With another NCAA championship game in the books and another Big Ten team failing to end the drought that now stands at 18 seasons, it is officially time for all of college basketball to really start looking ahead to next season.
For the University of Wisconsin, that process has been underway for a month now. So, after resting the body and getting Spring Break out of the way, it is now time to look at what needs to be done this offseason.
Given Wisconsin’s fall from grace, there are a lot of things to figure out this offseason.
What are the biggest storylines to watch as the offseason unfolds? Let’s take a look at our top three.
Will Happ Stay or Go?
It seems almost certain that star center Ethan Happ will stay with the Wisconsin Badgers for his final season. We’ve documented our reasons why earlier this week. But, there’s no doubt that this team looks and plays very differently with or with him in the lineup.
Even if the Badgers and their fanbase firmly believe Happ is coming back, what version of Happ will the Badgers see? Will it be the same old reliable Happ down low, or will he be working hard on the points that NBA scouts give him in the draft process?
If it is the latter, Wisconsin could have itself a really interesting lineup next season. One that could be much more versatile and difficult to defend. Imagine defending against a 6-11 guy who can dribble, drive, has all the moves around the hoop and suddenly has developed a serviceable shot from mid-range…it certainly would change how UW looks.
But, should Happ get really good news and be a potential first-round pick, Wisconsin also looks very different next season…which brings us to our second offseason storyline…
Nate Reuvers’ Development
Speaking of issues up front, the Wisconsin Badgers clearly needed Nate Reuvers’ game in a big way last season. His ability to be a forward that could square up and shoot from outside of five feet was a big help to UW’s offense. It was a shame though, because Reuvers really could’ve used an entire year to just focus on his body and some of the finer points of the game.
That much showed down the stretch as his numbers began to dip and his presence down low was not a good thing defensively more often than not. His body just couldn’t handle it anymore.
But, he did end up averaging 5.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game in his first season in a Badgers uniform. Those were not bad numbers behind Happ to say the least.
As we turn to next season, there are a lot of questions about where Reuvers’ game will go.
Can he turn the in-game experience he got in to increased productivity? Will that only come now in the offseason as he focuses on adding weight and becoming a better defensive player for the Badgers?
The ability of Reuvers to be a starter opposite of Happ next season is going to largely depend on what he does with his body this offseason. If he can add the weight needed, look for the Badgers to find a way to get him starting minutes. If not, UW may be wiser to go with a three-guard look and allow Reuvers to come off the bench.
Wisconsin really needs Reuvers to develop this offseason, because it is clear they can’t count on soon-to-be seniors like Alex Illikainen and Charlie Thomas. Add in the loss of Andy Van Vliet to transfer and things get really interesting. Sure, UW adds 6-10 center Joe Hedstrom and Top 247 forward Taylor Currie to the mix, but Hedstrom is likely to gray-shirt and Currie was supposed to be a 2019 recruit before re-classifying to 2018. That means both could be in line to not play next season and thus still leaving the Badgers short-handed up front.
Gard’s Dilemma at Guard
Believe it or not, Wisconsin’s most pressing offseason situation may be at guard…and it may not be a bad thing at all. After UW had to throw freshman Brad Davison into his unnatural position of point guard in 2017-18, that shouldn’t be the case in 2018-19 thanks to a rebuilt point guard situation.
D’Mitrick Trice is likely to get a nearly lost season back with a medical hardship waiver, but either way his injured foot should be 100 percent ready to go this offseason. He’ll have competition for the starting job though, as former recruit and Green Bay transfer Trevor Anderson will become available and 2018 recruit Tai Strickland will join the group in the summer.
That should move Davison to his more natural position of shooting guard, but he’ll be on the sideline for part of the offseason after surgery to repair a bad shoulder. It also means that Kobe King’s roll is less a sure thing too.
Wisconsin has a lot of different combinations it can throw on the court this upcoming season. Sorting out the rotation and with combinations work best together will likely be Gard’s biggest issue this offseason.
Coming on the heels of a brutal 2017-18 at guard, a loaded group is a welcomed sight. So, just who will shine and how will the Badgers look heading in to the undetermined season opener in November? Anyone that pretends to know exactly how this group of guards will shake out has information even head coach Greg Gard doesn’t have.
Ultimately though, it may be Gard’s decision at guard that makes his fourth season at the helm of the program a success or keeps the Badgers in mediocrity. If it’s the latter, the pressure certainly will be on for Gard’s job. He simply has to get this guard situation right if UW is going to get back to winning a lot of basketball games.
Can Badgers get OSU transfer Micah Potter eligible for start of next season?
When looking forward to the 2019-20 season for the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program, one sees a massive void in experience up front.
Ethan Happ, Charles Thomas and Khalil Iverson will all graduate after this year. That leaves only one man who plays in the regular rotation up front in sophomore big man Nate Reuvers.
Wisconsin got some big help as former Ohio State forward Micah Potter announced his commitment to the Badgers in his transfer away from the Buckeyes.
The 6-9 forward was a high 3-star recruit with a who’s who of offers coming in to the 2016 class. He had offers from the likes of Ohio State, Purdue, Clemson, Iowa, West Virginia, North Carolina State before ultimately picking OSU.
But, there may be a bit of a snag in the transfer process because Potter chose to transfer just before the season started and technically wouldn’t be available until the second semester next season.
Wisconsin needs some experience up front and they need Potter to be eligible right away to maximize the potential of this front court. UW will likely have to apply for a waiver with the NCAA since technically Potter didn’t play a single game this season.
What is the likelihood of the Badgers getting that waiver granted? That’s the big question that no one really knows the answer to. In many cases the NCAA has been willing to grant waivers in favor of the player, but this is a more unique case that may require some real documentation as to why this transfer happened so late in the first semester.
As for Potter’s importance to next season? Well, UW will have to see if the redshirt years of both Joe Hedstrom and Taylor Currie paid off and they are ready for major contributions.
Going in to the 2018-19 season neither were physically there, otherwise we may have seen one or both of them getting some minutes to get ready for the next season.
However, Potter is a known commodity and he has produced well coming off the bench for the Buckeyes early on in his career.
Potter played in 29 games last season, including four starts. He averaged 4.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game and was becoming a key player off the bench.
At Wisconsin, Potter is likely to create real competition for a starting spot in the Badgers lineup next season and that is important to say the least.
With the Badgers getting very young up front next year, Potter being available from the first tip of the season and beyond is vital.
Marquette outlasts Badgers 73-69 in OT
Everyone expected a big time battle between the No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers and Marquette Golden Eagles and the two teams didn’t disappoint.
It even took an extra five minutes to decide the winner, but ultimately the hosts prevailed in a 73-69 overtime thriller at the Fiserv Forum.
With a game this close small things mattered and that was to Marquette’s advantage. The Golden Eagles were able to catch Wisconsin, who led for large stretches of the game, thanks to its free throw shooting.
Marquette cooled off a bit in overtime, but the Golden Eagles hit 22-34 from the free throw line compared to UW’s 10-21 performance at the line.
It was a good thing for Marquette, because they struggled to shoot from the field overall. Wisconsin’s defense clamped down most of the night and Marquette shot just 35 percent (23-65) from the field.
Wisconsin shot 50 percent (27-54) from the field in the loss and even Ethan Happ setting a new career high with 34 points wasn’t enough for Wisconsin to overcome its bad free throw shooting.
Marquette’s star player, Markus Howard, was held to just 7-29 shooting from the field. However he offset that with an incredible 11-13 night from the free throw line in putting up 27 points to lead all Golden Eagles in scoring.
The hosts got off to the hotter start, thanks to early turnovers from the Badgers. However, hot was a relative term for the half because Marquette was never able to get a bigger lead than four points in the half thanks to its lack of efficiency from the field.
Six straight points by sophomore forward Nate Reuvers gave the Badgers their first lead immediately following Marquette going up by four at 17-13 with 10:36 to play in the half.
Reuvers run helped spark a larger 14-5 run that gave UW its largest lead of the half at five points (27-22) with 4:09 to play.
Howard would stop the run and score eight of Marquette’s final 10 points of the half. The final of those came on a layup with a second left to play and put Marquette down by just one point at 32-31.
The second half was all about Happ and fouls. On the one hand, Marquette couldn’t stop Happ and on the other hand, Wisconsin couldn’t stay out of foul trouble or hit free throws to keep pace with Marquette.
Happ poured in 10 of Wisconsin’s first 14 points to give the Badgers a pair of six-point leads.
Marquette continued to struggle shooting the ball, but they hit 7 of 7 free throws in the first eight minutes to mitigate anything the Badgers were able to do on the other end of the court.
It led to the Golden Eagles cutting UW’s lead from 47-41 with 14:16 to play all the way down to 47-45 with 12:05 to play in the game.
Marquette would eventually re-take the lead for the first time since just over 6:30 was left in the first half on a Theo John lay-in to go up 52-51 with 5:56 to play in the game.
It was all part of an 11-4 run by the Golden Eagles.
The two bitter rivals were tied 10 times in the game and saw 13 lead changes, most of it coming over the final five minutes of play.
But, all the effort led to just a 61-61 tie to end regulation.
Marquette got the job done in overtime on the defensive end, as the Badgers could muster only two made field goals and couldn’t stay out of foul trouble either.
Ironically, UW was really only able to stay close thanks to finally making some free throws. The Badgers went 4 of 7 from the free throw line in overtime, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome some big moments by the hosts.
The game completely turned as UW sophomore guard Brad Davison was called for a Flagrant 1 foul as he appeared to low blow Sam Hauser who was attempting to screen for his teammates with the score just 65-63 in overtime.
However, Marquette made both free throws to make it 67-63 and a two possession game thanks to Davison’s ill-timed decision. The Golden Eagles weren’t able to fully capitalize though, as the ensuing return of possession resulted in a missed three-pointer.
But, the flip of the game from a two to four-point lead for Marquette made all the difference. Wisconsin found itself having to scramble and make up for the needed extra possession the rest of the way and never found a way to do it.
Wisconsin has now lost three of the last four in this series and are just 1-2 in this game under head coach Greg Gard.
Savannah State is up next for the Badgers on Dec. 13 at the Kohl Center. Tip is scheduled for 7pm CT and can be seen on BTN.
Badgers Basketball Preview: Marquette edition
It’s been a busy and competitive past few weeks for the No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers. Things won’t get any less competitive on Saturday afternoon as I-94 rival Marquette awaits.
This series has been crazy over the last decade, with six of the last eight games won by the team on the road. It’s the first matchup in Marquette’s new home at the Fiserv Forum, so will the trend continue on from the Bradley Center or will something new start?
Wisconsin has won four games away from home already this season, one of just seven teams to do such on the year. That total also matches the total from all of last season.
But, Marquette has shown an ability to protect its house and play at a pace that could make the Badgers uncomfortable. Who wins on Saturday?
We’ll all find out starting at 4pm CT on FOX, but let’s take a look at the matchup too.
No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers
Record: 8-1 (2-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 4th year at Wisconsin & overall (65-37 UW and overall)
Notable: Ethan Happ is averaging 17.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists on the season. He’s the only player in the country to average over 17 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists and if he can hang on to those averages he’d be the only player to do it over the past 20 years.
G – D’Mitrik Trice – 17.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg
G – Brad Davison – 8.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.4 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 5.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.2 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 6.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.9 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 17.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 5.0 apg
Marquette Golden Eagles (They haven’t changed their nickname this year, right?)
Record: 7-2 (0-0 Big East)
Head Coach: Steve Wojciechowski, 5th season overall (80-61)
Notable: Fiserv Forum has been kind to the Eagles so far this year, as the opposition are averaging just 58.5 points per game in the new digs, compared to 66.4 points per game over all games this year. Opponents have combined to shoot just 34.0 percent from the floor in the new arena and just 29.0 percent from behind the 3-point line as well.
G – Markus Howard, Jr. – 22.4 pgg, 4.6 rpg, 4.8 apg
F – Sam Hauser, Jr. – 14.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.1 apg
F – Joey Hauser, Fr. – 10.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.4 apg
F – Sacar Anim, Jr. – 7.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.7 apg
C – Theo John, So. – 6.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.2 apg
Matchup to Watch: D’Mitrik Trice vs. Marquette defense
Wisconsin fans keep thinking eventually Trice is going to have a horrible day from beyond the arc and then what happens to the team? Well, so far this year Trice has been unreal.
The sophomore point guard is leading the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 60.0% (30-for-50) from long range. His 3.3 3FGs per game also ranks 3rd in the Big Ten. The sophomore guard entered the season with a career high of 16 points, but has already topped that in 5 of the first 9 games this season.
Marquette is going to be tall challenge for Trice though — something he hasn’t faced much this season. The length of the defense that MU can throw at you can be tricky to deal with, especially considering Trice is 4 inches shorter than anyone on the MU starting roster.
Watching to see how the Badgers attempt to get away from that length on the perimeter is going to be interesting. Do they use Happ as a decoy and allow Trice, Davison and others to shoot from beyond the arc with a collapsing defense or do they go with a pick-and-roll style?
As long as UW finds a way to allow Trice to take more than a few triples on the afternoon, I’d expect a productive game from the star guard.
Wisconsin 72, Marquette 64
What better revenge for last season’s butt-kicking than to kick off the Fiserv Forum era in this matchup than with a win? You can bet last season’s 82-63 loss at the Kohl Center is fresh in the minds of UW and they’ll be highly motivated to prove last season was a fluke.
Marquette is a matchup that can give the Badgers all sorts of fits, as we saw last year. But, with a healthy Trice and Kobe King, this Badgers team just plays with more confidence and more efficiency on both ends of the court.
Look for the Badgers to edge Marquette thanks to a more disciplined style of play and fewer mistakes. Markus Howard is likely to get his buckets, but UW has been great at not allowing more than one guy to hurt them on the scoring front and I expect that to happen again today.
Season Prediction Record: 9-0
Badgers guard Trevor Anderson undergoes season-ending knee surgery
The Wisconsin Badgers 2018-19 roster got a bit thiner on Thursday morning as the program announced that sophomore point guard Trevor Anderson will miss the rest of the season.
He will undergo knee surgery on his right knee, which he already has had a previous surgery on.
The UW Sports Medicine staff was seen working on Anderson’s knee after he left the game against Iowa.
“We wish Trevor all the best and he’ll have our full support as he goes through his surgery and rehab,” head coach Greg Gard said in a statement. “We look forward to having him back on the court with us in the future.”
Anderson, a transfer from Green Bay, had appeared in all eight of the games prior to his injury and had totaled 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists in those eight games.
He was the primary backup to UW’s star point guard D’Mitrik Trice. That job will now fall to freshman Tai Strickland. He hasn’t played a ton to date, but is likely to get more playing time should Trice need rest or the Badgers don’t slide Brad Davison out to the point guard in a shifting lineup scenario.
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