2019-2020 Wisconsin Badger’s Mens Basketball Preview
The 2018-2019 Badger men’s team had a very up and down season. Coming off a season in which injuries and youth caused them to miss the tournament for the first time in 19 years, the Badgers started off red hot. Senior Ethan Happ was showing that he was in the discussion for the nation’s best player (not named Zion Williamson) and guards D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison were raining threes at an alarming rate. They started out 10-2 with the two losses being against Virginia in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, and at Marquette in overtime. In fact, they were as high as number 12 in the nation. And they even gave Michigan their first loss of the year at the Kohl Center to get the team back on track after a rough stretch.
But like I said, they had their fair share of downs too. They lost four out of five at one point, and appeared to be falling off a cliff before that win over Michigan to get their season back on track. But by the end of the year, the shooters weren’t hitting their shots, and the season ended in utter embarrassment with a lose by 18 points to Oregon in the first round of the tournament.
This 2019-2020 team has some doubt surrounding them. Ethan Happ is gone, and he is in the conversation for best Badger off all-time after having an astonishing four year career where he started every game he appeared in. They’re also losing Khalil Iverson, an uber athletic wing who could guard the oppositions best guard or forward and was playing the best basketball of his life the last few weeks of the season. And the returning players left a lot to be desired. They ended the year shooting 65% from the line and while they ending shooting 36% from three, a lot of that came from them shooting lights out to begin the year.
But even with the way last year ended and Happ now gone, this team could end up surprising people. Three of the five starters are returning, and the other two starters (at least until December when transfer Micah Potter is eligible to play) played key parts on the team last year. The junior backcourt duo of D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison can hit big shots and are definitely not afraid to put their bodies on the line and take a charge.
Sophomore Kobe King might have the body of a guard, but he’s not afraid to face or defend bigger players. He also was arguably the third best player on the team during the last few weeks of last year behind the two seniors.
Junior Aleem Ford showed flashes his freshman year, but will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing sophomore year. His height allows him to play the four and while he didn’t show it last year, he’s an above average shooter.
And the team’s star player will be junior Nate Reuvers. Most Wiscsonsin big men can stretch the floor, and Reuvers is no different. The thing that seperates Reuvers from most Wisconsin bigs is that he is an elite shot blocker. Reuvers is also in line to make a big jump from his sophomore year to his junior year, like most Wisconsin players. He’s also drawing comparisons to Frank Kaminsky, which is unfair to put on him for two reasons. The first being that Kaminsky was the best player in college basketball for two years, and that’s unfair to put similar expectations on anyone. But the second reason why it’s unfair to Reuvers? He is MILES ahead of where Kaminsky was at the end of his sophomore year. Kaminsky was a relatively unknown player who blew up once inserted into the starting lineup. Reuvers is already an established player and has been a starter for a year and a half.
The bench should also have some nice depth to it this year. Come December, one of Ford or King will join the bench to make room for Potter.
Senior Brevin Pritzl has been dubbed “The Nation’s Best Shooter” by current and former teammates, and while that might be a bit of an exaggeration, he’s not far off from it. He shot a team best 41% from three last year.
Junior guard Trevor Anderson will be back to run the second unit after a right knee injury cost him much of last year. Anderson isn’t afraid to take a hit and can carry the second unit with the starters on the bench.
Greg Gard also has a few freshmen that could see some regular playing time. True freshman Tyler Wahl is a three star recruit who played with Nate Reuvers in high school. Wahl is a 6’7 forward who is a versatile defender and can even run an offense, since his AAU teammate Tyrell Terry (four star recruit now at Stanford) was out with an injury, and they had Wahl run the offense in Terry’s absence.
Redshirt freshmen Joe Hedstrom is a three star center from Hopkins, Minnesota. The seven footer is above average at finishing around the rim and can affect shots on the other end with his height.
Despite the team appearing better than most people think, the B1G Ten is absolutely loaded this year. Michigan State is ready to make a run for the national title this year. Maryland have the talent to make a deep tournament run. Ohio State will be good once again and you always have to keep an eye on Purdue and Michigan. Iowa is also a team with experience and could cause problems for team in conference.
Like the conference, the Badgers schedule is tough this year. They start off the year going to Saint Mary’s. Wisconsin also go on the road to play NC State for the B1G Ten/ACC Challenge, and then to Tennessee a few weeks later. Then in conference, they play Michigan State, Purdue, and Ohio State six times. The Badgers also only play Iowa and Michigan on the road. However, Wisconsin does play Maryland only once, and that’s at the Kohl Center.
Overall, I expect this Badger team to end up in a similar spot as last year’s team: a top five team in conference and a mid seed in the NCAA tournament. Top five in conference might be tough, but if the guards can hit their threes and Reuvers takes another step forward, they could even push for a top four seed. As for the tournament, they were an eight seed last year. And again, that should be a realistic goal for them. I expect them to be anywhere from a six seed to a 10 seed. The way they shot the three ball at the end of the year last year didn’t instill a lot of confidence in the team going forward. But if the shooters can get going again, this team will turn some heads.
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