Wisconsin Badgers Basketball Class of 2015 Preview

Brevin Pritzl is another homegrown Wisconsin player; perhaps the next Gasser in Madison.
The Wisconsin Badgers basketball program is at a higher level than it has ever been. Back-to-back B1G Championships, back-to-back final fours, defending national runners up – the resume speaks for itself. Unfortunately, as is tradition with Badger Basketball, UW has failed to translate their previous season’s success into a premier level recruiting class. The Wisconsin class of 2015 didn’t even make ESPN’s top 40 recruiting classes. While it’s easy to say that head coach Bo Ryan hasn’t had a problem turning “average” recruiting classes into elite teams, it has to sting knowing how good you’ve been and how much you’ve lost.

This year, the Badgers said goodbye to five players: starters Josh Gasser, Sam Dekker, and defending National Player of the Year, Frank Kaminsky; two long-time starting point guard Traevon Jackson; and perpetual X-Factor Duje Dukan. Replacing that much production from a team that prides itself on efficiency is going to be nearly impossible. Wisconsin was the best in the country at not turning the ball over and scoring every time down the floor. The Badgers had a chance to fill in some of that void with hometown product and future NBA Lottery pick, Diamond Stone. Unfortunately, for unknown reasons, Stone elected to attend the University of Maryland, immediately turning them into a National Title favorite. Had the Badgers landed Stone, a big man with elite post moves and jump-shooting (sounds like someone who just graduated), this conversation would be incredibly different. Instead, Bo Ryan is searching for answers in other forms.

The Badgers hope Thomas can become an impact three-star player like so many Badgers have.
The class of 2015 is being drastically underrated. The Badgers bring in two three-star recruits, both of whom head coach Bo Ryan is hoping he can groom into productive role players for the Badgers in the long term. Charlie Thomas of Clarksville, MD comes in as a big-bodied skill player that will learn how to operate an offense for UW. Thomas stands 6’7”, allowing him to be able to make an immediate impact with his size. The other three-star recruit, Khalil Iverson, has already drawn some impressive comparisons. Though he is not the most famous Iverson in the basketball world, his comparison to former Badger great Alando Tucker has the coaching staff excited for him to get to Madison. Here’s Iverson showing all the elements of his game:
The other members of the 2015 class are two that will likely get to see the court this fall. The first is the man that Bo Ryan hopes can replace Josh Gasser – a homegrown, gritty, tough defending shooting guard who will make big plays. Brevin Pritzl, a four-star recruit according to scout.com, is already 6’3′, 185 pounds. With size like that and the ability to handle the rock and defend the perimeter, Pritzl will likely become the next two guard in a recent line of success, following the footsteps of Josh Gasser and Ben Brust. The second recruit is Alex Illikainen of Brewster Academy in Minnesota, a school with a ton of recruits around college basketball for this year’s class. Illikainen, a four-star recruit standing 6’8″ and weighing 225 pounds, hopefully will bring size to a Badgers squad that will be desperately needing to find some at the forward position. He is probably the Badgers best “get”, as he had offers from Indiana, California, Minnesota, Iowa State, and more. Depending on how he plays leading into B1G play, I would not be surprised to see him crack the starting lineup by the end of the season in competition with Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown.

Illikainen could crack the Badgers’ starting lineup in the 2015-16 season.
The only remaining recruit, and a true question mark for Bo Ryan’s squad, comes to Madison from Belgium. Andy Van Vliet, a 6’11” forward, has the fixings to develop much the way Frank Kaminsky did. Right now, his game is very raw. He looks awkward with the ball, he doesn’t always show confidence with the ball in his hands, and he’s a little timid on the floor. However, he also shows flashes of a nice lefty jump shot, smart interior passing, and the ability and will power to corral rebounds and get second chances. If Van Vliet and the coaching staff can work together to mold his game the way they did with Kaminsky, Wisconsin has a bright future ahead of them in the powerhouse conference that is the B1G. Check out Van Vliet’s 33-point outing below:
Overall, the Badgers will need a lot from their incoming class to make up for their five key losses. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes are poised to have breakout seasons, but their supporting cast will need to really step up to make this team special in the 2015-2016 season.

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