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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Green Bay preview

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A 10-day layoff from games ends on Saturday afternoon as the Wisconsin Badgers take on in-state foe Green Bay at the Kohl Center. With a young team full of injuries, did the layoff allow the Badgers to regroup and refocus?

We’ll find out against a Phoenix team that got instantly better this past week with the insertion of former Marquette guard Sandy Cohen III. Plus, you know that Green Bay is going to give everything in this in-state contest.

UW and Green Bay will tip at 4:30pm CT and the game will be seen on the Big Ten Network.

So, what should we be watching for in this game? Let’s look at our Starting 5 for the Badgers vs. Phoenix.

1-2 Punch for Green Bay

Wisconsin has struggled a ton on the perimeter this season, and the debut of Sandy Cohen III for Green Bay gives the visitors a really good wing scorer to add to the mix. However, he was just 1-6 from deep and 6-16 from the field in his debut against Bowling Green earlier this week.

Could that have been knocking some of the game rust off? He’ll no doubt test the Badgers defense, but he’s not the only danger that GB possesses in this contest, as Cohen III is a great compliment player to leading scorer Khalil Small (16.2 points per game). Small is a dangerous player due to his versatility, as he’s shooting 45.2 percent from beyond the arc and 45.3 percent overall from the field on the year.

The Badgers have really struggled with players who can slash and dish to the perimeter and the Phoenix have two of those types in its uptempo offense. That should be something to watch in this contest.

Brad Davison’s Growth

The last time we saw Brad Davison, he was making one heady play and hitting a cool-as-ice free throw to win the game against Western Kentucky. We highlighted just how important that kind of on-court leadership and poise could be going forward.

Will that show against a Green Bay squad that loves to push the tempo and make teams play the entire length of the court on both sides of the ball? Davison hasn’t been short on effort or want-to, but he’ll be tested in a way he hasn’t been before this season.

He’s also potentially just the seventh freshman to average in double figures in his first season in a Badgers uniform. Davison is a good perimeter shooter, but also a confident one from mid-range and that can come in handy in this type of game. He can’t go cold against the style of defense Green Bay plays or it could be a long one.

Turnovers have been a bit of an issue for the freshman this season as well, as he’s committed 16 turnovers to just 23 assists. We’ll be watching how efficient Davison can make the Badgers and if he can help them control the tempo of this game.

Iverson and Turnovers, can he not commit them?

Speaking of turnovers, one of the keys to this game is going to be the play of Wisconsin small forward Kahlil Iverson. The junior has had a rough go of it in the turnover department and prior to injuries was beginning to see his minutes decrease because of it.

Iverson comes in to this game second on the team in turnovers with 27. Only Ethan Happ’s 34 are more on the Badgers. But, Iverson’s ability to hang on to the ball and make smart decisions on offense will be magnified under the pressure that Green Bay puts on opponents.

The Phoenix have forced an average of 15.4 turnovers per game and have turned opponents over more than they’ve turned the ball over despite the frenetic pace they like to play at. Iverson’s history of bad turnovers at inopportune times matters against those kind of results from your opponent.

He’s also going to be key because he’s the perfect player to bust loose against the pressure with his athletic ability.

Did the last 10 days settle Iverson’s mind down and let him focus on being a player to count on? We’ll get an answer early I have a feeling. If he’s not able to keep the ball under control it really stretches the Badgers thin having to go to walk-on’s or former walk-on’s like Aaron Moesch and T.J. Schlundt.

Third Scoring Option for Badgers

Davison and Happ have been a two-man scoring machine for the Badgers as of late, but that isn’t exactly a recipe for success as we’ve seen.

We’ve pretty much been asking for a consistent third scoring option for UW most of this season, and no one has emerged in that role. Junior guard Brevin Pritzl may be that answer though.

After being put on the bench in favor of Davison a few weeks ago, Pritzl has come back to the starting lineup due to injuries at guard. He’s stepped up nicely in the past two games, putting up 10 points in the loss to Marquette and 17 big points in the win over Western Kentucky.

If the Badgers can start to count on him to be a double-digit point scorer on a consistent basis it certainly changes the offensive equation for the Badgers.

Pounding the Boards

As much as UW’s ability to get a third scorer will matter, so to will its ability to exploit what should be a clear advantage on the boards. Green Bay has been downright awful on the boards against true D1 opponents this season. As in, 41.4 rebounds per game resulting in a 2-7 record against nine D1 teams.

That’s brutal, and even more so when you know the Badgers have a massive size advantage down low and have a 100-92 advantage in offensive rebounds this season too.

Green Bay will throw 6-8 forward David Jesperson up against Ethan Happ in what could be the biggest advantage in a player-on-player matchup for the Badgers. Let’s see if Happ and high-flying Khalil Iverson can get things done on the glass against a Phoenix team that doesn’t shoot the ball well. One-and-done possessions for Green Bay will likely equal a win for Wisconsin.

Prediction:

Wisconsin 82, Green Bay 70

As inconsistent as the Badgers have been, Green Bay has been its equal if not worse. They also don’t have the potential scorers that Wisconsin does. While the three-point shooting of Cohen III and Small are scary, so is their lack of an inside presence.

Look for Happ to have a big day all around and for that to make up for anything the Phoenix will or won’t do on the perimeter. As dangerous as GB could be, they have been wildly inconsistent and that’s what happens with six newcomers to the team and just 12 years of total experience on the team in general.

Wisconsin is young and inconsistent, but not near the level of the Phoenix. Wisconsin wins and keeps improving heading in to Big Ten play.

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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