When Brevin Pritzl arrived in Madison for the 2015-16 basketball season, expectations were sky high. After all, as a consensus four-star recruit, Pritzl was the highest ranked Wisconsin Basketball recruit since Sam Dekker. However, unlike Dekker, Pritzl wasn’t touted for his athleticism and length. He was regarded as a pure, lights out shooter. Fans and recruiting analysts alike expected him to immediately be the best outside shooter on the team. I distinctly remember in his only action of the 2015 season against Siena, the color commentator (whose name alludes me) saying that he thought Pritzl could be Wisconsin’s all-time three-point shooting leader when it’s all said and done.
Unfortunately, the first two years of Pritzl’s career have fallen short of the hype. During the 2015-16 preseason, Pritzl broke his foot, and he was never able to fully recover. He logged four minutes against Siena in the second game of the season, but those ended up being his only minutes of the season. That resulted in a medical redshirt.
Although injury free, his sophomore season started nearly as slowly. Wisconsin was returning a veteran lineup, and Pritzl’s defense wasn’t yet good enough to steal minutes from more experienced players. For that reason, his only role during non-conference was mop up duty at the end of blow-outs.
However, after winter break, something changed. Pritzl was slowly given more minutes and trust. He wasn’t a starter, and there were still games he rode the bench, but he actually had a role on the team. In limited action, he showed a lot of potential as a glue guy. He was scrappy, he hustled, he dove for loose balls, and most importantly, he played tough defense. He looked like a younger version of Zak Showalter, complete with even the unexpected dunks. But the shooting was still vacant.
Well, it wasn’t vacant from practice reports and interviews. We still heard plenty about how he could be the next Ben Brust. A practice report never went by without some Wisconsin Beat Reporter talking about how great his shooting was. Nigel Hayes even called Pritzl the best shooter in the country. But it never translated to games. During the 2016-17 season, Pritzl shot 5-21 from beyond the arc, good for just 24%. He only averaged 1.9 points per game.
@frankembucky Brevin Pritzl. Kid just doesn't miss in shooting drills. We'll see if it carries over to the game.
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) November 18, 2015
Although his shooting could have helped last season, it wasn’t a huge problem due to Wisconsin having plenty of other scoring options. But next season, he needs to find his shot. The Badgers will be losing four of their top five scorers, accounting for 45.1 points per game. Ethan Happ is coming back, but the Badgers still need to find someone else to take the pressure off him.
Whether it was mental or just a slump, Pritzl needs to find his shot. He has shown he is quick and can be explosive at the rim. If he can be a consistent outside shooter, it will create many more opportunities for both himself. It will also give Happ more room to operate. Wisconsin Basketball’s 2017-18 season may hinge on if Pritzl can live up to his hype and become the deadeye from beyond the arc that we’ve been told he is.