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The Starting 5: Badgers vs. Iowa basketball preview

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An up and down season for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team took a turn for the better last time out. The Badgers return to the Kohl Center resulted in a blowout of the previously winless in the Big Ten Illinois Fighting Illini.

On Tuesday night, Wisconsin goes to a place it hasn’t really liked much in the past — Carver-Hawkeye Arena — to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Sure, Wisconsin is on a three-game win streak at Iowa, but that is just the second longest streak it has had in program history away to the Hawkeyes.

A win would move these Badgers in to a tie with the 1912-18 versions of the team for the longest win streak on the road vs. Iowa.

With tip scheduled for 6pm CT on ESPN2, this is a massive opportunity for this team to get some big time momentum going. But, what are the points of interest in this contest?

Let’s get down to The Starting 5 for Badgers vs. Hawkeyes, the basketball edition.

Growing Pains

Wisconsin has had a rough go of it after losing four starters off lat season’s team, but they aren’t the only former Big Ten contender that has struggled this season.

Meet the Iowa Hawkeyes, who are just 1-7 in Big Ten play entering this game and struggling with a lot of young players taking on key roles for the team too.

However, Iowa has two big men that could give the Badgers something to worry about. The combination of Tyler Cook and Luke Garza are averaging a healthy 31 points per game in 10 home games this season. They are averaging 25.4 points per game combined on the season as a whole too, so the Badgers lack of height up front could be an area of concern, even if the two are younger players going up against vets like Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson.

But, those big men are also part of a team that hasn’t stopped anyone in Big Ten play and Wisconsin is coming off it’s best overall game of the season.

Is this going to be the case of Wisconsin on the upswing and Iowa continuing to struggle to figure out who it is?

Bohannon Alert

It was fun to have a Bohannon on the Badgers side of things, but not so much when the third brother chose the Hawkeyes after Wisconsin refused to offer him. He took that anger out on the Badgers last season, hitting the game-winning three pointer to lift his team to victory in Madison…all of it after his team was down by as many as nine points late.

This season, Bohannon is pouring it in at a 13.9 points per game clip, which is second on the team amongst four players averaging double figures. That includes five made three pointers in each of the last three games for Iowa…and we all know the Badgers’ struggles in perimeter defense. He’s also becoming a dangerous passer of the ball, with four games of 10-plus assists.

Wisconsin simply has to shut him down, and a one-armed Brad Davison against Bohannon will certainly be interesting to watch.

Bad Defense, Badgers Advantage

If there was any bigger clue as to why Illinois is winless in the Big Ten this season, watching Wisconsin’s struggling offense just shred the Illini defense should’ve ben a big clue.

Let’s just say defense hasn’t been a foray of the Hawkeyes much this season either. Iowa comes in to this game dead last in team defense in Big Ten games only (84.5 points per game), while allowing teams to shoot 50 percent from the field and is also dead last in scoring margin in Big Ten games only.

Couple that with the confidence gained against an equally bad Illinois defense and one has to wonder if the Badgers confidence goes on to do something great in this game too.

Single Digit Game?

History suggests these two teams put on a good show for the neutral watcher (not sure there are a lot of those for these two mediocre teams), as nine of the last 11 games have been decided by single digits. That certainly makes for entertaining finishes.

Yet, that history is likely to be tested by two teams who are used to blowout games in Big Ten play. Iowa has only had three games in league play not be losses by 10-plus points, including its lone win which came in overtime against Illinois.

Wisconsin has been blown out a lot too, but they have been just as capable of blowing teams out too. Don’t forget those wins over Illinois and Indiana, because Wisconsin has picked apart those bad teams and Iowa is up there on the bad team scale.

It seems like this one is ripe for not being a close one for a change.

Trice Watch

Wisconsin seems on the upswing with its last performance, but it was just one game and more reinforcements would certainly be helpful. There’s a chance for that to happen sooner than later, as sophomore point guard D’Mitrick Trice is on the mend after foot surgery in December.

He has been seen working his way back in to shape on the court with the Badgers in practice. However, we still don’t know exactly when he will be back in uniform for a game. Could it happen on Tuesday night against the Hawkeyes?

Prediction:

Wisconsin 77, Iowa 60

Confidence can be a dangerous thing for a young team like Wisconsin and I’m banking on that being a good dangerous thing. Illinois was the performance this team needed, as Davison did some dirty work (10-10 from free throw line), Happ continued being a double-double machine and Brevin Pritzl helped from beyond the arc.

Iowa’s defense is equally as bad as Illinois and despite the Jordan Bohannon effect, this one should be an easy road win for the Badgers. If not, you can kiss making a crazy run through February goodbye.

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

Full Badgers 2018-19 basketball schedule revealed

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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:

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Badgers Basketball

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?

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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.

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.

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Badgers Basketball

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?

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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:

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.

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Badgers Basketball

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.

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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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