Five talented, experienced returners put Wisconsin basketball in good shape
The Wisconsin Badgers certainly had momentum at its back when the 2019-20 season came to an abrupt ending.
After a slow start, the Badgers found their groove in Big Ten play and won their first conference championship since 2015 with a 14-6 conference record (21-10 overall). Wisconsin caught fire down the stretch by finishing the regular season with an eight-game winning streak.
What‘s even better for the Badgers is that the team lost hardly any production from last year.
Guard Brevin Pritzl was the only player on last year’s team who exhausted his eligibility. The De Pere native only started seven games but played 27.1 minutes per game, which was third-most on the team, and scored 8.0 points per game while shooting 37% from long range.
Without Pritzl, the Badgers still return starting guards D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison. Those two will be joined by starting forwards Nate Reuvers and Aleem Ford, along with effective bench player Micah Potter. Sophomore forward Tyler Wahl and 7-foot redshirt sophomore center Joe Hedstrom, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, are some names to watch off the bench.
Here is what you should look for from the Badgers top five returning players:
Trice is entering his fourth season as a starter for Greg Gard and the Badgers. The redshirt senior made it on the All-Big Ten third team last year and was the consummate floor general for the Badgers, leading the team with 4.2 assists per game. The 6-foot Trice contributed in other ways on the offensive end by scoring 9.8 points a contest and hitting 37.6% of his 3-point shots. In a 2020-21 season that will surely have its obstacles, the Badgers should feel confident in Trice operating the offense.
Davison is also entering his fourth season as a starting guard for Wisconsin. The 6-4 senior had a similar season to Trice, averaging 9.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and shooting 35.9% from deep. He is an experienced player who can run the offense and knock down shots (especially from the free-throw line where he shot 84.4%), making him a perfect backcourt mate for Trice.
Reuvers was arguably the best player on the Badgers last year and he is back for his senior campaign. He has the size, post moves and driving ability to score in the paint but also connected on 33.7% of his 3-point shots, so he is far more skilled than the traditional big man. In all, the 6-11 forward recorded a team-leading 13.1 points and 1.9 blocks, along with 4.5 rebounds per game. He can already score at the rack and on the perimeter, so if he can bump up his 3-point percentage a little bit in 2021 then he’ll be able to attack teams inside and out even better.
Ford, also a redshirt senior, should be a big-time contributor for Wisconsin once again in 2020-21. He put up 8.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in 31 games last year and made 53.9% of his 2-point shots, which was best among Badger starters. The 6-8 Ford is one of the better athletes on the team and after averaging 11.7 points per contest in the Badgers’ last six games of their season, he appears to be on track to have his best offensive season in Madison.
Potter was a force off the bench after missing the first 10 games of the season due to eligibility issues following his transfer from Ohio State. When he finally was able to get in the rotation, Potter was the perfect shot in the arm for the Badgers. Potter started just three times but helped carry the offensive load after Kobe King left the program by scoring in double figures six times after King left. He averaged 10.1 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 52.8% from the floor and 45.1% from deep in 21 games with Wisconsin. The 6-10 redshirt senior is a skilled scorer who can spread the floor and should be even better in his second year with the team.