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.
What a talentless squad
— The Mad Tweeter (@kdubbs36) February 2, 2018
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.
Christ Iverson is awful. Never shoot the ball again.
— The Mad Tweeter (@kdubbs36) January 30, 2018
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.
Well now we know that years in which there are no scholarship bench guards and freshmen/sophomores have to play 35 min/game aren’t going to go well.
— Hornibrook Appreciator (@TheRealEBohl) January 24, 2018
The Badgers suck, yes. Bo’s last few recruiting classes were horrendous obviously. Gard has some talent with this freshman class, and injuries haven’t helped. But to say they in trouble as a program after one down year, you’re starting to lose it, Doug.
— Michael Graber (@Graber2Graber) January 24, 2018
If the Badgers didn't have Happ, I don't think they would even have a win this season. Sucks that the streak of making the tournament is going to end this year. Unless they somehow pull off a miracle and win the B1G tourney.
— Jacob Nichols (@jnich24) January 30, 2018
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.
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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