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A healthy D'Mitrik Trice should help Wisconsin's basketball program bounce back next season.

Wisconsin mailbag: How losing impacts basketball recruiting, projected starting lineup next season, offensive line reshuffling

Jesse Temple

Have Wisconsin football, basketball or recruiting questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Wisconsin mailbag to talk all things Badgers. This week, we discuss how losing can impact basketball recruiting, project the starting lineup for next season and address Greg Gard’s substitution patterns, running back Julius Davis’ LSU scholarship offer, potential offensive line reshuffling and which basketball players might transfer.

Question 1

Answer: I think it can go either way, depending on the recruit. Basketball recruiting is so much different than football recruiting because it only takes one or two instant impact players to completely alter the fortunes of a team. Wisconsin desperately needs someone who can come in and take minutes next season. The problem is that Wisconsin is basically playing catch-up in the 2018 class, trying to find some undervalued prospect on the prep school level or potentially as a graduate transfer. The biggest selling point to a graduate transfer is immediate playing time because those guys don’t have time to wait around for an opening in the rotation.

Wisconsin currently doesn’t have any known scholarship offers out to uncommitted prospects in the 2018 class. The last two offers went to point guard Xavier Pinson and shooting guard Ochai Agbaji. Pinson picked Missouri last week, and Agbaji picked Kansas.

Playing time has to be a selling point in the 2019 and 2020 classes. If Wisconsin can land point guard DJ Carton (Bettendorf, Iowa) and either forward Nobal Days (Racine, Wis.) or forward Zeke Nnaji (Hopkins, Minn.), it would likely ease a lot of the frustration from fans. If Wisconsin signs all three, the Badgers will be back in business.

Question 2

Answer: I agree 100 percent. I know the product on the floor this season, particularly during Big Ten play, has been frustrating for Badgers fans. On the other hand, take two of the top four guards off any team in college basketball and see what happens. With Kobe King, D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Brevin Pritzl and Trevor Anderson available next season, that’s a pretty strong backcourt.

My hypothetical starting lineup for next season is Trice, Davison, Khalil Iverson, Ethan Happ and Nate Reuvers. Pritzl and King would be the first two guards off the bench. I just think Davison is too much of a competitor not to start. And Trice can provide an actual point guard on the floor who can help the team when the shot clock is low.

Aleem Ford certainly could slot in as a starter for Reuvers. Wisconsin will still have holes to fill in the frontcourt that could be difficult to mask. But that’s a pretty solid top eight in the playing rotation that should give the Badgers a chance at a winning record and making a run for the NCAA Tournament.

Question 3

Answer: I addressed this in the first question, but a graduate transfer would almost be the perfect scenario for Wisconsin at this stage. It’s so late in the recruiting game that the Badgers are having a hard time finding an impact player who doesn’t already have loads of scholarship offers. When Wisconsin offered Ochai Agbaji, it came during a stretch in which he also received offers from Texas A&M, Nebraska, Oregon and Kansas.

Wisconsin’s coaching staff has to be keeping an eye on potential graduate transfers. But at this stage, those players are still in the midst of their seasons on different teams, so the Badgers won’t know where things stand until the offseason. Don’t rule out Wisconsin picking up a prep school player, either. Keep in mind that two seasons ago, Wisconsin landed D’Mitrik Trice and Aleem Ford from IMG Academy in Florida in April.

Question 4

Answer: Greg Gard is substituting players to find the best fit every game, and it certainly doesn’t strike me as a “by the seat of his pants” experiment. Gard did do something unusual against Michigan, when he subbed out starters Aleem Ford, Ethan Happ and Nate Reuvers just 2 minutes, 34 seconds into the game. But, as Gard explained after the game: “Some were offensive related. One was defensive related. So that’s why I made the changes.”

To be honest, I’m not sure what else Gard is supposed to do with the current makeup of his roster. Yes, Aaron Moesch is playing significant minutes. But a big part of that is because Gard knows exactly what he’ll get when Moesch is on the floor, a knowledgeable player who will run the offense and play defense. I know fans would love to see more of Andy Van Vliet, who hit a 3-pointer against Michigan on Sunday. But he also allowed Duncan Robinson to bury a pair of 3-pointers in the span of 1 minute, 14 seconds. Van Vliet simply can’t be trusted on the defensive end.

Gard is doing the best he can with the players he has available. Five different players played at least 32 minutes against Michigan, so it’s not like he’s generally making wild substitution patterns.

Question 5

Answer: I wouldn’t be surprised if running back Julius Davis (Menomonee Falls, Wis.) picked up even more scholarship offers now that he has earned one from LSU. Recruiting is an interesting game. And once a big-name program shows interest in a player, other schools tend to follow. With the case of quarterback Graham Mertz (Overland Park, Kan.), his talent became obvious to everyone after he committed to Wisconsin on Oct. 8. He has since earned offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Missouri, Georgia, Arizona State, Oklahoma State and LSU. Badgers fans will be holding their collective breath to see whether he ultimately signs with Wisconsin in about 10 months.

I think Davis, meanwhile, will still wind up at Wisconsin. I know Badgers fans tend to get nervous when other programs come in with offers. But he told me a couple weeks ago that Wisconsin was his “dream school.”

If anything, it shows that Wisconsin is landing high-caliber players and can identify talent well before other programs. Davis produced a fantastic junior season in which he carried 257 times for 1,762 yards — an average of 6.8 yards per carry — and 17 touchdowns. He’s only going to get better next season.

“On certain plays, he can knock four or five guys over,” Menomonee Falls football coach Dan Lutz told me. “He knows how to get behind his pads. That’s another thing that he’s really unique with. He gets behind his pads and he’ll run you right over. There’s times I wish he wouldn’t do it. When there’s 10 guys there, you need to learn to fight another day. He doesn’t, though. He’s never played one play less than 110 percent. That’s the type of kid he is.”

Question 6

Answer: Cole Van Lanen and Patrick Kasl are ready to help Wisconsin’s team in 2018. Given their progression, it stands to reason that both will earn significant snaps next season. I still think Michael Deiter moves inside to left guard because it’s his best position and it’s where he projects at the NFL level. Deiter primarily played left tackle last season for the good of the team to help fill the void left by Ryan Ramczyk. While a move to guard wouldn’t be great news for Jon Dietzen and Jason Erdmann, it would be good for Van Lanen and Kasl.

Those two players could potentially fill out the two-deep at left tackle. Kasl was solid when he replaced an injured David Edwards at right tackle against Miami during the Orange Bowl. This Wisconsin offensive line could be scary good considering it returns three All-America players.

Here is my full offensive depth chart projection from after the Orange Bowl.

Question 7

Answer: It’s certainly possible we could see at least one transfer after the season, although it’s difficult to speculate right now on where things stand with someone like Andy Van Vliet. He opened the season as a starter, averaged 15.5 points through the first two games and then lost his starting spot four games into the season.

He hasn’t played more than 5 minutes in any game since Nov. 20, which was the last game he started. I’m not sure I see him vaulting his way back into the regular rotation next season because the effort and execution, particularly, defensively, have not been there. Van Vliet is clearly frustrated and politely declined to answer questions from me about his season after practice last month.

But if Van Vliet leaves, he would be obligated to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules and then would have only one season of eligibility remaining. That’s a tough spot, but sometimes people need a fresh start and a second chance somewhere else. I’d venture to guess Van Vliet’s offseason meeting with Gard will be interesting, to say the least.

Have a question about Wisconsin football, basketball or recruiting? Tweet us @Landof10Badgers and we’ll try to answer your question in a future mailbag. Check to see if your question already was answered by reading previous Wisconsin mailbags here.