"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, August 26, 2019

UW-Madison Preview

UW-Madison Badgers
November 17, Kohl Center

Coach: Greg Gard (80-47)
3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 55.3
3-Year kenpom Average: 35.7
2019-20 T-Rank Projection: 25

Projected Starters: PG D'Mitrik Trice (6'0" RS Jr), SG Brad Davison (6'3" Jr), SF Brevin Pritzl (6'3" RS Sr), PF Aleem Ford (6'8" Jr), C Nate Reuvers (6'11" Jr)

The 2018-19 Badgers had an up-and-down season that ended with a thud similar to the one felt by Marquette fans as both teams were boat-raced by 12-seeds in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. For UW-M, it was Oregon that stomped all over the memory of Ethan Happ, who left Madison as the third-leading scorer and all-time leading rebounder in school history. The other guy UW-M fans may really miss is Khalil Iverson, who also graduated and was the only consistent scoring option in the last two months of the season aside from Happ. The majority of the team returns, but the question remains who will step forward as the star on a team that has plenty of depth but little obvious top-end talent.

Trice will be the leading candidate as he is the top returning scorer and assister, but his numbers are deceptive. Coming into last year's Marquette game, Trice was averaging 17.0 ppg and shooting 60% (30/50) from three. He had four 20-point games in UW-M's first nine outings and looked like the Robin to Happ's Batman. Starting with their game against Marquette, however, he averaged just 9.6 ppg, shot 31.7% from three, and didn't reach 20 points in a game again the rest of the season, including scoring in single-digits in 11 of UW-M's last 13 games. Davison, Pritzl, and Reuvers have all shown the ability to step up, but also all suffered from similar inconsistency down the stretch. If none of them can step forward, Kobe King, Micah Potter, and Tyler Wahl provide options off the bench.

The one thing that won't change about UW-Madison is their play style. Slow, methodical offense designed to drain the shot clock and find a good shot in the last 10 seconds with a rigid man-to-man defense focused on limiting three point attempts and accuracy. One thing that will likely change is the volume of threes they shoot. Happ dominated the ball, which meant lots of 2PFGA at the rim. With his departure and Reuvers likely getting those minutes, expect a lot more 3PFGA from the Badgers this year.

It's hard to know what to expect from UW-Madison this year, and pundits seem to agree. I've seen them ranked as high as fifth and as low as eleventh in the Big 10. The most likely scenario is a team that is situated right on the bubble throughout the season. Marquette fans should feel cautiously optimistic going into this game. Without Happ, this won't be the same UW-Madison team, but Greg Gard still boasts a .763 winning percentage at the Kohl Center, and visitor wins there rarely come easy.

Marquette Connection: When Marquette goes to Madison this year, they will be trying to accomplish something they haven't done in more than 35 years: beat UW-Madison for a third straight time. The last time this happened, Rick Majerus coached Marquette to his only career win over the Badgers on February 16, 1984. After holding a 28-22 halftime lead, Marquette used a 14-4 run in the second half to open up a 15-point lead that would equal the margin of victory. It was clearly a different time in the rivalry, as Marquette raised their record against the Badgers to 22-2 since 1969 with the win. Milwaukee Sentinel Badger beat writer Bud Lea wrote "The Warriors own the Badgers" and Majerus' own post-game comments further illustrated the significance of the rivalry: "It means nothing anymore. I'm glad we won, I'd be OD-ing on soda all night if we had lost." Suffice to say, Steve Wojciechowski will probably take this year's tilt a bit more seriously.

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