By Teddy Gutkin
Record: 12-16 (5-10 in Big Ten)
Tournament Seed: 10
First Round Opponent: #7 Indiana
Season Summary: After the departure of seniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, the Badgers have found themselves in the midst of a rebuilding campaign, failing to register a non-conference win against a relevant opponent and winning just once against a ranked team, beating Purdue on Thursday night. Big man Ethan Happ has been their only consistent performer, and the lack of a supporting cast around him has led to a long and disappointing season in Madison.
Players to Watch: When you talk about the Wisconsin Badgers, you have to talk about Ethan Happ. The junior center averages 18.6 PPG on 53.6% shooting to go along with 8.5 RPG and 3.9 APG. Happ scored a career-high 29 points in the team’s home loss against Michigan, and added 21 in the Badgers’ huge upset victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. Simply put, Happ must be at the top of his game for the Badgers to have any chance of making a significant run in the tournament. The only other Badger to average double figure scoring is freshman guard Brad Davison, who scores 11.5 PPG. In addition to being a solid shooter, Davison also has excellent ball control, turning the ball over just 55 times this season.
X-Factor: Starting in the backcourt alongside Davison, junior Khalil Iverson has cemented his role as a starter for the Badgers, averaging a career-high 8.5 PPG and grabbing 5 RPG. Iverson is a tenacious defender, and his 6-5 height helps him disrupt would-be finishers inside and force turnovers on the defensive side. Iverson is a solid driver, and shoots over 50% from the field, but he struggles shooting from the outside, missing all 23 of his three-point attempts on the year. However, his talent on the defensive side and his ability to attack the rim makes him a player to watch for Greg Gard’s squad.
Verdict: As good as Happ is, a team can’t win a Big Ten tournament simply because they have one good player. Wisconsin has built a reputation of surrounding their stars with fantastic supporting casts, but this aspect of the team has been absent during the 2017/18 campaign, and it has resulted in one of the first truly bad seasons for the Badgers in years. Though they have a shot at defeating the Hoosiers in the first round, don’t expect the Badgers to stick around for long.
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