What Do the Badgers Need to do to Make the NCAA Tournament?

This past week the Badgers started Big Ten play again with mixed results. They suffered an ugly home loss to Minnesota in which they scored just 14 points in the first half. That was their lowest point total in a single half in nearly twenty years. They bounced back with a convincing win at Penn State on Sunday night. The Badgers currently sit 11-4 overall and 3-1 on conference play, but where will they go from here? The Big Ten is good this year and will be a battle all season long.


We all know that this basketball team will go as far as Ethan Happ takes them. His season so far has been a little up and down. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player, but he’s had some forgettable moments this season. Let’s get the free throw thing out of the way. He can’t shoot free throws and has statically gotten worse each season. His last game against Penn State is a good example of what I mean when I say forgettable. Sure he had 22/8/4. That’s a line most players would kill for. It took him 24 shots to get those 22 points. The loss at Western Kentucky falls in the same category. He put up 20/12/3, a rock solid stat line. It took him 23 shots to get those 20 points. For a guy that never scores outside of five feet from the bucket, he needs to be more efficient if the Badgers want to make the tournament and I believe he will be.

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Another guy whose role seems to get bigger each week is Nate Reuvers. The sophomore has become a full time starter this season and has shown flashes. His offensive role will grow next year when Ethan Happ is gone, but he still needs to find some consistency on that end of the court. He’s averaging 7.7 points per game, but he’s skilled enough for that to be over 10. He’s been a very good shot blocker this season, averaging almost two game. At Penn State he blocked five shots and scored 11 points on a tidy 5-7 shooting. Reuvers was a top 100 recruit when came to Madison last year, and he needs to play like it consistently. It won’t be long before he’s the man.

A player whose come back down to earth a little bit these last couple weeks is sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice. The first month and a half of the season he couldn’t miss a three. Over his last four games he’s shooting 5-23 from distance. His overall percentage from three this season is still 47%. That’s how good he was to start the year. Now to be fair, the clip he was at was not sustainable. If he can end the season in the low 40’s in terms of percentage, that’s a good year shooting.

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Coming off an impressive true freshman season, everyone had some high expectations for Brad Davison. I know I was pretty high on him coming into the season. He just hasn’t taken that next step yet. He has lit up some bad teams this year, and been a ghost against good ones. He didn’t score a single point against Oklahoma or Marquette. He was held to five against Virginia, four against Rutgers, and just four last week against Minnesota. The Big Ten is loaded and could get eight or more teams in the tournament. If the Badgers want to be one of those teams, they need Brad Davison to play well against the quality opponents.

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The Badgers still go in those long scoring droughts way too often. Some of that has to do with bench scoring. Sophomore forward Aleem Ford showed a lot of potential in his freshman season. He shot 41% from three last year, unfortunately that’s dropped to just 30% this season. Another shooter off the bench that’s yet to find his rhythm is guard Brevin Pritzl. He’s getting about ten fewer minutes a game, and is scoring about four less points a game. He’s always been labeled a great shooter, but has never really shown that at UW. He’s shot about 35% the last two years. It’s not bad, but it’s also by no means great. I think redshirt freshman Kobe King has talent. I think he is going to be good player for the Badgers, I am just not sure he will be a big contributor this season. Charles Thomas will get the backup center minutes when Ethan Happ needs a breather or is in foul trouble, but I really don’t expect much from him. If Ford and Prtizl can start shooting threes consistently, it would be a monumental lift for the Badgers tournament chances.

The Badgers continue their big ten schedule with a home match up against Purdue in Madison on Friday. They sit 11-4 (3-1) and fourth in the Big Ten. Some analysts think that there could be 8-10 Big Ten teams in the tournament this year. One would think that with the strength of the Big Ten overall that getting to the 20 win mark should be enough for an at large bid. With that being said, the Badgers absolutely cannot afford another slip up like they had at home against Minnesota.


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