Monday night was supposed to feature a pair of Big Ten border rivals battling to bolster postseason resumes as the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers faced off in Madison.
Instead, it showcases one club that’s lost nine of 12; another that’s dropped eight in a row.
The Badgers and Gophers will not be playing in March Madness barring a miraculous run by either of them in the Big Ten Tournament. Wisconsin was plagued early in the season with injuries to Kobe King and D’Mitrik Trice, while the Gophers have arguably lost four of their top six players due to injuries and suspension.
Both teams’ success moving forward, however, will be heavily reliant upon their young Minnesota recruits.
For the Gophers, those reinforcements won’t come until next season when Daniel Oturu, Jarvis Omersa and Gabe Kalscheur join the team as freshmen.
But the undermanned Badgers will be putting a pair of Twin Cities locals on the floor tonight against their former hometown team: Brad Davison (Maple Grove) and Nathan Reuvers (Lakeville North).
Davison was one of the top point guards in Minnesota last year after committing to the Badgers the summer prior to his senior season. As a football and baseball star in addition to his work on the basketball court, Davison was widely regarded as one of the most dominant athletes in Maple Grove history.
His physicality in high school allowed him to attack the rim relentlessly and rebound against bigger post players. He routinely put up eye-popping lines, like his 31 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists and eight steals against St. Michael-Albertville last season, or his 43 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and five steals against Robbinsdale Cooper.
Those who advocated for the Gophers to secure Davison as their point guard of the future were armed with plenty of I-told-you-so arsenal early in the season as Isaiah Washington — a freshman who committed to Minnesota in September of 2016 — struggled mightily while Davison turned into an instant leader and relied-upon scorer with the Badgers.
Davison’s 11.5 points per game, 2.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists, to go with his 40/36/81 (FG/3P/FT) shooting splits — all while dealing with a bad shoulder — have Washington’s 8.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.5 apg and 36/25/79 splits beat out on paper.
That being said, since seeing his minutes increased five games ago, Washington has averaged a robust 16.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.4 apg and shot 47/37/88 to show the potential Richard Pitino saw when he brought in the electric youngster from New York.
Davison vs Washington should be a point guard matchup that will entertain for years to come.
Reuvers, on the other hand, was not expected to be as impactful for the Badgers in his first year. Wisconsin contemplated redshirting him in the fall, but injuries, along with Reuvers’ play, got him into the rotation and eventually into the starting lineup, where he’s made 12 starts, averaging 6.4 ppg in those contests.
The Gophers offered Reuvers a scholarship, but the Lakeville product told the Pioneer Press, “I don’t think [the Gophers] recruited me hard enough.”
According to the report, “[Wisconsin head coach Greg] Gard has called Reuvers about once a week in addition to coming to Lakeville a few weeks ago for an at-home visit, two things Gophers coach Richard Pitino did not do.”
Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but Minnesota could have used Reuvers’ size on this year’s team after a season-ending injury to Eric Curry and suspension to Reggie Lynch.
Alas, the Gophers have chosen their path; the Badgers theirs. And only the next three years will determine which team benefits more from its 2016 recruiting decisions.
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