If you missed the first part of the countdown, which included the introduction, honorable mentions, and numbers 6-10, you can find them here.
5. Wisconsin beats Kentucky in the Final Four
It’s hard to argue against this being the best moment in Wisconsin Badgers sports history. The only reason it is so low on the list is because that game, and most of that season, had much more to do with the performances of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, and Josh Gasser than this year’s graduating class. But the duo of Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were huge in that game, and Wisconsin likely doesn’t win without them.
In that historic game, Hayes played 37 minutes, and recorded 12 points. He also had the offensive rebound and put-back to tie the score with 2:30 remaining in the game. Koenig also had 12 points, along with three huge free throws to ice the game in the closing seconds.
4. Wisconsin turns season around with win over MSU.
Heading into the January 7th tilt against Michigan State, Wisconsin Basketball was in disarray. They were 9-9 overall, and just 1-4 in the conference. It looked like Wisconsin’s streaks of finishing in the top-4 of the Big Ten and making the NCAA Tournament was dead in the water. Interim Head Coach Greg Gard’s chances of securing the real job also seemed to be rapidly slipping away.
That’s when the duo of Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig stepped up and carried the team to a season changing win. Hayes had 25 points and seven rebounds, which believe it or not, was only the second best performance on the team. That’s because Koenig, who was dubbed the “Spartan Killer” by Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, poured in 27 points of his own. Koenig also drained the clutch (surprise, surprise) three-pointer to bring Wisconsin within one with 30 seconds remaining. He then had the game-winning assist to Ethan Happ.
As you probably know, the rest is history. Wisconsin went on to win 11 out of their next 13 games, cruise to an NCAA Tournament bid, and keep the streak of top-four finishes alive. Oh yeah, and Greg Gard got his contract, leaving the future of Wisconsin Basketball in good hands. All because of the performances of Koenig and Hayes.
3. Showy sparks Wisconsin to Sweet 16 Victory over UNC
Before I get in to the game itself, I just want to take a minute to talk about Showalter. He may not be the most talented Badger ever, but he might be my favorite. He started as a walk-on, and transformed himself into a spark plug on the best team in school history, before becoming a reliable two-year starter. Showalter was all energy all the time. He really personified the blue collar mentality of this Wisconsin program, and I’m going to miss the hell out of him. He was just a pure, gritty, playmaker. And none of his plays were bigger and more memorable than what he did against UNC.
With Wisconsin in a Sweet 16 dogfight against UNC, Showalter checked into the game with 8:19 remaining and the Badgers trailing by three. On a team with two future first-round picks and four future All-Big Ten players, it was Showy that stepped up to save the day. First, he drove to the basket with 7:58 remaining and got a layup. He then drove into the lane and kicked it out to Frank the Tank to drain a wide open three-pointer.
On the ensuing possession, he got free on a back-door cut and finished with a reverse layup. But his work still wasn’t done. Seconds later, he stripped a UNC player and took it all the way for a layup. Just like that, Showy had created nine-points in under three minutes to give Wisconsin the permanent lead. Nothing that happens for the rest of the season- not the second straight Final Four, not the Kentucky win- happens without the scrappy walk-on from Germantown, Wisconsin.
2. Koenig buzzer-beater to beat Xavier
Bronson Koenig was a great point guard and an even better shot creator. As the all-time leader in made three-pointers at Wisconsin, he was obviously a terrific shooter. But his best attribute was his ability to take, and make, the big shot. Koenig’s veins are made out of pure ice, and nothing else. He hit a ton of clutch shots over his Badger career, but none were bigger and more memorable than his buzzer-beat against the #2-seed Xavier in the Round of 32.
With the Badgers trailing by three with just 13 seconds to play, Koenig drained a deep three-pointer that was arguably just as clutch as the buzzer beater itself. Then on the other end of the court, Showalter did what he does best and took a charge, giving the ball back to the Badgers. The rest is history.
Goosebumps. Goosebumps every single time. Winning on buzzer beaters is much more fun.
1. Wisconsin takes down overall #1 Villanova
This game showed everything this senior class was about. They did not back down from challenges. This was their fourth tournament upset in four seasons. They also never gave up, coming back from seven down with five minted to go. This senior class showed their leadership, resiliency, and fight.
Zak Showalter was the glue, playing great defense and securing every possible loose ball.
Showy doesn’t looked pleased with the refs. pic.twitter.com/ShH1GEXJnk
— Big Ten Geek (@bigtengeek) March 18, 2017
Bronson Koenig hit clutch shots (surprise, surprise), scoring eight points in the final five minutes of the game, including a game-tying three-pointer.
Like usual, the often polarizing and criticized Nigel Hayes stepped up with his team needing him the most, putting the team on his back and refusing to let his career end.
Vitto Brown chipped in 10 points, and came up with the defensive play of the season for the Badger by stripping Josh Hart of a chance at a game-tying layup.
This was the game that defined this senior class. It was the game where they refused to back down and refused to lose. The season, and their careers, didn’t end the way we wanted them to, but we’ll always have this game, and the rest of the moments on this list. For that reason, I’ll always be thankful for this group.
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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