Over the course of the next 30 days, the Def Pen college basketball staff will preview the top 30 teams in the country. Each day will present a new team running all the way up to the start of the regular season. Follow along with us as we share our top 30 college basketball teams in 30 days.
The Wisconsin Badgers are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2017-2018 season. In his third season as head coach, Greg Gard’s squad finished with a 15-18 (7-11) record and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. Despite the tough season for Wisconsin, there is optimism in Madison as they return senior first-team all-Big Ten performer Ethan Happ and sophomore stud, Brad Davison. Injuries and youth took a toll on the Badgers, but they are looking to right the ship towards a Big 10 title.
The two-time All-Big Ten forward is back for his senior season after flirting with entering the NBA Draft. Happ’s versatility makes him one of the best returning players in college basketball and will compete for Big Ten player of the year. The knock on Happ is his lack of outside touch, which will need to improve in order for Wisconsin to become a feared team in the Big 10. While Happ will be getting all the publicity for Wisconsin, sophomore Brad Davison will be looking to improve from his stellar freshman campaign. Despite playing through a hurt shoulder, Davison averaged 12.1 PPG, 2.3 RPB, and 2.5 APG as a true freshman. Brevin Pritzl averaged a 35.6 three-point percentage on 149 attempts but will need to be more consistent this season to complement Davison and Happ. The team will welcome back pure scorer D’Mitrick Trice after only playing in 10 games due to a foot injury. Trice adds an element of athleticism the Badgers sorely missed last season. Sophomore Nate Reuvers has the look of the prototypical next Wisconsin big man and will need to step into the role of solidifying a relatively thin frontline. Senior, Khalil Iverson will help up front and fans hope to see more of the athletic Kobe King.
What’s better than an Ethan Happ dunk? An Ethan Happ dunk in slo-mo. https://t.co/hCM9K0tN32
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 30, 2016
Despite the tough 2017-2018 season, Wisconsin doesn’t lose anyone of significance and will be young but experienced. The Badger should reap some of the rewards from so many young players seeing key minutes last season.
The Badger’s incoming recruiting class wasn’t much on paper after 5 star guard Tyler Herro decommitted and subsequently landed at Kentucky. Trevor Anderson, a transfer from Wisconsin Green Bay (9.8 PPG), sat out last season and will be ready to contribute to crowded Badger backcourt. A name to keep an eye on is 3-star guard, Tai Strickland out of Tampa, FL. Strickland, the son of former NBA guard Rod Strickland was a late addition to the class who can also offer nice guard depth.
Projected Starting Five
The expectations of being a fringe top 25 team are warranted for the Badgers. Having a player of Ethan Happ’s caliber automatically puts them in that conversation. Wisconsin’s non-conference slate has a few of the expected cupcakes, but does have challenging games against Xavier (Gavitt Games) and will be in the vaunted Battle for Atlantis. The Badgers will be playing Stanford and potentially Oklahoma, Florida, Dayton or Virginia. Stanford without Reid Travis and Oklahoma without Trey Young should be winnable games. Wisconsin vs. Florida would be an interesting matchup, considering the last time they played, Florida shocked them in the Sweet 16. If a matchup with UVA happens, I don’t see the Badgers winning, but both schools play a similar style. Plus the storyline of Tony Bennett potentially going against his father’s former team will certainly add intrigue. The rivalry game with Marquette will have extra meaning this year with the Golden Eagles having arguably their best team since Steve Wojciechowski’s taken over. Finally, taking on NC State in the Big 10/ACC challenge might be an uphill battle against an athletic/talented team.
Having a youthful, yet experienced team will keep the Badgers in the thick of things in the Big Ten race. They’re dangerous, but don’t see them dethroning the top two Big Ten teams of Michigan State and Michigan. Wisconsin sits in the second tier of the Big Ten with Maryland, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Minnesota.
Record Prediction: 19-10 (12-6)
The Wisconsin teams that we are used to seeing are back. Their style will give teams trouble, and they have experience paired with an All American, in Ethan Happ. Last year was a blessing in disguise to get the youth of Wisconsin, valuable experience. The ceiling for the Badgers is Sweet 16 depending on if they can get Happ and Davison some help. Pritzl, Trice and Reuvers will be looked upon add the extra scoring punch that Wisconsin sorely lacked last season.