Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard is shown during the second half of their game Monday, November 7, 2022 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin beat South Dakota 85-59. Uwmen07 17

Per usual, Wisconsin Basketball will rely on defense as its calling card

Per usual, Wisconsin basketball will rely on defense as its calling card

Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin basketball program has built a sustainable, winning culture around its trademark defensive principles over the past two decades. 

UW prides itself on always being in the right place at the right time, making things difficult for its opponents by following the rules of its system. Here is a link to a story that teaches coach Gard’s defensive practices.

Thus far, the Badgers have compiled a 2-0 record, winning games at home against South Dakota and Stanford at American Family Field in the Brew City Battle. And while there have been some encouraging moments offensively, Wisconsin is winning games the best way they know how – with defense.

According to KenPom, Wisconsin basketball is No. 26 in adjusted defensive efficiency to begin the 2022-23 campaign.

“They understand what we need to be good at and what’s non-negotiable,” said Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard. “Offense comes and goes.”

Through the first two games, Wisconsin’s stingy defense is holding its opponents to just 38.4% from the field and 9.7% from beyond the arc.

There are several factors responsible for the impressive start. Despite lacking the size we’re accustomed to seeing, UW is making up for its deficiencies by leaning on its defensive versatility and ability to switch seemingly any matchup.

“This group knows that our strength is in our toughness and our grittiness, said Gard. “That’s embedded in the fiber of our program. To stray from that would be foolish.”

Wisconsin Basketball defensive standouts

Oct 12, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, US; Wisconsin Badgers players Steven Crowl, Chucky Hepburn, and Tyler Wahl speak to the media during the Big Ten Basketball Media Days at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Players like Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl are already considered elite defenders at their respective positions. But we’ve also seen quality defensive efforts on the wing from Max Klesmit, whose shown an impressive motor, and Jordan Davis. Not to mention Carter Gilmore has played with great energy off the bench and hasn’t been afraid to mix it up and dive on the floor after a loose ball.

With the added weight, junior big man Steven Crowl has begun establishing himself as a better rebounder/interior defender. The 7-foot center has already blocked five shots in 2022, just one season removed from swatting nine in 33 games as a starter. He also hauled in a career-high 11 rebounds against the Stanford Cardinals last week – one of the country’s biggest teams, according to KenPom.

Wisconsin’s defensive-minded brand of basketball might not be flashy, but it’s their calling card, and it gets the job done. Albeit a small sample size, the early returns on that end of the floor lead me to believe the Badgers will surprise some people this season.

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Wisconsin Basketball: 2022-23 Season Preview

Wisconsin Basketball: 2022-23 Season Preview

Madison, Wis. – Last season, media pundits quickly wrote off Greg Gard and the inexperienced Wisconsin Badgers, selecting them to finish 10th in the Big Ten preseason polls – a prediction that, in the end, couldn’t have been more wrong.

UW went on to win the Big Ten regular-season title, their second in three years, by doing what they do best: Taking high-percentage shots, not turning the ball over, playing disciplined defense, and getting to the free-throw line more than their opponents

It also didn’t hurt having the Big Ten Player of the Year and first-team All-American, Johnny Davis giving everyone buckets.

2021-’22 Season Performance

  • Record: 25-8 (15-5)
  • KenPom Team Rating: No. 37
  • NET Rating: #25
  • Postseason Appearance: NCAA Tournament (R32)

For more than two decades, Wisconsin has been a recruit-and-develop program. One that’s heavily reliant on internal options stepping up and filling the gaps when major contributors exhaust their eligibility – and they’ve done a pretty damn good job of winning basketball games along the way.

Yet, nobody wants to believe in the Wisconsin Badgers until they see it for themselves.

Over the past 15 seasons, UW has started the year unranked in the AP Top 25 poll six times. In five of those six instances, the Badgers finished the season ranked. Fast forward to 2022-23, and Wisconsin is projected to finish in the bottom third of the league (9th) – which isn’t shocking whatsoever.

It has gotten to the point that being underestimated and proving the doubters wrong has become a rite of passage for the Wisconsin men’s basketball program.

Wisconsin Offseason Exits

Mar 17, 2022; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Johnny Davis (1) answers questions during practice before the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin basketball mantra is to get old and stay old. And anyone who watched UW last season knows that couldn’t have been further from their reality. In fact, the 2021-22 team was the youngest and most inexperienced Greg Gard has coached during his tenure.

Needing to capitalize on his breakout sophomore season, Johnny Davis declared for the NBA draft and wound up being selected in the lottery by the Washington Wizards (go get them checks, Johnny). A foundational piece of the program gone after just two seasons – which is damn near uncharted territory for the Badgers.

In addition to losing a first-team All-American, Wisconsin will be without its Ironman, Brad Davison. He was second-team All-Big Ten last season and finished as the program’s all-time leader in career three-pointers/charges taken. The Minnesota natives shooting, tenacity, and leadership will be missed.

And if those weren’t big enough holes to fill, the reigning Big Ten regular season champions also lost their top three reserves in Chris Vogt (this one is big), Ben Carlson, and Lorne Bowman – leaving the rotation in flux heading into the new season.

MADISON, WISCONSIN – OCTOBER 30: Max Klesmit #11 of the Wisconsin Badgers is fouled going up for a shot during the second half of the game against the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds at Kohl Center on October 30, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

Wisconsin Badgers Basketball: Wings Preview

Wisconsin Badgers Basketball: Wings Preview

The Wisconsin Badgers will kick off their basketball season on November 7th against South Dakota.

The Badgers are facing some roster shakeups after losing some key contributors. Wisconsin will be looking for a new starter at the shooting guard position this year, and one of their transfers may be the man for the job.

Let’s take a look at the wings for the Wisconsin Badgers’ 2022-23 season.

Max Klesmit

Klesmit, a transfer from Wofford, could be the potential starting shooting guard. The junior guard comes to Wisconsin after two standout seasons at Wofford. Klesmit shot a combined 45 percent from the field, including nearly 35 percent shooting from beyond the arc in his two seasons with the team.

It’s unclear at this time who will be the starting shooting guard. Although, Klesmit has put up two productive seasons and an excellent performance in the Badgers’ Red vs. White scrimmage. Those performances should carry him to earning the starting spot at shooting guard.

Jordan Davis

Davis heads into the 2022-23 season as a junior. The 6-foot-4, 202-pound wing played in 27 games for the Badgers last season and averaged 6.5 minutes per game off the bench.

After contributing off the bench last season, Davis will look to solidify his role this year as a starter. His scoring ability and athleticism will allow him to make an immediate impact in the Badgers’ starting lineup.

Jahcobi Neath

Neath, a senior guard, is entering his second season with the program. The 6-foot-4, 194-pound guard appeared in 23 games for Wisconsin last season, including one start. Neath averaged 1.6 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.

Neath was a contributor off the bench last season for Wisconsin and will see some time in that role once again. If Neath finds himself in the second unit, he will bring some solid defense and rebounding for that group.

Connor Essegian

Essegian is an exciting prospect for Wisconsin. The true freshman showed out in Wisconsin’s Red vs. White scrimmage, going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-4 guard showed promise as a shooter in high school, averaging 24 points per game while hitting 41% of his shots from deep in his senior year.

He’ll be an intriguing player for the Badgers this season as he may earn a chance to make an impact off the bench as a true freshman. If he replicates his shooting from the scrimmage, Essegian could see a decent workload for the Badgers.

Isaac Lindsey

Lindsey, a sophomore wing, comes into this season looking to make an impact off the bench. The Wisconsin native appeared in five games last season and scored his first points in a win over Illinois State.

The Wisconsin native just earned a scholarship with the program, a sign that he has improved from his redshirt freshman year. Lindsey’s development will be a key item to watch this season. His shooting ability is intriguing, making him a valuable depth piece off the bench.

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Oct 12, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, US; Wisconsin Badgers men’s head coach Greg Gard speaks to the media during the Big Ten Basketball Media Days at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Basketball: 3 Bold Predictions for the 2022-23 Season

Wisconsin Basketball: 3 Bold Predictions for the 2022-23 Season

Madison, Wis. – Before the Wisconsin Badgers return to the court Monday, November 7, against South Dakota at the Kohl Center, BadgerNotes makes three bold predictions for the 2022-23 season…

Wisconsin finishes as a top-100 three-point shooting team

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – FEBRUARY 23: Chucky Hepburn #23 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates after Steven Crowl #22 made a three-point shot against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first half of the game at Williams Arena on February 23, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Wisconsin Badgers head coach Greg Gard isn’t oblivious to the difficulties his program faced on the court last season, specifically as it pertained to the offense.

Last season, the Badgers ranked 319th out of 358 division one programs in three-point shooting percentage (30.6%) and connected on just 6.5 threes per game (No. 262 in the country) – not good, not good at all.

Without Johnny Davis, who consistently got to the free throw line, those shooting splits aren’t going to cut it if UW’s going to contend in the Big Ten this season.

Wisconsin will have a much more balanced approach that relies on knocking down shots on the perimeter – and call me crazy, but I honestly believe we’ll see a marked improvement.

I’m not projecting Wisconsin to become the Golden State Warriors by any means, but they have more than enough players who, on paper, can provide perimeter shooting.

Players like Hepburn, Klesmit, Davis, Crowl, Essegian, Ilver and even Lindsey all have the ability to be above-average shooters – and with the offense likely running through the low post more this season – I believe those shooters will get plenty of open looks.

For Wisconsin to wind up in the top 100, they’ll need to shoot roughly 35% from beyond the arc, just above Wisconsin’s seven-year average on threes (34.6%) during the Greg Gard era.

I’ll eat my words if the shooting doesn’t look any better than last season, but my gut tells me three-point shooting won’t be UW’s Achilles heel in 2022-23.

Wisconsin basketball finishes with a higher adjusted offensive efficiency rating than last season, Per KenPom 

Oct 12, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, US; Wisconsin Badgers players Steven Crowl, Chucky Hepburn, and Tyler Wahl speak to the media during the Big Ten Basketball Media Days at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Without Johnny Davis and Brad Davison, Wisconsin loses 48% of its scoring from a year ago, but the big question is, how will the offense function without an All-American leading the charge?

My answer probably won’t excite you, but I expect Wisconsin’s offense to be a well-balanced, committee approach – much we’ve seen in the past.

UW’s formula for winning games will remain the same as its always been. Don’t over-dribble, move the ball, find the open man, touch the post, play inside-out and set up open threes.

Who steps up?

Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl are the most logical options to take a noticeable step forward and become stalwarts for UW’s offense to lean on heavily this season. Add in a sprinkle of Big Steve on the low block and perimeter shooting from Max Klesmit and Jordan Davis, and the Badgers should be in good shape.

There are also several intriguing high-upside rotational pieces like Connor Essegian and Markus Ilver that could raise this team’s ceiling if everything breaks right.

I may take some heat for this, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Wisconsin’s offense is better than it was last season – at least from an efficiency standpoint.

According to KenPom, the Badges finished with an adjusted offensive efficiency ranking of No. 62 – which is slightly worse than Wisconsin’s seven-year average (56.8 Adj. O) during the Greg Gard era.

Davis was a high-usage, ball-dominant wing player that didn’t necessarily have terrific shooting splits. This season, I expect we’ll see a tradeoff in production, which is important, in favor of greater efficiency, at least on offense.

I predict Wisconsin will finish with a higher adjusted offensive efficiency, without Johnny Davis, by returning to a more balanced, systematic approach.

Connor Essegian becomes the 6th man as a true freshman 

I have always been a big fan of Connor Essegian’s game and figured he’d become a significant contributor to the program at some point in his career. Given his performances in France and the reports coming out of camp, it looks like he’ll be a part of the rotation from day one.

Essegian has a swagger about him as a scorer that I love. If I had a shot as fluid, aesthetically appealing, and pure as his, I probably would too. His ability to provide instant offense and give UW a true five-tool shooter ensured him meaningful minutes – even as a true freshman.

“He [Essegian] does so many things offensively you can’t teach; we will help him with his defense,” said Gard. “I think what I’ve seen from Connor is an increased level of toughness, which is the first step towards being a better defender,” Gard said. And the other thing is he understands the rules and concepts; now they have to become habits and instincts so he can play faster and more aggressive.

I think it’ll take some time to acclimate to the college game, specifically on defense (he needs to be average), but when that happens, I wouldn’t be shocked to see his minutes shoot up and become the unofficial sixth man by the end of the season for the Badgers.

I’d love to see Essegian playing behind Klesmit and Davis, grooming him for what I believe will be a featured role in the offense down the road. I cannot overstate how much I love his fit at Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Basketball: State of the Union Address


Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin basketball news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

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