Beginning on August 12th, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team will take a trip to the Down Under, where they will play five games against various New Zealand and Australian professional teams. The goal of the trip is the same as is was when the Badgers last took an international trip back in 2014: To build chemistry, experience, and comfort. Aside from the obvious benefit it should give to the team heading into the regular season, it will also answer some of the questions fans have about this new collection of Badgers.
How will Ethan Happ’s outside shot translate to games?
If you haven’t been paying attention to the news this off-season, you might be rubbing your eyes and thinking you misread that. “What do you mean Ethan Happ’s outside shot? He doesn’t have an outside shot.” But is has been reported by CBS’s Matt Norlander that Happ has been working on his jump shot, and is now ready to begin taking three-pointers in games.
While it is great that Happ is expanding his game, it is fair to be skeptical. This is a guy that attempted only three shots outside the paint in his entire career. His form looks more like an Olympic style shot put than a basketball shot, and his free throw percentage last season was 50%. So it’s hard to believe his is going to have a consistent jump shot this season.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) July 20, 2017
The games in Australia will be the first chance for Wisconsin fans to see what the shot looks like when he is actually being guarded. If Happ can actually be a consistent threat from outside, the sky is the limit for both him and the team for the next two years.
How will Happ adapt to being the leader of the team?
Aside from his jump shot, it will be interesting to see how Happ adjusts to being the focal point of the offense. He was already the best player on the team last season, but he had a pair of senior stars in Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes to provide support. This season, it is going to be him surrounded by a bunch of question marks.
Because of his new role, he is going to have to play a little differently. He will probably see even more double teams this season, so he’ll have to do a better job picking it apart and finding the open man. He will also need to stay out of foul trouble, something he struggled to do in big games last season. Most importantly, he’ll have to be a vocal leader. For the last to years, Hayes, Koenig, and even Zak Showalter were vital in their leadership roles. With so many young players on the team this year, it is going to be very important for Happ to do the same. The trip to Australia will be his first chance to do that in real game situations.
Can D’Mitrik Trice be a reliable starting point guard?
Trice had a successful season as true freshmen, averaging 5.6 points and 1.7 assists in relief of Koenig. He showed flashes of his sky-high potential with his sweet shooting stroke and his outstanding court vision. But going from the backup point guard to actually having to command the offense for 30-35 minutes per game is a huge transition.
This five game stretch in Australia will be a great opportunity for Wisconsin fans and coaches to see just how close Trice is to being ready to lead the team, both on the court and off it. How he plays this season will in large part determine how successful the Badgers are, so this is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Will Brevin Pritzl find his shooting stroke?
The offense will obviously run through Happ. As a returning All-American, Happ should be one of the best big men in the country this season. But who else will put the ball in the basket for Wisconsin? Every good team needs at least three reliable options.
One potential candidate is Brevin Pritzl. He came into Wisconsin as a four-star recruit known for his shooting ability. Since than, there have been plenty of practice reports about his shooting prowess. Hayes even called him the best shooter in the country. It hasn’t translated to games yet, as Pritzl was just 24% from deep as a freshman. Australia will be a good opportunity for him to get confident shooting in games.
Is the Aleem Ford hype warranted?
The Wisconsin basketball program has made a habit of finding diamonds in the rough, and the 6’8 Ford could be the latest example. Wisconsin’s coaches certainly think so. According to 247’s Evan Flood, Lamont Paris said that “there is no doubt Ford has all the tools.” Flood also reported that Wisconsin coaches agree that Ford has a chance to be an absolute star.
The Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin tweeted that he thinks Ford has “the potential to be really good.” It seems like all the coaches, reporters, and anyone else that has seen Ford play agree. The only thing left is to see Ford in live game action. Australia will be a great test to see if Ford can indeed follow in the footsteps of Ethan Happ and be a star as a redshirt freshman.
Will any of the junior big men step up?
Expectations were high for the trio of Alex Illikainen, Andy van Vliet, and Charles Thomas when they came to Madison as freshmen. But as juniors, those expectations have vastly receded. Illikainen and Thomas have both shown flashes of being good role players, but neither of them has demonstrated anything remotely resembling consistency. Meanwhile, van Vliet has struggled to find the court.
Although fans may be disappointed in the groups first two seasons, it is too early to give up hope. For every Sam Dekker, Hayes, Koenig or Happ at Wisconsin, there is always a Frank Kaminsky, Vitto Brown, Ben Brust, or Jared Berggren- players that struggled early, but broke out later in their careers.
Brown, the most recent example, barely played at all during his first two seasons, but became solid starting power forward over his last two. Hopefully, the trio of Illikainen, Thomas, and van Vliet can follow in Browns footsteps. The first step to making that goal a reality is a strong showing in Australia.
Which freshmen can make an immediate impact?
Wisconsin’s three man freshman class is one of their most highly regarded classes in the last decades. Brad Davison is a four-star point guard that has great intangibles and can really shoot. Kobe King is an athletic four-star slashing wing that is adept at putting the ball in the basket. The prize of the class, Nathan Reuvers, is a 6 foot 11 center with the ability to stretch the floor. This class is special, and the games in Australia will be their first chance to show it.
Which players will earn the last three starting spots?
Anything short of World War III starting (no North Korea, this is not a challenge) and Ethan Happ will be starting for the Badgers. It is probably safe to pencil in Trice as the starting point guard. The last three sports are up for grabs though, and the games in Australia are a good chance for players to make their early push for the spots.
At shooting guard, Pritzl will try to fend off King and Davison. The competition at small forward is between Iverson and Ford. As for power forward… I honestly have no idea. It’s going to be complete chaos. Illikainen, Thomas, and van Vliet will all have chances to earn the spot. Reuvers also has the talent to put up a fight. Even walk-on Aaron Moesch could win the spot. The Badgers also could elect to go small and put Ford at the four. Either way, it will be interesting to see how all the battles play out in Australia.
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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