If you haven’t heard, Marquette men’s basketball squares off with Wisconsin this afternoon. I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t watch very much Badgers basketball, so when Drew Hamm over at Bucky’s 5th Quarter, our UW-themed sister site, reached out to do a preview Q&A series, I was more than happy to fire a few Q’s in his direction. Be sure to run over to their site for our answers to B5Q’s questions about Marquette, too.
The AE questions below are in bold, the B5Q answers are .... in.... not .... bold.
1) Part of every preview I write is always mentioning where the opponent is ranked on KenPom.com. So, I fired the site up to grab Wisconsin’s ranking right now.... and was genuinely surprised to find the Badgers starting the year at #45 and sliding to #50 right now. The algorithm usually loves y’all so what is it about this year’s squad that’s not quite the same as the general trend of the last two decades?
Losing a player like Ethan Happ affects, well, everything. He was an excellent defender and an efficient offensive player and him being off the roster is going to give the Badgers a dip on both sides of the ball. The defense should still be good this year, especially with Nate Reuvers protecting the rim, but the offense may take a while to find its footing. Wisconsin has a pretty tough non-conference schedule so they’ll be learning on the fly about who their “go-to guy” is and what sort of plays they can run to get an easy bucket. I don’t think the defense will be as elite as it was last year but I’d guess the Badgers settle in to the 40s for KenPom this year.
2) The big question, literally, when looking at Wisconsin this year is “What do they do without Ethan Happ?” Is there one particular player — Nate Reuvers obviously comes to mind first — that can pick up the slack, or is this something that multiple guys are going to have to do to make Wisconsin successful?
Reuvers will pick up the slack on defense. He’s already got two games in his career with nine blocks and he is a deterrent to drivers at the rim. Once Micah Potter is able to make his debut (#DeathToTheNCAA, #FreeMicahPotter, etc.), he’ll be able to help out down low too. Both Reuvers and Potter provide some floor-stretching ability that Happ, decidedly, did not. So that’ll be nice.
On offense overall though, it will be a team effort to replace his production. There are a bunch of shots available now and they should be spread evenly around. A player to keep an eye on is Aleem Ford. He spent most of last season drifting around on the perimeter but so far this year he has been using his 6-foot-8 frame to get to the rim and the early results have been positive.
3) Three minutes left, down five. Who’s the go-to guy for the Badgers this year? Who do you want with the ball? Who do you want taking the big shots?
I think that the Badgers are still trying to figure that out, honestly. Point guard D’Mitrik Trice is probably the number one option, as he is just likely to have the ball in his hands by default. He, like much of the team, struggles to create his own shot going towards the basket though. Brevin Pritzl is the best shooter on the team but for some reason, he can be hesitant to let it fly. Brad Davison has the cojones to take those shots, and he can make them, but he doesn’t fill me with the “oh, he’s definitely going to make this” feeling. That’s a long way of saying I hope Wisconsin only plays in blowouts this year, by either team, so I don’t break my television when our end of game offense results in another off-balance Aleem Ford three (see also: Saint Mary’s game).
4) No, but seriously: How did Greg Gard find a guy by the name of Walt McGrory here in the year of Our Lord 2019? He’s actually a computer-generated player, right?
I really shouldn’t be telling you about this but, since you asked, Bo Ryan built a black site, off-the-grid, lab below the Kohl Center in 2005 where top men work on building prototypical Wisconsin walk-ons. McGrory is some of their finer work and I couldn’t be more happy with how things are going down there.
5) Wisconsin is currently shooting 27.7% from three-point range as a team right now while kind of relying on shooting threes as a big part of the offense. Big problem, little problem, not a problem at all?
As mentioned above, Pritzl is the best three-point shooter on the team and he is only shooting 3-of-12 so far. He’ll get better and that will help boost the team’s shooting percentage. I am, let’s say, medium-worried about the three-point shooting but I’m trending towards “not worried.” We’ll see how I feel around 2 o’clock on Sunday.
6) If you could swap any Wisconsin starter for any non-Markus Howard Marquette player right now, who would you swap and why?
I never want to say anything nice about a Canadian, but...Koby McEwen is a really good player that I would love to have on the Badgers. His assist rate is high and if he can return to his freshman year level of three-point shooting, he’ll be a lethal weapon for Marquette. He’s also a tall, rangy guard which the Badgers don’t (ever) really have on their roster.
7) Prediction time! Give us your cross your heart honest prediction for Sunday with a winner, a final score, and an X-Factor.
I think that Marquette wins 67-63, I get annoyed and drink three beers at lunch, Theo John gets 12+ rebounds and helps control the game for the Golden Eagles in the second half. Ugh. That was annoying to type.