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How Can Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Right the Ship?



Wisconsin Men's Basketball Team Forward Tyler Wahl
Jan 28, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Tyler Wahl (5) reacts to a foul call during the second half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

Madison, Wis. — Greg Gard and the Wisconsin men’s basketball program (13-8, 5-6 Big Ten) are in a rut. The Badgers have lost six of their last eight games and are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in 24 years. 

Perhaps the most troubling part is that UW hasn’t played with the same passion, grit, and cohesion we’ve seen that helped the Badgers overcome talent gaps in the past. 

With the Big Ten season halfway through, here are a few areas Wisconsin men’s basketball can clean things up to right the ship.

Get Tyler Wahl Back on Track 

Honestly, I don’t see a route for the Wisconsin men’s basketball team to figure out things on offense—scoring will continue to be challenging. But UW can be markedly better/more efficient if they figure out how to get Tyler Wahl back on track. 

Wahl’s regression in the low post has been a real head-scratcher, to say the least. 

According to Synergy, Wahl averaged 0.992 points per possession on post-touches last season – placing him in the 80th percentile among all division one players. He was one of the best low-post scoring options in the Power 5 from an efficiency standpoint. 

The Minnesota natives shooting splits went from an impressive 51.6% from the field and 57% on two-point baskets last season to an underwhelming 41% and 43.4% in 2022-23.

Some of Wahl’s struggles could be explained by his ankle injury, increased role in the Wisconsin men’s basketball program, and being the top player on the scouting report. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward has also seen a substantial uptick in usage — going from 20.7 USG% to a team-high 29.6% this season. 

Potential Solutions

But on the other hand, Wahl simply needs to be better and stop forcing the issue. Greg Gard needs him to play within the framework of the offense, improve his shot selection, and take a back seat to his teammates if he doesn’t have a great matchup that night. 

“You don’t have to force things when we don’t get exactly what we want,” UW head coach Greg Gard said. “The post is – as you’ve heard me call it so many times – a playmaking position. That doesn’t mean you have to shoot it.”

His teammates must also move better without the ball on offense to allow him room to work in one-on-one situations.

Wahl is the best and most versatile defender in the Wisconsin men’s basketball program, and nobody is disputing that. But if the offense is going to find its way, UW will need more from its senior forward. 

Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Must Stay Together + Lock In Defensively

Like it or not, the best way for the Wisconsin men’s basketball program to start winning close games has more to do with defense than offense. 

Before Tyler Wahl’s injury, the Badgers defense held opponents to 61.2 points per game. Since then, UW has allowed 66.3 points per game on a much higher field goal percentage. 

If Wisconsin men’s basketball is going to turn their season around and make a push for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the toughness and grit we’ve seen this group play with needs to become consistent again. 

“I think the No. 1 thing is you got to get back to being who you are,” Gard said after a recent loss. “That was a conversation we’ve had with these guys; we talked about where have we strayed from who we are. You can’t fix everything, but the number one thing … was what we were not doing defensively.”

Even though the rotation is tight, UW has to ride its horses and play with a sense of urgency every night — knowing the outcome of a close game could be the difference between them going dancing or making the NIT.

Get to the Charity Stripe

It was Bo Ryan’s golden rule that Wisconsin men’s basketball needed to make more free throws than their opponents attempted. 

And although UW is a low-possession team, that hasn’t been the reality for the Badgers this season. UW has shot fewer free throws than its opponents – and they’ve also made less. Not exactly a recipe for success. 

Wisconsin is No. 348 in the country in free throw attempts and No. 13 in the Big Ten in both FT attempts and makes. And if the low number of trips to the FT line wasn’t enough — the Badgers are ranked No. 12 in the Big Ten in free throw percentage as well (65.8%).

The offense as a whole isn’t going to be fixed with one wave of a magic wand, instead, it will come from cleaning up areas on the margins. More attempts from the charity stripe would go a LONG way in helping this offense — especially in close games. 

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Dillon Graff is a Substack newsletter best-selling author, publisher of AllBadgers, and the owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today's BadgersWire, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, Bucky's 5th Quarter, and FanSided.