This has been a rough season for Wisconsin Badgers basketball, and it got a huge slap in the face last time out thanks to a loss to Rutgers.
But, this is Big Ten basketball and what is around the corner often isn’t any easier or better than what came before. Such is the case, as the Badgers travel to Nebraska to take on the Huskers (11-6, 2-2 B1G).
Wisconsin will test what has been an awful away record in one of the Big Ten’s most hostile basketball environs (that’s not hyperbole) in Lincoln, Neb. Does that spell trouble or will a bad loss to Rutgers snap UW back in to form?
Let’s dive in to The Starting 5 for Wisconsin’s meeting with Nebraska.
1. Away Woes for Bucky
Wisconsin experience perhaps its lowest point of the season last time out, as the Badgers dropped a game to Rutgers, who had just gotten done losing to Stony Brook, Hartford and Purdue the last three times out.
It was just another sign that something is very different about this team than other Badgers teams in the past. Not even Gard’s previously stellar record on the road has helped this season. With the loss to Rutgers, Wisconsin has dropped to 1-5 away from the Kohl Center in true road games.
Even that lone road win wasn’t easy, as the Badgers fought for a 64-63 win over Penn State at the near barren Bryce Jordan Center. Simply put, trusting the Badgers on the road is a recipe for disaster. Can they right the ship against Nebraska?
Let’s not forget the Badgers had to escape against a not-good Huskers team last season, needing to force overtime before winning 70-69 thanks to two late three-pointers. This year’s Badgers team isn’t capable of that kind of clutch play.
2. Nebraska’s Long and Athletic…and that’s a Major Problem
What happened against Rutgers? Wisconsin ran in to a long and athletic team that crushed Ethan Happ as the center of Wisconsin’s offense. He turned the ball over seven times out of 14 total turnovers alone.
It just so happens that Nebraska has remade its roster and this season they are much better due to an infusion of the same length and athleticism. You don’t need to take our word for it, just look at what Matt Painter said after Purdue beat the Huskers the last time out.
“Their two leading scorers had 38 points, and they didn’t play last year. It’s a different look. Their length and athleticism has been a plus for Nebraska.”
The player who could be most dangerous is James Palmer, who made Purdue’s dual 7-footers foul him time after time. He went to the line 10 separate times last time out and Wisconsin has had trouble staying out of foul trouble and from not turning the ball over. Palmer is averaging a healthy 15.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game as a guard. He’s also second on the team with 45 assists and is shooting 44 percent from the field.
Nebraska presents all sorts of trouble for Wisconsin. It’s their strength versus Wisconsin’s biggest weaknesses.
3. Can Happ Rebound?
Wisconsin is a one-man team right now, at least needing Happ to facilitate its offense. He was shut down in a major way against Rutgers and there just wasn’t enough help for the Badgers to make a run for a victory.
That Rutgers game was also not like Happ, as he turned the ball over way too easy and never adjusted to the defense that was being thrown his way all game long. Oh, and he couldn’t find the basket like normal, shooting just 4 of 10 from the field.
Sure, he had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists on the day, but he was just the third leading scorer and his seven turnovers to no steals or blocked shots were a major disappointment.
If the Badgers want to win this road game, Happ has to have a much more efficient game overall.
4. Wisconsin has Nebraska’s number
There are just some teams you struggle against and others you simply own. For Wisconsin you can bet trips to Penn State and Rutgers are always going to be a battle and you can bet seeing Indiana and Nebraska on the schedule are going to bring good things.
UW owns a four-game win streak in regular season play against the Huskers, but those came as the Badgers were becoming national championship contenders and the Huskers were sliding backwards in the Big Ten standings.
Things are different this time around, so can the Badgers history be the guide or will the Huskers break this streak?
5. Can UW’s New Starting Lineup Gel?
With D’Mitrick Trice on the mend and UW still struggling to find its way through a brutal stretch of three-straight road games, Gard has decided to shake up his starting roster. Instead of Brevin Pritzl in the mix it has been true freshman Nate Reuvers making the starting lineup.
Reuvers has earned the playing time with confident performances over the past few weeks. He responded to the starting lineup push with 10 points, just his third game in double figures for his short career to date, and had 4 rebounds and 3 blocks to his name.
Nebraska 75, Wisconsin 65
This Huskers team is dangerous anywhere, but when it is playing at home at Pinnacle Arena they are really dangerous. Wisconsin hasn’t played well away from the Kohl Center (and even that has been debatable).
Add in Nebraska playing some very confident basketball and you have the easy case for the Huskers winning this one. Perhaps the loss to Rutgers was a fluke, but it was more par for the course as Happ played some bad basketball and Wisconsin couldn’t give him any help.
Happ alone won’t be enough to beat Nebraska, as they beat UW thanks to some slashing basketball.
Full Badgers 2018-19 basketball schedule revealed
The moment every Wisconsin Badgers basketball fan was waiting for finally arrived on Tuesday afternoon. In a special on BTN, all schedules were released for conference games.
For the first time ever there will be 20 conference games played, with the Badgers kicking off the B1G schedule on November 30 by taking a trip to Iowa City to face the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Wisconsin will play a second Big Ten game that week, hosting Rutgers on Dec. 3.
The overall schedule kicks off with the Badgers hosting Coppin State on Nov. 6 at the Kohl Center.
Highlighting UW’s non-conference schedule are matchups against fellow Power 5 opponents like NC State, Xavier and Stanford (part of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament). Those were all matchups already known though.
In between the Xavier matchup and UW’s trip to the Bahamas is a visit from Houston Baptist on Nov. 17.
With the release of the schedule, UW will also see its annual rivalry with Marquette (Dec. 8) renewed.
As of now, there is one open date on the Badgers schedule for Dec. 13th and there has yet to be either Green Bay or Milwaukee on the schedule this season.
It would be the first time in a very long time that neither of the other two in-state schools meet the Badgers in a regular season matchup.
The non-conference slate will end on Dec. 29 with Western Kentucky coming to Madison.
Once the usual non-conference slate is finished, the Badgers have a pretty even ride through Big Ten play in January.
There are challenging sections to the schedule, including a three-game swing in mid-January that will see UW play host to Purdue, travel to Maryland and then return home to play Michigan.
However, February heats up with the Badgers having to face Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State amongst the final 10 games of the conference slate.
The season will wrap up with UW taking on Ohio State in Columbus on March 10.
Here’s a look at the full schedule for the Badgers:
Badgers land 2019 4-star SF Tyler Wahl
Badgers get 1st player in to the 2019 class and it’s a 4-star forward from Minnesota…sound familiar?
The long-awaited first commitment of the 2019 class for Wisconsin Badgers basketball has happened.
On Thursday, 4-star 6-7, 200-pound small forward Tyler Wahl announced his verbal pledge to the Badgers.
— Tyler Wahl (@tjwahl01) June 21, 2018
The Lakeville (Minn.) North star visited UW unofficially on Thursday, following attendance at camps over the past week as well. Following that visit, Wahl decided it was time to wrap up his recruitment.
Wisconsin won out over offers from the likes of Butler, Iowa State, Minnesota and Northwestern and is getting the No. 125 ranked player in the country and No. 25 ranked power forward according to the 247Sports rankings.
It probably didn’t hurt UW in his recruitment to see what former high school teammate Nathan Reuvers did in his first season as a Badger. After playing sparingly early on, Reuvers became an important cog in the Badgers machine this past season.
According to Badger247, Reuvers had some advice for his former teammate if he wanted to be a Badger.
“Our relationship is really good,” said Wahl. “I talk to him at least once a week. He’s told me that they really like me. I just had to get my shot down and keep playing well.”
This past season, Wahl averaged 17.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game for his high school team. Lakeville North also went 22-4 and made the Minnesota state tournament.
What should be interesting is how Wahl’s decision impacts one of UW’s oldest targets in the 2019 recruiting class — Zeke Nnaji. The Badgers have been on Nnaji from the beginning, but the fellow 4-star recruit has seen his offer list blow up in the past few months.
The two are AAU teammates, and while that can be a factor, it may not be the deciding factor in Nnaji’s choice of schools in the coming months.
As for Wahl, he’s seen his shot come a long way and has shown some good defensive work during his recruitment. He screams classic Badgers forward, willing to do the little things on defense to help make the offensive side of the ball that much easier.
UW ranks No. 22 in the country with Wahl’s commitment and could reach even higher depending on what happens with Nnaji’s recruitment and the scholarships they decide to use or bank towards 2020.
DJ Carton surprises most, leaves Badgers off his final 6
Badgers were 1st to offer for 4-star PG, but were stunningly left off his final 6 list. Where do the Badgers go from here?
The Wisconsin Badgers saw what no team in college basketball did in point guard D.J. Carton back in 2017. They were the first to offer the budding recruit and were after him hard, but in the end it didn’t apparently matter.
On Friday, Carton announced his list of final six schools via his Twitter account:
— DJ Carton (@DJCarton) May 11, 2018
Missing from that list were the Badgers, a move that surprised many. Instead, it was Indiana, Iowa, Marquette, Michigan, Ohio State and Xavier that made the cut.
It wasn’t for a lack of effort on the Badgers part to say the least. Wisconsin put the full-court press on him early and often, sending Greg Gard and others to just about every AAU game and got an in-home visit with him in recent months.
So, why didn’t the first high-major team to offer make the list?
It could have had something to do with UW taking 2018 point guard Tai Strickland and thus having a pretty loaded backcourt for the foreseeable future. Strickland was added to the mix late in the 2018 recruiting process due to his skill set, but also because there was clearly a lack of depth in the Badgers backcourt.
That’s not to say Carton wouldn’t have been in the mix, but as a 4-star player he also was going to get opportunities to not have to compete so hard for immediate playing time.
Not seeing Carton in the top six is a bit stunning, given what UW has put in to his recruitment from the get-go. But, unlike years past, the Badgers are not a team stuck without options. The signing of Strickland helped them avoid a crushing blow like going all-in on Carton and not actually landing him at all.
UW also has been heavily looking towards the 2020 class, where there are a number of quality backcourt options out there. One name that UW has been heavily linked with in that class is point guard Reece Beekman out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His grandparents went to Wisconsin and he is a big-time academic person along with a quality point guard in his class.
So, while it may sting to see a guy that UW put so much effort in to not include them in the final mix, this isn’t a situation like missing out on Diamond Stone or Kevon Looney — guys that the Badgers were heavily all-in on and ultimately had to scramble to replace.
Nigel Hayes pushes for boycott for pay while revealing Badgers nearly did it in 2016
Hayes hopes to spark major change in college athlete pay, while also pushing for a boycott that nearly happened at UW in 2016.
Nigel Hayes has been an outspoken advocate for the movement to get players in the NCAA to get paid. He’s even still named as a plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit against the NCAA.
On Tuesday, Hayes, who is currently playing for the Sacramento Kings, was part of a panel titled “Future of College Sports: Reimagining Athlete Pay.” It was a panel to help facilitate a discussion around athlete’s pay in college sports.
But, it wasn’t what Hayes had to say around that part of the topic that caught the eye of many. Instead, it was what he revealed about the 2016-17 Wisconsin Badgers that made people take notice. Hayes revealed that he spearheaded a potential move to boycott a high-profile game early in the season.
That game was the matchup with a then-ranked Syracuse Orange team as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
According to Hayes, the idea was proposed by him in a group chat and that the majority of the team was in favor of the bold move. However, Hayes indicated that everyone had to be on board for such a move to happen.
“I knew 90 percent of the guys were on board from the get-go, before I asked the question,” Hayes told USA TODAY Sports after the panel discussion. “But I let them know that if one of you guys says no, we won’t do it because, obviously, we’re a team and we’re going to stick together.
Obviously that didn’t happen and the Badgers went on to win the game 77-60 in front of a packed home crowd at the Kohl Center.
It certainly would’ve been a huge headline-grabber, and Hayes believes that hindsight for those teammates who voted no would change their minds.
“In hindsight, I think those guys that said no would change their mind now. That’s usually what happens. The guys who don’t go on to the NBA, once they leave college, they look back and say, ‘Wow, I was exploited — and now I have nothing to show for it.’ … So, I think we missed our opportunity, but hopefully this word gets out and it will inspire a group of kids that in college now or will be in college.”
Is that really what those former teammates believe, or is Hayes just speaking for them in a way that helps his cause? What we don’t and likely will never know is just how many of his teammates really were against the move and just what those players believe about their college experiences.
Clearly that is a call by Hayes for someone to take up the cause he championed time and again while he was in college. Will someone do it and will it spark the change that Haye believes in?
“With all the money that’s being made that the players are not receiving, there’s going to be a point where the players don’t play,” he said. “It’s going to take the right player or the right team in the right big-game setting … but if you want to get something done, boycott it. That’s the best way to get anything done. … I think it’s something that if we did go through with it, we’d probably be having a very different conversation right now.”
Those are bold statements and there certainly are huge risks involved. College athletics is clearly at a cross-roads and what happens in the next few years may go a long way towards determining its future. Part of that future appears in the hands of the NBA and what it does with expanding the G-League opportunities to younger players and what it does with the path to the draft as well.
What Hayes revealed in this interview is that he clearly has an agenda and isn’t afraid to push people in today’s college game to do what he advocates for.
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