Even after the departure of four of its five starters from last year’s team, head coach Greg Gard is confident that his 2017-’18 Wisconsin Badger (1-0) group has plenty of offensive weapons.
“This team is going to have a variety of scorers,” Gard said after UW’s 85-50 win over South Carolina State Friday night. “I think that’s the unique thing, and hopefully will be a major weapon for this team.”
While in its two exhibition games at home, freshman guard Kobe King led the Badgers in scoring, King did not score his first regular season basket until midway through the second half of UW’s blowout victory. The freshman from La Crosse finished with only six points on the night and fellow freshman guard Brad Davison chipped in only five points after scoring as many as 18 points in one of Wisconsin’s preseason victories in Australia.
Instead, redshirt junior Ethan Happ led the Badgers against South Carolina State University with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, and it was first-time starters redshirt sophomores Andy Van Vliet and Brevin Pritzl who showed their high potential on offense. Van Vliet scored a career-high 18 points on 4-of-5 shooting from three, while Pritzl added a career-high 17 points of his own.
Junior swingman Khalil Iverson, another new addition to UW’s starting lineup, did not attempt a field goal despite looking more confident on offense during exhibition play. Wisconsin’s new starting point guard D’Mitrik Trice finished with an efficient 13 points.
All of this is to say that predicting who will carry the Badgers’ offense on any given night will be a difficult task.
“I think we have the ability to spread it around a little bit,” Gard said. “And whoever happens to find themselves in the right spot at the right time, [it] could be their night.”
Sunday evening the Badgers prepare to face a Yale team whose lofty aspirations have already been diminished due to rampant injuries. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauser reported Friday night that the Bulldogs will be without two of its best players, Makai Mason and Jordan Bruner, indefinitely due to injuries. Mason, a redshirt senior, averaged 16 points and four assists for Yale in 2015-’16 and scored 31 points on Duke in the NCAA Tournament that year. He is expected to miss the next two months with a stress fracture in his right foot.
Bruner, on the other hand, was expected to be one of Yale’s best interior players, but the Bulldogs will now have to find a way to replace his 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds as the sophomore forward recently had surgery to repair his torn meniscus.
Look for Iverson to potentially take advantage of the Bulldogs’ injuries and be an impact player on both ends of the floor.
“I’m more confident now,” he said at UW’s local media day in mid-October. “That’s the biggest thing I felt like [I struggled with].”
Van Vliet also said that he felt more confident after his performance Friday night.
The Badgers are young, but Sunday presents an opportunity for their young weapons to meet with a quality opponent.
“A lot of things we’ll be able to learn from,” Gard said after UW’s victory. “[And] obviously we got a very quick turnaround to prepare in one day for a very good Yale team.”