Wisconsin ready to face a tall challenge with Oregon

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Kenny Wooten. Paul White. Louis King. Francis Okoro.

Those names make up four-fifths of the Oregon starting lineup and all four are listed at 6-foot-9. This wasn’t what coach Dana Altman had planned at the beginning of the season or even during his club’s struggles during year. But a poor effort led to an angry coach and a change late in the season.

“Well, it was an accident,” Altman said Thursday. “We were at USC. We played a really bad ball game. We were in the locker room afterwards, and I lost my composure a little bit. And the one guy in the locker room, who at that time was by far the most unselfish, all about the team, was Francis Okoro.

“And like I said, I was upset with them, and I just said, ‘I don’t know who’s starting against UCLA on Saturday night except for him. And we’ll practice tomorrow and four other guys will distinguish themselves, but he’s starting because he’s all about the team and he’s trying to lead.’

“I wish I could say it was planned and something that was well thought out, but it was an accident. But it’s worked out.”

Oregon lost the first game after the change, but has won eight-straight since then. The 12th-seeded Ducks will try to keep it going on Friday when they face fifth-seeded Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers, as you’d expect, are well aware of the challenges they’ll face with such a big lineup.

The Swing: March 20, 2019

On this week’s episode of “The Swing,” Zach and Jesse look at Wisconsin’s matchup with Oregon, discuss whether the Badgers can snap out of their cold streak from beyond the arc, recap their season predictions and answer your Twitter questions.

2:22 — Wisconsin is shooting just 28.7-percent on 3-pointers in its last 11 games

8:06 — Fact or Fiction
1) People are giving Oregon too much credit for its eight-game winning streak.
2) D’Mitrik Trice will finish the season shooting 40-percent or better from 3.
3) I’m confident the Badgers will be playing on Sunday.
4) The Big Ten will get at least one team into the Final Four.

24:21 — What team should the Badgers want to see in the second round — Kansas State or UC-Irvine?

32:26 — Twitter questions

Badgers: Learning about Oregon

Wisconsin will face Oregon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. It will be the third game between the two schools in the Big Dance since 2014. But that familiarity means little as both teams are much different than the last times they matched up.

In an effort to learn about the Ducks, we caught up with Wisconsin assistant coach Howard Moore after Monday’s practice in Madison. Moore is responsible for scouting Oregon, a team that comes in on an eight-game winning streak, including four victories in four days at the Pac-12 tournament last weekend.

Though a 12-seed that had to win its conference tournament just to get into the NCAA Tournament, Oregon could provide some challenges for the Badgers. That’s especially true on the defensive end, where Ducks rank among the best in the country over the last month.

In the interview, we asked Moore what he’s seen on film from the Ducks, how Wisconsin will deal with facing four starters that stand 6-foot-9, what’s changed for the better in Oregon’s winning streak and more.

Badgers back in the NCAA tournament, will face Oregon in first round

After missing the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 1998, Wisconsin is back in and the Badgers will head West to open up play.

The NCAA revealed the 68 teams in the bracket on Sunday with coach Greg Gard’s squad getting the No. 5 seed in the South Region. They’ll take on the No. 12 seed Oregon on Friday in San Jose. It will be the second game of the day, so tip is scheduled for around 3:30 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on TBS.

It’ll be the third matchup between the two schools in the Big Dance, with Wisconsin winning the first two in 2014 and 2015.

Oregon only got into the tournament by winning the Pac-12 tournament, whipping top-seeded Washington 68-48. The Ducks finished the year 23-12 in what many felt was a weak conference. But they did finish the season winning eight straight, including six by double digits.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, closed the year at 23-10 and was fourth in the Big Ten, which ended up getting eight teams in the bracket. The Badgers are 12-4 since the middle of January, with three of those losses coming to Michigan and Michigan State, which will both be No. 2 seeds in the tournament.

Tip times will be set later Sunday night.

Hear what Gard, along with Ethan Happ, D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison, had to say about playing in the tournament, their opponent and how deep of a run they think they can make.

You can find the complete bracket here.

(1) Michigan State 67, (4) Wisconsin 55: Last word

CHICAGO — Top-seeded Michigan State jumped out to a 17-point first half lead and fourth-seeded Wisconsin could never fully recover in a 67-55 loss in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament Saturday afternoon.

Player of the Game: Cassius Winston

He may not be 100-percent healthy, but the Big Ten Player of the Year was outstanding once again. He scored a game-high 21 points in just 28 minutes of action. But it wasn’t just his scoring. It was also the attention he required. With all eyes on him, forward Kenny Goins got free early for several open 3-pointers that he was able to knock down and help the Spartans build their lead.

The good: The fight

As they’ve done many times this year, the Badgers fell behind early. And like they’ve done many times this year, they fought back to make a game of it. It was 27-10 with 7:42 left in the first half, but the lead was down to eight by the break. Wisconsin twice had it down to six in the second half before a nearly seven-minute scoring drought crushed their chances to complete the comeback.

The not so good: The shooting

Inside and outside, Wisconsin was largely dreadful shooting the ball. The Badgers were just 20 of 40 in the lane and a putrid 2-for-19 from beyond the arc. The 35.8-percent shooting from the floor was their second-worst effort this season and the 10.5-percent shooting from 3 was their worst this year. The starting guard duo of D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison combined to go 1-for-11 from the outside.

Stat of the game: 13

That’s how many points redshirt freshman Kobe King had. The guard attacked Michigan State and had the Spartans on their heels in the first half. The 13 points were the most for him since a season-high 14 against Oklahoma back on Nov. 22.

What they said:

Ethan Happ on the fight to get the game close after falling behind by 17 and what it means moving forward.

“I felt like we were going to carry that momentum and storm back and take the lead. Someone asked me before what makes a good tournament team and that’s kind of it. That mentality that we’re not out until the game is over. We might be up by 20, but we still have to play through the whole thing. Or we’ll be down by 20. Just that never give up mentality is what makes a really good tournament team.”

In Case You Missed It:

| The 12-point loss was Wisconsin’s first by double digits this year.

— Wisconsin fell to Michigan State for a seventh-straight time. The Badgers haven’t beaten the Spartans since Happ’s redshirt freshman year.

— Wisconsin sophomore Nate Reuvers was held scoreless for just the third time this season. The forward was 0-for-7 from the field.

— Happ has played eight games against Michigan State and has scored at least 20 points in four of them.

What’s next?

Wisconsin (23-10, 14-6) will find out Sunday night who and where they’ll play in next week’s NCAA tournament.

(4) Wisconsin 66, (13) Nebraska 62: Last word

CHICAGO — Fourth-seeded Wisconsin got 14 points each from Khalil Iverson and Nate Reuvers to take out 13th-seeded Nebraska 66-62 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday at the United Center.

Player of the Game: Khalil Iverson

The senior continues to amaze in his final stretch as a member of the Badgers. He was in double figures for a sixth time in seven games and it wasn’t just around the basket. Never known as a jump shooter, Iverson hit three pull-ups, including a step back jumper in the second half.

Iverson said he felt good in warm-ups from those same spots, predicting to a team that he was going to hit a bunch of them.

“Just being comfortable,” Iverson said of his success. “I know I can shoot those 18-footers and knock them down, because I work on it. Just have to be confident.”

The Ohio native also played his normal strong game defensively, harassing James Palmer Jr. into a 6-for-21 night, including 1 of 7 from beyond the arc.

The good: Supporting cast shows up

At one point late in the second half, the Badgers leading scorers coming into the game — Ethan Happ, Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice — had a combined nine points. When those guys struggle to score, Wisconsin usually struggles to win. But Iverson, along with Reuvers and Aleem Ford, picked up the slack. The 14 points Reuvers scored were the most for him since Jan. 23 and just the third time he’s been in double digits since then. Ford’s 11 points off the bench were huge and the second-most he’s had this year. He also showed toughness in the post grabbing a rebound and putting it back up for two points, while also diving and coming up with a loose ball in a critical situation.

The not so good: Ethan Happ

It was not a great day for the Badgers’ first-team All-Big Ten selection. The Huskers made it a priority to not let him beat them and they did a very good job of it. Happ finished with a season-low four points on just four shots. He had seven rebounds and four assists but also seven turnovers.

“I thought he was out of sorts from the beginning,” coach Greg Gard said. “Very uncharacteristic for him.”

Like Nebraska did on Thursday against Maryland’s Bruno Fernando, they ran guys at Happ from the start and forced him to make quick decisions in finding the open guy. Too often, that didn’t happen.

“I didn’t play well, obviously,” Happ said. “I want to help the team so much, attack and make plays for others but they made a concentrated effort to not let me score.”

Stat of the game: 17

That was how many turnovers Wisconsin had in the game, including 10 from Happ and Reuvers.

“Just an off day,” Reuvers said of the turnovers. “Maybe it was trying to make too big of a play. We just have to make the easy play rather than throwing the home run pass.”

Best videos

Trice missed his first three shots, but hit a pair of monster 3-pointers in the final minutes, including this one that proved to be the dagger.

What they said:

Top tweet

In Case You Missed It:

— Wisconsin improved to 6-1 in its last seven games at the United Center, including four straight wins.

— Wisconsin shot 91.7-percent (11 of 12) from the free throw line, their best effort this season.

— Wisconsin hit 48.0-percent of their shots from the floor, their best game since hitting 51.1-percent against Illinois on Jan. 23.

What’s next?

Wisconsin (23-9, 14-6) will face top-seeded Michigan State (26-6, 16-4) in the Big Ten semifinals. The Spartans beat the Badgers in Madison on Feb. 12.

Bracketology: Where Wisconsin stands

We’re just two days away from Selection Sunday, but there are still plenty of spots in the NCAA tournament up for grabs, including 18 automatic bids for conference tournament winners.

That’s the case in Chicago where the Big Ten tournament continues on Friday with four quarterfinal games, including fourth-seeded Wisconsin getting its postseason started.

In advance of the Badgers matchup with upset-minded Nebraska, here’s a look at where the various bracket projections have coach Greg Gard’s team landing when the Big Dance gets going next week.

CBSSports.com: No. 4 seed facing Liberty in Hartford

ESPN: No. 4 seed playing UC Irvine in San Jose

NCAA.com: No. 5 seed playing Murray State in Hartford

Fox Sports: No. 5 seed playing the play-in winner of NC State and Arizona State

SBNation: No. 5 seed playing Murray State in Hartford

T-Ranketology: No. 4 seed (100% chance of making the tournament)

Bracketville: No. 4 seed playing Liberty in Hartford

MakingTheMadness: No. 4 seed playing Liberty in Salt Lake City

BracketMatrix (collection of all bracketology sites): No. 4 seed

Numbers from Wisconsin’s Pro Day

MADISON — Scouts from at least 24 NFL teams filtered into the McClain Center on Wisconsin’s campus late Wednesday morning to watch 13 former Badgers show they deserve to be among those that get to hear their names called during next month’s draft.

The various players did the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, pro agility, broad jump, vertical jump and the bench press, before hitting the turf for on-field drills.

Here’s a look at the numbers the guys put up, though there are a few figures still to be added.

Also, you should note that not every player did every test. Some guys, like offensive lineman Michael Deiter and fullback Alec Ingold, did all the drills at the combine last month in Indianapolis and were happy with their times, so they did nothing but field drills on Wednesday.

The Swing: March 12, 2019

On this week’s episode of “The Swing,” Zach and Jesse breakdown the good and bad from the Ohio State win, debate the importance of the Big Ten tournament, chat with the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin and answer your Twitter questions.

2:19 — The play of Khalil Iverson has been impressive and much needed

5:53 — Impact of the Big Ten tournament on NCAA seeding

9:17 — Sold or Not Sold
1) Wisconsin finding a way to win the Ohio State game was the story not the blown lead.
2) Khalil Iverson should have been on the Big Ten’s All-Defensive Team.
3) It’s important for Wisconsin to make it to Saturday in the Big Ten tournament.
4) I think Wisconsin will be a No. 4 seed when the brackets are revealed on Sunday.

19:22 — Jim Polzin interview

34:31 — Twitter questions

Ethan Happ named first-team All-Big Ten

Ethan Happ has done something no other Wisconsin players has ever done.

The Big Ten announced its season awards on Monday, and the senior center was a first-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches and the media. It’s the third-straight year’s he’s been a first-team pick, becoming the first Badgers player to ever accomplish that feat. Seven others had earned first-team recognition in two seasons at UW, but Happ is the only one to get it three times.

Happ is the first Big Ten player to do it since Purdue’s Robbie Hummel in 2012 and the 13th player overall.

The Illinois product has put together his best overall season in helping Wisconsin return to the top four of the Big Ten and a certainty to make it back to the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence. Happ is averaging 17.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, the only player in the country, according to UW, that is currently hitting those marks on a game-by-game basis.

Sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice was the only other Wisconsin player to earn All-Big Ten recognition. He was chosen as an honorable mention pick.

Senior guard Khalil Iverson was picked as Wisconsin’s honoree for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.

You can find a full list of all the award winners here.