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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Western Kentucky basketball preview

Wisconsin hopes a few more practices with its altered lineup produced better results against Western Kentucky.



It has been a pile of bad news for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball program as December has rolled around. But, UW hopes to turn things around after a few practices with a roster they know will be around this week.

Waiting in the wings for the Badgers following their worst loss to Marquette at home since the Kohl Center opened will be the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. But, lest you believe this will be a reprieve from the most difficult start to a season in recent memory, the Hilltoppers come in plenty prepared to take on the Badgers.

Can UW’s depleted backcourt finally show up, or will the struggles from beyond the arc lead to more trouble for UW?

We’ll discuss that and more in our look at the five things to watch heading in to tonight’s matchup against WKU. Tip is scheduled for 7pm on FS1.

Does Practice Make Perfect?

Wisconsin didn’t make the public aware of the injury status for either Kobe King or D’Mitrick Trice until right before the Marquette game. But, the team had to know what was coming down the pipeline. Head coach Greg Gard seemed caught off-guard about what to do with his backcourt rotation with no practice under their belts.

That won’t be an excuse or the case on Wednesday night though, so the buck stops with the performance of the players and the decision-making of the coaching staff on rotation, minutes and the like.

Saturday we saw Brad Davison, who is struggling through a separated shoulder injury of his own, play nearly ever second of the game against Marquette. He was exhausted and nothing left in the tank over the final 3 minutes of the game.

Everyone also saw T.J. Schlundt thrust in to a prominent role, and he delivered some quality minutes on the court. But, the Badgers need more than minutes, they need actual production in terms of points from the backcourt. To that end, Wisconsin has hinted at using another walk-on, this one named Walt McGrory. He’s a 6-3 freshman from Minneapolis.

That’s just how desperate UW is for bodies, let alone production.

With a few practices under their belts, can Schlundt, McGrory and most importantly, the starters of Davison and Brevin Pritzl finally deliver for the Badgers? The good news is that Pritzl finally went in to double digits against Marquette, but that has been few and far between for the season.

Can Happ Carry the Badgers if Backcourt Can’t Help?

The answer to this question was an easy no against Marquette, but the former Hilltoppers, Warriors (or whatever their nickname is today). Happ scored 17 points, but was hounded by the pressure to put the team on his back. He was just 8-15 shooting from the field and while he put up 9 rebounds and 4 assists, he also turned the ball over 5 times.

Mistakes like that, and in the quantity that happened on Saturday won’t cut it going forward. Happ has to find a way to play mistake-free basketball and shoot a higher percentage around the rim than he has over the past few games. This is not the time for Happ to go in to a funk, so let’s see if he can be the one to carry this team early on and be a true leader on the court.

WKU Won’t Be Intimidated

A Conference-USA opponent coming in to the Kohl Center? No problemo, right?

Tell that to Purdue, who suffered a loss at the hands of the Hilltoppers already this season.  Now, that win didn’t come at Mackey Arena or anything, as the two met at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas earlier in the season. But, the point is, this Badgers team is nowhere near the level of Purdue in terms of production.

If WKU can get a win over a quality team like that on a neutral court, what could it do on a good day against a down Badgers program on the road?

This is also one of the most balanced teams the Badgers have seen all season long. WKU has just seven scholarship players, but six of them are averaging double figures.

Thompson vs. Davison Will be Fascinating

Point guard battles are usually good indications of how a game is going to go. Such will be the case on Wednesday night with two pretty good ones going at it.

Western Kentucky’s Darius Thompson is one of the better protectors of the ball and a great facilitator. That’s especially been the case as of late, as he has 19 assists and just three turnovers in the last three games. In his last six games, he has 30 combined assists and just six turnovers.

Davison comes in to this game having put up 18 assist to 13 turnovers, nearly the exact opposite of the effectiveness of Thompson.

Can Davison bother Thompson and keep from turning the ball over on his own? More importantly, can he be a facilitator for the Badgers offense? It is something that has really been lacking as of late. We’ll see if the adjustment can be made by Davison, but he’s going to have his hands full with Thompson.

Watch the Perimeter

If there’s one area that has killed Wisconsin this season, it has been a lack of perimeter defense (or offense for that matter). The Badgers are No. 200 in the nation in opponent three-point shooting percentage. That’s not good news when you are facing a team as good as shooting on the perimeter as the Hilltoppers are.

WKU ranks 38th in the country in 3-point percentage at 40.1 percent, and that’s a major area of concern for the Badgers in this game. It’s especially the case after Wisconsin saw Marquette go nuts to the tune of 63.6 percent from beyond the arc in Saturday’s blowout of the Badgers. Marquette was 14 of 22 from beyond the arc, and you can bet emphasis was made on never allowing that to happen again.

The problem is, Wisconsin has allowed teams to go gangbusters on them from three-point land plenty this season, so clearly an earlier message never got through to this group.

With Schlundt, Aaron Moesch and others getting in on the action, could some of that change heading forward? It will need to be much better on Wednesday night or Wisconsin is in serious trouble.


Wisconsin 62, Western Kentucky 60

It’s hard to see this as an easy win for the Badgers, especially given the recent trend downward. While it is tempting to pick against UW because there’s a lot to like about the Hilltoppers game against Wisconsin’s weaknesses, there’s a big strength that will pull this game out.

His name is Ethan Happ, and its the one area that WKU doesn’t have an answer for. If the Badgers can get him going early, often and efficiently, look for everything else to open up. I expect that to happen, and therefore UW wins…ever so narrowly.

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



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?



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?



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.



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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