After Wisconsin’s defeat of Illinois on Monday, you may have credited Brad Davison’s 18 points or Khalil Iverson’s season-high 16 for the victory.
You wouldn’t have been wrong, but you’d be overlooking Brevin Pritzl.
As he has all season, Pritzl operated quietly but effectively, tallying six points and a team-high 10 rebounds, including four on the offensive end.
The junior guard’s minutes are down from last season, and his points and three-point attempts have basically been halved. But Wisconsin’s “glue guy”, as head coach Greg Gard recently called him, is making an impact beyond the stat sheet and potentially looking at a larger role down the stretch.
“The sum of the whole is greater than the parts,” Gard said. “And Brevin’s one of those guys that helps. You look at him, ‘How’s he playing there, how’s he getting that many minutes at Wisconsin?’ He does little things that help teams win, and he has a great understanding of the game.”
Despite shooting just two of seven from the field, Pritzl played a season-high 31 minutes against Illinois, and provided that the same “physicality” that Gard has recently called for from sophomore forward Aleem Ford. The 6-foot 3-inch Pritzl has even filled in at power forward at times, while Ford, 5 inches taller, has played a total of five minutes in the last two games.
Pritzl’s defense and rebounding are vital in the Big Ten, and they’re more than enough to keep him on the floor through a rough shooting night, which can’t currently be said for Ford.
Make no mistake, the Badgers need Pritzl to win.
In games where he has played at least 25 minutes, the Badgers are 7-1, and they’re also 6-1 in games where he’s scored at least seven points.
While Pritzl can be a plus player even without scoring, his shooting ability gives the Badgers’ offense another dimension, and it has returned to form since the turn of the calendar.
Ahead of the Badgers’ trip to Northwestern, Pritzl has shot 54.5 percent from deep — 12 of 22 — in 2019, and his teammates are urging him to pull the trigger more.
“I think the guys will back me up on this that when he has open shots, he should take it,” sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice said. “He’s just that knockdown, that kind of knockdown shooter, where we think every shot that he takes is going in if he shoots it with confidence."
"He’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen.”
Pritzl shot a combined 31.5 percent from deep in November and December combined, and went just one of four from behind the arc against Illinois.
“I didn’t shoot well in the beginning of the year, so obviously it’s gonna be tougher to play at that point,” Pritzl said at practice. “But we’ve picked it up as of late, had a little rough one last game but that’s fine, law of averages you know, we’ll be right back.”
But while the "law of averages” may swing back in Pritzl’s favor, it’s not what has kept his place in the rotation afloat. His playing time is safe because of a complete, well-rounded game that has evolved tremendously since his high school days.
After cementing his place as De Pere (Wis.) High School’s all-time leading scorer, Pritzl has become something of a swiss-army knife for the Badgers. He’ll likely never be the same type of prolific scorer in college, but his low turnover rate, stingy defense and sharpshooting ability mean he’s still an important piece for the Badgers.
“It’s tough coming here for college, everyone’s a superstar from where they came from,” senior forward Ethan Happ said. “So there’s a lot of adjusting to different roles and stuff like that, and I think he’s done a nice transition.”
Pritzl has bought into his role at Wisconsin, so much so that it’s far easier to think of him nailing a corner three or grabbing a rebound than dictating an offense or dropping 25 points on an opponent — as he did nightly as a senior in high school.
He scored just three points the last time Wisconsin played Northwestern. Don’t be surprised if he eclipses that total this time around.
If he doesn’t, though, fret not. He likely made up for it elsewhere on the court.
That’s what Wisconsin’s “glue guy” does.