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Badgers Basketball

The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Nebraska basketball preview

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Things have gone from bad to worse for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program so far this season. Injuries have piled up, expected contributors can’t do it when given the opportunity and the pressure seems to be getting to the biggest star on the team.

But, the games keep coming fast and furious for the Wisconsin Badgers, and up next on Monday is a chance for some revenge. UW will welcome Nebraska in to the Kohl Center after sustaining a 4-point loss to the Huskers earlier this month.

UW also comes in nursing the fact that they have lost 5 of its last 6 games and could really use anything positive to happen at this point in the season. What was once still thought of as a potential NCAA tournament team is now picking for the scraps of pulling off an upset and playing spoiler in the Big Ten.

With the Huskers in town, can the Badgers right the ship and get a much-needed boost of confidence with a win? Let’s take a look at the 5 things to know about this matchup between Wisconsin and Nebraska.

Wisconsin Needs This Badly

I don’t think there’s any understating the point that the Badgers basketball team needs this to be a win tonight in the worst possible way. Any momentum that was gained by blowing out Illinois was quashed quickly, and something positive needs to happen for this group and quick.

UW has lost five of its last six, with the victory over the Illini being the only positive to date. The Badgers are hurting for confidence with each loss and getting a win heading in to February could be a momentum changer. Gone are UW’s hopes for an NCAA tournament berth (baring a miracle run to the Big Ten tournament championship), but pride is going to need to matter for this young team.

That pride took a hit over the last three weeks. Oh, and did we mention the 63-59 loss to the Huskers earlier in the year? Let’s just say, this could be as close to a must-win as possible if this season is going to be anything other than a complete failure.

Nebraska has NCAA tourney hopes

Saying the Badgers need this game is obvious, but so do the Huskers. They can’t have this blight on their thin resume and expect to make a run to a NCAA tournament berth either. Sitting at 16-8 overall and 7-4 in Big Ten play, the Huskers have a real possibility to make the tourney as one of the biggest surprises in the country this year.

Nebraska’s chances were helped with a nice win over Michigan on Jan. 18 and they come in here having won four of their last five games overall. That’s a stark contrast to the Badgers trend this month to say the least.

The Huskers lone loss in the last five games came at the hands of Ohio State, which needed a crazy second half to put up a 5-point (64-59) win themselves.

As for the NCAA tournament, ESPN currently has the Huskers out of the tournament (and only 4 Big Ten teams in) while Blogging the Bracket and CBS Sports agree with the Huskers out of the tournament. All of that despite an RPI that sits at a respectable No. 65 as we speak. Run the table and how do you deny a 4-loss team from the Big Ten?

Of course, that’s a big ask in a muddled middle of the conference and four teams in seem about right for a down conference this season.

All that means for tonight is we should expect another fun one between these two foes, as plenty is at stake for both.

Home is still kind to the Badgers

For all the “woe is me” around the Badgers program, they still haven’t forgotten to protect the house known as the Kohl Center. While the Badgers only have 10 wins on the year, it’s been home sweet home so far this year. UW has won their last six home contests this season, which seems improbable given the inconsistency of the team.

Could home cooking help the Badgers stuff a Huskers team that has won two of the last three in the series? An 8-2 home record at the Kohl Center against the Huskers suggests that’s possible. So does the fact that Wisconsin’s lone win in the last six games came at home, while all five losses came on the road.

Nebraska hasn’t been good away from Lincoln, going just 2-6 in true road games this season.

Let’s see if a return to the Kohl Center helps a Badgers team that played with a lot more effort on both ends of the court for most of the MSU game last Friday night. If so, this could be a big one for UW.

Free Throws, Free Throws, Free Throws

The last meeting between these two teams was really decided at the free throw line. Sure you could throw out three-point shooting as a reason, but Wisconsin simply couldn’t keep Nebraska off the free throw line.

NU was a whopping 21 of 28 from the charity stripe in its home win. As much as the Badgers fought in that game, it didn’t matter because ever basket was countered by more points at the other end of the court.

In fact, the Badgers put one of the Big Ten’s best free throw shooting teams at the line way too much. Nebraska sits fifth in the league, shooting 74 percent in B1G contests. The shame is that Wisconsin never bothered to match the banging and get to the free throw line themselves, going just 4-10 from the free throw line in that game.

It’s a shame because Wisconsin actually ranks third in the Big Ten, shooting 75.5 percent from the line in conference games.

Limiting Nebraska’s time at the line won’t be easy, because Tim Miles’ bunch love to slash and dish and the Badgers love to over-commit and get themselves in trouble against that kind of offense. Wisconsin needs to reverse what happened and live at the line if they want to win this one.

Waiting for Iverson to Take Over

After watching Khalil Iverson explode for 13 points in the win over Illinois and add 17 points in the loss to Iowa, it was clear that his skill set is badly needed right now. With teams hounding Happ, he needs an outlet that is reliable and Iverson appears to be that outlet, capable of getting guys off the dribble and of course going vertical in his game.

Yet, at times he’s still shrinking away from the game too easy after some defensive pressure. What I’ve seen from this team over the past few weeks is that they run the best offensive sets when Iverson is the main point person and Happ and Davison are allowed to best position themselves to be successful off the ball.

Gard still seems adamant that Davison run the point, but I’d love to see Iverson just take the game over. With a Nebraska team that likes to slash and play a bit loose on the other end, this is a game ripe for Iverson to have another double-digit night.

Prediction:

Wisconsin 66, Nebraska 60

Home cooking always seems to warm the soul of the Badgers basketball program, it also seems to make other teams play some of their worst basketball on a season. Look for Happ to not have the pressure of doing everything on him and for that to lead to a monster night for the junior forward.

I’m also thinking we see a big night from Iverson and Pritzl hitting a few key open shots to make sure the Huskers can’t come all the way back in the second half.

As long as UW learned and executes from a bad night on defense in Lincoln last time these two played it should be smooth sailing at home. Then again, nothing comes easy for this team.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Badgers Basketball

Full Badgers 2018-19 basketball schedule revealed

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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:

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Badgers Basketball

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?

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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.

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.

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Badgers Basketball

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?

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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:

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.

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Badgers Basketball

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.

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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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