The Wisconsin Badgers lost to the Michigan Wolverines yesterday 67-59. While the Wolverines are ranked third in the county, Wisconsin had a 12 point lead at half. They also had a 13 point lead in the second half and played one if their best halves all season. Despite all of this, the Badgers were out-scored 40-20 in the second half and let a golden opportunity slip. With five regular season games left until the Big Ten tournament and NCAA tournament, is it time to panic on the Wisconsin Badgers?
Panic- Potter and Reuvers
One reason to panic is the play of Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers. Both big men played great last year for the Badgers. Reuvers led the team with 13.1 PPG lat year. Potter was second at 10.1 PPG in limited action because of transfer rules. Reuvers was the starter while Potter came off the bench. This year, coach Greg Gard decided to start both. The two didn’t seem to figure out to play on the court together. This played a result in their statistics trending down.
Nate Reuvers was the first of the two to lose his starting spot. Tyler Wahl has since then taken over. Potter was playing better overall. As a result, Potter and D’Mitrik Trice were playing the best out of anyone on the Badgers roster.
Recently, Nate Reuvers was inserted back into the starting lineup of Micah Potter. As a result, Potter is now coming off the bench. It’s hard to determine exactly why Reuvers and Potter aren’t performing well, but they were critical in last year’s run to the Big Ten Championship. In the home stretch of the Big Ten season, they both need to play better.
Panic- Offense Goes Silent
This is the most obvious reason for the Badgers letdown this year. The offense has not been able to play consistently for 40 minutes. It isn’t just Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter. The entire starting lineup has been in funks all year as well. Currently, Brad Davison is in a shooting slump as well.
#Badgers outscored 13-2 over the final 3:51.
Wisconsin didn't make a shot from the field in the final 4:43 and had just one bucket over the last 7:45.
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) February 14, 2021
For example, in yesterday’s loss to Michigan, the Badgers were 5-7 from three in the first half. They were 1-12 in the second half. They made two shots in the last 10:55 of the game, including zero in the last four plus minutes. This unfortunately has been a consistent problem for the Badgers this year. They are a really good shooting team that has not been able to consistently make shots. This was a big reason why this team won the league a season ago. The schedule only gets harder for Wisconsin, beginning with Iowa Thursday night.
Not Panic- We Have Seen Glimpses
The #Badgers have 34 points on 24 possessions and lead by 10 with 3:37 left in the half. UW shooting 61% overall and is 5 of 7 from 3-point range.
— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) February 14, 2021
In the first half of yesterday’s game, the Badgers were making shots and making them consistently. Aleem Ford was 3-3 from the three point line and making them with confidence. As a team, the Badgers shot 53.8% from the field, including 5-7 from three. The good news is the Badgers are not taking awful shots, they’re just not making them.
The Wisconsin team we saw win the Big Ten in 2020 was shooting confidently and playing with a swag to them. We haven’t seen it yet this year consistently. However, when this team begins to shoot well, they are really hard to beat and can beat anyone in the Big Ten conference. With five regular season games remaining, there’s some time, although it’s short.
Not Panic- Better Big Ten Conference
There’s not doubt the Big Ten conference is a lot better than last year. It’s not close either. Players such as Luka Garza, Ayo Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn, and Hunter Dickinson have all had their way with Wisconsin (we’ll see with Garza Thursday night). They all have first round NBA potential as well. The Big Ten could also see as many as 10 teams make the NCAA tournament this season.
The conference is loaded from top to bottom. Nebraska and Northwestern are not guaranteed wins for anyone this season. There just isn’t another conference in the NCAA that is stacked, loaded, and better than the Big Ten. Does this help Wisconsin when the tournament rolls around? I do believe that. Every game in the Big Ten is a NCAA caliber opponent for the Badgers
Do We Panic?
I believe that is up to the fans themselves. I tend to be on the optimistic side of this. However, I do know there is some glaring problems the Badgers needs to address and figure out fast. With 27 days until Selection Sunday, the Badgers could be in the 4-6 seed range, but it could get worst if they don’t turn things around.
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It’s not time to panic… it’s time for Gard to go! His teams are awful offensive rebounders; they don’t hustle to cover fast breaks; they stand around on offense; his ‘win with the 3 pointer’ has cost them far too many games; the players are not consistent 3-point shooters; far too much lackadaisical play on both sides of the ball.
They need an innovative coach who knows how to motivate while holding players accountable. Gard is a nice guy, but it’s time to move on. Maybe we can get Tony Bennett to sing, ‘I Left My heart… on Lake Mendota…”