They’re baaaaack!! The Wisconsin Badgers basketball team was one of the hottest in the nation at the end of the 2019-2020 season, winning eight straight games before the Coronavirus reared its ugly head and put a pause on nearly everything in the world. While this season will undoubtedly be full of pivoting on and off the basketball court, there will be games played and that makes us all extremely excited here at BadgerNotes.com!! The BadgerNotes crew discussed a few hot topics leading into this “Unfinished Business” Badgers season:
What returning player will show the most growth from last season?
Brian – I think the most logical answer to this question is Tyler Wahl, but I am going a different route and taking Aleem Ford. Aleem was kind of an afterthought recruit, catching the eye of the staff while they were watching D’Mitrik Trice at IMG, but has made significant improvement since arriving in Madison. I believe he just started scratching the surface last year. I expect Ford to improve his three-point and free throw percentages and be more dangerous off the ball and getting to the rim off the dribble. Ford will likely have some matchup advantages at 6’8 when playing alongside Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers more consistently. I am buying all sorts of stock on Aleem Ford this season!!
Brad – I think it has to be Tyler Wahl. As a true freshman, Wahl showed that he has what it takes to be the prototypical, jack-of-all-trades Badger and that he definitely belongs in the league. Even though he didn’t put up huge numbers last year, he played tenacious defense and was very smart with the ball in his hands. I think his offense picks up a lot this year and his role will be much bigger.
Dillon – Under Greg Gard, I expect to see a noticeable improvement from each player. It’s clear the upperclassmen have put in the work this offseason, and have shown the younger players what it takes to improve. However, if I had to pick just one I would have to lean towards Tyler Wahl. Wahl came out of his freshman season battle-tested and showed flashes of a player that could be a great fit in this system. Tyler Wahl has added weight and worked on his jumper during his time off and I think those things will pay dividends on the court. I think Wahl will make a nice jump in year two and become a dependable player off the bench.
Dave – I’m taking Aleem Ford. Badger players like Iverson, Butch, even Kaminskjy realizing it was their last go-round seemed to play with more of a chip on their shoulder. Ford will play more consistently in this his final season.
What freshman will have the most immediate impact?
Brian – Let me preface this by saying that I LOVE this year’s freshman class. The Davis twins, Steven Crowl and Ben Carlson is a great class of scholarship players. Carter Gilmore and Justin Taphorn are guys who turned down D1 offers from other schools to matriculate at Wisconsin. What the future holds for Lorne Bowman is still up in the air, but he would be another potential star in this class. The player having the most immediate impact is a no-brainer for me, and that man is Johnny Davis. Johnny brings athleticism, length, shooting range, and a potential slashing mentality that we have not seen in a Wisconsin player in some time. In almost any other year, Johnny Davis starts from Day 1. While he may not be getting the nod at the beginning of games very often, I do expect him to be in the game during clutch time. This kid is going to be a star at Wisconsin!!
Brad – A couple of months ago I would have said Lorne Bowman, but since he has taken a leave from the team, I’ll go with Johnny Davis. I think his athleticism and offensive abilities could give him a chance to see some playing time.
Dillon – This is a really diverse and well-rounded freshman class but one player really sticks out to me and that’s Johnny Davis. This kid is electric and brings a totally different skill-set than anyone else currently in the program. I expect Davis to be a playmaker and be instant offense off the bench as he settles into his role. If I had to put my stamp on one player from this class becoming a star, it would be him.
Dave – Ben Carlson. A Big 10 season requires depth especially on the front line and Carlson has the body type to get some of these minutes and have an impact much like Wahl did last season.
What Wisconsin Badger player will lead the team in scoring in 2020-2021?
Brian – This is a tough one. I think there are legitimately five players that you can make the argument for. That being said, I am going to roll with Micah Potter being the leading scorer on the team this year. Potter gaining his eligibility mid-season last year flipped the switch on the season and helped propel the team to a Big Ten Conference Championship. His ability to stretch the defense and play with strength in the post is perfect for the Badger’s offense. Micah plays with a lot of emotion. Can he create his own energy without fans in the stands this year? No doubt in my mind!! Potter leads the team averaging 18+ per game!!
Brad – I think Reuvers is primed for a big senior season. The Preseason All-Big PF is no longer the skinny kid that gets pushed around by the big guys. With his added weight and agile footwork, he has a polished inside game to go with his sharp-shooting outside game. I could see Reuvers averaging in the upper teens to 20 points a game.
Dillon – Much like last season I expect the badgers to have a different leading scorer every night. With that being said I think Micah Potter has the best chance to be a volume scorer and have multiple blow-up games. Micah Potter has a great inside/outside presence and is an absolute maestro in the pick and roll. When Potter is in the zone he is an absolute microwave on offense and for that reason, I will pick him to lead the team in scoring.
Dave – The threat of Micah Potter and Ford, I see Reuvers being able to finish more consistently and lead a very balanced Badger attack in scoring this season. Reuvers will also benefit from a better perimeter punch.
What place in the Big Ten Conference will the Badgers finish this year?
Brian – Another tough question because the Big Ten is loaded again!! Illinois brings back Kofi Cockburn, Ayo Dosunmu, and Trent Frazier. Can they defend at a high enough level night in and night out? Iowa returns defending conference player of the year Luka Garza and gets Jordan Bohannon back from injury. Do you trust Fran McCaffrey to guide a team down the stretch in competitive games? We saw what happened to the Hawkeyes to finish last season. Michigan State loses Tillman and Winston, but still has a load of talent and the best coach in the Big Ten not named Greg Gard. I think it’s safe to say that these four teams are the best of the bunch heading into the season. Wisconsin’s depth this year is going to be huge for them and the main reason why I predict them to repeat as Big Ten Champions. This is a team that could go ten deep if necessary and will have the weapons to overcome injuries if they should arise. I will go a step further and say that Wisconsin wins the Big Ten title outright. Take that to Vegas!!
Brad – I think we go back to back B1G champs. Not only did we finish the season as one of the hottest teams in the country, but we’re also bringing back the vast majority of our points, rebounds, and minutes. Although I would love to have Pritzl back, having 5 senior starters, an emerging Tyler Wahl, and one of the most talented incoming freshman classes in school history, our ceiling is as high as any team in the country.
Dillon – I might take some heat for this but despite all of the experience returning from a Big Ten championship team, I’m going to pick Wisconsin to finish 3rd with a real chance to contend for the title. For me, Illinois is going to be the team to beat with all of the top-end talents that came back. I’m also higher on Michigan State this year than most. You also have to mention Iowa with Garza coming back and the return of Bohannon. I just think Iowa’s lack of defensive presence is going to prevent them from taking the title. It’s going to be a dog fight for the double-bye in the Big Ten tournament this year.
Dave – I live in Iowa, so you know all the pre-season hype that Iowa is getting. Like last season the conference is going to be a war every game. If they can play all their games during this pandemic, a five loss team might still win it. I see the Badgers as a four or five loss team in conference and part of a three-way tie for the championship. Bench depth will be critical to that being the reality.
Tie Game. Badgers ball with the shot clock turned off. Who is taking the last shot?
Brian – Can I get two for one on this question? I am running the high pick and pop with Trice and Potter or Reuvers in this situation with the goal of getting D’Mitrik a good look at the basket. Gard started running a lot more ball screens for Trice last year and it is nearly impossible to defend when you big guys who can shoot as well as Potter and Reuvers. So my guy is Trice…unless he gets doubled and then Potter or Reuvers buries the three.
Brad – Although I would feel completely comfortable with all 5 starters in this situation, I think it has to be Brad Davison. Davison has the tough-as-nails, ice-in-the-veins mentality that you need when the game is on the line. He’s hit too many big shots (and taken critical charges) to count, including the game-winner against Maryland and the game-sealer at Indiana last season. He played quarterback in high school too, btw.
Dillon – This could be a little bit of a cop-out answer but for me the answer is a D’Mitrik Trice/Micah Potter pick and roll. The badgers have found so much success in doing this that they’re almost guaranteed to get a clean look from one of them, and in that scenario, I like the badger’s odds of calling game.
Dave – Brad Davison is the obvious choice, but other teams know that too. They will scheme to make sure he is not the guy. So here is the role Micah Potter can take. He can score from both inside and out and after the experience he had in the system last season, I see Potter having a breakout season for Wisconsin and leading the team in rebounding too.
There you have it!! A peek into the minds of the Badger Notes staff as 2020-2021 is almost ready to tip-off. This is an absolutely great time to be a fan of the program. A senior-laden team this year coupled with back-to-back outstanding recruiting classes is about as good as it gets. We may not see a lot out of guys like Crowl, Carlson or Jordan Davis this year, but they will be the guys who fill in the blanks for the questions above in two or three years.
We’ve waited a long time for this. It’s time to take care of some “Unfinished Business”.
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