Wisconsin got a big taste of its own medicine on Tuesday night, getting beat down bad by Iowa just one game after doing the beating down to Illinois.
It leaves the Badgers at 3-5 in Big Ten play and struggling to find any real rhythm on the season and likely gives the final blow to any lingering hopes of a late run to another NCAA tournament.
But, what did this game teach us? Let’s take a look at our three takeaways from the game.
Iverson needs to take this offense over
After coming out and staying hot against Illinois, the Badgers opened the game in a massive funk on both ends of the court.
It resulted in a 12-2 run to start the game for Iowa and Wisconsin shooting just 3-17 to start the half. However, Iverson decided to take the team on his back and it resulted in getting UW back in the game.
The junior took over point guard duties with most of the starting backcourt in trouble and Iowa going all 2-3 zone on the Badgers. It resulted in Iverson putting up 13 of his 17 points in the first half. He also shot 6 of 8 from the field in the first half.
But, Iowa adjusted to what Iverson was able to do well in the first half and frustrated him in the second half. They turned him in to a jump shooter only and Iverson ended the night shooting just 7-16 from the field.
Iverson’s night wasn’t just defined by playing well on offense for a half either, he was also the facilitator when the offense was stagnant and had a solid effort on the defensive side of the ball (something we’ll talk about later). Iverson finished with 4 assists and 7 rebounds to go with his 17 points.
With Wisconsin down 12 at 29-17 with 6:36 to play, Iverson took this team on his back. He hit a pair of shots and a free throw in three straight possessions, putting the Badgers down just seven.
After the 3-17 start to the game, Wisconsin finished off the half shooting 9 of 14.
It’s no coincidence that Iverson getting hot and attacking the basket freed up everyone else either. It’s also no coincidence that as soon as he was taken out of the game in the second half by Iowa that things went from bad to worse.
Gard would be wise to find a way to have the offense run through Iverson on the perimeter and Happ on the block, but also get Iverson free to the hoop more often. It was UW at its best against Iowa.
Gard’s Lineup Insanity
As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Yet, that’s exactly what Gard seems to be doing every game when he trots out Alex Illikainen and TJ Schlundt off the bench. On Tuesday, the two combined for 17 minutes on the court and exactly nothing but a headache to show for it.
They combined for no points, no rebounds, no assists, no turnovers, no nothing…except for Illikainen’s 0-2 night from the field (which included an airball three-point attempt).
I know this much, Gard is literally throwing everything out there and seeing what sticks. That’s what happens when a coach runs out of an idea of what to do with a team.
A lot of this is on players who should be showing up and contributing in big ways, but some of this is on a coach who can’t seem to motivate a team to show up consistently from one game to the next.
We get that Gard is limited in what he can do in terms of personnel, but I’d rather see a bad game and a learning experience from a freshman like Nate Reuvers than a third-year player playing like a freshman would any day of the week.
Gard’s choice of an almost exclusively all-bench lineup for about 5 minutes of this game was brutal and Illikainen and Thomas’ defensive deficiencies were a huge part of that.
Congrats to Thomas for turning his opportunity in to success, scoring 10 points and pulling in 5 rebounds in 17 minutes played. But, that is a needle in the haystack of his career to date.
Maybe it’s a glimmer of hope, but we’ll see if Gard falls in to the trap of thinking this means Thomas needs more minutes consistently or not..because a quick look at his overall defensive night suggests the numbers aren’t as good as you’d think.
Then again, what choice does Gard have with a lineup full of people who don’t take opportunities and run with them like Thomas did?
Wisconsin’s defensive deterioration
There is no bigger indictment of this team than its defensive effort (or lack there of) on the season and especially on Tuesday night.
If there is a hallmark of Badgers basketball since the arrival of Dick Bennett, it has been that success comes from defense first. Even the back-to-back Final Four teams were built on defense driving everything else.
You could make the case that is happening again in 2017-18, only not to success but to failure.
Wisconsin has been terrible on defense against any sort of competent opposition so far this season. That was certainly the case on Tuesday night, as Wisconsin had no answer for the inside duo of Tyler Cook and Luka Garza.
Iowa’s big men combined for 34 points, 21 rebounds and shot 68.1 percent from the field on the night. As a team, the Hawkeyes shot 52 percent as a team.
It’s been a trend all season though, as UW is 11th in the Big Ten in opponent field goal percentage. They are allowing opponents to shoot 47.6 percent in conference games and are dead last in the Big Ten in opponent field goal percentage overall (46.2 percent).
That is a massive problem and if you want to put your finger on one reason for this team’s struggles, it all starts with defense. It’s even trickled down to UW’s best player, Ethan Happ.
He was awful against Iowa’s movement, while Charlie Thomas wasn’t much better and simply got out-worked more often than not on the boards. It’s why the Hawkeyes had a 41-32 advantage on the boards and a 12-6 advantage in second chance points.
This team hasn’t been good on defense all season, even in most of its wins. Some of this is on coaching to say the least, because effort seems to be lacking. I’ll take making mistakes by young players as long as the effort is there and outside of Davison and Happ, the effort on defense has been largely lacking.
Can this game film correct some of those mistakes or will the team tune Gard out like it seemingly has most of this season. After all, it’s the same tune every game.
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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