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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Va Tech in NCAA Tournament: Staff Picks

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We’ve finally arrived at what is easily the best time of the college sports year — NCAA tournament time. For the Wisconsin Badgers this has become an annual tradition as well.

In fact, it has become an incredible run on a national scale. As in 15 straight years of NCAA tournament and bowl game appearances together, which is the longest streak in NCAA tournament history. UW will also be making its 19th straight NCAA tournament appearance, which is tied for the fifth-longest in history as well.

History aside, can the Badgers live up to the potential we all thought was there to start the season? That question begins to get answered on Thursday.

Over this week we’ve looked in-depth at the Virginia Tech Hokies and given you the keys to a Badgers victory. Now it is time to see what our staff actually thinks will happen on Thursday night.

Let’s get to our staff picks!

Rayan Vatti

Score: Wisconsin 68 Virginia Tech 63

Why: Virginia Tech has shown this season that they can get hot from three. In fact, they are a top ten 3-point shooting team in the country. Wisconsin, on the other hand, is one of the worst teams at defending the three-point line.

But despite that obvious cause for concern, Wisconsin has the edge at every position and category. They are much bigger, and will use that to gain a huge advantage on the glass. They have plenty of experience, and play much better defense.

The Hokies long balls will keep it close, but I’ll take the rebounding, experience, and defense of the Badgers any day in a one and done situation.

Zach Worthington

Score: Wisconsin 73, Virginia Tech 58

Why: Virginia Tech is a high scoring team that is dependent on their long-range shooting — Wisconsin has been unlucky as a three point defense this season — which is mostly a luck-based statistic. Virginia Tech has a huge disadvantage down low and will need Zach Leday, a 6-7 233 pound forward to contain Ethan Happ and stay out of foul trouble.

Va Tech has little depth behind LeDay, if Happ/Hayes can get him into foul trouble, which I suspect they will, this game will get out of hand in a hurry. I Expect Buzz Williams to double the post all game in an attempt to force the ball out of Happ’s hands, and the result will be mixed; some poor decisions but also some open three point attempts for Showalter, Koenig, Trice, and Brown.

Expect Wisconsin to play out of the post when doubled and get open looks. The first half should be competitive but you have to like Wisconsin’s chances of separating themselves in the second half. I predict LeDay picks up his fourth foul early on in the second half, and Wisconsin rolls from there. Va Tech will need a herculean offensive effort to put the pressure on the Badgers. I’ll take Wisconsin by a score of 73-58 when it is all said and done.

Andy Coppens

Score: Wisconsin 78, Virginia Tech 62

Why: Some will point out that Virginia Tech should know exactly what to expect, as its head coach is one Buzz Williams, the ex-head coach at Marquette. There is a little validity to that claim, as Williams was around for just one of the transformative seasons, the 2013-14 season. However, this is a very different team with a very different skill set even from that team.

Personally, I can’t get over Wisconsin’s massive size advantage and the fact that Ethan Happ is practically begging to be the hero here. Lately that has been a good thing on the scoreboard, as Happ put up an average of 14.7 points per game.

The other area people are pointing to is three-point shooting and Va Tech’s advantage there. Yes, it is true the Badgers shot a poor 35.7 percent from beyond the arc this season and is one of the worst against the three-point shot on defense. However, lately UW has been able to match what opponents are doing beyond the arc. Over the last four games, the Badgers have shot a dangerous 45.6 percent from three-point range and made an average of 9.5 three-pointers. That kind of production can offset anything Va Tech does beyond the arc.

All of that is well and good, but I firmly believe the Badgers get the job done defensively first and that has usually led to really good things happening on offense too. UW wins this one going away.

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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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