It’s safe to say that this was not the season the Badgers had hoped for, though it was one that fans should probably have expected. After losing the third-winningest senior class in program history, Wisconsin finished 9th in the Big Ten and missed out on the NCAA tournament for the first time in 19 years.
It is certainly a strange feeling for the Grateful Red, but don’t look for this past year to mark the beginning of a tournament drought—Wisconsin returns all five starters from last season and should have plenty of pieces to contend in the Big Ten once again.
The most important piece of the puzzle for the Badgers hinges on whether or not junior Ethan Happ decides to return. Happ made the decision to test the NBA draft waters, but would still have the option to return to Wisconsin because he did not hire an agent.
If he does decide that he is ready to move on, filling his shoes would be very difficult for Greg Gard—Reuvers is the obvious Happ replacement, but he doesn’t yet have the post-work and presence in the paint that Happ does. The good news for Badger fans is that it’s likely that Happ will return—he is currently going undrafted in NBA mock drafts, and it would be beneficial for him to return to school to work on some semblance of a jump shot.
Along with the projected return of Happ, the Badgers also get D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King back from season-ending injuries. King showed flashes of scoring potential prior to his knee surgery, and the athletic guard should give this team a big added boost next season.
Trice was ready to step into the role of undisputed backcourt leader after the departure of Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter, but a right foot injury kept him out for most of the season—and although injuries are never a good thing, this may be a blessing in disguise. Brad Davison has emerged as a leader of this team as a result of Trice’s absence, and having the two side-by-side next season will help this team tremendously.
As far as incoming and outgoing players, there is a lot to be excited for. The Badgers currently have three incoming three-star recruits: Taylor Currie, Joe Hedstrom, and Tai Strickland. Currie is a power forward who’s go-to move is the short hook shot, but isn’t afraid to knock it down from the outside. Hedstrom is a big man who will take some time to develop, but can provide depth as a serviceable center behind Happ and Reuvers. And lastly, Strickland, who just committed a few weeks ago, is the son of Rod Strickland, who sits 12th on the all-time NBA assists list. As a point guard, Tai has the ability to get to the rim and dish it out like his dad, and what was once a position lacking depth for the Badgers now becomes one of the deeper positions on the team.
In the upcoming season, the Badgers are losing Andy Van Vliet, who will transfer from Wisconsin, and the graduating class of Aaron Moesch, Matt Ferris, and T.J. Schlundt—Ferris and Moesch are the last remaining players from the Badger’s second Final Four run.
I have always believed that Wisconsin underutilized Van Vliet, but it never really seemed like he clicked with the coaching staff and system here in Madison, and we wish him the best of luck wherever he plays next. As for the graduating three, they weren’t the most pivotal players to this program basketball-wise, but you may never find another group of more fun-loving guys that demonstrated what the word “teammate” means.
We were not accustomed to the Badgers we saw this past season, but sometimes you have to hit the valley to begin the climb back up the mountaintop. Look forward to another Badger season next year!