Wisconsin Badgers Basketball 2017-2018 Preview
For the first time in a few years, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team enters the with a lot of uncertainty. Coming off four straight Sweet 16 appearances, the team isn’t projected to get nearly that far this year. The team is also projected to finish outside of the top four in the Big Ten, which they haven’t done since the 2001-2002 season. The Badgers do have junior All-American Ethan Happ back, but every other starter or bench player has minimal to no experience on the college level. Despite all this uncertainty and lack of projected success, there is still a lot of buzz and excitement in Badger nation surrounding this young team.
Zak Showalter, Vitto Brown, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig
Ethan Happ is the only starter returning from last years team. The other four all graduated last year. Showalter and Brown were both two-year starters; Hayes and Koenig were contributors all four-years in Madison, with Hayes starting for three years and Koenig a starter for two like Showalter and Brown. These four seniors combined for 56% of the minutes played, 60% of points scored, 42% of rebounds grabbed, and 55% of assists made. That is quite the hole left behind by the seniors.
Nate Reuvers, Kobe King, Brad Davison
This incoming class has a lot of skill coming in. I do expect Reuvers (four star recruit from Lakeville, Minnesota) to redshirt, but the other two should have an immediate impact. King (three star from La Crosse, Wisconsin) and Davison (four star from Osseo, Minnesota) should led the bench for the Badgers this year. King is a shooting guard who can score in a number of ways and is also not afraid to grab rebounds down low. Davison is a combo guard who will mostly be used as the second unit’s point guard. Davison can also shoot and brings a toughness and leadership about him that has drawn comparisons from Badger great Josh Gasser. King and Davison don’t look like your typical freshmen and should help replace some of Showalter’s, Brown’s, Koenig’s, and Hayes’s production from a year before.
Projected starting lineup
PG: Sophomore D’Mitrik Trice
SG: Sophomore Brevin Pritzl
SF: Junior Khalil Iverson
PF: Junior Andy Van Vliet
C: Junior Ethan Happ
A young and inexperienced lineup, but has potential. Happ is the unquestioned leader and best player on the team. Trice was a huge surprise last year and should take another step forward this year. Iverson brings elite athleticism to the table and uses it to dunk on everyone he can and uses it to get blocks on defense. And while the SG and PF spots still have some uncertainty surrounding them, it appears that Pritzl and Van Vliet will fill them. Pritzl is a great shooter who will help space the floor for the others. And Van Vliet is a seven footer who can shoot and could cause problems from opposing teams on defense with his frame.
PG: Freshmen Brad Davison
SG: Freshmen Kobe King
SF: Freshmen Aleem Ford
PF: Junior Alex Illikainen
C: Junior Charlie Thomas
Davison and King will get regular bench minutes. And two of Ford, Illikainen, and Thomas will be fighting for regular playing time, depending on how they play and the others ahead of them play. Ford, who redshirted last year, can play either forward spot and has a nice little jump shot. Illikainen is like Van Vliet, but perhaps a little less talented. Thomas can play either the four or five and is an absolute tank who uses his body to his advantage.
Best case scenario
Ethan Happ wins the John Wooden award, as he becomes reliable at the free throw line and can hit threes at a decent rate. Trice becomes a solid #2 option and is a board-line All-Conference guard. Van Vliet’s potential is realized and teams don’t have an answer for two seven footers who can space the floor. While they do have a tough non-conference schedule and even with the Big Ten being loaded this year, the Badges shock everyone and finish yet again in the top four.
Record: 23 – 8 (12-6), 3rd in conference, lose in Sweet 16 as a five seed
Worse case scenario
Ethan Happ finishes as a third team All-American like last year, thanks to poor free throw shooting that causes him to sit on the bench at the end of close games. Trice doesn’t take a step forward that the team needs. Van Vliet isn’t what the Badgers thought he was and is eventually benched. Pritzl’s shot is too inconsistent but stays in the starting lineup because Davison and King aren’t ready to start yet.
Record: 16-14 (6-11), 9th in conference, miss NCAA tourney
Ethan Happ is a finalist for the John Wooden award and is a first team All-American, thanks to being able to hit free throws at about 70% and can occasionally hit a three. Trice takes a step forward but is too inconsistent. Iverson uses his athleticism to get the team hyped when they need a spark and ends up on a few SportsCenter Top 10’s. Van Vliet becomes the perfect partner to pair with Happ and both King pushes Pritzl for a spot in the starting lineup. They don’t finish in the top four, but they do better than everyone expects.
Record: 21-9 (10-8), 5th in conference, round of 32 exit as a seven seed