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Badgers Basketball

3 Point Takes: Northwestern 60, Wisconsin 52

Wisconsin dropped another home game as its season continues to unravel. What did we take away from UW’s loss to Northwestern though?

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It was over from the opening tip at the Kohl Center, and not in the way Badgers fans were hoping to see. Northwestern gathered in the opening tip, nailed a three-pointer and raced to an 18-1 lead before UW knew what hit them.

Wisconsin made runs of their own in the game, but the 17-point deficit was simply too much to overcome. The loss was the seventh in the last eight games for the Badgers and dropped them to 10-14 overall and 3-8 in the Big Ten.

Not even a team-high 15 points from junior forward Khalil Iverson was enough for the Badgers to fend off an equally frustrated Northwestern squad.

So, what do we take away from arguably the most disappointing loss of the season? Here are our three takeaways from the game:

This isn’t a completely lost season

Sure, in terms of the larger goals of making the NCAA tournament and contending for a Big Ten championship, it is indeed a lost season. There’s no denying that fact. But, it isn’t the whole story either. With a young group of players having to play major minutes, this season is far from being a lost one.

It is in fact a valuable lesson for players like Brad Davison, Aleem Ford and Nathan Reuvers. Let’s also not forget that we have begun to see the version of Khalil Iverson we all thought we’d see earlier in the season. He’s becoming a force for the Badgers and gives them the second scoring option they need to go with Ethan Happ. In the eight-point loss to Northwestern, it was Iverson that led the team in scoring with 15 points. He also was 5 of 8 from the field and 5 of 6 from the free throw line and had 9 rebounds and 2 assists.

More importantly, Iverson is becoming a consistent scoring threat overall. He’s now averaging 10.2 points per game and has scored in double figures in four of the last five games. Of course the sad news is that even Iverson’s improvement and consistency hasn’t been enough, as only one of the last five games was a win.

Still, the point here is that this isn’t a lost season for player development. It may be in terms of wins, losses and post-season play, but there is plenty left for this team to work on and learn from for next season.

This Loss Stung

This was the game this Badgers team needed to have. UW was going up against an equally struggling Northwestern team and it was playing at home. Instead of getting off to a fast start, it was the visiting squad that did most of the early scoring and simply choked any life out of the Kohl Center crowd and the Badgers hopes.

The loss also stung because there was a large fight in this team after that 18-1 hole it dug itself. Yet, that fight was never enough to really get back in the game.

Finally, the fact that Thursday marked the first time since 2009 that the Badgers have lost four consecutive Big Ten games and that  Northwestern’s back-to-back wins in Madison marked a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1969-70 just added to the pain of this loss.

It’s a strange feeling, because usually any pain of a loss came because UW was fighting for a conference title or a deep run came to an end in the NCAA tournament. Now, the losses are coming fast and furious and it’s not fun to be in this position.

Wisconsin Isn’t Alone Amongst National Powers Struggling

It is easy to take this season in a vacuum and see it as awful, this team as “talentless” and countless other negative remarks that have littered Twitter in the past few weeks. No doubt the standard of acceptable basketball has been raised at Wisconsin, but this is one bad season in nearly 20 years of NCAA tournament-level basketball.

That’s gotten me to think about the bigger picture here. Let’s step away from the Cardinal and White-colored glasses for a second and take a look at the rest of college basketball. When you do that, guess what? Wisconsin’s bad season isn’t the only one for long-time nationally recognized programs.

Kentucky is having one of its worst seasons under John Calipari with three losses in conference play (12-6 is the worst UK has done under him), Indiana is below .500 in conference play, UConn is a shadow of its former self, Pitt and Notre Dame are two of the bottom three teams in the ACC, Baylor and Iowa State are last in the Big 12 and the once-proud Vanderbilt program has just eight wins all season.

The point here is that Wisconsin isn’t the only big-named program to have struggles this season or in any season, and we should be remembering that what the Badgers accomplished since the 1999-2000 season is an exception to the ebbs and flows of college basketball.

Right now, the Badgers are experiencing the first down year in nearly a decade. It’s painful to watch, but some of what we’ve seen from the fanbase is completely ridiculous. Some are acting line spoiled brats who didn’t get that candy bar they wanted at the store or the toy at the local Shopko or something.

Arguments like this can be found in numerous parts of the Twittersphere. If you want to point to the 5-man junior class and note that 4 of the 5 are failing to contribute in ways that are good enough, you’ve got no qualms from me. But, to suggest that Happ, Davison, Kobe King, Aleem Ford and others lack talent is just patently false. All except Happ are young, playing injured, out for the season or just growing in a developmental program and showing glimpses of the talent they are developing.

Wisconsin isn’t going to be a program that plugs and plays freshman every season, they simply aren’t recruiting at that level and never really have. Now, are they recruiting at a higher level lately? You bet, but with two-thirds of the class injured there’s not a lot to go on in terms of their “talent” level. Let’s see a full healthy season from Davison and King and then judge.

Furthermore, we wouldn’t even know these guys’ struggles or triumphs this season if the 5-man class that Bo Ryan swung and missed on would be playing up to their potential. Davison likely would be playing, but Ford, King and Reuvers likely wouldn’t even see the floor had the junior class not been a big miss.

I mean, it’s gotten to the point that some in the Badgers fan base are calling out Ethan Happ as a bum and the problem for this team. Even Iverson, who is playing his best basketball of his career is getting roasted by some.

Yes, that All-American who is leading the team in every single stat category is the problem. Lashing out at players like Happ is just ridiculous, because he’s doing all he can for the program.

Chill out on the negativity a bit, chalk this up to being a season of transition. Few programs not named Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke could see 4 starters gone, replace them with all new faces to the program and still survive.

There’s a difference between being angry/disappointed in the results of the team and going full-on rage tweets. Luckily there are some even-keeled thinkers in the Twittersphere.

Wisconsin’s season doesn’t get any easier from here on out with the likes of Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue still to go on the schedule. Could wins even come against equally struggling teams like Maryland or Minnesota? Perhaps those are places for glimmers of hope in a dark season for the Badgers.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers top Xavier in Gavitt Tipoff Games

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A trio of big nights from Ethan Happ, D’Mitrick Trice and Brad Davison helped the Wisconsin Badgers avenge last season’s defeat in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, defeating Xavier 77-68 on Tuesday night. 

The trio combined for 71of Wisconsin’s 77 points in the victory, as the Badgers improved to 2-0 on the young season. 

Senior All-American Ethan Happ continued his history-making start to the season, pouring in 30 points while making a career high 15 field goals. 

He had a double double, adding 13 rebounds and also 5 assists in the win. 

Trice, who had a career high 21 points in the win over Coppin State followed that up by making a new career high with 22 points, including 5-5 from beyond the arc. 

Sophomore guard Brad Davison also got in to the act, adding 19 points in the win. The final three of those points came on a late step-up triple with the shot clock running down and the Badgers lead at just 69-60 with just over a minute to play. 

Following the big make, Davison gave Xavier a piece of their own medicine with a JP Macuria-like chomp. 

Xavier made a late run after that chomp, but Trice and Kobe King hit three late free throws to put the icing on the victory. 

Davison helped pick up the Badgers in the second half as they erased any and all momentum Xavier had thanks to a 12-4 run to end the first half. 

The hosts used that run to make it a 30-28 game at the half, but UW went on a 7-0 run early in the second half and made it 39-30. The Musketeers never really got within serious striking distance after that, largely due to Davison’s production being added to what Happ and Trice did. 

Xavier would test the Badgers mettle a few times in this game, but ultimately its inability to hit from the perimeter cost the hosts. The Musketeers shot just 21percent (5-24) from beyond the three-point line in the loss. 

Naji Marshall led the Musketeers in scoring with 24 points on 10-15 field goals. 

Wisconsin raced out to a 10-2 lead inside the first four minutes of the game. It was led by 4 points from Happ and back-to-back triples from Trice. 

Xavier ended that run with a pair of baskets of its own to bring it to 10-7 with 15:42 to play in the first half. 

It would be the only offensive firepower the Musketeers would have until late in the first half. Xavier went 3:20 without a single basket at one point and one field goal in 6:27 for the Musketeers. 

The Badgers weren’t much better from the field either and it led to Xavier being able to slowly chip away at Wisconsin’s lead.

Wisconsin ended the half shooting just 39 percent from the field, but were 4 of 8 from beyond the arc to help them take a 30-28 advantage in to the locker room. 

Trice led the way with 3 of 3 from beyond the arc for 11 points. Happ led all Badgers with 12 points on 6-12 shooting himself.  

Xavier would end the half shooting 12 of 31 from the field, including just 3 of 14 from three-point range. 

It felt a lot like deja vu to start the second half, as the Badgers used a quick start to control the game. This time it was a 16-2 run that made it 48-32 Badgers with just over 14 minutes to play. 

Xavier fought back, but ultimately it couldn’t find a way to win the battle on the boards (40-32) or hit the big buckets to end Wisconsin runs to really get back in the game. 

Despite the close moments late in both halves, the game was tied just one time and the lead never went out of the Badgers favor. Wisconsin led for all but 1:27 and still managed to let the Musketeers hang around late. 

A lot of it had to do with free throw shooting, as Happ struggled to a 0 of 4 night from the free throw line and the team was just 6 of 13. Yet, they stepped up when it really mattered, knocking down three of the last four to ice Xavier out of the game. 

Up next is a contest with Houston Baptist on Nov. 17. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm CT on BTN. 

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers Basketball Preview: Xavier edition

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After a season-opening trouncing of Coppin State, the Wisconsin Badgers will take the court a week later. The competition will be much stiffer this time around. 

That’s because it’ll be the Gavitt Games and a road trip to Xavier on the docket. It’s also because these two teams had one heck of a matchup last year. 

Xavier came in as the No. 15 team in the nation and nearly were upset by a Badgers squad trying to find itself. The game ended with a Musketeers 80-70 victory, but it appeared to be a step in the right direction for a young Badgers squad. 

Even if that wasn’t what happened for the Badgers after that game, this is a bellwether matchup once again.  That’s because the roles will be reversed this season, as Wisconsin returns a ton of its production from last season and Xavier are the ones trying to figure themselves out. 

Tip is scheduled for 5:30pm CT and can be seen on FS1. 

Let’s look inside the matchup. 

Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 1-0 (0-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 3rd full season at UW (58-36 overall, 31-23 B1G)
Notable: Last time out the Badgers got a triple double from center Ethan Happ. It was just the second one in program history. The Badgers also got a career high 21 points from D’Mitrick Trice in his return from a season-ending injury suffered 10 games in to last season.

Probable Starters (stats): 

G – D’Mitrick Trice – 21 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
G – Brad Davison – 9 ppg, 5 rpg, 0 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 7 ppg, 5rpg, 1 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 8 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 10 ppg, 11 rpg, 12 apg

Xavier Musketeers 

Record: 2-0 (0-0 Big East)
Head Coach: Travis Steele, 1st year at Xavier and overall
Notable: Last time out, Xavier was a 6-point winner over Evansville, as they struggle with the transition away from Chris Mack and a group of solid seniors from last season’s team that beat the Badgers by 10 points. 

Probable Starters (stats): 

G – Paul Scruggs, So. — 14.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.5 apg
G – Kyle Castin, Sr. — 7.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 0.5 apg
F – Naji Marshall, So. — 9.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.5 apg
F – Tyrique Jones, Jr. — 18 ppg, 13 rpg, 1.5 apg
F – Ryan Welage, Sr. — 14.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 apg

Matchup to Watch: The Frontcourt

Xavier has been really good at eliminating opponents scoring up front. With an athletic group of players up front, opposing teams are having trouble scoring inside. 

Now, of course, teams are having a field day scoring from outside. How else do you describe a team that allows opponents to score 77 points per game so far this season? 

Teams are shooting just 40 percent from the field overall, but are 26 o 60 (.433) from beyond the arc. Wisconsin was on fire from outside for most of the contest against Coppin State, but can that outside shooting be trusted to be consistent? 

It’ll be a big help if Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson are lighting it up inside the paint again. Happ is easily the toughest opponent Xavier has seen on the inside and Xavier’s length and athleticism are trouble for Happ as well. 

Last season, Happ had 21 points, but was just 7 of 13 from the field and added seven points from the free throw line. If he can get Xavier in trouble on the foul front, it will be a huge help again. 

But, given the changes to the Xavier frontcourt group going in to this season, this is a matchup that will look a lot different. 

Prediction:

Wisconsin 70, Xavier 65

While this game is on the road and that can be a huge factor, what I saw from the inside-out game of the Badgers last time out is enough to make me believe this is a win for the good guys. 

Additionally, Xavier has seen its share of struggles early on this season and nearly lost to Evansville, a middling Missouri Valley squad at best. Look for the experience of the Badgers to matter and for them to win this one at the free throw line of all places. 

Season Prediction Record: 1-0

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Badgers Basketball

Happ, Trice lead Badgers to easy win over Coppin State

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The return of redshirt sophomore D’Mitrick Trice was one to remember.

After missing all but 10 games last season, Trice poured in a career high 21 points in his return to the team, leading the Badgers to an 85-63 win over the Coppin State Eagles.

Trice got there thanks to 5 of 9 shooting from deep and 7-13 overall from the field. He had 17 of those 21 points in the first half alone, and UW needed those points. 

Three straight makes from deep for Trice with the Badgers trailing by five points gave the team the kick start they needed. It was the start of a 20-2 run that blew the game open from an 11-6 deficit to a large Badgers lead that never got close again.

However, he wasn’t the only headline of the night for the Badgers. 

Star senior center Ethan Happ showed just how versatile he can be with a season-opening triple double. He had 10 points on just 3-7 shooting, but hit all four of his free throws and added 11 rebounds and 12 assists on the night. 

No other Badgers player had more than one assist. 

Happ and Trice were joined in double digits scoring by senior guard Brevin Prtizl who had 16 points on 4 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc. 

As a team, the Badgers shot just 38.7 percent from deep on the night, but happened as the team cooled off late in the game as the bench got cleared out. UW shot 52.9 percent (9 of 17) from the three-point line in the first half alone.

Coppin State was led by a pair of double digit scores in Lamar Morgan (15) and Taqwain Drummond (11), but they were never really in the game after the first three minutes of action. 

Wisconsin’s other returning player from injury, redshirt freshman Kobe King, had a bit more of a struggle off the bench. He had 8 points on 3 of 6 shooting from the field, but missed on both of his deep attempts. he did add four rebounds, good for third on the team. 

Perhaps the biggest shock came from the free throw line, as Wisconsin shot an impressive 88.5 precent (23 of 26) on the night. 

Wisconsin also was able to get its big lead thanks to much better play on the defensive end of the floor. UW held Coppin State to just 35.6 percent shooting on the night and just 11 of 29 from beyond the arc. 

Up next for Wisconsin is next Tuesday as they go to Cincinnati to take on the Xavier Muskateers in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Tip is scheduled for 5:30pm CT and will air on FS1. 

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers Basketball Preview: Coppin State edition

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It’s here, Wisconsin Badgers basketball is back and looking to start a new era of NCAA tournament appearances. 

Up first is a matchup with the Coppin State Eagles, a team from one of the worst conferences in D1 basketball. Will it be a nice way to ease in to the season or will the visitors put the Badgers to the test in a contrast of styles? 

Let’s dig in to the matchup. 

Wisconsin Badgers

2017-18 Record: 15-18 (7-11 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 3rd full season at UW (57-36 overall, 31-23 B1G)
Notable: Wisconsin will have 94.7 percent of its scoring from last season back and will see two young players return to the lineup after missing most of the 2017-18 season due to injury in guards D’Mitrick Trice and Kobe King. 

Probable Starters (2017-18 stats): 

G – D’Mitrick Trice – 9.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.3 apg
G – Brad Davison – 12.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.5 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 8.6 ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.8 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 5.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.8 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 17.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.7 apg

Coppin State Eagles

2017-18 Record: 5-27 (5-11 MEAC)
Head Coach: Juan Dixon, 2nd season (5-27, 5-11 MEAC)
Notable: Guard Dejuan Clayton missed almost all of the 2017-18 season due to injury after being selected to the MEAC All-Rookie team in 2016-17. He averaged 12.4 points and 3.1 assists per game in his debut season and could be a huge X-factor for this team. 

Probable Starters (2017-18 stats): 

G – Dejuan Clayton (So.) – 12.4 ppg, 3.1 apg (2016-17 due to injury)
G – Lucian Brownlee (Sr.) – 4.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.5 apg
F – Cedric Council (Sr.) – 5.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 apg
F – Lamar Morgan (Sr.) – 12.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.4 apg
F – Chad Andrews-Fulton – 6.5ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.8 apg

Matchup to Watch: Chad Andrews-Fulton vs. Ethan Happ

The Eagles didn’t win a lot of games last season, but when they did it had a lot to do with Chad Andrews-Fulton and his play. In the five wins the Eagles had he averaged 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. 

Ethan Happ is more than accustomed to battling high-level scorers down low and usually good at winning those battles. Happ has also been one of the most effective big men in college basketball for the past two years. Expect Happ to be able to frustrate Andrews-Fulton on defense and take him down low on the block. 

As long as Happ wins this battle in the first half this should be an easy win overall for Wisconsin. If not, the Badgers may make this closer than expected for far too long. 

Prediction: 

Wisconsin 84, Coppin State 55

This is your typical opener against a really bad mid-major program. Yes, Juan Dixon played at a high level at Maryland, but he hasn’t shown the ability to coach a team to success ever. That includes his lone stint as a women’s basketball coach in which his University of the District of Columbia team won just six games. 

Wisconsin has experience and athletic advantages it won’t have every game this season. Look for this to be an easy win for the Badgers and one in which they’ll get some rotational questions figured out. 

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