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Has Wisconsin basketball actually turned a corner?

Wisconsin is red-hot as of late, winning 5 straight, but is this a sign of a turnaround or just a fluke?

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Just when most fans were ready to leave the 2017-18 Wisconsin Badgers basketball season for dead, they have suddenly come to life. Or have they?

A 71-61 win over Indiana to restart Big Ten play was certainly promising, as it extended UW’s win streak to five games and puts them at 2-1 in Big Ten as the team heads on a three-game road trip over the next week.

In a season in which the Badgers have already lost seven games, being on the plus side of the win-loss column is certainly a good way to start of January. After the win over Indiana there was one word that was buzzing around the Badgers locker room — confidence.

It’s good to hear that from players like Brad Davison, because his production is certainly going to be important the rest of the way. But, does that alone mean the Badgers are going to be making a run in the Big Ten and towards an NCAA tournament berth?

There is some reason to believe that UW can make that run, but also a ton of reasons to be cautious about this team being able to battle with some of the better teams in the Big Ten going forward. Let’s take a look at the pro’s and con’s if you will.

Reasons to believe they’ve turned the corner:

Confidence

Confidence can be a season-changing thing, even if that confidence boost comes from beating some really bad non-conference foes and one of the Big Ten’s lower division teams this year. As we noted above, this team is playing with a ton of confidence as of late and with a young team sometimes that is all that is needed to turn the corner.

Some of that confidence comes from players who may not be getting major minutes stepping up and taking advantage of playing time. T.J. Schlundt has done that and Aleem Ford continues to grow in to his role and become more confident in his game as the season goes along. To that point, Ford has scored no fewer than nine points and is averaging a healthy 11.0 points per game, while shooting 57.1 percent from the field (16-28).

Ethan Happ

Few players in the Big Ten mean as much to his team than Happ means to the Badgers. It can be seen in his recent play, as he’s been the catalyst for UW’s turnaround as of late. His performance in the win against Indiana was incredible. He had 28 points on 11 of 17 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks.

Few players in the country can do that once, but Happ does it consistently. While it would be ideal to not have to rely on him, the reality is that his skill set is so rare he has to be the focal point of the offense. Whether it’s his court vision, his strength down low or ability to make the big pass to open teammates, Happ is playing at a much better level today than he did against Marquette. It’s no wonder Wisconsin is winning a lot as of late.

Reason’s to not believe they’ve turned the corner:

Defense is still spotty

There’s no running away from the fact that the 2017-18 team isn’t going to play good defense at all. It’s strange to see and say, but the reality is UW . It’s a major problem because that means the Badgers have to rely on their offense to win games. That a major problem to say the least, as Wisconsin comes in to this weekend’s games ranked No. 7 in scoring defense (65.1 points per game) and dead last in scoring offense (70.3 points per game).

Of course, those numbers are a bit skewed by non-conference play, but a deeper dive in to the Badgers schedule shows a troubling trend against quality competition. Wisconsin has played seven games against teams from major conferences (Ohio State and Penn State included) and they gave up an average of 71.4 points per game. Take out the anomaly of the low-scoring affair against Virginia and the average jumps to 76.0 points per game. Wisconsin can’t do that against Big Ten opponents and hope to outscore them to win, it hasn’t worked in the past and won’t work with this inconsistent offense.

Competition Level

A five-game win streak sure looks great on paper, but who have the Badgers been playing? No seriously. Let’s take a look at where the five most recent opponents rank in RPI and on KenPom shall we?

Western Kentucky (68th RPI, 79th KenPom) is the highest rated win of the bunch and that was a one-point barn burner. The other four opponents paint a brutal picture. Chicago State is No. 297 in RPI and No. 345 in KenPom, Green Bay is No. 302 and No. 293 respectively, UMass-Lowell is No. 303 and No. 299 respectively and finally Indiana comes in at No. 143 and No. 93 at this point in the season.

That’s not exactly the cream of the crop and UW should have easily won three of those four games against teams not names Western Kentucky. So, should we really be impressed by this current win streak?

Conclusion

Personally, this feels like a team that is turning the corner. Does that mean they are going to compete for a Big Ten regular season title? No.

What it does mean is that I can see this team competing at a much higher level than most of us were thinking after watching Marquette humiliate the Badgers just about a month ago. If you would’ve told me this team losses Brevin Pritzl prior to a Big Ten game and they would find a way to win I would’ve thought you crazy. Instead, they got plenty of production from other places and a brilliant day from Ethan Happ.

The confidence is brimming, and in the years covering this sport, the one thing I know is that a confident team is a dangerous one come January and beyond.

What this team needed was a role like this, even if the competition level hasn’t been great. Learn what it feels like to play at this level and apply that against better competition. I’m betting the Badgers get closer to making the NCAA tournament than anyone thought they would in December.

Let’s see if they can get some positive results on the three-game swing against Rutgers, Nebraska and No. 20 Purdue. That will be the real test and a 2-1 road trip would go a long way towards solidifying a turnaround to the season.

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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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