1. Kobe King will be Wisconsin’s second leading scorer
Even though King may not start a game for the Badgers this season, he is the most offensively gifted guard on the roster. He can score in so many different ways that it makes him nearly impossible to defend. He can drive, shoot three-pointers, post-up, and attack in transition. Oh, and then there is his prolific mid-range game, which will give hoops fans flashbacks to the second best Kobe basketball player of all time. We’ve seen him put up points in Australia and all the scrimmages. Now, it is time for him to show the college basketball world what he can do.
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 5, 2017
2. Ethan Happ will lead the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks
Last season, Happ led the the Badgers in all of those categories except for points, which Bronson Koenig took by just .5 points per game. Now, he will almost certainly be the leading scorer. He has also shown improved passing out of double teams, which should lead to even more assists. The only real questionable one is blocks, which Khalil Iverson has a chance to take now that he is a full-time starter. But a stat-line of 15 points, 9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2 steals, and a block is very doable for the All-American Happ.
3. Wisconsin finishes their brutal non-conference schedule 9-3
Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule is loaded this season. They face No.17 Xavier at home, Virginia and Temple on the road, top mid-majors Yale and Western Kentucky, in-state rival Marquette, and a Hall of Fame Classic Field featuring No. 24 Baylor, No. 21 UCLA, and Creighton. Every single one of those game is very losable. However, every single one of those games is also very winnable. While the Badgers play a lot of tough teams, none of them can really be considered elite. That is ideal, because they should have a chance to rack up a ton of quality, top-50 level wins before January.
4.Wisconsin will not finish fourth or better in the Big Ten
I know. I know. But all good things have to come to an end at some point, right? As much as we all fooled ourselves into thinking otherwise, we all knew that the streak couldn’t possibly last forever. With how much Wisconsin is losing combined with how good the Big Ten is this season, it seems like the perfect storm that will finally end one of the most impressive streaks in college basketball. I think Wisconsin will be a good team. But the top four teams in the Big Ten- Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern, and Minnesota- look like they are on another level. The Badgers could potentially play their way into a tie for fourth like they did in 2015-16, but gun to my head, I say they finish fifth.
5. Khalil Iverson is going to have a breakout season
Iverson is an athletic freak of nature. He has ridiculous strength and hops, along with an uncanny ability to always be around the ball. But up until this point, he hasn’t been able to produce much on offense. This season, that will change. His shot looks a lot better than it did last season. It is softer and has a lot more arc. With improved outside shooting, the rest of his game will open up too. Last season, in games where Iverson played 20 minutes, he averaged eight points. Now, he’ll play more than 20 minutes per game every game, with an improved offensive arsenal. He can easily be a double-digit scorer for the Badgers.
#Badgers Khalil Iverson worked on shooting all offseason. He is 2-2 on threes tonight and looks confident.
— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) November 2, 2017
6. Alex Illikainen will completely fall out of the regular rotation
Illikainen has really struggled in his Badger career so far. The former four-star recruit came to Wisconsin with comparisons to Jon Leuer, but his confidence is just not there. He is hesitant to shoot, which leads to a lot of misses and turnovers. Even in preseason games against lesser competition, he hasn’t looked good. At this point, it is clear that Andy Van Vliet and Charles Thomas are ahead of him. I also think that Aleem Ford will pass him at some point too. By season’s end, Illikainen may be reserved for mop-up duty.
7. Announcers will remind us every game that Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice were high school quarterbacks
In 2013-2014, announcers loved to tell us that Frank Kaminsky only averaged 4.2 points per game his sophomore season. The next season, they told us all about how Nigel Hayes hadn’t attempted a single three-pointer as a freshman. The last two seasons, it was “Did you know Ethan Happ played against Frank Kaminsky in practice as a redshirt freshman?” Now what will the annoying anecdote that announcers repeat every single game be? My best guess is that they won’t stop reminding us that Davison and Trice were high school quarterbacks. But who knows? Maybe they’ll make it a third straight season of talking about Happ guarding Frank in practice.
8. Wisconsin will receive a better NCAA Tournament seed than last year
Despite the fact that they’ll likely finish with a worse conference standing than last season, I think Wisconsin’s Big Dance seed will improve. As stupid as it was, Wisconsin was hurt by their lack of quality wins last season. The Big Ten was down, and their non-conference schedule turned out to be pretty lackluster. This season, Wisconsin should be able to rack up a bunch of quality wins, both in non-conference and conference play.
9. Wisconsin will finish their end of season stretch of four ranked teams 3-1
The last four games on Wisconsin’s schedule are vs No. 20 Purdue, vs No. 15 Minnesota, at No. 19 Northwestern, and vs No. 2 Michigan State. That is a brutal way to end the regular season. But luckily, Wisconsin will be playing their best basketball at the point. The sky’s the limit for this Badgers team. There is a ton of young talent surrounding one of the best players in America. With 25 games under their belt, Wisconsin should be able to compete with any team in the country. I think they’ll go 3-1 in those games, giving them the momentum to make runs in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.
10. We are going to have a lot of fun watching this team
Yes, it is going to be really weird watching Wisconsin Basketball without Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, and Zak Showalter. Those three guys are going to go down in Wisconsin Basketball history, especially the former two. But there is something exciting about all of the new faces and names. The possibilities are endless. This team is going to be a really good shooting team, with guys like Pritzl, Trice, Davison, King and Van Vliet all deadly from beyond the arc. Happ is one of the most fun players to watch in the country, with his crazy footwork. And now he can apparently shoot three pointers too?
Fans at the Kohl Center: “Wait, Khalil Iverson is hitting 3s this season??”
Ethan Happ: “Hold my Gatorade” pic.twitter.com/JDZR501AAs
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 2, 2017
Add in Khalil Iverson monster dunks and Brad Davison driving opposing fan bases nuts and this should be a super fun team to watch. There is a lot of talent on this roster, and watching them develop and grow over the course of the year will be very interesting. Sure, they will probably lose some games they shouldn’t. But they’ll also win some they shouldn’t. It’s going to be an exciting season, and I can’t wait to watch them play.