The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (2-1) is set for an in-state rivalry matchup against the Marquette Golden Eagles (2-0) Sunday in the Kohl Center.
And while there are a lot of familiar faces from last year’s overtime thriller, there’s plenty missing as well.
Ethan Happ and Matt Heldt have graduated, the Hauser brothers have gone their separate ways and both teams have guys all over the roster stepping up.
For Wisconsin, that guy seems to be Nate Reuvers. Despite a relatively quiet ten-point night Wednesday against McNeese State, Reuvers has looked like every bit of what Badger fans hoped for coming into a fresh season.
In the opener against St. Mary’s, he dropped 22 points, six rebounds and four blocks. He then went on to one-up himself in the following game, recording a near triple double with a 14 point, 14 rebound and nine block statline — breaking Wisconsin’s single-game block record.
But he’s not Happ — at least not yet — and Wisconsin can’t rely on Reuvers to post monster box sheets every game. That means a big performance from guys like Brad Davison, Aleem Ford, Kobe King and D’Mitrik Trice needs to happen at least once in awhile if this team wants to see the tourney.
Davison and Ford showed some of that in the team’s last outing against McNeese State. Davison finished seven of eight from the field and hit three deep balls en route to a 24 point and four steal performance.
Ford finished with a career high 16 points as he shot 50% from deep. He also had five makes inside the arc, which is important because it demonstrates aggressiveness. Ford has often settled for lower-risk jumpers in the past.
After posting a career high 18 points in last Friday’s Eastern Illinois game, King sat out Wednesday’s game with a lower left leg injury. His status is uncertain for the in-state rivalry.
If he plays, great. If he stays out, the Badgers will likely again go to a combination of Brevin Pritzl and walk-on Walt McGrory in his place. Pritzl hit two threes and scored 13 while McGrory provided a rather unexpected nine off the bench against McNeese State.
On the Marquette side, the team still runs mainly through star point guard Markus Howard, but Utah State transfer Koby McEwen has shown he can score the ball too.
In the Golden Eagles’ 65–55 victory against Purdue on Wednesday night, McEwen finished with a team-high 23 points.
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They trailed by 18 at one point, but a 40–17 scoring advantage in the second half showed why this Marquette team is so dangerous. The most lethal player on the team and one of the biggest names in college basketball, Markus Howard, finished with 18 points.
In Marquette’s opener against Loyola-Maryland, Howard shot 70% from three and wound up with 38 points, something people have come to expect from him at this point.
But just like Wisconsin losing Happ, Marquette didn’t get everyone back either, and they too got hit hardest in the front court. Sam and Joey Hauser each transferred out of the program to Michigan State and Virginia. At the same time, Heldt graduated, leaving a gaping hole in the paint.
Brendan Bailey, Theo John and Ed Morrow have been halfway decent, but simply don’t have the size to compete with the best of the best down low.
Look for Wisconsin to try to push the ball inside to Reuvers and wait for Marquette’s defense to collapse in. From there it’s about finding who has the hot hand beyond the arc and feeding them.
You can catch the game live on Fox Sports Wisconsin or, as always, listen in to with The Badger Radio network at noon this Sunday.