In Thursday night’s lone Big Ten matchup Wisconsin outlasted the Illini of Illinois to pull out a conference.
What We Learned
After a Trent Frazier three-pointer tied the game at 52-52 with 11:13 remaining, the Badgers followed by going on an 11-2 run lead 63-54 with six minuted left. In the waning minutes of the game, Wisconsin got a huge contribution from sophomore Brevin Pritzl who scored 10 of his 15 points in the final six minutes of the game.
With the win, Wisconsin has added to their now 13-game win streak over Illinois that dates back to January of 2011.
Let’s take a look what we learned from Wisconsin’s win over Illinois.
Ethan Happ is the best “best player on a bad team” in college basketball
No player in college basketball, especially in the Big Ten has had to carry the load for their respective team that Ethan Happ has done for Wisconsin this year. The Badgers are depleted, young, and frankly just not good. Except for Happ.
Happ leads the Badgers is almost every offensive statistical category there is. His 17 points per game leads the team. Same with his 8.5 rebounds per game, 3.2 assists per game, and 1.4 steals per game. He is Mr. Everything for Wisconsin and most likely the sole reason why they are not currently in the cellar of the conference standings.
In Thursday night’s battle against Illinois, Happ was once again the go-to-guy for Wisconsin and the reason that they finally broke heir five-game losing streak. He finished with quite the stat-line with a team high 27 points on 12-20 shooting from the field while also adding in six boards, eight assists, two steals, and three blocks.
Wisconsin is not going to the tournament this year. They know and the rest of the Big Ten knows it. The sun wont be shining any brighter in Madison either with games against Michigan, Purdue, Minnesota, and Michigan State all at home along with a road game at Northwstern to close out the regular season. At this point, Happ’s job is to keep his team out of last place.
Trent Frazier has the brightest future for Illinois
Let’s not forget, Trent Frazier started the season coming off the bench. Man was the a mistake by head coach Brad Underwood. Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Frazier has been by far the most exciting and prolific scorer for the Illini. He put on a showcase at home against Wisconsin Thursday night.
Happ’s night was only outdone by Frazier. He finished with a game high 32 points on 10-20 shooting from the field, 7-11 from behind the arc, as well as two assists. He put on an absolute clinic.
Frazier came into Illinois as the second highest rated recruit in their 2017 class behind Mark Smith. Smith has shown great promise as a freshman and appears to live up to the hype. So does Frazier. It speaks to the depth that the 2017 Illinois class has and the future that it could bring.
The Illini are close to relevancy. Closer than you think. For most of the year they have been competitive against the top talent on their schedule. Frazier will be in it for the long haul, being a foundation to bringing Illinois back to the ranks of college basketball relevancy.
Wisconsin can use Thursday night’s Brevin Pritzl more often
We have seen the flashes from Brevin Pritzl where he could be a consistent reliable scorer for Wisconsin. He has shown it on multiple occasions. One of those stretches came at the end of December and into the beginning of January where he scored in double figures in four straight games (against Chicago State, UMASS Lowell, Rutgers and Nebraska), while shooting just under 50 percent from the field.
He has also shown the ability to get lost for long stretches as well. Those have come more frequently. The most recent coming in a three-game stretch before Thursday night’s game against Illinois where he tallied nine points in a loss against Nebraska and was held scoreless in back-to-back games against Northwestern and Maryland going a combined 0-13 from the field.
Thursday against the Illini, Pritzl had one of his most consistent offensive performances. One that the Badgers can benefit from more often during his last two seasons at the school. Coming off the bench, Pritzl scored 15 points on 3-4 shooting from the field and 3-3 from beyond the arc.
Pritzl should use the five games remaining on the schedule along with the Big Ten Tournament as an audition to his coaching staff. If he can prove that Thursday night’s version of himself can be consistent for a sustained period of time, he could be a go-to-shooter next season and beyond.
Thursday night’s game between the Badgers and Illini was almost just a formality. A win for either of these teams would only have an impact of the bottom portion of he seeding for the Big Ten Tournament. Neither of these teams have an expected long future beyond the end of the regular season slate. Unless Wisconsin and Illinois can go on a run throughout the rest of the year and into the Big Ten Tournament, sights will quickly be shifted to what could be ahead for 2018.