Author: Matthew Budkofsky
Wisconsin wrapped up a disappointing season with a hard-fought loss to Michigan St. in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The loss marked the end UW’s incredible 19-year run of consecutive NCAA appearances. After graduating the most successful senior class in program history, this year’s team certainly had huge shoes to fill. However, after a yearlong struggle with injuries, Wisconsin’s depth was tested, and younger, more inexperienced players were thrusted into the limelight. While there were growing pains, the Badgers were able to put things together for the last few weeks of the season. Amassing a 5-3 record, with all three losses coming to ranked teams. Throughout February, Wisconsin played its best basketball of the season, which should inspire fans who are eager to put this season behind them.
Next season, Wisconsin could potentially return its top 8 scorers and most notably, Ethan Happ. Happ is a redshirt junior who averaged a career high 18 ppg and also contributed 8 rpg and 4 apg. Happ did acknowledge after the loss to Michigan St that he does plan on testing NBA waters with hopes of receiving an invitation to this year’s combine. Although, it does not appear he will receive a first-round grade, so Badger fans should feel optimistic about having Happ back next season.
With the loss of guards D’Mitrick Trice and Kobe King for the season, Wisconsin’s backcourt depth was tested all season long. The injuries opened the door for freshman Brad Davidson, who played exceptionally well for the second half of the season. Since February, Davison averaged 15 ppg, and emerged as the secondary scoring option for the Badgers behind Ethan Happ. With the return of Trice, a more natural point guard, Davison will be able to play off the ball more. On top of that, with King back in the mix, Brevin Pritzl returning, and the addition of Trevor Anderson, Wisconsin will have a much more complete and dynamic back court.
With Happ likely returning, the front court has a lot of potential as well. The UW coaching staff is very high on freshman Nate Reuvers, and his development will be critical for the Badgers in years to come. Reuvers needs to put on some weight before next season, as this season he struggled at times battling with bigger, stronger opponents. The 6-foot-10 Reuvers is incredibly skilled for his size, but the energy he was forced to expend defensively had a negative impact on his shooting and overall offensive game. With all of the guards expected to be on the roster next season, Khalil Iverson should be able to focus on playing forward, where he is much better suited than two guard role he was forced to take on this year. This season, Iverson became the team’s best defender and was a strong rebounder, if he is able to add a consistent mid-range jump shot, he could emerge as a two-way star.
D’Mitrik Trice believes the Badgers could be an NCAA Tournament team next season that surprises a lot of people.
“Honestly, with how these guys have been playing this past month,” Trice said, “I think we can be one of the top teams in the country.”