Wisconsin preview capsule
Last season: 15-18, missed NCAA Tournament for first time in 19 years.
Coach: Greg Gard.
Conference: Big Ten.
Who’s gone: Reserve forwards Aaron Moesch and Andy Van Vliet (transferred to William & Mary).
Who’s back: The Badgers get 95 percent of their scoring back from last season, led by senior forward Ethan Happ. The 6-foot-10 Happ (17.9 points per game, 8.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists) has been working on foul shooting and developing a mid-range jumper. Three important pieces in the backcourt are back from injuries, starting with guard Brad Davison. He emerged as an emotional leader during a freshman season in which he was hampered by a shoulder injury. D’Mitrik Trice (foot) and Kobe King (knee) give Gard depth and options at the perimeter. Getting guard Brevin Pritzl to hit consistently from 3-point range might make foes think twice about doubling Happ. Six-5 senior Khalil Iverson is the team’s best athlete and embraces opportunities to guard an opponent’s best scorer. Six-11 sophomore forward Nate Reuvers can hit jumpers but Badgers can get a boost if he can help Happ and Iverson on the boards.
Who’s new: Trevor Anderson gives Gard another backcourt option after transferring from Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he averaged 9.8 points and 28 minutes in 20 games. He shot 37 percent from 3-point range. The Badgers added two scholarship players in their freshman class: guard Tai Strickland, who is the son of former NBA player Rod Strickland; and 6-8 forward Taylor Currie from Clarkston, Michigan.
The Skinny: With Happ leading the way, the Badgers have the ingredients of a team that should return to the NCAA Tournament. Happ, along with key upperclassmen Iverson and Pritzl, played on tourney teams that included Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig. The backcourt should be stronger with a healthy Davison, Trice and King. The Badgers won five of their last eight games last season because of better defense. They’re stressing defense again going into this season.
Expectations: Wisconsin was a long shot to win the NCAA Tournament at 120-1, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers. It’s on par with other Big Ten teams Maryland and Penn State. Michigan and Michigan State are the top favorites out of the league at 35-1.
For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25