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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Northwestern basketball preview

Wisconsin may be struggling, but so too is the opponent on Thursday night as the Northwestern Wildcats come to the Kohl Center.

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Wisconsin Badgers basketball is struggling, few would debate that. After squandering a golden chance to erase some bad vibes on Monday, the Badgers return to the Kohl Center hoping to get back to winning ways.

Standing in their way is an equally struggling Northwestern Wildcats program. Expectations were high following the Wildcat’s first NCAA tournament appearance and victory in school history. But, even most of the same parts back hasn’t helped them live up to expectations and NU is struggling just as bad as Wisconsin.

It leads to a very interesting matchup on Thursday night between the two teams.

Which team wants it more? Let’s look at “The Starting 5” for tonight’s Big Ten clash between the Badgers and Wildcats from the Kohl Center. Tip is scheduled for 7:30pm CT on FS1.

40 Minutes

Can the Badgers actually play a full 40 minutes of competent basketball? So far this season that answer has only been yes against weak D1 opponents.

That was on full display on Monday against Nebraska for sure. Wisconsin looked like it was in control of the game for 30 minutes or so..and then it forgot how to make a field goal for nearly 10 minutes and found themselves the losers. Ok, to be fair, the Badgers managed three made field goals in the final 10 minutes. But, they did also go over 6 minutes between made field goals to end the game. Just brutal stuff at home.

Northwestern has the ability to sting you if you aren’t playing quality basketball, so Wisconsin can’t afford to let off the gas in this one.

How do the Badgers put 40 minutes together? It requires something pretty easy, but so hard for this team to do — be able to hit from the perimeter. Defenses aren’t respecting the Badgers from deep and it’s creating challenges for Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson. Having someone like Brevin Pritzl or Brad Davison starting to hit consistently from deep would be a huge help.

But, asking for a quality 40 minutes may be a task too much for this team and if they can’t put it together against Northwestern, the Badgers are in more trouble than we previously thought (and we think they are seriously bad this season).

Free Throws Again

Last time out we highlighted the fact that Wisconsin gave away the game in Lincoln by allowing the Huskers to go to the free throw line whenever they wanted. We also highlighted the need to reverse that trend, what we apparently forgot to tell the team was that they also needed to make free throws.

UW came in tot the game against Nebraska as one of the best free throw shooting teams in the Big Ten, a stat that mattered little apparently because the Badgers went a paltry 18 of 31 from the free throw line. Most of that could be attributed to Happ’s sudden decline back to last season’s free throw shooting form, as he went 8 of 19, while the rest of the team was a much more respectable 8 of 12.

This team can’t look to bang inside and get to the line and not make its free throws, they’re too inconsistent from the field to be that kind of team.

Trice May Not Be Back This Season?

We’ve known that point guard D’Mitrik Trice has been seen practicing in varying forms with this team for a few weeks now. This is also the timeframe when Greg Gard believed Trice would be ready to go. He didn’t dress on Monday, but could a few extra days make the difference?

That doesn’t appear likely here, as Trice has gone from practicing to not according to reports:

His presence would certainly help give the Badgers a chance against anyone, if for no other reason than the fact that it moves Brad Davison off the ball and gives everyone in the backcourt a chance to breath on the bench once in a great while. That appears to be a pipe dream and with less than a month to go in the season shutting him down seems to be the smart thing to do.

It’s not like his return is the difference between an NCAA tournament berth or not.

First to 60

Casual fans may not enjoy watching this game, as it could be brutal on the eyes given the stat sheets of both of these teams. Northwestern and Wisconsin come in as two of the lowest scoring teams in Big Ten play this season, with Northwestern 12th at 647. points per game and the Badgers one spot lower at 62.8 points per game.

Those are some ugly numbers, especially because Wisconsin is also 12th in scoring margin at -6.9 points per game during B1G play. Northwestern is at least holding its own on the defensive side of things.

Simply put, getting to 60 points might be a stretch for two of the most streaky shooting teams in the conference. My bet is on the first to 60 winning this one, because we might not even see 60 happen.

More Schlundt Please

T.J. Schlundt has been eating up minutes off the bench for most of this season, and for most of the season he hasn’t done much that makes you take notice of him. But, on Monday the former walk-on did just that in a small sample size. He managed 3 points, 3 rebounds and 1 steal in just 11 minutes off the bench. That’s more than UW is used to seeing out of him on the stat sheet and it could be helpful against a team where every point counts.

Wisconsin could use any sort of offensive production from him and most of the bench frankly. Let’s see if Monday’s performance gives him the confidence to make some more moves on the offensive side of the court or not.

Hey, what could go wrong? He goes cold? It’s not like we haven’t seen that from anyone in the Badgers starting lineup either….oh wait.

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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