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4 Reasons Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Will Miss the NCAA Tournament



Wisconsin Badgers Basketball head coach Greg Gard

After another grueling loss in the Kohl Center Sunday night at the hands of the Northwestern Wildcats, the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s tournament chances are on life support.

As an optimistic UW fan, this was a tough lede for me to type. But even I’m ready to throw in the towel.

A squad as offensively challenged as the Wisconsin men’s basketball team needs to be smart, scrappy, and tough-minded. On top of this, they need to convert free throw attempts at a high rate, limit turnovers, rebound well on both ends, and take high-percentage shots. Unfortunately, these are all things UW has struggled with in Big Ten play.

It hasn’t been a pretty season at all, and because of that, here are four reasons why the Wisconsin men’s basketball team will fall short of the NCAA tournament in 2023.

Poor Free Throw Shooting

After Sunday night’s loss, the Badgers are now shooting a cumulative 65% from the charity stripe. Honestly, the only guy I feel confident in at the line is Connor Essegian. But the freshman sharpshooter isn’t the issue, it’s the guys who get to the line more frequently. Chucky Hepburn, Steven Crowl, and Tyler Wahl. Crowl and Wahl are shooting just a lick over 60%, while Hepburn is at a 71% clip. It’s not like these aren’t big free throws either — most come down the stretch of tight finishes. Good teams make free throws, and UW hasn’t hit that mark.

Remaining Schedule

The Wisconsin men’s basketball team now sits at two games under .500 in the Big 10 and 13-9 overall. With tough games remaining against Purdue, Penn State, Michigan, Iowa, and Rutgers to name a few, it’s tough to envision the team losing less than at least three games. And with very few top-tier wins during the season (The Kansas win would have been huge), UW’s strength of schedule isn’t anything to write home about. Wisconsin currently sits 67th in the Kenpom adjusted ratings, with a 46th-ranked non-conference strength of schedule and a 19th-ranked overall strength of schedule. As it sits, their best win this season would be the victory at Marquette.

Lack of Offense and Depth

The Badgers rotation realistically only goes 6-7 guys deep before they begin grasping at straws. The only player that has shown the ability to create his own shot consistently has been Hepburn. As a team, the Badgers have shot 36% from deep this season, good for 70th in the NCAA. Not good enough for a team that relies so heavily on it.

Tyler Wahl has been uncharacteristically bad — especially since returning from injury — at finishing in the post, and Crowl now receives double teams, which hampers his ability to control the game down low. Mix in Connor Essegian’s growing pains (even though the future looks bright), and Jordan Davis’ and Max Klesmit’s inability to get to the hoop or consistently knock down threes and you have a team that can’t hang with the big boys of the Big 10.

Lack of Toughness, Physicality, and Basketball IQ

What i’ve noticed always seems to separate Wisconsin men’s basketball teams from the rest is their peskiness. They are tough, physical, and outsmart you on the court.

However, the 2023 squad hasn’t been up to their own standard. They currently rank 345th in the country in offensive rebound percentage, are averaging 8.9 turnovers per game, and don’t seem to have the dive on the floor for loose balls mentality like past groups.

Whether it’s coaching, player mentality, lack of depth, or simply players being in the wrong positions at the wrong time, it has come back to haunt them. Don’t get me wrong, every rotation player has found their niche in 2023, but it simply feels like there are a few pieces missing.

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