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A Wisconsin Badgers guide to the Villanova Wildcats

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Wisconsin advanced out of the Round of 64 thanks to seniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. However, all that means is a date with the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament — Villanova.

It might be the most difficult test the Badgers have faced since taking on fellow No. 1 seed North Carolina in the Maui Invitational over Thanksgiving week. That game didn’t end so well for the Badgers, but this is March and not the end of November.

Villanova is also a wholly unfamiliar opponent for the Badgers program, having played just one other time in Dick Bennett’s debut as the head coach at UW.

So, just who are the defending national champions? Can the Badgers stand up against what is arguably the best team in the country? Let’s find out more about the Wildcats.

Resume

Overall Record: 32-3
Big East Record: 15-3
RPI: 1 *
SOS: 25 *
RPI Top 25 Record: 3-2
RPI Top 50 Record: 12-2
RPI Top 100 Record: 17-3
KenPom: 2 **
Notable wins: at Purdue, vs. Wake Forest (neutral court), vs. Notre Dame, at Creighton, vs. Virginia
Notable losses: twice to Butler, at Marquette 
Last 12: 11-1
Neutral Court Record: 9-0

*according to realtimerpi.com
**according to KenPom.com

Strengths

1. Defense

Villanova knows how to win a championship and the hallmark of the program is its defensive effort. It’s no coincidence that the 2017 Big East champions led the league in scoring defense at 62.6 points per game. The Wildcats also hold opponents to just 41.6 percent from the field, which was also tops in the Big East.

Oh, and Wisconsin’s suddenly hot three-point shooting? Well, Villanova has held opponents to 31.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

This group also has held 22 of its opponents under 65 points this season. There’s little doubt that Villanova’s defensive effort isn’t lacking and it is a major sticking point in this game.

2. Offensive Efficiency

Villanova is a scary offensive team, and much like the Badgers they generate a lot of their offense thanks to the work done at the other end of the court. But, just how dangerous is the Wildcats offense this season? According to KenPom.com, this is the No. 2 ranked team in Adjusted Offense in the country.

They get there by averaging a crazy 77.5 point per game, which also has led to a plus-15.6 scoring margin on the season. Lest you think it is all about volume for the Wildcats to get there, they are one of the most dangerous shooting teams in the country. Villanova is shooting 49.8 percent from the field on the season and 37 percent from beyond the arc.

3. Multiple Scoring Threats

Teams that get to the level Villanova has been at the past three years don’t do it with just one person pulling the string offensively. VU’s production on the offensive end of the court comes in a very efficient manner. It’s no coincidence that having four players scoring in double figures also helps Villanova rank fourth in offensive efficiency this season.

Josh Hart is the leader of the offense, averaging 18.7 points per game, but he isn’t the only dangerous scorer. Jalen Brunson averages 14.8, Kris Jenkins hits at 13.3 and Mikal Bridges rounds out the double-digit scorers at 10.0 points per game.

There’s even a double-double threat off the bench, as Donte DiVincenzo went for 21 points and 13 rebounds in the Round of 64 win on Thursday.

Scoring weapons clearly abound for the Wildcats.

Weaknesses

When you are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament there really aren’t a whole lot in the way of weaknesses. Even if you want to nitpick on stats there are plenty of counter arguments.

That is certainly the case when you look at Nova’s rebounding statistics, as they rank middle of the pack in the Big East in offensive rebounds. Perhaps there is an advantage there for the Badgers to expose. However,

We did find one weakness though, and that was Villanova’s second-half offense vs. Wisconsin’s second half offense. The Wildcats are just +5.9 per game on the season in the second half, while the Badgers are +6.8 and are ranked ninth in the country in that category.

If Wisconsin wants to win this game, keeping it close heading in to halftime and playing the spirited ball we usually see out of the intermission will be key. Saying that is easy, doing it has been less so. However, in the three losses, Villanova has been out-scored in the second half by an average of 13.3 points.

That certainly seems like a weakness against a Badgers team that has been very good defensively all season long and even better on the offensive end of the court for most of the year.

 

Players to Know

Josh Hart: As we mentioned before, Hart is the Wildcats’ leading scorer, averaging 18.7 points per game. However, the 6-5 guard also averages a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game. His size and ability with the ball make him a matchup nightmare compared to what the Badgers have in the backcourt. Just take a look at what he did against Purdue.

Kris Jenkins: One guard that is 6-5 is hard enough to handle, but Villanova also throws a 6-6, 235 pound forward who plays more like a guard in Jenkins. He’s not only second on the team in scoring with 13.3 points, but also adds 4.2 rebounds per game and shoots 36 percent from beyond the arc as well. He stretches defenses, and Wisconsin may not be much different.

Coach’s Corner

Is there a hotter name in college basketball coaching than Jay Wright? He is at the helm of a Villanova program that just one its first national title last year and has dropped just three games all season this year.

He’s compiled a 386-160 record in his 16 seasons at Villanova. Most impressively, his Wildcats haven’t lost more than 5 games in each of the last four seasons.

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Badgers Basketball

Former Badger Jon Leur traded to Milwaukee Bucks

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They say you can always go home, and for one former Wisconsin Badger he’s coming back to a state he called home for four years.

Former Badgers forward Jon Leuer was traded early on Thursday morning from the Detroit Pistons to the Milwaukee Bucks. In exchange for Leuer, the Bucks gave up the 30th overall pick in tonight’s NBA Draft and traded away Tony Snell.

Last season, Leuer played in 41 games for the Pistons and made just one start. He averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in his ninth season in the NBA.

Leuer is a very similar player to Snell, but comes at a much more team-friendly salary.

In trading away Snell, the Bucks free up an additional $4 million in salary this year and another $12 million next year.

This could be seen as a way for the Bucks to pony up the big money that Khris Middleton wants from the team in order to stay in Milwaukee.

As for Leuer, he is 17th on the all-time Badgers scoring list with 1,376 points to his name. He also finished his career with 551 rebounds.

Leuer’s final season in Madison was his best statistically, as he helped lead the 2010-11 Badgers team to the Sweet 16. He averaged 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game that year.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers basketball land Davis twins

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After missing out on the Hauser brothers late last month, the Wisconsin Badgers added a different pair of siblings on Saturday night.

Following an offer to the brother of 4-star shooting guard Johnny Davis and an appearance at a team camp this weekend, the Davis brothers announced their pledge to the Badgers according to Badger247.

It took less than a week after head coach Greg Gard gave the O.K. to offer Jordan for the pair to commit to Wisconsin.

Johnny held offers from Marquette, West Virginia, Iowa, Minnesota, DePaul, UNLV and others.

Jordan had offers from UW-Milwaukee and Green Bay, while also becoming a sought after recruit on the football field as well. Once he became serious about wanting to play basketball first, it seemed like a matter of time before Wisconsin offered.

That time came after seeing Jordan play in a camp last weekend.

It also came because it was time to figure out if Johnny was serious about the Badgers or not.

With the July evaluation period coming up, Wisconsin’s coaching staff put the final chips in the middle with this recruitment and it appeared to pay off.

Johnny joins as the No. 141 ranked player in the country and the No. 14 ranked combo guard in the nation according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

The twins will join Detroit, Mich. native Lorne Bowman in the 2020 class.

Wisconsin still has one scholarship available in the class as well, which is likely being held for 5-star and Wisconsin native Jalen Johnson.

After missing out on talented in-state players over and over again, this was a major win for Gard and his coaching staff considering how hard schools like West Virginia and Marquette were after Johnny’s commitment.

As for Jordan, it appears the coaching staff believes he is improving enough to get a scholarship and continue his improvement with this program.

Offers don’t come out just because it may win over a different recruit at Wisconsin. That wasn’t Bo Ryan’s style and it also isn’t Greg Gard’s style.

The trio of players put the Badgers at No. 8 in the country and No. 3 in the Big Ten in the 2020 class as of today.

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Badgers Basketball

Former Badgers get No. 2 seed in The Basketball Tournament Columbus regional

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Who doesn’t want $2 million? That’s the prize at stake for winning The Basketball Tournament and a group of former Wisconsin Badgers want in.

On Tuesday it was officially announced that the Kohl Blooded team — spearheaded by former Badgers point guard Kam Taylor — will be the No. 2 seed in the Columbus regional.

They will take on No. 7 seed Mid-American Unity, which is making its second appearance in the TBT after a year off. That group represents teams from across the Mid-American conference.

As for the Badgers, the roster will be made up of some very strong names from the past. The headline names include members of the back-to-back Final Four teams in Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown. Also joining will be Jordan Taylor, Ryan Evans, Trevon Hughes and recent grad Charles Thomas. You can see the full roster here.

The regionals will take place July 19-21 in Columbus with the winner of this regional meeting seven other winners in Chicago for championship week.

All games will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks, so you should be able to find them either streaming or on cable television.

Kohl Blooded vs. Mid-American Unity will tip at 1pm ET on Friday, July 19.

The winner will take on the winner of Red Scare (Dayton alumni) and The Region (players from Northwest Indiana) in the regional semi-final the next day.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers play final card in attempt to land 2020 G Johnny Davis

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A week after losing out on Joey and Sam Hauser, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program needs some positive momentum on the player acquisition front.

With three scholarships available in the 2020 class and two top in-state players in their sites, the Badgers coaching staff has been about as patient as possible.

On Wednesday, Badger247 reports that UW has offered Jordan Davis, the twin brother of top target Johnny Davis. It’s not a walk-on or grayshirt, but a full scholarship offer.

After two years of waiting for that offer to come, it finally did.

Jordan is an unranked player in basketball at this time, but I expect that to change once the scouting services catch wind of this offer. Johnny Davis is the No. 131 ranked player in the country, a 4-star rated prospect and the No. 3 ranked player in the state of Wisconsin in the 2020 class.

With the brothers set to make a weekend visit for team camp in two weeks, this is a move that undoubtably puts the pressure squarely on Johnny Davis at this point.

Simply put, the Badgers need to know if Davis is going to commit or if they need to move on.

Offering Jordan a full ride is about the only thing left in the Badgers quiver at this point. If getting the dream of playing basketball together at the same school and in-state no less doesn’t tip the scales, at least the Badgers know they can move on.

Is it a desperate move? In some ways one could see it as such. Clearly the Badgers want Johnny in a major way and they see offering Jordan as a critical move that could separate themselves from the competition.

However, this also isn’t a coaching staff willing to just throw away a scholarship in an effort to get a coveted player to play for them. That’s simply not Greg Gard’s style.

Jordan is also a player they see as a contributor, or he wasn’t getting an offer. Plain and simple.

There’s no doubt that this move ups the pressure, like I mentioned before. But, that’s not a bad thing, as UW needs to know where they stand heading in to July’s evaluation period.

If the Davis brothers can’t commit or at least internally give the coaching staff the information that will make them feel comfortable, they need to start getting offers out to other big time players whom they’ve been waiting to offer.

Consider UW is an underdog to land in-state five-star prospect Jalen Johnson, and you have to consider this move a smart one for the long term prospects of the 2020 class.

Will the Davis twins jump at the offer to play together at Wisconsin?

Some in the recruiting world believe this was the situation that was holding Wisconsin back all along. So, don’t be surprised to see this affect the recruitment of both players in a big way.

As for Jordan, his game has also caught the attention of Iowa and Minnesota and he did have scholarship offers from both Green Bay and Milwaukee prior to this one.

What may have really held the Badgers coaching staff and others back was the fact that Jordan is also a good player on the football side and wasn’t sure which sport he wanted to pick.

It seems like UW has gotten the clue that Jordan may be more receptive to a basketball future and pulled the trigger on the offer.

We’ll see how much longer the two stay uncommitted, but don’t be surprised to see something happen following July’s AAU season.

Letting that play out and getting all the offers out there on the table is just a smart move for the twins. From there, it’s up to them and clearly the Badgers have left no stone unturned in this situation.

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