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How does this Wisconsin basketball team compare to the 2014-15 one?

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Entering this season, expectations for Wisconsin basketball were sky-high. After returning every single member of their rotation from the previous season’s Sweet 16 run, the assumption was that this team would contend for the Big Ten Title, a Final Four berth and a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

So far, they are meeting those expectations. While they don’t have a marquee win yet, they also have no remotely bad losses, giving them a 20-3 record and two-game cushion in the Big Ten title race. The performance and expectations of the team have led many to compare them to the 2014-15 squad that went 36-4 and made it to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. Curious to see how the two teams stacked up, I compared them to each other.

Offense

The current Wisconsin Basketball team is averaging 74.6 points per game, which is actually higher than the 2014-15 team, which averaged only 71.9 points per game. In fact, Wisconsin is currently scoring more points per game than in any season since 1993-1994. But don’t let the stats fool you. The 2014-15 team was vastly superior on offense. Overall scoring is way up as a whole in college basketball, and the 2014-15 had to deal with a 35 second shot clock.

The 2014-15 team still holds the record for the most efficient offense in the KenPom era. All five of their starters were good three-point shooters, with the worst of them being Sam Dekker at 33%. They also played around Frank Kaminsky, who is one of the most efficient shooting big men in college basketball history. To make matters worse for opponents, Wisconsin was exceptional from the free throw line (76 percent) and took great care of the ball, resulting in the top offensive turnover percentage in the country.

This current Wisconsin Basketball team isn’t bad offensively by any means. They rank 30th in the country in KenPom offensive efficiency, which is certainly respectable. They just aren’t close to the 2014-15 team. One reason for that is that they aren’t as good from beyond the arc. They also don’t have the same spacing. Ethan Happ is tremendous. Nobody’s denying that, and when it’s all said and done, he may be considered the greatest Badger ever. But having a 7-footer that hit a prolific percentage of his three-pointers in Frank Kaminsky resulted in great floor spacing for the Badgers. Happ, who struggles outside the paint, clogs the lane for drivers and other post players.

The third reason why this version of the Badgers aren’t nearly as good offensively is their free throw shooting and sloppiness with the ball. Wisconsin’s free throw shooting is their Achilles heel, and will likely cost them a game or two at some point in the season. Every game, they leave tons of free points at the line, as they only connect on 66% of their free throws, good for 279th in the country. Unfortunately, that problem doesn’t seem to be fixable. Happ and Nigel Hayes draw the most fouls on the team by a long shot, but both struggle from the line.

Turnovers on the other hand, can be fixed. Wisconsin turns it over on roughly 17.2% of their positions. For the average team, that is a great rate. It ranks in the top-70 nationally. But for a team with Final Fours goals, especially one that has made ball security a staple of their program for the last decade, that needs to get better.

Defense

As good as the 2014-15 Badgers were, they didn’t defend very well…for UW standards. They only ranked 38th in the country in KenPom defensive efficiency. That was often masked by their outstanding offense, but at times, like in the national championship game, it really hurt them.

This Wisconsin team is much better defensively. They ranked seventh in the country in KenPom defensive efficiency, and it is easy to see why. The Badgers have good size at every position except shooting guard, but Zak Showalter’s athleticism and energy more than make up for that. Forward Nigel Hayes is one of the best on-ball defenders in the Big Ten. He is long, agile, and versatile enough to guard both post players and wings. Ethan Happ ranks second in the Big Ten in steals and 10th in blocks, while Showalter is fourth in steals.

The Badgers don’t lose their defensive intensity when they go to the bench either. Guards Jordan Hill and Brevin Pritzl are extremely quick and move their feet very well. Forward Charlie Thomas has the size to bang with any big man in the country. Khalil Iverson is a future Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. His close-out ability is breathtaking.

In Big Ten play, Wisconsin’s outstanding team defense has won them a lot of games even when their shots weren’t falling. While the 2014-15 team relied on their offensive ability, the current team gets things done on defense.

Rebounding

Both the current Wisconsin Basketball team and the 2014-15 were excellent defensive rebounding teams. The 2014-15 was the second best team in the country on the defensive glass, while the current one sits at 10th. However, on the offensive glass, the current Wisconsin team has the clear advantage. They rank in the top 10 in the country in offensive rebound rate, while the 2014-15 team barely cracked the top 60.

That is a double-edge sword though. The 2014-15 team wasn’t great on the offensive glass because they didn’t care to be. Instead, they got back on defense and prevented transition looks. The current Wisconsin team surrenders a little bit of that transition defense prowess in exchange for some second chances.

Starting Lineups

Both teams are/were extremely talented, and consist of the same general makeup. Bronson Koenig was the point guard for most of the 2014-15 season, and is now an improved version of himself on this team. The same goes for Nigel Hayes. Despite the fact that his shooting is worse, he is more experienced, more consistent, a better passer, and a much better defender than he used to be.

Both teams are also led by a star center. Happ can’t shoot like Kaminsky could, but Kaminsky couldn’t defend and handle the ball like Happ can. In fact, you could argue that Happ is just as, if not more important to his team than Kaminsky was to the 2014-15 Badgers. Happ leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks during Big Ten play, and he’s a contender to be a first-team All-American, so he’s not that far off from Kaminsky.

The two teams also have a great glue playing shooting guard. Showalter plays with great energy, can defend, and makes big plays, but it is just hard to place him on the same level as Gasser. Gasser was just on a different level as a glue guy. He got every single loose ball. Literally, every single one. He also shot better and made less “boneheaded” plays than Showy. But Showalter is still a great glue guy.

The biggest difference in the starting lineup comes from Sam Dekker vs Vitto Brown. Yeah, that’s not even a contest.

Depth

The 2014-15 team only had thee regular bench players. Duje Dukan, Bronson Koenig/Traevon Jackson, and Zak Showalter. But they were extremely quality players. Dukan was a great offensive weapon off the bench, Koenig went on to be a reliable starter, and Showalter was a terrific spark plug.

Meanwhile, this current Wisconsin teams has up to seven guys that could see time off the bench. Jordan Hill, D’Mitrik Trice, Khalil Iverson, Charles Thomas, Alex Illikainen, Brevin Pritzl, and Aaron Moesch have all seen playing time in close games this season. However, none of the seven are very consistent, and their performance fluctuates by a game-to-game basis. So while this team is “deeper”, the 2014-15 team had more reliable substitutes.

Overall

This current Wisconsin team is very good. They can certainly make the Final Four. But they aren’t as good as the 2014-15 Badgers team. However, that isn’t a fair bar. The Wisconsin program may never see a team as good as that one again. But that doesn’t mean this team isn’t good enough to achieve all the same goals.

Bonus

A better comparison for this current Wisconsin team might actually be the 2011-12 Wisconsin Basketball team. That team had an overall KenPom ranking of 8th, a defensive efficiency ranking of 7th, and an offensive efficiency ranking of 25th. This current team is 11th, 7th, and 30th respectively. While it isn’t as sexy as being compared to the 2014-15 team, the 2011-12 team was pretty good too. They earned a four-seed and were one point away from beating one-seeded Syracuse in the Elite Eight.

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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

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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Badgers Basketball

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 Basketball

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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