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Grading Wisconsin’s rotational players after non-conference play

There’s definitely some quality play on the bench that warrants mentioning.

NCAA Basketball: Idaho State at Wisconsin
Khalil Iverson has a case to be on the Badger starting five.
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

After part one of B5Q’s series on grading Wisconsin’s basketball players through non-conference play, there’s expectations that discussions of the rotation will be the D’Mitrik Trice show...starring D’Mitrik Trice.

Yes, the true freshman point guard has been offensively electrifying, but he’s not the entirety of the second unit. While there was a 72-52 beating of Rutgers, this does not come into play. As far as this piece is concerned Trice is still hitting 60 percent of his three point shots. And I’ll start this piece with end guy on the bench fun facts.

[Ed. note: Please note all stats are from non-conference play, not including Tuesday night’s 72-52 conference-opening victory over Rutgers.]

End Guy on the Bench Fun Facts

While the Belgian forward Andy Van Vliet has not had much playing time, with 17 rebounds in 39 minutes of the non conference season, Van Vliet is grabbing rebounds at a higher rate than Ethan Happ. I’ll take more about why this warrants a mention later.

The redshirt freshman shooting guard Brevin Pritzl may have been lost with the emergence of D’Mitrik Trice, in terms of both effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage, Pritzl is above 70 percent in both metrics. Yes, it’s nine shots and 15 free throws, but the guy’s making the most of his time and might very well deserve a clean shot at playing time next season.

The Rotation

G D’Mitrik Trice: A-minus

While every other aspect of Trice’s game — from facilitation, to three-point shooting, to getting in those passing lanes and turning offense to defense — has been sharp enough to make me wonder if those teams who went to the IMG Academy to see Jonathan Isaac are kicking themselves on missing a really good point guard. He’s hitting a shade under 40 percent from inside the arc. As Happ showed, however, I’m happy to grade on a curve.

But there might be a sea change in terms of the point of view on Trice’s shooting when the season ends.

G/F Khalil Iverson: A-plus

While Iverson putting points on the board is not a consistent proposition, if you wanted to be the guy to make the argument that Iverson is the better overall player over Trice right now, you definitely have a stronger leg to stand on than just highlight-reel athleticism. For one thing, he was tied with Vitto Brown in terms of rebounds (49 in non-conference play), and was third on the team in terms of hitting the offensive glass. For another, he’s passed Happ as the leader on the team in blocked shots. He attacks with abandon, and just adds a dynamism to what the Badgers want to do.

F Charles Thomas IV: C

There have been times when Thomas has looked lost on the court this season. You have a player averaging almost two fouls and a turnover in nine minutes of play, as well as a power forward shooting 41 percent from inside the arc, and they are going to seem problematic. That said, Thomas has shown strengths in his playing time. He was aggressive enough to get 11 offensive rebounds on the offensive glass and was able to convert 15-of-17 free throws on the non-conference season. The sophomore might not be best as the first big man off the bench, but he’s still showing skills.

F Alex Illikainen: D

Is this grade slightly unfair? Yes. Rotational players are the ones damaged most by the vicissitudes of small sample-size theater. With that said, Illikainen is shooting 29 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free throw line right now. As checks on progress go, that’s a below average number. There’s been a shade of improvement in terms of his work on the glass, and he hasn’t made many mistakes outside of being in a shooting slump. It also helps that the Badgers big man race for 2017-18 looks like it’s going to be completely wide open.

G Jordan Hill: C-minus

You can count me among those whom were not surprised that Trice ended up vaulting Hill in the rotation, as his emergence last year was more warmest body than showing skill. With that said, despite his shot still being wonky (Hill 3:16 says I should shoot less three’s for I am three for 16), he’s played a little better. He’s rebounding at a better rate, protecting the ball at a better rate, and is on the rising tide of this season’s defense. As a fourth guard, he’s not going to do anything abjectly harmful, but if you’re wondering if Brevin Pritzl might be an upgrade, you’re not alone.

So where does that leave the Badgers? To put it simply, they’re a good team with space to grow into a great one. Forward Nigel Hayes seems to have found his way back into the good basketball zone. Happ is, as the kids say, a starboy, and the Badgers can consider themselves seven deep with starter-worthy players with Trice and Iverson.

November was a little bumpy, but December was smoother than the Lyricism of Christopher Cross. It’s a long season, but the Badgers look well-prepared for it.