Three games in one week will challenge the Wisconsin Badgers, especially since the middle game will be in a place they haven’t played in in a very long time. Yes, the Badgers will take on the Northwestern Wildcats, but it won’t be at venerable Welsh-Ryan arena. Instead, we’ll get the treat that used to be DePaul’s home court — the Allstate Arena.
It will be a new venue for the Badgers, who have never played at the arena in any capacity before.
These two teams also come in to this one in vastly different shape than they did in the first meeting, a 60-52 win for Northwestern over the Badgers. UW is on a multi-game win streak, while Northwestern is on a four-game losing streak.
Can Confident Pritzl Continue Hot-Hand?
As Brevin Pritzl was busy dropping three-point bombs on Minnesota in an overtime victory, many fans were left wondering where this version of Pritzl has been. He was super confident, played well on defense and got himself major playing time.
By the end of the game, Pritzl had put up a career-best 20 points and virtually willed the Badgers to victory over arch-rival Minnesota.
It turns out, the defensive side of the ball may be where the confidence and the new-look Pritzl is coming from. According to head coach Greg Gard, his junior shooting guard just hasn’t put it all together on the other end of the court to go with the shooting prowess everyone has seen except in the majority of games.
“The kid can shoot the ball, but that’s not the only part of a game,” Gard said earlier this week. “He’s growing in those other areas and is now becoming a more reliable, dependable, consistent player.”
Expecting Pritzl to bomb away for 20 points a night might be too much to ask, he has indeed become a much more consistent player over the past few weeks. He’s scored in double figures in three of the last four games and is averaging a healthy 14 points per game over that four-game stretch. Pritzl is also averaging 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and is shooting 58 percent from the field while only turning the ball over twice in those four games.
That’s a mark of someone who appears to have fully turned the corner and someone the coaching staff has confidence in once again.
Considering Northwestern’s defensive issues, having a hot-shooting and more consistent playing Pritzl on board is a good sign for the Badgers. Just how long will it last though?
Gard Needs to Erase Bad Start vs. Northwestern
For all the good that has happened in the nearly three full years of Greg Gard at the helm of the Badgers program, playing the Wildcats of Northwestern hasn’t been good times.
UW is just 1-3 against the Wildcats in the last four games as the head coach and the lone win was a 76-48 blowout victory in last season’s Big Ten tournament. Maybe a “neutral” site will help in this situation?
Additionally, Wisconsin has won five of the last six road games against Northwestern. Will that trend continue on Thursday or will Gard’s troubles in figuring out Northwestern rear its ugly head.
Northwestern Stumbling to the End
Wisconsin now owns its first multi-game win streak in Big Ten play, but the opposition on Thursday night is heading in the completely opposite direction. Northwestern has fallen apart down the stretch, losing four in a row and having lost five since that win at the Kohl Center.
A lot of the failures for the Wildcats comes down to simply not having the personnel on the court to win big games. Bryant McIntosh has been shut down for the season, and that’s a major blow against a Badgers team that has struggled up until late against perimeter shooters and slashers.
While its tempting to see Northwestern as a team in crisis, this season has taught us to not trust almost anything we’ve seen from the Badgers. UW looked like it was turning the corner in two wins against Illinois earlier this season, only to lay an egg in the very next game in each case.
Now the Badgers are red-hot and Northwestern is as cold as anyone in the Big Ten. Will that mean a Badgers victory or will the Wildcats snap out of their cold spell?
First to 60 Wins
It seems clichéd to say that, but it has been true for the Wisconsin Badgers this season, and it certainly has been true for the Northwestern Wildcats.
Wisconsin is 12th in Big Ten play, averaging 63.9 points per game and right behind them in 13th are the Wildcats, averaging 62.9 points per game themselves. Northwestern is also 13th in the league in field goal shooting, averaging just 40.1 percent as a team. The Badgers aren’t much better, shooting just 43 percent in Big Ten play themselves.
Point being, this game could either be really ugly for both teams or one. Good luck figuring out which team will show up on either part on Thursday night.
Wisconsin 66, Northwestern 50
Lost in the offensive firepower seen from Pritzl and Brad Davison of late has been UW’s ability to turn up the pressure on the other end of the court. Northwestern can be dangerous because of the length it possess in the starting five, but this group isn’t deep at all (even less so than the Badgers are).
I expect Pritzl to keep up with the double-digit scoring and I also expect Northwestern’s short bench to get tested by Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson down low.
Wisconsin exacts some revenge and blows out the Wildcats.
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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