When Micah Potter announced that he would be leaving Ohio State and transferring to the University of Wisconsin in 2018, most Badger fans didn’t really know what to expect. In 2 years as a Buckeye, Potter averaged roughly 4 points and 2 and a half rebounds per game. He saw his minutes decline from 14 per game as a freshman, to 10 as a sophomore. Was he destined to be just another body to spell minutes for the starters, or was he a hidden gem that was being misused in the wrong system and just needed a change of scenery? Unfortunately, Badger nation would have to wait longer than expected to find out.
In one of the worst NCAA rulings in recent history, Micah Potter was deemed ineligible for the first semester of the 2019-20 season when seemingly everyone with a pulse was granted a waiver to play immediately. What makes things even more frustrating and controversial, is that Potter did everything right. According to the NCAA transfer rules, a player must sit out two semesters, unless given a “hardship” waiver, before they are allowed to play with their new school. Potter did skip the entire 2018-19 basketball season at Ohio State, but he chose to take classes (at OSU) during the fall semester so that he could remain on schedule for graduation. Since Potter had only attended one semester (Spring) at the University of Wisconsin, the NCAA ruled that he must complete a 2nd semester before he could be allowed to play; apparently, the NCAA hates students.
Due to the NCAA’s ruling, the Badgers were forced to play the first 10 games of the season without their transfer big man, going a very mediocre 5-5. The season started out with some success, winning 4 of their first 5, highlighted by a blowout win over interstate rival, Marquette. After the promising start, Bucky proceeded to lose 4 of their next 5, including a terrible showing in the Legends Classic at the famed Madison Square Garden, where the Badgers lost to Richmond and New Mexico – not exactly the elites of college basketball. The “Fire Greg Gard” crowd was reaching a fever pitch (You know who you are!).
On December 21, Badgernation got the shot in the arm that we were all waiting for; Micah Potter was finally eligible to play. Potter was the immediate spark that this team drastically needed. Wisconsin won 6 of their next 7 games, including 2 huge road victories over then 5th ranked Ohio State and 20th ranked Penn State (Potter had a monster 24 point/13 rebound double-double against the latter). Potter proved to be more than just a typical big, he had a deadly outside game to go along with a strong inside presence (Potter would lead the Badgers in field goal (.528), 3-point (.451), and FT (.860) percentage). The Badgers now had something that all teams strive for: 5 guys that could spread the floor and shoot from anywhere on the court, which was perfect for Greg Gard’s swing offense. Ohio State’s loss was definitely Wisconsin’s gain!
Potter would go on to finish 2nd on the team in points (10.1/game) and blocks (1/game) and lead the team in rebounds (6.3/game), all while playing only 17 and a half minutes a night. To put this into perspective, his per 40-minute averages were: 23 points and 14.2 rebounds, both by far the best on the team. As impressive as Potter’s stats were, it was his play in big moments that stood out most. It seemed like every time the Badgers needed some momentum, Potter was in the mix. Never was this more evident than the last game of the season at Indiana. Bucky had won 7 in a row and put themselves in position to clinch their first Big Ten title in 5 years, but apparently, someone forgot to tell this to the Hoosiers. Indiana had been in control for the vast majority of the game and found themselves up by 3 with a little over 5 and half minutes left to go; what ensued next was one of the biggest sequences of the season. Potter forced a steal, grabbed an offensive rebound over 2 Hoosiers defenders, went back up and was fouled on the made layup (he would tie the game with the free throw). On the very next possession, Potter would grab another offensive rebound, and hit a wide open Brad Davison for a 3. In less than a minute and a half of gameplay, Potter had a steal, 2 offensive rebounds, 3 points, an assist, and single-handedly turned a 3-point deficit into a 3-point lead. Potter would finish the game with his 3rd double-double of the season (14 points/11 rebounds), but most importantly the Badgers would win the game and clinch a share of the title.
The Badgers will be riding a tsunami of momentum heading into the 2020-21 season. The defending Big Ten and National Champions (albeit a simulated one… still totally real though) will be bringing back their top 5 scorers and rebounders, an emerging young talent in Tyler Wahl, and one of the most talented, and highly ranked recruiting classes in school history. Long gone, and answered, are the questions about how Micah Potter will fit in with this team… they have been replaced with “how much can he improve from year 1 (technically ½) to year 2?,” “Can Potter and Reuvers stay on the floor long enough together to become a dominant ‘Twin Tower’ combination?,” and most importantly, “For the love of everything holy, can we please get this kid more than 17 ½ minutes of PT a night!?”
Article By: Brad Winter
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