Oct 30, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers Connor Essegian (3) looks to pass the ball against the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds during the second half at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Basketball: 3 Takeaways from win over UW-Eau Claire

Wisconsin Basketball: 3 Takeaways from win over UW-Eau Claire

Madison, Wis. – Wisconsin basketball had a busy offseason. Big Ten Player of the Year, Johnny Davis was selected in the NBA draft lottery, Brad Davison wrapped up his tenth year of eligibility, and several notable players departed from the program.

After some re-tooling, the Wisconsin men’s basketball team finally took the court on Sunday afternoon in a preseason exhibition against UW-Eau Claire.

In their first game in front of the Kohl Center faithful, Wisconsin took an early lead and never looked back, defeating the visiting Bluegolds 76-45 behind a game-high 14 points from Steven Crowl and double-digit scoring efforts from Tyler Wahl (10) and Connor Essegian (10).

The Badgers are now 18-0 vs. the WIAC all-time.

In no particular order, here are three takeaways from Wisconsin’s exhibition victory over UW-Eau Claire…

Rotation taking form

Greg Gard rolled out a starting five of Chucky Hepburn, Max Klesmit, Jordan Davis, Tyler Wahl, and Steven Crowl, as was to be expected. 

Behind them was a bit of a mystery entering Sunday’s contest, with as many as 12 players vying for a spot in the rotation. 

Even though it was an exhibition, it’s clear the rotation is beginning to take form. Jahcobi Neath, Carter Gilmore, and Connor Essegian were the first three players off the bench and figure to be the core members of the rotation. 

Interestingly enough, Kamari McGee and Chris Hodges, who play two key positions, were in the next tier of players to enter the game. This indicates coach Gard feels good about his team’s versatility and ability to play multiple roles. 

At times, Klesmit and Neath shared ball-handling duties when Hepburn was on the bench, which surprised me, although it allowed UW to put additional shooters on the floor. We’ll see a lot of mixing and matching depending on matchups this season.

Connor Essegian looked the part

Wisconsin’s lone scholarship recruit in the 2022 recruiting class, Connor Essegian, is quickly ascending his way up the depth chart. 

Against UW-Eau Claire, Essegian played 15 minutes and scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, adding one rebound and one assist. 

His confidence was on full display, showing zero hesitation in hoisting several shots from beyond the arc we typically wouldn’t see a freshman take. 

The defensive end, which has been a point of contention, wasn’t terrible whatsoever. Essegian played with energy and gave effort the entire time he was on the floor, which bodes well for his long-term development. He’ll be good enough to justify meaningful minutes and give UW a scorer off the pine. 

Chris Hodges showed flashes

One of Wisconsin’s most significant question marks entering the 2022-23 season surrounded the lack of frontcourt depth following the departure of Chris Vogt.

The only returning big man behind Crowl is 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman Chris Hodges, who is viewed as a long-term project. Although he’s outside the top eight right now, there will still be a role for the Illinois native.

He played physically down low in limited minutes and showed that he could make a serious impact if he sticks around long enough to develop under coach Gard.

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