The Wisconsin Badgers enter the season with just an average age of 19.5 years old and a significant amount of production needing to be replaced. Wisconsin basketball currently has more questions than answers, despite being just days away from the start of the college basketball season.
Wisconsin will once again be a team that relies on contributions from multiple players in the rotation to help fill the scoring void, possibly by different players every single night.
So, today we’re going to look at the top five players on the team from a different perspective. We’ll be looking at the most important players on the roster, ranked by how the team would be affected should they miss time – NOT by talent alone.
5. Tyler Wahl
Tyler Wahl enters the season as one of the most battled tested players on the entire roster, despite being a true junior. Wahl’s versatility will allow Greg Gard to play whatever lineup he feels gives them the best chance on the defensive end, because he’s more than capable of playing/defending either forward spot.
Tyler Wahl ranked 10th in the Big Ten in defensive win shares (1.4), 10th in defensive rating (96.6), 9th in steal percentage (2.5), and fourth in defensive box plus/minus (4.9) last season.
Tyler Wahl possesses elite defensive instincts and moves his feet really well, allowing him to defend the 1-4 spots on the floor with relative ease. His length allows for him to challenge shots at the rim while also disrupting passing lanes. Despite being somewhat undersized, Wahl is a scrappy rebounder down low and never lets a play die.
Long story short, Tyler Wahl does all of the thankless “glue guy” work and should be able to scrap his way to 8-10 points per game.
4. Steven Crowl
The reason I have Steven Crowl listed at four, is because of his unique skill-set at a position the team relies heavily on in this offense. Chris Vogt is a good player in his own right, but Crowl is a true 7-footer that can space the floor for the badgers. Crowl has a chance to be a real weapon in the pick and pop, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him among the highest 3PT%’s on the team come season’s end.
Crowl does good work with his back to the basket, has soft touch around the rim, and advanced footwork for a sophomore. And while his offensive capabilities are enticing, his ability as a passer is what will help this young offense the most. He’s shown great ability passing out of the post and also on the perimeter.
How he holds up against some of the Big Ten’s best and more physical big men has yet to be determined, but he’ll end up higher on this list as he matures more physically throughout the years. Crowl is a highly skilled big man that has a chance to be really, really good.
3. Brad Davison
Grandpa Brad is high on this list for myriad reasons. First of all, this team does have plenty of people who can shoot the ball, but not very many marksmen that can stretch the floor and draw defenders away from the basket the way he can.
I think you’ll see more of a willingness from Brad Davison to pull the trigger offensively this season. His offensive role should look slightly different than years past, possibly drawing up more sets to get him looks coming off of screens. Davison will be counted on as a reliable scorer/catch and shoot option, especially as this team finds its footing early in the season.
Not to mention, Davison is a vocal leader and the quarterback of the defense. He does so many things this team just can’t afford to operate without.
2. Chucky Hepburn
Chucky Hepburn comes in at second on my list for a few reasons. He’s the kind of player that can make an immense impact on the outcome of a game without needing to score the ball. Wisconsin has had a knack for finding these kinds of players throughout the years, but none have a skill-set quite like Hepburns.
He’s a true, pass-first point guard that can create for others – which will help this offense find it’s way faster than expected. Hepburn has elite level quickness, and should be able to get to the basket and draw attention away from his teammates.
Defensively, I feel confident in saying he’s already one of the teams top three on ball defenders. He plays ball screens really well for a true freshman, and moves his feet incredibly well. His defensive tenacity is going to win Greg Gard and badger fans over real easily. Opposing point guards are going to hate matching up against Hepburn. He does get a bit grabby at times, so he’ll have to work on that a bit.
Due to his position, and the way he plays it – I think Chucky Hepburn is going to be one of the badgers most important players in 2021.
1. Jonathan Davis
No matter which way you slice it, Jonathan Davis is going to be Wisconsin’s most important player in 2021.
Jonathan Davis has elevated his game and is well positioned to be the teams go-to scorer this season. What makes his game unique is his athleticism coupled with the ability to score at all three levels. Davis is slippery and can seemingly get to the basket at will. He should be able to get to the charity stripe more often this season, so long as he stays aggressive/attacking. Davis’s mid-range game is as good as you’ll find anywhere in the country, and his three point shot looks improved as well. As long as Davis hunts his shot and stays aggressive, he has a chance to garner All-Big Ten considerations come season’s end.
Defensively, Davis has the length and athleticism to be a lockdown defender. He had a strong showing as a true freshman, and one would assume he’ll only elevate his effort in year two.
Jonathan Davis is the one player I think the badgers would crumble without in 2021, thus making him the most important.
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