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Looking at the Future Recruiting Needs for the Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin's off to a (somewhat expected) bumpy start. What are their future recruiting needs?

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin is off to an uneven start this year, though it was somewhat expected as they lost five major contributors from last year's Final Four team. Unfortunately, the schedule, especially in the Big Ten, is daunting. An NCAA tournament bid, which has been a given during Bo Ryan's tenure, is certainly not guaranteed this season. Also, Ryan's looming retirement is a separate issue, but it's certainly linked to Wisconsin's future recruiting.

The Backcourt

Bronson Koenig (Jr.) and Zak Showalter (RS Jr.) will return next year. Both have logged heavy minutes and also have greatly increased responsibilities (particularly for Showalter, who's playing 32 MPG, up from seven last year). Koenig's playing about seven more minutes a night, but his offensive workload has increased sharply.

Many are intrigued by Jordan Hill, a redshirt sophomore, but his minutes have been limited early this season, and he'll struggle to crack the two guard rotation of Koenig and Showalter. But, long term Hill will get opportunities. Khalil Iverson, who's listed as a small forward, has been playing on the wing. Just a freshman, his athleticism is eye-catching. Iverson just needs to refine his game (shooting), and gain experience. In case you care, Wisconsin fans have been comparing him favorably to Alando Tucker.

Brevin Pritzl, a talented, 6'3" freshman guard, is in the pipeline and in 2017, Ryan has secured a verbal commitment from Kobe King. King is a great prospect, who is apparently committed to Wisconsin regardless of Bo Ryan's situation.

The Frontcourt

Wisconsin is stacked at the three and four heading forward. Nigel Hayes could jump to the NBA, but it'll depend on his season and draft projections. Vitto Brown has expanded his role and minutes and will certainly return for his senior season. Ethan Happ, a redshirt freshman, is a prototypical Wisconsin player and is already averaging double figures in points. Charlie Thomas, a 6'9" true freshman, has great promise, and is in Ryan's rotation early (which is significant). Thomas is a physical inside presence who can hit a mid-range jumper. Alex Illikainen, who hasn't played much yet, is another 6'9" true freshman who'll contribute at some future date.

Ineligible this season, Andy Van Vliet is a traditional stretch four/five. He'll need to add some size and strength, but his shooting will translate immediately, especially in Wisconsin's offense. Still undecided, Nick Rakocevic is a 6'11" center from Chicago, Illinois. In addition to Wisconsin, he has offers from Iowa and Indiana (Big Ten) and a host of other schools around the country. Rakocevic is a three-star recruit according to ESPN, but as reported by the Chicago Tribune, he's shut down his recruiting until April. Rakocevic can shoot, but has been inconsistent and didn't have a great off season. Wisconsin is in dire need of landing some recruits so it would be a solid addition if they could snag Rakocevic when he re-approaches the recruiting process.

Overall

Bo Ryan's status, while perhaps not terribly impactful at the moment, is still disconcerting for recruiting and the program's long term direction. Last year was emotional, but this year will test Ryan emotionally in other ways and who knows if that'll influence his decision after the season (in either direction).

Looking at the roster, true size at the five is an area of need, but Van Vliet could plug that void. He'll need to mature and develop more physically, but he does bring raw size to the table. The Badgers also need some shooting help and Van Vliet could also help in that regard.

Beyond the bigs, it's less about who Wisconsin has in the recruiting pipeline and more about developing the young talent on the roster, which has been Ryan's specialty. Wisconsin doesn't have any seniors on scholarship, meaning everyone could return next season (especially if Nigel Hayes doesn't jet for the pros this offseason). The freshman will be a year older and wiser, but for fans looking for last season's magic, it might be another year or so away. That being said, developing the talent at hand will be of the utmost importance for Wisconsin as their recruiting has came to a stall with Ryan's future in limbo with the program.