1. Kobe King will be Wisconsin’s second leading scorer
Even though King may not start a game for the Badgers this season, he is the most offensively gifted guard on the roster. He can score in so many different ways that it makes him nearly impossible to defend. He can drive, shoot three-pointers, post-up, and attack in transition. Oh, and then there is his prolific mid-range game, which will give hoops fans flashbacks to the second best Kobe basketball player of all time. We’ve seen him put up points in Australia and all the scrimmages. Now, it is time for him to show the college basketball world what he can do.
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 5, 2017
2. Ethan Happ will lead the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks
Last season, Happ led the the Badgers in all of those categories except for points, which Bronson Koenig took by just .5 points per game. Now, he will almost certainly be the leading scorer. He has also shown improved passing out of double teams, which should lead to even more assists. The only real questionable one is blocks, which Khalil Iverson has a chance to take now that he is a full-time starter. But a stat-line of 15 points, 9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2 steals, and a block is very doable for the All-American Happ.
3. Wisconsin finishes their brutal non-conference schedule 9-3
Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule is loaded this season. They face No.17 Xavier at home, Virginia and Temple on the road, top mid-majors Yale and Western Kentucky, in-state rival Marquette, and a Hall of Fame Classic Field featuring No. 24 Baylor, No. 21 UCLA, and Creighton. Every single one of those game is very losable. However, every single one of those games is also very winnable. While the Badgers play a lot of tough teams, none of them can really be considered elite. That is ideal, because they should have a chance to rack up a ton of quality, top-50 level wins before January.
4.Wisconsin will not finish fourth or better in the Big Ten
I know. I know. But all good things have to come to an end at some point, right? As much as we all fooled ourselves into thinking otherwise, we all knew that the streak couldn’t possibly last forever. With how much Wisconsin is losing combined with how good the Big Ten is this season, it seems like the perfect storm that will finally end one of the most impressive streaks in college basketball. I think Wisconsin will be a good team. But the top four teams in the Big Ten- Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern, and Minnesota- look like they are on another level. The Badgers could potentially play their way into a tie for fourth like they did in 2015-16, but gun to my head, I say they finish fifth.
5. Khalil Iverson is going to have a breakout season
Iverson is an athletic freak of nature. He has ridiculous strength and hops, along with an uncanny ability to always be around the ball. But up until this point, he hasn’t been able to produce much on offense. This season, that will change. His shot looks a lot better than it did last season. It is softer and has a lot more arc. With improved outside shooting, the rest of his game will open up too. Last season, in games where Iverson played 20 minutes, he averaged eight points. Now, he’ll play more than 20 minutes per game every game, with an improved offensive arsenal. He can easily be a double-digit scorer for the Badgers.
#Badgers Khalil Iverson worked on shooting all offseason. He is 2-2 on threes tonight and looks confident.
— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) November 2, 2017
6. Alex Illikainen will completely fall out of the regular rotation
Illikainen has really struggled in his Badger career so far. The former four-star recruit came to Wisconsin with comparisons to Jon Leuer, but his confidence is just not there. He is hesitant to shoot, which leads to a lot of misses and turnovers. Even in preseason games against lesser competition, he hasn’t looked good. At this point, it is clear that Andy Van Vliet and Charles Thomas are ahead of him. I also think that Aleem Ford will pass him at some point too. By season’s end, Illikainen may be reserved for mop-up duty.
7. Announcers will remind us every game that Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice were high school quarterbacks
In 2013-2014, announcers loved to tell us that Frank Kaminsky only averaged 4.2 points per game his sophomore season. The next season, they told us all about how Nigel Hayes hadn’t attempted a single three-pointer as a freshman. The last two seasons, it was “Did you know Ethan Happ played against Frank Kaminsky in practice as a redshirt freshman?” Now what will the annoying anecdote that announcers repeat every single game be? My best guess is that they won’t stop reminding us that Davison and Trice were high school quarterbacks. But who knows? Maybe they’ll make it a third straight season of talking about Happ guarding Frank in practice.
8. Wisconsin will receive a better NCAA Tournament seed than last year
Despite the fact that they’ll likely finish with a worse conference standing than last season, I think Wisconsin’s Big Dance seed will improve. As stupid as it was, Wisconsin was hurt by their lack of quality wins last season. The Big Ten was down, and their non-conference schedule turned out to be pretty lackluster. This season, Wisconsin should be able to rack up a bunch of quality wins, both in non-conference and conference play.
9. Wisconsin will finish their end of season stretch of four ranked teams 3-1
The last four games on Wisconsin’s schedule are vs No. 20 Purdue, vs No. 15 Minnesota, at No. 19 Northwestern, and vs No. 2 Michigan State. That is a brutal way to end the regular season. But luckily, Wisconsin will be playing their best basketball at the point. The sky’s the limit for this Badgers team. There is a ton of young talent surrounding one of the best players in America. With 25 games under their belt, Wisconsin should be able to compete with any team in the country. I think they’ll go 3-1 in those games, giving them the momentum to make runs in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.
10. We are going to have a lot of fun watching this team
Yes, it is going to be really weird watching Wisconsin Basketball without Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, and Zak Showalter. Those three guys are going to go down in Wisconsin Basketball history, especially the former two. But there is something exciting about all of the new faces and names. The possibilities are endless. This team is going to be a really good shooting team, with guys like Pritzl, Trice, Davison, King and Van Vliet all deadly from beyond the arc. Happ is one of the most fun players to watch in the country, with his crazy footwork. And now he can apparently shoot three pointers too?
Fans at the Kohl Center: “Wait, Khalil Iverson is hitting 3s this season??”
Ethan Happ: “Hold my Gatorade” pic.twitter.com/JDZR501AAs
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 2, 2017
Add in Khalil Iverson monster dunks and Brad Davison driving opposing fan bases nuts and this should be a super fun team to watch. There is a lot of talent on this roster, and watching them develop and grow over the course of the year will be very interesting. Sure, they will probably lose some games they shouldn’t. But they’ll also win some they shouldn’t. It’s going to be an exciting season, and I can’t wait to watch them play.
Big Ten hands out opponent assignments for Badgers basketball in 2019-20
The 2018-19 season has been over for just a few weeks now, but the Big Ten is already looking forward to the 2019-20 season.
On Wednesday afternoon it announced the conference opponents for the 20-game slate for each team.
With the switch to the 20-game conference slate last season it means every team will play three team only at home, another three only on the road and the other seven teams in a home-and-home scenario.
Fans will see Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern travel to the Kohl Center for the lone game between them. Wisconsin will travel to Iowa, Michigan and Penn State only.
That leaves home-and-home games against Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue and Rutgers.
Wisconsin’s faithful followers will see five of the Big Ten’s representatives in this past year’s NCAA tournament come to the Kohl Center at some point next season.
Only Michigan shows up as a lone road game against a Big Ten team to make the tournament this past year as well.
UW will also host Fred Hoiberg, the new coach at Nebraska, for the first time and that should certainly be interesting.
The Big Ten has not released a full schedule of the order of games, but it looks like the Badgers are going to have to fight hard given the teams they will face in home-and-home scenarios.
Could Badgers land Hauser brothers after all?
Few in-state recruiting battles have been as fierce or potentially game-changing for the Wisconsin-Marquette rivalry as those of Joey and Sam Hauser.
On Monday, the brothers announced their intentions to transfer from the Golden Eagles program.
A report by Steven Watson of WISN-TV in Milwaukee says that the Badgers are in the mix to land the two of them. However, the same report notes that the defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers are the front runners to land the brothers.
Joey and Sam have always been a pair of players that were likely to go to the same team no matter what.
With the Badgers having open scholarships and the likelihood that 5-star recruit Jalen Johnson won’t sign with the Badgers in 2020, this could be a great way to buffer that kind of loss.
Sam, the older of the two brothers, won’t be able to graduate in May, so he will have to sit out this upcoming season and have just one year of eligibility left.
He averaged 33.4 minutes per game and was one of the most reliable scorers for Marquette — averaging 14.9 points to go with 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Sam also shot an impressive 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Joey on the other hand, would have three years left after sitting out next season. He finished his freshman season averaging 9.7 points, 2.4 assists, and 5.3 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game.
If the Badgers were to land the brothers, it would certainly be a help to the front court of this team. But, it would also ratchet up one of the most underrated rivalries in all of college basketball.
While the pieces would fit with the Badgers, would transferring to Wisconsin make much sense for the pair? It would be much more of a lateral move in the basketball sense, especially with Markus Howard coming back to the Golden Eagles in 2019-20.
Given the production on the court, it would make sense to make this move to a program up the ladder. About the only thing that could make this move happen for the Badgers would be a feeling that it would be the right course for them — especially if they wanted to still stay close to home.
Just don’t get your hopes up too high that the Badgers would win this transfer situation. There’s a reason they lost out on both in the first place.
Is 2020 recruiting class make-or-break for Badgers & Gard?
Wisconsin saw its streak of NCAA tournament appearances end in 2018. A year later and the Badgers finished 4th in the Big Ten and took a trip back to the NCAA tournament.
But, a first round defeat at the hands of Oregon has many wondering if the program is heading in the right direction now that the roster is full of players who Greg Gard has personally signed off on as the head coach.
One indicator of future success is getting top-of-the-board players in the fold. That has been a struggle for Gard since he took this program over and it’s fans biggest gripe — even more so than the lack of free throw shooting ability or the on-going offensive slumps that has plagued this team.
So, as the beginning of the spring AAU season kicks in to high gear, now is a good time to understand where the program sits and what could be happening over the next few months.
One thing is for sure, the next four months or so are going to go a long way towards determining if Gard can get this program to the consistent level that was seen just five years ago.
Wisconsin appears set on its 2019 recruiting class, as 6-7 Minnesota native Tyler Wahl will be the only incoming freshman.
After seeing point guard Tai Strickland leave the program this offseason, UW has three available scholarships. Will one of them be used in 2019 to attract a grad transfer? Even if that answer is yes, it won’t affect the 2020 recruiting class.
It just so happens that the class is loaded with talent and UW is waging a big time battle or two. Let’s break down the state of 2020 recruiting.
First, the Badgers have one scholarship spoken for as 3-star point guard Loren Bowman committed to the program a few months ago.
He offers UW a bit of length at the position as well as the ability to get more athletic. Bowman’s game is largely about penetrating the opposing defense and creating shots for others.
But, as nice as it is to have Bowman in place, Wisconsin has to restock its roster in a major way. So, let’s look at the targets still in play.
The Sun Prairie, Wis. native moved to Nicolet High School for this past season and has formed a super-team of sorts in the Milwaukee suburb. He also has seen his recruitment blow up over the past year.
Offers from all the blue bloods came in as they found out what Wisconsin knew from the very get-go with Johnson. Now he’s considered one of the nation’s best recruits — sitting at No. 3 in the country in the 247Sports composite rankings, as well as the No. 1 small forward and the No. 1 player in the state of Wisconsin.
The Badgers have literally done everything outside of backing up a truck of money (and that’s highly against the NCAA rules) outside of Johnson’s house.
Will the Badgers pull this one out? It’s hard to see him not going to Duke at this point, but if he doesn’t go there, look for the Badgers to be his choice.
Gard has been hard after him, he knows the program as well as any recruit in the country and he knows the program would build around him.
Getting his commitment would be a game-changing moment for Gard and for the program.
Plan A Guys
As much as getting Johnson in to the fold would be a game-changer, this group of players are Gard’s biggest bets in the 2020 recruiting class to date. They will form the backbone of what the Badgers do and don’t accomplish on the recruiting trail and should be how Gard’s recruiting is judged by in this class.
If Jalen Johnson doesn’t go to Wisconsin, the one player I would put at the very top of the wish list is Ben Carlson.
Wisconsin seems to agree, putting a ton of attention on him on the recruiting trail. The 6-9 4-star recruit out of Minnesota is the No. 71 ranked player in the country and a pairing of Tyler Wahl and Carlson could be a dynamic one in the front court for the Badgers.
But, this recruitment is far from a slam dunk for the Badgers. Getting Carlson to commit to Gard and this program would be a major win given an offer list that includes the likes of Michigan, Minnesota, Stanford and Xavier.
At some point, a priority recruit signing on the dotted line needs to happen. Will the Badgers be able to beat out the competition?
LaCrosse has been a recruiting hot bed in the state of Wisconsin for the better part of four or five years now. After nabbing Kobe King in the 2017 class, the next big name is Johnny Davis.
The 6-4 combo guard is someone the Badgers want, but has begun to see even more interest early on in the spring AAU season. UW has done all it can to attract him to the program, but he’s been playing out his recruitment pretty slow and that may make the Badgers move on other guards this spring or late summer to put some pressure on this recruitment.
Davis just received an offer from West Virginia and also holds five other offers. So, it will be interesting to see how long he plays his recruitment out.
As for his game? Davis has a lot of athleticism to his game and can attack the rim. UW really could use his style to help open up defenses going forward. There’s some work to be done on his shot from outside, but he isn’t bad beyond the arc.
With Jalen Johnson a highly unlikely get for the Badgers, they need an athletic small forward and Morton could represent that very thing.
Morton isn’t really a “backup plan” per say, because he’s the No. 43 player in the country and No. 1 player out of Pennsylvania. But, when you are after one of the top 5 players in the country, you can’t put a full-court press on anyone else.
What are Wisconsin’s chances of winning this recruitment? I wouldn’t count on it happening, but if Johnson makes a decision in the next few weeks or early on in the summer, UW could get themselves right back in the picture.
If Ben Carlson ends up elsewhere, the Badgers have been waiting in the wings and watching 6-7 forward Seryee Lewis out of Chicago.
Right now the offer list is not super impressive, with a lot of mid-major offers and only Illinois and Wisconsin looking in to him as a potential offer at the Power 5 level.
Lewis progression this spring and summer is going to be a make-or-break as to if the Badgers are interested in extending an offer. But, personally, I like his game and what it could potentially add to the program.
His tape shows someone who works hard on the defensive end and has some athleticism on the other end of the court, where his AAU teammates see him living above the rim.
He’s going to need to continue to get stronger and work on his outside shot, but those are things that are already improving. We’ll see if he can impress enough to earn an offer this summer.
Wisconsin has some scholarships to play around with in the 2020 class, but the Badgers have to find a backcourt player no matter what.
Madsen is a player the Badgers have watched a lot over the past year or so and could be in line for an offer should Johnny Davis not commit. That’s especially the case with Cashius McNeilly making a verbal pledge to Texas A&M on April 13.
He’s got offers from Marquette, Northern Iowa and Wisconsin-Green Bay so far and both Minnesota and Wisconsin are watching but have yet to offer.
Much like Lewis, Madsen has a lot of work to do on his game for the Badgers to offer but if it all comes together, Wisconsin could be a good position to get another steal out of the state of Minnesota.
It will be interesting to watch how this AAU season unfolds for Madsen and what it means for his potential offer by the Badgers. Personally, I think he’s worth the offer, but I would hesitate with his ability to create his own shot.
Other names to watch include Isaac Lindsey, Carter Gilmore, Even Bruns and Chris Conway. None of them have offers yet, but it is still early in the process and once the picture becomes clearer with the top targets, offers are likely to come to one or two of the names above.
Ethan Happ named top center in the country
We all knew that we were witnessing one of the most special players in Wisconsin Badgers history with Ethan Happ’s senior season.
But, on Friday night he was rewarded for that special season by winning the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award. It’s been given to the nation’s best center since 2015.
Happ is the second Badgers big man to win the award, following the very first award winner in Frank Kaminsky.
This season, Happ finished 8th in the country with 21 double-doubles on the year, which tied the school record held previously by Joe Franklin in the 1967-68 season.
He also finished this year averaging 17.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists. All three of those were career highs as well.
With 2,130 points, 1,217 rebounds and 423 assists, Happ is one of six players in NCAA history to accumulate at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 400 assists. He joins Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Danny Ferry, Stacey Augmon and John Konchar.
Previous winners of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award were Kaminsky (2015), Utah’s Jakob Poeltl (2016), Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski (2017) and Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado (2018).