In the weeks leading up to the 2017-’18 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.
Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the backcourt for Wisconsin. The Badgers have parted ways with two key guards in Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter. However, Wisconsin has added a pair of talented freshman guards and also welcomes back a few guards that will have the opportunity to make an impact next season.
‘BTPowerhouse Preview’ - Wisconsin Backcourt
- 2016-’17 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: Bronson Koenig (All-Big Ten Second Team), Zak Showalter (All-Defensive Team)
- Departures: Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, Jordan Hill
- Additions: Kobe King, Brad Davison, Michael Ballard (G/F), Trevor Anderson
- Top Player: D’Mitrik Trice
The Badgers have said goodbye to each of their two starting guards from last season. This leaves Wisconsin with some major holes to fill.
Koenig was a three-year starter in Madison and was the Badgers’ leading scorer last season, as well as their second highest scorer during the 2015-’16 season. Showalter was also a starter for the past two seasons. Though he finished within the top five in scoring for Wisconsin in each of the last two seasons, Showalter’s presence will really be missed on the defensive end. The high energy guard finished third in the Big Ten in steals last season en route to All-Big Ten Defensive Team honors.
Though Wisconsin will have plenty of backcourt talent next season, what the Badgers lack is experience. Trice and Iverson each played less than 20 minutes per game last season and were not starters.
King and Davison are both four-star, highly capable recruits. But, the key word is recruit. Neither have ever played a collegiate game.
Wisconsin’s most experienced guard heading into next season is probably UW-Green Bay transfer Trevor Anderson. Though Anderson was only a freshman last season, he played 28.5 minutes per game for the Phoenix. Unfortunately, Anderson isn’t eligible until the 2018-’19 season. So, this is irrelevant.
Trice and Iverson are locked in as backcourt starters next season. Considering both guards will have to go from bench players to everyday starters, they are being asked a lot next season. However, each guard flashed a significant amount of future potential last season.
Since Trice was a little more involved than Iverson last season, I’d say he is Wisconsin’s top guard heading into next season. Trice played three more minutes per game than Iverson last year and played at least 20 minutes six more times than Iverson did. But, you could really make a case for both guys as Wisconsin’s top returning guard.
Nevertheless, both will definitely be starters for the duration of the 2017-’18 season, barring any injuries.
Because the Badgers are also losing a lot in the frontcourt, there is a chance Greg Gard decides to roll with a three-guard lineup next season. If this is the case, redshirt sophomore Brevin Pritzl and the incoming freshman duo of King and Davison all have an opportunity to crack the starting five.
Pritzl was a four-star recruit in 2015 and held offers from Creighton, Marquette, and Xavier. There are high hopes for Pritzl. But, the guard didn’t do much in his first year of eligibility. Pritzl was rarely involved and only played 8.1 minutes per game last season.
If Gard decides to start two guards for the majority of the season, Pritzl, King, and Davison will be the main backcourt contributors off the bench.
Even if Gard does decide to start three guards, it’s difficult to imagine TJ Schlundt, Matt Ferris, or Michael Ballard finding their way into the bench rotation.
Schlundt and Ferris played an average of 2.6 minutes per game combined last season. The two sparsely involved guards collectively scored three points last season. Ballard is a preferred walk on that is listed as a guard/forward. It’s unclear as to which position he will primarily play in college. Regardless, there isn’t a large chance that Ballard will play much next season, if any.
Even though there is a lot of potential within this backcourt, it is extremely inexperienced. Wisconsin’s backcourt will take a big step back from last season’s. Even though Trice and Iverson each scored in double figures six times last season, it’s asking too much of them to immediately compensate for the losses of Koenig and Showalter.
With that being said, I still think major steps forward from each of the two guards can be expected. It’s also worth noting that both Trice and Iverson played decently significant roles in the NCAA Tournament last season.
Trice averaged 15 minutes per game in Wisconsin’s three NCAA Tournament games. Trice also played 24 minutes against Virginia Tech in the Round of 64 and scored six points. Iverson was even more involved. The guard played 25 minutes per game during March Madness and scored 11 against the Hokies. And even though he only scored three against Florida in the Sweet 16, Iverson saw the court for 33 minutes.