The Wisconsin Men’s basketball team begins their journey for the 2017-18 season on Friday night at the Kohl Center in Madison against South Carolina State after a long offseason.
Last season ended in an unfortunate dramatic fashion, with the Badgers losing to Florida in the Sweet Sixteen on a pullup 3-pointer as time expired. This shot ended an era in Madison that featured a core of Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, and Vitto Brown that had made four consecutive Sweet Sixteens, including two Final Fours.
With those four core players gone, the Badges are looking ahead to a new era, led by Ethan Happ, who ESPN just ranked as the 2nd best player in all of college basketball, next to Michigan State’s Miles Bridges.
Happ was tied for 2nd on the Badgers in scoring last season and did so on a very impressive 58 percent shooting, which led the team. He also led the team in rebounding, steals, and blocks, which resulted in him making the Big Ten All Defensive team for the second straight year.
The only thing missing from his game had been an outside jump shot and it looks as if he has been working on it this offseason because he made his first ever college 3 pointer in the exhibition game against Northern Iowa. This is a very small sample size, but it is hopefully a sign of things to come.
Surrounding Happ will be junior forwards Khalil Iverson, Alex Illikainen, and Charlie Thomas and underclassmen guards D’Mitrik Trice, Brevin Pritzl, and Kobe King, who led the team in scoring in both exhibition games this preseason. King is going to be a huge factor in the Badgers success this season.
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With Bronson and Showalter gone from the backcourt, there is a huge void of scoring and outside shooting that is going to need to be replaced and King looks like just the guy to do that. In addition to King, the other freshmen that are joining this year’s Badger squad are forwards Aleem Ford and Nathan Reuvers as well as point guard Brad Davison.
This team will look different than last years and may take some time to gel, but with Ethan Happ leading the way with shooters surrounding him, expect the Badgers to make the NCAA Tournament for a 20th consecutive time. The Badgers are not rebuilding, but simply reloading.
On Friday night at 6 p.m., Wisconsin will welcome South Carolina State Bulldogs to the Kohl Center for their first game of the regular season. Tune in to BTN Plus or listen to Badgers Sports Network if they find themselves without tickets for the game.