If you missed the first part of the countdown, which included the introduction, honorable mentions, and numbers 6-10, you can find them here.
5. Wisconsin beats Kentucky in the Final Four
It’s hard to argue against this being the best moment in Wisconsin Badgers sports history. The only reason it is so low on the list is because that game, and most of that season, had much more to do with the performances of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, and Josh Gasser than this year’s graduating class. But the duo of Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were huge in that game, and Wisconsin likely doesn’t win without them.
In that historic game, Hayes played 37 minutes, and recorded 12 points. He also had the offensive rebound and put-back to tie the score with 2:30 remaining in the game. Koenig also had 12 points, along with three huge free throws to ice the game in the closing seconds.
4. Wisconsin turns season around with win over MSU.
Heading into the January 7th tilt against Michigan State, Wisconsin Basketball was in disarray. They were 9-9 overall, and just 1-4 in the conference. It looked like Wisconsin’s streaks of finishing in the top-4 of the Big Ten and making the NCAA Tournament was dead in the water. Interim Head Coach Greg Gard’s chances of securing the real job also seemed to be rapidly slipping away.
That’s when the duo of Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig stepped up and carried the team to a season changing win. Hayes had 25 points and seven rebounds, which believe it or not, was only the second best performance on the team. That’s because Koenig, who was dubbed the “Spartan Killer” by Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, poured in 27 points of his own. Koenig also drained the clutch (surprise, surprise) three-pointer to bring Wisconsin within one with 30 seconds remaining. He then had the game-winning assist to Ethan Happ.
As you probably know, the rest is history. Wisconsin went on to win 11 out of their next 13 games, cruise to an NCAA Tournament bid, and keep the streak of top-four finishes alive. Oh yeah, and Greg Gard got his contract, leaving the future of Wisconsin Basketball in good hands. All because of the performances of Koenig and Hayes.
3. Showy sparks Wisconsin to Sweet 16 Victory over UNC
Before I get in to the game itself, I just want to take a minute to talk about Showalter. He may not be the most talented Badger ever, but he might be my favorite. He started as a walk-on, and transformed himself into a spark plug on the best team in school history, before becoming a reliable two-year starter. Showalter was all energy all the time. He really personified the blue collar mentality of this Wisconsin program, and I’m going to miss the hell out of him. He was just a pure, gritty, playmaker. And none of his plays were bigger and more memorable than what he did against UNC.
With Wisconsin in a Sweet 16 dogfight against UNC, Showalter checked into the game with 8:19 remaining and the Badgers trailing by three. On a team with two future first-round picks and four future All-Big Ten players, it was Showy that stepped up to save the day. First, he drove to the basket with 7:58 remaining and got a layup. He then drove into the lane and kicked it out to Frank the Tank to drain a wide open three-pointer.
On the ensuing possession, he got free on a back-door cut and finished with a reverse layup. But his work still wasn’t done. Seconds later, he stripped a UNC player and took it all the way for a layup. Just like that, Showy had created nine-points in under three minutes to give Wisconsin the permanent lead. Nothing that happens for the rest of the season- not the second straight Final Four, not the Kentucky win- happens without the scrappy walk-on from Germantown, Wisconsin.
2. Koenig buzzer-beater to beat Xavier
Bronson Koenig was a great point guard and an even better shot creator. As the all-time leader in made three-pointers at Wisconsin, he was obviously a terrific shooter. But his best attribute was his ability to take, and make, the big shot. Koenig’s veins are made out of pure ice, and nothing else. He hit a ton of clutch shots over his Badger career, but none were bigger and more memorable than his buzzer-beat against the #2-seed Xavier in the Round of 32.
With the Badgers trailing by three with just 13 seconds to play, Koenig drained a deep three-pointer that was arguably just as clutch as the buzzer beater itself. Then on the other end of the court, Showalter did what he does best and took a charge, giving the ball back to the Badgers. The rest is history.
Goosebumps. Goosebumps every single time. Winning on buzzer beaters is much more fun.
1. Wisconsin takes down overall #1 Villanova
This game showed everything this senior class was about. They did not back down from challenges. This was their fourth tournament upset in four seasons. They also never gave up, coming back from seven down with five minted to go. This senior class showed their leadership, resiliency, and fight.
Zak Showalter was the glue, playing great defense and securing every possible loose ball.
Showy doesn’t looked pleased with the refs. pic.twitter.com/ShH1GEXJnk
— Big Ten Geek (@bigtengeek) March 18, 2017
Bronson Koenig hit clutch shots (surprise, surprise), scoring eight points in the final five minutes of the game, including a game-tying three-pointer.
Like usual, the often polarizing and criticized Nigel Hayes stepped up with his team needing him the most, putting the team on his back and refusing to let his career end.
Vitto Brown chipped in 10 points, and came up with the defensive play of the season for the Badger by stripping Josh Hart of a chance at a game-tying layup.
This was the game that defined this senior class. It was the game where they refused to back down and refused to lose. The season, and their careers, didn’t end the way we wanted them to, but we’ll always have this game, and the rest of the moments on this list. For that reason, I’ll always be thankful for this group.
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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