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.
Wisconsin beats Missouri, 74–66, in closed scrimmage.
Happ 17p (5-6 FTs), 8r
Davison 14p (5-5 FTs)
Iverson 12p, 6r
Trice 11p (2-4 3FGs)
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) October 29, 2017
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.
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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