Maintaining success has never been more difficult in college basketball. The combination of the transfer portal and the NBA Draft makes each offseason both eventful and potentially transformative for most programs.
Now that the smoke has mostly cleared following the 2021-22 season, we’ll go team-by-team in the Big Ten to assess which programs are set up for success, and who might take a step back.
Next up is Wisconsin. The Badgers did in 2021-22 what they seemingly always do — win. Wisconsin posted its 23rd season with a .500 or better record in the Big Ten over the last 24 years. They won a share of the Big Ten regular season with a 15-5 record, giving head coach Greg Gard his second league crown in three years. Now entering year eight of the Gard era, the Badgers are 144-78 (.649) overall and 84-50 (.627) during his tenure.
- Johnny Davis (19.7 PPG),
- Brad Davison (14.1 PPG),
- Lorne Bowman II (3.0 PPG),
- Chris Vogt (2.9 PPG),
- Ben Carlson (1.6 PPG),
- Matthew Mors (redshirt)
- Tyler Wahl, PF (11.4 PPG),
- Steven Crowl, C (8.8 PPG),
- Chucky Hepburn, PG (7.9 PPG),
- Jahcobi Neath, G (1.6 PPG),
- Jordan Davis, G (1.3 PPG),
- Carter Gilmore, SF (0.9 PPG),
- Chris Hodges, PF (redshirt)
- Markus Ilver, F (overseas)
- Max Klesmit, G (14.9 PPG at Wofford),
- Kamari McGee, G (11.6 PPG at Green Bay)
Freshmen (Rankings from 247Sports Composite)
- Connor Essegian, SG (Three-star, No. 226)
RETURNING MINUTES: 52.4 percent (per barttorvik.com)
WHY IT WILL WORK
Because: Wisconsin. Any team that lost 60 percent of its scoring from a year ago, and ostensibly did little to replace that production must be met with skepticism. But we’ve been down this road with the Badgers many times during the last quarter century. No one in the league can claim a system that consistently works irrespective of personnel better than what Gard and his predecessor Bo Ryan have built, and they recruit to their style as well as anyone. Yes, Johnny Davis and Brad Davison leave big holes. But already you can see the players who will emerge. With a foundation of Wahl, Crowl, and Hepburn, Wisconsin will be just fine. A summer foreign trip, and a down year in the conference, will help ensure that is the case.
WHY IT WON’T
The Badgers lost not only their two leading scorers, they lost their heart and soul with Davis and Davison now departed. Gard needs to land a royal straight flush of development to get anywhere near the top of the Big Ten. All good things must come to an end, and Wisconsin’s inability to recruit at a high level will eventually matter. Wisconsin’s offense wasn’t that good last year even with Davis and Davison. They finished just No. 62 in offensive efficiency. But the star duo were both top-300 nationally in turnover rate, and top-400 in free throw rate, meaning they created not just the scoring, but much of the efficiency in the offense. The Badgers will need two of Neath, Davis, Klesmit, McGee and Essegian to emerge on the wings, and none of them are proven at the high major level.
Gard’s 2020 and 2022 Big Ten titles followed very different blueprints, with the former team posing a balanced attack that played through its big men, and the latter centered around star-power on the perimeter. Gard might just be the best coach in the Big Ten when it comes to keying in on the strengths of his roster and designing a gameplan around them. This team can look a lot like the 2020 squad, when Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers wreaked havoc with size and physicality. But to get there Gard needs a lot of players to take big strides. There are major questions out on the wing, but if nothing else you should have learned by now to never doubt Wisconsin.
BIG TEN OUTLOOK: Middle of the pack.
MORE BIG TEN OUTLOOKS:
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
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