Gone from Wisconsin are five of the eight players featured in last years rotation – all of which were seniors. This season will be the beginning of a new era in Madison, and an infusion of young talent. Devoid of experience, Wisconsin will be turning to some young in-house options to fill some large voids left behind by the graduating senior class.
For those counting at home Wisconsin will be looking to replace 67.9 percent of the team’s made field goals from last season, 66.9 percent of the scoring, 65.2 percent of the blocked shots, 57.8 percent of the assists, 57.8 percent of the minutes played and 48.6 percent of the rebounds. No small task.
Today we will be taking a look at some of the returning on the roster, who are likely to step into a greater role then they were in a season ago. With an abundance of vacated minutes, and minimal experience returning, there will be competition at seemingly every position. These are the players I think will step up and assume those bigger roles.
The crown jewel of the badger men’s basketball program finished his freshman year 5th in minutes per game. Very impressive considering Wisconsin featured six seniors in Coach Gard’s eight-man rotation. There is nothing left preventing Jonathan Davis from getting the keys to the car. Davis is going to be given every opportunity to become the program’s next star, and the focal point on offense.
His natural athleticism and fluidness on both ends of the floor were on full display as a freshman. Defensively, it’s apparent Davis earned the full trust of Coach Gard. Evidenced by the sheer number of minutes he received on such an experienced roster. And if there is one thing we know about Gard, its that you don’t see the floor without being sound in your assignments and following the system’s rules.
As the year wore on, Davis was given more opportunity and responsibility on offense. Already the most talented shot creator on the badger’s offense, Davis has a chance to make the jump to a near all-conference level as a sophomore. I think we’ll see Davis attacking at will and getting to the foul line frequently. What makes his slashing so hard to defend is that the pull-up mid-range jumper is one of his most confident shots.
People are going to expect that he will be a star right away next season, which isn’t necessarily fair. However, I do think we’ll see a notable jump where the surface of stardom begins to be scratched.
This may be another obvious choice considering he was the only other non-senior in the rotation last season, but it’s not without merit. Tyler Wahl is the kind of player that embodies everything that Wisconsin has stood for over the years. Defensively he’s as versatile as they come, which will give Coach Gard options.
Shooting isn’t a strong suit for Wahl, and it may never be. However, improvement of any kind would be significant. If Wahl could force defenders to respect his jumper, that would give him the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim more frequently.
I expect to see more will be low post touches for Wahl this season. Wahl has exceptional footwork and nice touch around the rim. He scored (1.2 PPP) on low post touches, putting him in the 96th percentile in all of college basketball. It may have been a small sample size but he proved to be quite effective with the opportunities he had.
With an inexperienced roster and not much for returning scoring I think Wahl takes a jump in that department. Most likely averaging at or near double figures while taking on more of a leadership role.
Despite the addition of transfer big man Chris Vogt, Steven Crowl will still be given a world of opportunity this season. Don’t let his wiry frame fool you, the kid is incredibly skilled. He will need continued physical development to hang with some of the Big Ten’s best down low, but he is an ideal fit in Gard’s system.
Offensively, big Steve is everything you could want. He is able to shoot the three, nice touch around the rim, decent footwork, and an exceptional passer out of the post. Wisconsin is at their best when they play inside-out, something Crowl is going to be able to help facilitate.
Defensively I think Crowl is going to take some lumps along the way. He’s learned from some accomplished Seniors ahead of him, but he just doesn’t have the size to match Big Ten physicality just yet. That’s not uncommon for a Wisconsin big man. Most big men need more time to mature physically and when they do their defensive potential is unlocked. As long as he can defend ball screens and contest shots he’s going to do a lot of learning on the job.
I think Crowl has a very bright future at Wisconsin, and has a higher ceiling than most realize. Steven Crowl is going to log some important minutes down low.
Don’t let the mysterious upper body injury he suffered last season let you forget about Ben Carlson. Carlson was the highest rated recruit in the 2020 class, per 247. The Minnesota native did suffer an injury that kept him out most of the season, but before that he was a member of Greg Gard’s rotation. Which is definitely noteworthy considering he had players like Potter, Reuvers, Ford, and Wahl ahead of him. Coach Gard thought highly enough of Carlson and where he was at in his development to find minutes for the young forward.
Everything Carlson does well, is everything Wisconsin typically looks for in their big men. He also possesses above average athleticism for the position, something Coach Gard will certainly look to take advantage of. With the game trending more and more towards small-ball, it’s tough to know just how Coach Gard is going to rotate his big men. What I do know is Ben Carlson is more than capable of playing either the four or five spots on the floor.
Assuming Carlson is able to make a full recovery, its hard to imagine a scenario where Carlson isn’t logging major minutes down low. He should be able to step in and immediately contribute on the glass while giving the lineup another floor stretching big man. He’s got a chance to be a good one.
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