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A Pulse Check on the Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Program



Wisconsin Badgers Basketball head coach Greg Gard and forward Tyler Wahl
Jan 17, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Tyler Wahl (5) talks with Wisconsin Badgers head coach Greg Gard during the second half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

To say that 2023 hasn’t been kind to the Wisconsin men’s basketball program would be an understatement.

After starting the season 12-2 and almost upsetting a top-10 Kansas team at a neutral site, the letdown has been real. UW lost eight of their last 11 games before outlasting Michigan at the Kohl Center on Valentine’s Day.

Don’t forget, they still have to face the likes of Michigan (again), Iowa, Rutgers, and Purdue, among others before the Big Ten tournament.

The outlook is bleak, and fans, of course, aren’t pleased with the roller coaster ride that 2023 has been.

Fading In and Out: The Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Team’s Tournament Hopes

Although ESPN’s Joe Lunardi was quoted on the postgame show after the Badger’s win over Michigan Tuesday night saying the team moved from the first four out to the last four in the tournament, the outlook is still bleak.

Of course, five quad-one wins are great, but the team is still 73rd in BPI rankings and 77th in Net rankings.

To make matters worse, the Wisconsin men’s basketball programs only chance to beat a ranked opponent the rest of the way would be against No. 3 Purdue.

A Faint Pulse: Chucky Hepburn’s Scoring Ability

For those of you that read my work, you’ve probably seen me mention the need for Chucky Hepburn to get going on the offensive end.

Clearly, this has failed to come to fruition as March only gets nearer. Hepburn was 1-9 from the floor and failed to hit a three against the Wolverines Tuesday. At one point he had to watch from the bench as reserve Kamari McGee ran the point and gave the team a spark.

In recent games against Nebraska, Penn State, and Northwestern, Hepburn found himself with the ball in the final minute and settled for deep step-back triples that missed the mark. If the Wisconsin men’s basketball team wants a shot at a March run, Hepburn will have to find his shot and playmaking ability.

A Resurrected Beat: Kamari McGee Minutes Off the Bench

It’s been a while since we saw Kamari McGee playing meaningful minutes off the bench for UW, but boy was it fun.

The 6-foot guard played 13 minutes Tuesday, scoring six points on 75% shooting. McGee was scrappy, getting to a few loose balls and even snagging an offensive board.

Most importantly though, he gave the team a spark when they most needed it down the stretch in the second half. All McGee needs to do as Hepburn’s backup is control the offense, probe the defense, and be a spark plug. All of these things he did well against the Wolverines.

Fluttering With Excitement: Young + Future Badgers

Freshman Connor Essegian put the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s offense on his back against Michigan, scoring 23 points on 6-12 shooting. Most impressive though was his 9-10 shooting from the charity stripe to put away the Wolverines.

Only six of Essegian’s points came off the three, as he showed his ability to score both inside off the drive and off the ball with strong cuts. The Indiana native is truly blossoming in front of Badger fans’ eyes and will be a scoring threat down the stretch and for years to come.

The future, however, is bright beyond just Essegian. 2023 commit, 6-foot-8 big man Gus Yalden was in attendance at the Kohl Center for the showdown with the Wolverines on Tuesday.

Yalden’s tweet after the game just further confirms what we’ve all seen in his highlight reels — he’s not afraid to stir the pot. With Yalden’s intensity and post presence, coupled with Essegian’s shooting, and the rest of the strong 2023 recruiting class in Nolan Winter and John Blackwell, the future is bright and no one will want to face UW.

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