clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Previewing Wisconsin’s guards entering the 2018–19 season

Reloaded and healthy, this group looks to lead Wisconsin back to the NCAA tournament.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team had a down year in 2017–2018 (duh). They didn’t make the NCAA tournament, the NIT, the CBI, or your high school’s alumni 3-on-3 tournament for charity. Admittedly, the Badgers were busy during your high school’s alumni 3-on-3 tournament and they still donated their time to charity, so cut them some slack!

The Badgers went 15–18 (7–11 B1G) and finished outside the top four in the conference for the first time since the Nixon Administration (don’t fact-check this). A big factor in this precipitous downfall was ::drumroll please:: injuries! Starting point guard D’Mitrik Trice and freshman stud Kobe King only played in the first 10 games, which caused head coach Greg Gard to drastically reshuffle his rotation. It also forced newcomers to play ::ominous organ music:: OUT OF POSITION!

True freshman Brad Davison, who played most of the season with one working shoulder, was forced to move from shooting guard to point guard and still led the team in minutes played! He is the wet dream of every 40-year-old-and-up Wisconsin basketball fan (tough, takes charges, competitive to a fault, pisses off opposing fan bases) and if he played for Duke, he’d be the most hated player in the country, not just the Midwest.

Brevin Pritzl had to play more minutes than normal and T.J. Schlundt, who I’m sure is a very nice person, was shoehorned in as Guy Who Can Play At Shooting Guard Because We Literally Have No One Else Eligible On The Bench, an official position for Wisconsin basketball. Khalil Iverson, who isn’t the best shooter but is the best dunker, sometimes had to play at shooting guard too! It wasn’t ideal!

Bucky’s 5th Podcast, Ep. 41: Basketball season preview. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, and TuneIn.

But this year, ho ho this year, there is depth for days. Weeks, even! King and Trice both received medical redshirts and are healthy. Davison has two working shoulders. Transfer Trevor Anderson is ready to assume the backup point guard role after sitting out last season due to asinine NCAA transfer rules. There are even some interesting true freshman, who hopefully never see the court but are interesting nonetheless!

All in all, things are looking up for the Badgers’ backcourt. Let’s see who is on the roster this year and if any of them have famous, former NBA players for fathers!

Wisconsin Badgers 2018-19 Guards

Number Name Year Is Father Rod Strickland?
Number Name Year Is Father Rod Strickland?
12 Trevor Anderson RS-So No
31 Michael Ballard RS-So No
34 Brad Davison So No
4 Carter Higginbottom Fr No
21 Khalil Iverson Sr No
23 Kobe King RS-Fr No
3 Walt McGrory So No
1 Brevin Pritzl RS-Jr No
13 Tai Strickland Fr Yes
0 D'Mitrik Trice RS-So No

The Big Names

I think there are two obvious answers to who the “big names” in the Wisconsin backcourt are and they are Michael Ballard and Carter Higginbottom. All you had to do was count the letters in their names an...::shock collar that Jake makes me wear goes off::

Ah, shit. I’m sorry, you guys.

The two “Big Names” for the Wisconsin backcourt are Davison and Trice. They are the two likeliest starters on opening night and they will be the two who play the most minutes. Trice is the playmaker in the backcourt. He’ll create his own shot or find his teammate in the right place so that he can get a good shot. Davison is the engine that keeps the team going. He’ll take a charge or demand the ball when the shot clock is winding down or get in your face if you miss an assignment.

Watching how these two coexist will be interesting/infuriating at the beginning of the season, especially if Davison tries to be a ball-dominant two guard since he had so much time with the ball in his hands last year. If Davison reacclimatizes to his preferred position, he should have a much more productive season since he won’t be in charge of getting everyone else their looks.

I’m looking for a healthy Trice and Davison to take some pressure off of Ethan Happ down low, and with the recent loss of Aleem Ford for the dreaded “indefinite” amount of time, their outside shooting is going to be even more important so teams can’t quintuple-team Happ when he gets the ball.

Potential X-Factors

We all know what Davison can do. He’s a very nice player who I’m happy to have on my favorite team. We all know what Trice can do. Another very nice player who brings play-making and shot-creating to my favorite team. A player we don’t really know what he can do (versus B1G competition, at least)? Kobe King. He is the key to making this backcourt unit a major strength of the team.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

King brings things to the table that the rest of the guards don’t. First of all, at 6’4, 203 pounds, he is the biggest guard on the roster. That is important because it will allow him to post up smaller guards and see passing lanes that others can’t. He is also the most athletic guard on the roster and can get to the rim with ease. He averaged nearly 30 points per game in high school at La Crosse Central and he scored at every level there (at the rim, mid-range, and from deep).

Once he gets over being nervous about his knee and is attacking the basket and pulling up for threes, he is going to be a danged joy to watch. He is the first “modern guard” the Badgers have had and I couldn’t be more excited to see him fully unleashed.

Why This Position Group Matters

Happ is good. Like, All-America good. But he can’t, and won’t, get Wisconsin back to the NCAA tournament by himself. The place he needs the most help from, because it has the most talent, is the backcourt. If Davison improves on his All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors, which he should due to the aforementioned second shoulder, and if Trice bounces back from his injury to provide veteran leadership from the point, and if Iverson turns into a Swiss Army Knife that can defend multiple positions and be a little bit of a threat to hit a jumper, and if King shows everyone why he was so highly touted coming out of high school, and if Pritzl continues his transformation into Ben Brust Lite ... well, that’s a lot of “ifs” but hopefully a few of them pan out, or Ol’ Ethan will be leaving school as the most decorated Badger to miss two NCAA tournaments.

And THAT, my friends, is a spooky thought. ::mutters “nailed it” to myself::