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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 dropped by Ducks for 1st time in NCAA tourney

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The Wisconsin Badgers return to the NCAA tournament was not a happy one, as they got dumped 72-54 by the No. 12 seed Oregon Ducks on Friday afternoon.

The loss ends the Badgers season earlier than they have seen since an eerily familiar loss to Ole Miss in the first round of the 2013 tournament.

After 20 minutes it was all-square at 25-25, but then the second half happened and Oregon pulled away with 47 points to their name and some quality work on the defensive end of the court.

Oregon freshman guard Payton Pritchard led much of that second half outburst and he ended up with 19 points in the win. The Ducks also got double digit scoring from Louis King (17) and Paul White (14).

Wisconsin was led senior duo Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson, who each had 12 points. No other Badgers player reached double figures.

The game remained close for the first 30 minutes, but that’s where the two teams diverged. Oregon began to be more consistent on offense and suffocated the Badgers on the other end of the court.

UW was doomed largely by an inability to hit from the perimeter, going just 6-of-30 from beyond the arc in the game and shooting just 33.3 percent from the field.

Ironically, Wisconsin cut the Ducks lead to just five points at 50-45 with 7:27 left to play thanks to a D’Mitrick Trice triple.

But, the Badgers went on a nearly three-minute scoring drought late in the game and allowed Oregon to control the game. By the time Happ stopped the bleeding, the Ducks led 59-49 with 3:56 to play.

Wisconsin would make two buckets the rest of the way — both in the final minute when the game was well out of reach.

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Badgers Basketball

5 things to know about Badgers vs. Oregon in NCAA tournament

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When the Wisconsin Badgers saw their name back up in the NCAA tournament bracket after a one-year absence there was much joy.

However, for the fan base there was also much groaning thanks to yet another matchup with the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA tournament. It’s also a team that most fans will know as a dangerous one, even if they are a No. 12 seed.

Oregon is arguably the hottest team in tournament, riding an eight-game win streak. They’ve outscored opponents 72.0 to 54.2 points per game and holding opponents to 34.6 percent shooting from the field and 23.1 percent from beyond the arc.

All of that tells us just how serious the Badgers have to take this matchup with the Pac-12 champions.

So, ahead of Friday’s matchup with the Ducks at 3:30pm CT, let’s look at the 5 things we need to know about this matchup.

5: Wisconsin has allowed just 5 teams to score 70-plus points in a game this season

There’s a reason why the Badgers are ranked 3rd in the country in Adjusted Defense by KenPom.com and thats’ because they don’t let teams score points in droves.

To that point, the Badgers have allowed opponents to score 70 or more points against them in just 5 of 33 games played so far this season.

Furthermore, just two teams this season have scored 80 points or more, with losses in both of those games (84-80 OT to Purdue & 83-76 to Western Kentucky). So, keeping the Ducks offense from getting going is going to be vital.

4: Wisconsin has reached the Sweet 16 in 4 of last 5 seasons

Birth, death, taxes…and the Wisconsin Badgers making the Sweet 16? It’s been almost automatic as of late for UW, who have made it to the second weekend of the tournament in 4 of the last 5 seasons.

The Badgers have also done it in 6 of the last 8 years.

Impressive, right? But did you know that no other team in the country has matched or topped that number? It’s true…it’s damn true.

Additionally, Oregon’s resurgence has come largely thanks to a switch to a “big” lineup with 4 players 6-9 or taller in the starting lineup.

3: Both teams have 3 starters averaging double figures

Both Wisconsin and Oregon will feature three starters each that are averaging double figures this season. Leading all six of those players is Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ (17.5). He’s joined by Brad Davison and D’Mitrick Trice — both of whom are averaging 10.7 points per game.

Oregon is led by freshman guard Louis King (13.1) and is joined by fellow guard Payton Pritchard (12.7) and forward Paul White (10.6).

What this game could come down to is how the rest of the group shows up. UW has been able to count on another big man in Nate Reuvers plenty throughout the season and Khalil Iverson has been a huge presence as of late. Will that continue after nearly a week off?

2: Pritchard scored 20 or more points twice in the Pac-12 tournament

If you need a reason for why the Oregon Ducks are even in the tournament, look no further than the hot hand of Payton Pritchard. In three games in the Pac-12 tournament, Pritchard put up 20 points twice and in the third game he hit for 18 points.

That’s an average of 19.3 points per game and a scary matchup for the Badgers efficient defense to have to deal with.

On the flip side of that hot hand, it does seem as if 20 points is his ceiling on the scoring front. Pritchard has managed to score more than 20 points just once this season, and that happened in the season opener against Portland State in which he put up 22 points in a large win.

1: Ethan Happ is the No. 1 player in the KenPom.com player ratings

In an age of stretch forwards and 7-footers with jump shots galore, Happ is a throwback player who rarely shoots from outside of three feet. But, that hasn’t stopped him from being one of the most dominant players in the country. So much so that Ken Pomeroy has him ranked as the No. 1 player in the country.

Not only is Happ averaging 17.5 points, but he is also averaging 10.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Should he finish the season averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists per game, he would be just the second player in 20 years to accomplish that.

Oh, and Happ is 1 of 6 players in NCAA history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 boards and 400 assists, joining Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Danny Ferry, Stacey Augmon and John Konchar.

Enjoy his final games in a Badgers uniform.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers get Oregon again in NCAA tournament

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After bowing out in the Big Ten tournament semi-final on Saturday afternoon, everyone was waiting to find out where the Wisconsin Badgers would be heading in the NCAA tournament.

It didn’t take long to get that answer, as the Badgers were given a No. 5 seed in the South region, which was the second region to be revealed in the selection show.

Their opponent? Oregon. AGAIN.

The destination? Go West young man.

Wisconsin will meet the Ducks in San Jose, Calif. on Friday and the winner will get the winner of Kansas State vs. UC-Irvine in the next round on Sunday.

This will be the third matchup between the two teams in the last five years of the NCAA tournament.

Wisconsin has won both previous matchups between these two teams, topping the Ducks 85-77 in a second round matchup. UW would do it all over again the next year, besting the Ducks 72-65 in another second round matchup.

Wisconsin is in the top half of the South region bracket and that could set up another very familiar matchup, as the Virginia Cavaliers are the No. 1 seed in the region.

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Badgers Basketball

5 Things to know about Badgers vs. Nebraska in Big Ten tournament

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The season of redemption has reached the postseason and unlike last year, the Wisconsin Badgers of this season are firmly in the NCAA tournament. There’s no need to win the Big Ten title to get to the dance.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Badgers won’t want to showcase themselves by winning the whole tournament either.

Wisconsin will step on to the United Center court for the first time in the Big Ten tournament on Friday afternoon. Across from them will be a red-hot Nebraska Cornhuskers team, who have won twice — including an upset of No. 5 seed Maryland — to get here.

So, what do we need to know about this matchup and the Badgers in the Big Ten tourney in general? Let’s get it going.

5: Nebraska and the 55-point mark are vital to this game

Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the country this year, ranking 4th in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com. That doesn’t bode well for the Nebraska Cornhuskers though, because they’ve only managed to top 55 points in 7 of the 13 previous matchups since joining the Big Ten.

All four of the Badgers losses to Nebraska since they joined the league have come with Nebraska scoring more than 55 points (58 being their lowest in a win over UW). The Huskers are averaging a meager 57.9 points per game against UW overall since joining the B1G.

The Badgers have also held Nebraska to 55 points or less in four of the nine wins in the series since becoming league foes.

4: The Badgers are the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament

Let’s just say this program is coming back home when it comes to postseason play, shall we? After all, the Badgers have been amongst the top 4 seeds in the conference tournament in 16 of the last 18 years.

By earning those seeds, one would think the Badgers have a history of success in the tournament or something? Is that true? Let’s find out together.

3: Wisconsin has won 3 Big Ten tournament titles.

That may not seem like a lot, but for those of us who are in our 30’s and can still remember the days without a Big Ten postseason tournament that number is a lot. UW won tournament titles in 2004, 2008 and 2015. So, math tells us they are likely due for another banner to be risen in to the rafters at the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin has not been a slouch in the tournament overall either, having played seven more times in the title game and owning a .571 record in the history of the tourney.

2: Happ’s continued run at history

We all know that Ethan Happ is historically good. But, did you know that Happ is on pace to be just the 2nd player in the last 20 years in all of D1 basketball to average 16 ppg, 10 rpg & 4 apg.

Right now, Happ is averaging 17.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game — so he’s well on his way to achieving that mark.

As for the matchup with Nebraska, Happ is averaging 14.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 2.6 apg in five games against them. If he’s going to stay on track for his record-breaking season and career, he’ll likely have to duplicate if not exceed most of those numbers.

1: The Badgers own the Big Ten’s best March winning percentage in last 6 seasons

Winning titles only happens by winning games and the Badgers have a very long history of doing that in March. So much so that its 29-9 (7.63) mark is the best amongst all Big Ten teams during games played in the month of March.

When you say Wisconsin in March, you said it all.

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