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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Northern Iowa basketball preview

Wisconsin begins its 2017-18 journey with a charity exhibition against Northern Iowa, we preview what to watch for in this matchup.

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The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball season officially gets underway on Wednesday night, well at least in terms of exhibition basketball. It will be a unique experience at the Kohl Center for sure.

Instead of Northern Iowa and Wisconsin meeting in a secret gym off both campuses, the two have gotten an NCAA waiver and will play for free in the Kohl Center. However, there will be funds raised for Team Rubicon, a charity our Andy Coppens has worked with in the past. It’s run by former Badgers football player and Marine, Jake Woods. All proceeds will benefit their first responders efforts by this all-volunteer veteran-driven organization all over the world, including their work in hurricane ravaged areas and the recent fires in the Pacific Northwest and California.

So, if you are in Madison and want to catch the Badgers for free while also donating to a good cause, this is your chance.

It also represents a chance for us to debut our new preview format, as we are calling it “The Starting 5” and we will give you the five most interesting notes, facts and observations about the game to come. So, enjoy our look at UW basketball all season.

1: This is Wisconsin’s 1st open exhibition of the season 

The University of Wisconsin has gotten some game time in already, but it played the University of Missouri in a closed-door scrimmage. So, that means this is the first look at the Badgers for the 2017-18 season. It also means our first real look in to how Gard sees this team lining up for the season. If the Mizzou scrimmage is any indication, don’t be surprised to see a starting five of D’Mitrick Trice, Brevin Pritzl, Khalil Iverson, Andy Van Vliet and Ethan Happ.

2: Northern Iowa’s Adam McDermott is on his second team and is a sophomore sharp-shooter

If you’ve ever seen the Panthers under head coach Ben Jacobsen, then you know this team has had its fair share of sharp shooters on the wings. That was not the case last season, but don’t be surprised to see that return in 2017-18 as the son of former UNI and now Creighton head coach Greg McDermott returns to the court. He was a beast from beyond the arc in his lone season at North Dakota, hitting on 40.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Wisconsin needs to show it has the ability to work on defense around the perimeter, and that likely starts with Pritzl vs. McDermott.

3: How will the three newcomers look in preseason for UW

Wisconsin had one of its best recruiting classes sign for the 2017-18 season, but this will be most Badgers fans first opportunity to see them play. That is unless you were staying up late for games in Australia and New Zealand. In-state legend Kobe King and Minnesota product Brad Davison seem the most likely to get major minutes, but I’m most interested to see how big man Nathan Reuvers looks in a game against fellow NCAA players. Wisconsin’s depth up front really lacks another post option to Happ. Can Reuvers be that man right away? It certainly feels like all three have the capacity to see minutes this year, but Reuvers has to likely beat out the defense-first mindset of Charlie Thomas if he is going to get those minutes. Keep an eye on him and the rest of the newcomers, because depth is going to come from them if it comes at all this season.

4: Wisconsin returns four players who saw major minutes last season, even if only one starter returns

While the Badgers technically only return one full-time starter from last season, it isn’t like the new guys are devoid of any experience at all. Lets not forget that D’Mitrick Trice played a ton of minutes and saw starting action with Bronson Koenig injured for parts of last season. Brevin Pritzl saw his minutes increase throughout last season and was one of Wisconsin’s most pesky defenders, while Khalil Iverson also became a defensive stopper to go with his high-flying offensive attack. Those three averaged 14 minutes per game, with Trice going for just over 18, Iverson just over 15 and Pritzl just over eight minutes per game. Let’s see how the increased roles fit them early on this season.

5: That is the number of made FT’s by Ethan Happ against Missouri

If there was an Achilles heel for the Badgers last season it was their inability to shoot well from the free throw line. Ethan Happ was a major reason for that issue, shooting just 50 percent on the season from the free throw line. Well, against Missouri Happ was highly efficient from the charity stripe, going 5 of 6 on the night. In fact, the Badgers appear to be a much better free throw shooting team as a whole entering this season. Given Happ’s work around the rim, it will be important to see him improve from the line.

Prediction: Wisconsin 75, Northern Iowa 62

This isn’t the Northern Iowa team of old, you know the one no one wanted to see in the NCAA tournament back in the day. Instead, head coach Ben Jacobsen has a roster in transition and in need of a big spark given all that left in the offseason for the Panthers and all the flaws that existed too. For as much transition as the Badgers are undergoing, UNI is doing it with less talent from top to bottom. They simply won’t have an answer for Happ, even if Bennett Koch is a good post player and the Badgers depth gets the win in the second half.

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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Late-game slump does in Badgers basketball against MSU

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Unfortunately for the Wisconsin Badgers, the worst of times came down the stretch in a 67-59 loss to No.11 Michigan State at the Kohl Center.

The Badgers led by as many as 7 points in the first half, but went over 5 minutes without scoring single point to end the second half and the Spartans were able to take full advantage.

Wisconsin trailed 57-56 with 5:20 to play after a made free throw from Brad Davison.

MSU went on an 8-0 run during that time and opened up a commanding 9-point lead with 15 seconds to play. Davison stopped the bleeding a bit with a three-pointer to make the score 65-59, but with 10 seconds to go the game was well over already.

Ethan Happ went over the 2,000-point mark in the loss, scoring a team-best 20 points on 10-20 shooting from the field. He also added 12 rebounds for another double double on the year and his career record 48th.

Michigan State was led by guard Cassius Winston with 23 points, while Kenny Goins and Nick Ward added 12 points a piece for the victors.

Turning Point: That Second-half slump

It’s funny how things can change in the game of basketball. I could’ve easily been writing about McQuaid’s flagrant foul and the ensuing 9-2 run that gave Wisconsin a 7-point lead in the first half.

Michigan State played catchup for a big amount of time from that point forward.

But, none of that turned the game to the result that actually happened. Instead, it was the most frustrating thing to watch — a team with plenty of chances just squandering them left and right.

That’s what happened over the course of the final 5:20 of the game. It was a combination of going ice cold from the field and playing some truly bad defense that saw this game flip on its head.

Stats That Mattered Most:

40-28: Michigan State outrebounded Wisconsin 40-28 on Tuesday night. You can’t win games when you go cold from the field and can’t grab a rebound on the other end either. When you are shooting 1 percent different than your opponent this type of stat really matters.

14-7: That rebounding advantage was also 10-6 on offensive rebounds and MSU got a 7-point advantage in second chance points on the game. Again, in an 8-point loss this is a big deal.

2-10: Wisconsin was 2 of 10 from beyond the arc in the second half of this game after shooting 4 of 10 in the first half. Simply put, the Badgers couldn’t find quality shots from beyond the arc and they also put up some really bad looks from deep thanks to MSU’s suffocating defense.

Bottom Line:

This was a must-have game for the Badgers if they wanted a real chance to compete for a Big Ten regular season title. So, kiss that opportunity good bye.

Wisconsin going through major shooting slumps is nothing new, but this was the worst example of what happens when that is combined with horrible transition defense.

This loss also sets up an interesting question for this team heading down the final stretch of the regular season. Will this in-game slump situation fix itself or will it sink this team’s postseason hopes?

If the final 5 minutes of this game were any indication, the Badgers are in some deep trouble come the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

Up Next:

Wisconsin will take on Illinois at home on Monday, Feb. 18 at 7pm CT on FS1.

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Matthews powers Michigan past Badgers

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No. 19 Wisconsin came in red-hot, while the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines were limping through the middle of the Big Ten slate. All of that stopped as Charles Matthews poured in 18 points and led his Wolverines to a 62-51 victory over the Badgers.

It was a big of revenge served ice cold late in the contest, as UW made just one basket in the final 4:16 of the game and it allowed the Wolverines to slowly take control of the game.

Michigan used an 8-0 run over the final 90 seconds of the game to give them full control of the game.

Matthews wasn’t the only threat that helped the Wolverines in the win. Jon Teske had 17 points and 12 rebounds going up against Ethan Happ. Michigan also got 10 points from Jordan Poole in the winning effort.

Happ led the Badgers with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but he had just 4 points in the second half as Teske really shut him off from being able to dominate down low.

No other Badger reached double figures in the loss.

Turning Point: The Final 4:16

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching victory slip right through your fingers and you can’t seem to hit the broad side of the barn in the process.

Happ’s layup with 4:16 left in the game pulled the Badgers within one point at 51-50 and the back-and-forth nature of the game seemed to continue. But, the Badgers failed to score again until Brad Davison got a layup to make the game 59-52 with just 7 seconds left to play.

By then, Michigan had blown the game wide open and UW’s hopes for a season sweep of the Wolverines had gone by the wayside.

During that scoreless stretch, the Badgers were 0-5 from the field, turned the ball over once and just never got the offense flowing.

Credit a lot of the trouble to Michigan’s defense though, because they smothered UW most of the day.

Stats That Mattered Most:

5: Wisconsin managed just five assists for the entire game compared to 11 for Michigan. That indicates a lot of one-on-one basketball and that is not how the Badgers win basketball games.

19: Michigan and Wisconsin tied on the day with 30 rebounds a piece, but the hosts outrebounded the Badgers 19-14 in the second half. Wisconsin only had 2 second chance points in the half and just 3 offensive rebounds. You can’t get cold and not get rebounds and expect to win.

2: That is the number of free throw attempts for the Badgers in the entire game. Considering they played through Happ a lot early on, this number is surprising and not helpful towards winning ball games either. On the flip side, Michigan had just 9 free throw attempts, but went 7-9 on those limited attempts.

Bottom Line:

We all knew that the big run by the Badgers was going to eventually end. How this game ended was a gut-punch though, as UW showed it could go toe-to-toe with Michigan on the road only to go ice cold from the field.

It’s hard not to feel like this was an opportunity lost. UW came in just one game out of the top of the Big Ten, but this loss and an impending date with Michigan State could mean a quick end to the hopes for a regular season title.

Going forward, the Badgers have to put the bad ending behind them and show it was a blip instead of a pattern.

Wisconsin will host Michigan State on Tuesday at 6pm on ESPN2.

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Badgers Basketball Preview: 5 things to know vs. Maryland (2nd edition)

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It’s that time of the Big Ten season already for the Wisconsin Badgers..and by that we mean it’s time for the return matchups to begin.

The first of which will be a huge battle between two top 25 programs, with No. 21 Maryland coming to the Kohl Center to take on No. 24 Wisconsin.

Last time these two teams met, the Badgers dug a deep hole and nearly climbed all the way out of it in a 64-60 loss in College Park, Md.

Can home court advantage come in to play again and who will assert themselves smack dab in the middle of the Big Ten title race?

We’ve got 5 things to know for this matchup, so let’s dig in to that.

5: Maryland is about to start a 5-game stretch against teams in the Top 30 of the NET rankings

Friday night starts the gut-check time for both the Wisconsin Badgers and Maryland Terrapins, but more so for the Terps who will face five straight games against teams in the top 30 of the NET rankings.

Following tonight’s contest it will be a trip to Nebraska, home to Purdue, at Michigan and at Iowa. That’s a brutal stretch outside of a Nebraska team that seems to be in trouble without their star senior Isaac Copeland.

As for Wisconsin, things are easy for them either. In fact, three of the next four games are against ranked opponents in Maryland, Michigan and Michigan State. The only game not against a ranked opponent isn’t easy either as UW travels to Minnesota.

It’s safe to say, getting off on the right foot is going to be very important both teams making a positive move up the Big Ten standings.

4: Maryland leads the series with 4 wins since joining the Big Ten

While this is a fresh series in the grand scheme of the Big Ten’s history, arguably no series has been more heated since Maryland joined the conference than the one with the Badgers.

That’s because Maryland has four wins over Wisconsin since joining the B1G, but they also are just 4-3 overall in the seven games as a conference member.

A win by Wisconsin would mean a 4-4 overall mark between the two teams and dare I say they are indeed basketball rivals of the Badgers? Given how intense most of these games have been, this isn’t a far stretch.

In the seven games in conference play, the average win is by 6.7 points per game no matter the winner. So, expect a hard-fought and close battle.

3: Bruno Fernando has had 3 fouls in just 5 games this season

If you were paying attention to the last game between Wisconsin and Maryland, then you know Bruno Fernando was a big player in that game. Not only was he a big scoring threat, but his foul trouble in the second half allowed the Badgers to get back in to the game.

It was no coincidence that UW’s big comeback happened with Fernando on the bench with 4 fouls.

Fernando is no stranger to foul trouble and that’s why I point out the fact that he’s recorded 3 fouls just five times in 22 games to date. He’s fouled out just once, but has recorded more than 3 fouls in eight games.

Given the battle that is likely to happen down low between Fernando and Happ once again in this matchup, keeping Fernando on the floor and out of foul trouble is going to be huge.

2: Ethan Happ has just 2 double doubles in the last 5 games

It may sound crazy to say “just” 2 double doubles for a player in any given time, but earlier this year Happ was a near-lock for a double double. In fact, he had double doubles in 9 of the first 12 games including one triple double to start the season.

His work has slowed as of late and it really started with a rough game the last time out against Maryland. Happ finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds, which isn’t terrible my most standards, but not by Happ’s.

Let’s not forget he was just 5-10 from the field and has 4 personal fouls.

That can’t happen against the Terps top line in this matchup and expect the Badgers to win.

Oh, and did we mention that sophomore big man Nate Reuvers happens to love playing against the Terps? He set a then career-high with 18 points in that game, but has since topped it (all within the same five game stretch).

1: Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting

Yes, this stat will continue to be important, as the Badgers are shooting 39.9 percent as a team from beyond the arc. It’s equally important to this matchup, because the last time Wisconsin failed miserably from the 3-point line, missing the first 10 of those shots.

Eventually the Badgers got hot and finished the game 11-30 from beyond the arc. But, they can’t get off to a slow start on the perimeter in this one and expect to lean exclusively on Happ and Reuvers in the post.

Maryland is too good on the inside to not force them to defend the perimeter and work hard there too. Reuvers recent ability to hit from deep on a consistent basis should also be a huge help in spreading out the Terps.

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Badgers pass road test at Nebraska

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In a game of big runs, it was the No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers who had the final big one as they took down the Nebraska Cornhuskers 62-51 in Lincoln.

After watching a 13-point first half lead go to single digits and then the lead completely slip away early in the second half, Wisconsin woke up just in time to make an 8-0 run to go up 45-40 around the midway mark of the second half and that was all she wrote in this one.

The win is Wisconsin’s fourth straight, while Nebraska has lost four straight. Wisconsin also improves to 3-2 all-time at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Brad Davison was a large part of steadying the ship in the second half, as he scored 10 of his team-high 13 points in the second frame of the game.

Ethan Happ and Nate Reuvers joined Davison in double figures with 10 points each.

The Badgers opened up what was a close game with a 14-0 run over the course of just about five minutes. UW was up 21-8 on a Khalil Iverson layup with 9:00 left in the half.

Nebraska answered with a 13-7 run the rest of the way to make it a single digit 28-21 lead at halftime.

Despite Brevin Pritzl hitting the final shot of the half, it was the Huskers who came out firing after halftime. The used a 9-2 run and then a 9-0 run early in the second half to take a 35-32 lead.

From there, the two teams traded big shots and quick swings in the scoreline until an 8-0 run and then a 7-0 run shortly after sealed the deal for the visitors.

Turning Point: Wisconsin’s 8-0 2nd half run

Sometimes it takes one punch, other times it takes wearing an opponent down and hitting him with a final flurry. That’s what happened for the Badgers, who squandered a 14-0 run in the first half and took two 9-point runs by the Huskers in the second half.

It all added up to a team on the brink of disaster. However, the Badgers steadied themselves and came up with an 8-0 run of their own in the middle of the second half.

What was a back-and-forth affair became a 5-point lead for Wisconsin once again.

All of that work by the Huskers to not only get back in the game, but actually take a lead and it was quickly erased once again. That was the Badgers rope-a-dope if you will, wearing the Huskers out and landing a final flurry that put them over the edge.

The Huskers simply couldn’t find the answer to get right back in the game and that was all she wrote for the hosts.

Stats That Mattered Most:

.333: We’ve already talked about the Huskers struggles on offense, but shooting just 3 of 9 on layup opportunities in the first half is a perfect illustration of what was going on.

7: Happ only had 10 points, so how did the Badgers win? By having seven different players score in the game and of those seven players, six of them had eight or more points. While it wasn’t always great, getting that mix of offense was the formula for success in this game and could be the experience needed during some difficult upcoming matchups.

4: The Badgers defense has been a major story during this winning streak, that was the case on Tuesday night as UW allowed just 4 of 20 shooting from beyond the arc. Combine that number with nine makes on the other end of the court and you have a very difficult formula for teams to overcome.

The Bottom Line:

Wisconsin came in hot, looking like a team that has found its groove and the Huskers were reeling from the loss of star Isaac Copeland. Adding to Nebraska’s misery in a place in which the Badgers haven’t always had success was a nice touch considering the upcoming schedule.

It may be a cliché to say any road win is a good win, but this certainly holds true in a league in which anyone seems like they can win on any given night (sorry Penn State).

Nebraska took Wisconsin’s big punch, punched back and the Badgers gave the final knockout punch. That’s a mark of teams with confidence and poise.

Watching this game and seeing a team effort on offense, great defensive production for the vast majority of 40 minutes and making quick adjustments to bad situations was massive.

Getting a four-game win streak going heading in to a stretch of Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State in the next four games is huge for confidence.

We’ll see if this type of win translates to teams in the upper division with the Badgers.

Up next is a Friday night contest at the Kohl Center with No. 21 Maryland. Tip is scheduled for 8pm CT on FS1.

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