Wisconsin hasn’t done well dealing with pressure from opposing defenses as of late, and that is exactly what Minnesota would love to do.
If Ethan Happ can get going early on offensively, perhaps this one goes to the Badgers. However, look for the red-hot Gophers, who have come in winning eight in a row to edge out the Badgers and ruin senior night.
Expect Wisconsin to go on a prolonged shooting drought in the first half, dig themselves a hole they can’t get out of despite finding the shooting touch in the second half. It has been this team’s m.o. for a long time, and expecting that to stop against a team like Minnesota isn’t a good bet.
Minnesota 74, Wisconsin 64
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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