As the Wisconsin men’s basketball team prepares to kick off the 2018-19 season Tuesday night at home against Coppin State, here’s a look at where national prognosticators see the Badgers in the Big Ten race.
SI.com’s Molly Geary sees the Badgers finishing fifth, with a couple scouts’ comments on the key roles played by Ethan Happ and Brad Davison.
“The Badgers were a young team that got better as the season went last year, and they’ll now look to roll that momentum over after bringing back their entire rotation,” she writes. “It starts with Ethan Happ, of course, but sophomore point guard Brad Davison is a strong breakout candidate and 6’10” Nate Reuvers should see a bigger role alongside Happ in the frontcourt. Upperclassmen D’Mitrik Trice, Brevin Pritzl and Khalil Iverson will all bring a veteran presence and be relied upon for a consistency that was sometimes lacking in 2017–18.”
Here’s a fun bold prediction from ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf: the state of Wisconsin will have more All-Americans than the entire Pac-12.
He’s referring to Ethan Happ of Wisconsin and Markus Howard of Marquette as the primary hopefuls in the Badger State.
In Medcalf’s preseason power rankings, he puts Wisconsin sixth.
“Earlier this year, Greg Gard estimated that his team had played with a healthy roster for less than one-quarter of the 2017-18 season, which ended without an NCAA tournament bid and snapped a streak of 20 consecutive appearances,” Medcalf said. “But Ethan Happ, an all-Big Ten first-team selection last season (media), withdrew from the NBA draft with a mission to boost his stock and help the Badgers return to the NCAA tournament and the top tier of the league. A healthy Wisconsin team might start 2018-19 the way it finished 2017-18, when it won four of its last six games and scored victories over Purdue and Michigan State.”
ESPN also puts Happ on its All-America second team.
In a ranking of every Division I basketball program by Matt Norlander, Wisconsin comes in 36th.
“If you’re a Bucky fan I know you’re upset where I have Greg Gard’s guys here. But Wisconsin went 15-17 last season, finished 70th at KenPom and ranked 244th in 3-point percentage. I love me some Ethan Happ (17.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and do think a return to form (sorta) is coming for this team. Just don’t buy it as a surefire NCAA Tournament squad. Want to see what this team looks like after six or seven games in.”
Jerry Palm thinks Wisconsin is a tournament team but on the bubble as a 10th seed (though not among the last four in).
The CBS staff considers Ethan Happ a third-team All American.
Wisconsin is ranked fourth in the conference by Drew Davis.
“The Badgers have as good of a first option as any team in the country as Ethan Happ will be a force down low all season long. Happ also figures to be a contender for the National Player of the Year this season. Wisconsin should also benefit from having a healthy D’Mitrik Trice. As a sophomore, Trice missed all but ten games due to injury, and that was certainly a big reason for some of the Badgers struggles.”
The Athletic pegged Wisconsin to finish sixth and ranked Ethan Happ second in Big Ten POY voting behind Carsen Edwards of Purdue, the odds-on favorite from the a national perspective.
Brendan Quinn writes, “Last year’s Badgers team will forever be known as the one that snapped the program’s fabled 20-year streak in NCAA Tournament. That team — one that spent the entire offseason soaking in the letdown — brings back over 90 percent of its scoring, rebounding and assists. I think this might be a pretty hungry group.”