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

Wisconsin Badgers Basketball: Early Season Grades

Wisconsin Badgers Basketball: Early Season Grades

The Wisconsin Badgers basketball season is well underway, with UW getting off to a solid 5-1 start.  Their showing at the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis was admirable, winning games against Dayton and USC and being just one final rebound away from beating the then-third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks in overtime.

The overall depth has shined in the first few games, with new additions to the regular rotation providing meaningful contributions.  Let’s grade each of the Badgers’ regular contributors. These grades take into account not only current performance but also expectations coming into the season. Only players who have seen action in each of the first six games are included.


The Wisconsin Badgers Starting Five

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

Chucky Hepburn  C-

Chucky came into the season with high expectations and is one of the clear leaders of this team. While he’s averaging a solid 9.7 points per game, his less-than-average start was highlighted by the performance against Dayton.  Hepburn was 1-of-10 from the field with 2 points, one assist, and three turnovers.  Not only was his production low, but he also displayed a lack of leadership and couldn’t perform as one of the top players.  

This performance spilled into the next day, where it took great games from his fellow starters to keep the Kansas contest close.  It must be stated that his showing against USC was far better, and he has continued to be a huge asset on the defensive side of the ball.  Chucky Hepburn will have to be better for this team to thrive this season.

Max Klesmit  B

A new addition to the Badgers, Max Klesmit, has provided a massive jolt to the defensive side of the ball and performed admirably offensively.  A transfer from Wofford, Klesmit has fit well into the starting lineup and has added much-needed production shooting the ball.  He is averaging 40% from the field and 46.7% from the 3-point arc. Perhaps his most important contribution, though, was a block with 3 seconds left on the clock against Dayton to help seal the victory.

Jordan Davis  B-

Stepping out of his brother’s shadow, Jordan Davis has moved into the starting lineup this season and has already become one of the team’s top defenders.  His shooting can still improve as he is hitting just 23.8% of his three-point shots, a stat that will prove to haunt Davis if the number doesn’t tick upwards.  His energy and effort are clear, and he will have to keep making strides to avoid potentially losing his spot in the starting rotation.

Tyler Wahl  A-

Undoubtedly our star thus far this season has been none other than Tyler Wahl.  Leading the team in points and rebounds, Tyler Wahl has also posted the second-highest steal total with 9.  Wahl is averaging 14 points per game and is shooting nearly 38% from the field.  He continues to lead the front line and shined brightest in the near comeback victory against Kansas, logging a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds.  

Tyler Wahl must continue his production and will be a key cog of this team as the season progresses.  Why an A- instead of an A?  Wahl also leads the team in turnovers with 16 on the season.  If he takes care of the ball and keeps playing well in the paint, he will likely remain at the top of most statistical categories and lead this team to its height.

Steven Crowl  C-

Steven Crowl, while somewhat productive offensively, has shown he has a great deal of room for improvement.  The tallest member of the Badgers at 7’0″, Crowl needs to finish stronger at the rim and become a more dominant force inside the paint. He isn’t afraid to take the three as he continues to find himself open at the top of the key. The issue is success, as he is shooting just 25% from beyond the arc. 

There’s no reason to think he won’t continue to be open, and in order for this team to be successful, Crowl will need to find the bottom of the net more often. His rebounding stats have been good, logging 43 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive side. 

The Bench

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

Connor Essegian  A

The highest grade of the group goes to Connor Essegian, the newest Wisconsin Badgers Freshman out of Fort Wayne, IN.  

Essegian has proven he isn’t afraid to take a shot…ever.  His confidence with the rock is unmatched, and he has the production to prove it. He has taken a team-high 24 threes and made 54% of them while shooting 46% from the field.  He has also shown defensive prowess, although this continues to remain an area of growth for him as he continues to learn Gard’s system.  Connor is becoming a star before our eyes, and if his offensive production continues at this rate, look for him to make a move into Gard’s starting lineup.

Carter Gilmore  B

The Badgers don’t have a great deal of depth at the forward position, but Carter Gilmore has shown he wants a place in the regular rotation.  A man of all trades, Gilmore is doing the dirty work.  He’s hustling on the floor, playing strong defense, and isn’t afraid to pull up from behind the 3-point line if necessary.  Only Tyler Wahl and Chucky Hepburn have logged more steals than Gilmore, who has eight on the season. Gilmore should continue seeing minutes, and if his growth on the court matches his effort, the Badgers will see a nice return.

Isaac Lindsey  B+

Isaac Lindsey has provided much-needed depth at the point guard position.  While not originally expected to be a key contributor, Lindsey has come off the bench and given valuable minutes to a position proving to be a question mark for the Badgers. In just 38 minutes this season, Lindsey has taken 13 shots and is shooting 38.5%, including 33% from behind the arc.  His minutes will continue to be key going forward.  Look for Isaac Lindsey’s confidence to grow and his time on the court to slowly increase.


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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 Basketball: 3 Takeaways From Win Over USC

Three games in three days. That’s what Wisconsin basketball signed up for when they accepted the invitation to play in the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis.

After yesterday’s heartbreaking loss at the buzzer against No. 3 Kansas, UW (5-1) won a back-and-fourth game against USC, defeating the Trojans 64-59 behind a 17-point bounce-back performance from sophomore point guard Chucky Hepburn.

UW also got meaningful contributions from Tyler Wahl, who finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, and three assists, along with freshman Connor Essegian who scored 12 of his own, knocking down four three-pointers.

What we learned about this team during the three-day holiday tournament should give Badgers fans plenty of hope for the future.

Here are my takeaways from Wisconsin’s win over USC…

Chucky Hepburn bounced back in a major way

Nobody entered today’s contest needing to see the ball go in more than Chucky Hepburn, who came in shooting a paltry 26.8% from the field.

It’s been painfully evident that Hepburn’s forced the issue thus far and needed to slow things down and let the game come to him.

Against the Trojans, Hepburn finished with a game-high 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting, connected on a trio of threes, recorded two steals, and matched a season-low one turnover in 31 minutes.

The biggest play of the game for Hepburn came up 62-59 with 20 seconds remaining. Needing one last stop, the Nebraska native put a bow on UW’s third-place finish by picking the pocket of USC’s best player, Drew Peterson, and taking it the other way for an easy bucket, putting the game out of reach.

Wisconsin had a balanced offensive attack

With Johnny Davis off to the NBA, coach Gard and company needed a more balanced offensive approach in 2022-23. Against USC, it took everyone to squeak out a win.

UW finished the game shooting 44.6% from the field, which was the first time shooting above 40% since the season opener against South Dakota. The Badgers played inside out and connected on 10-of-24 three-point attempts (41.7%), with five players knocking one down. Additionally, seven of the nine players that entered the game scored, and five had eight points or more.

It’s always good to see Wisconsin win by playing a balanced brand of basketball.

Connor Essegian is the truth

I don’t have enough good things to say about Connor Essegian. Despite having just six games under his belt, the true freshman has already become Wisconsin’s third scoring option behind Wahl and Hepburn.

He finished in double-figures in all three games during the Battle 4 Atlantis, works his tail off on defense (although he still needs work), and continues to eat into Jordan Davis’ minutes.

There is no telling how high of a ceiling he has, but I look forward to watching coach Gard find ways to get him shots in this offense. He’s a critical piece of the puzzle moving forward.


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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 vs. Dayton

Wisconsin started the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament with a matchup against the Dayton Flyers. Dayton started the year ranked in the top 25, so a tough matchup for the Badgers. Wisconsin pulled out the win 43-42. Here are my thoughts on the game. 

Smothering Defense

If you are a fan of offense, this wasn’t the game for you. As ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg called it “a rock fight” it was spot on. Typically a play style that favored the Badgers. Wisconsin was playing fantastic defense and forcing Dayton into quick jump shots. 

At halftime Dayton had scored only 14 points, going 2/16 from three. The badgers also forced them into 10 turnovers. The defense was the reason for the 9-point lead at the half and should be a major reason Wisconsin will have success this season. 

With the game on the line, clinging on to a one-point lead Wisconsin came up with a massive stop. Led by Max Klesmit locking down Kobe Elvis on the final possession. In a game where you shoot 24% from the field and 22% from three, you better have a stellar defense on the other end. 

Bench production

A major question mark entering this season was going to be the bench production for the Badgers. Freshman Connor Essegian has answered the bell for Greg Gard. He started today scoring 11 of the Badger’s first 13 points. 

Today, Isaac Lindsey provided some impactful minutes off the bench. The former walk-on who was just granted a scholarship gave Greg Gard something to think about moving forward regarding his minutes. Lindsay scored or assisted on the last 7 points of the half for Wisconsin. At the half, the bench had 16 of the 23 points. Markus Ilver even came in the second half, kept a play alive, and knocked down two huge threes when the momentum was shifting. 

Wisconsin’s bench unit finished with 24 huge points. 

Kansas Tomorrow Morning

It doesn’t get any easier for Wisconsin as this tournament goes on. Tomorrow morning they will take on #3 Kansas. Kansas is a powerhouse and looks like a final-four contender this year. 

The Badgers will need much more from Hepburn and Wahl if they want any chance against the Jayhawks in the semifinals.

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 Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Griffin Gamble on Twitter, @gamble_griffin3

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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Jan 9, 2022; College Park, Maryland, USA;Wisconsin Badgers forward Tyler Wahl (5) takes a shot against the Maryland Terrapins during the first half at the Xfinity Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Kucin Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

3 Takeaways From Wisconsin Basketball Win Over Stanford

3 Takeaways From Wisconsin Basketball Win Over Stanford

On Friday night, the Wisconsin Badgers improved to 2-0 on the young season after defeating the Stanford Cardinals 60-50 in front of 17,927 fans at American Family Field in the inaugural Brew City Battle.

Coach Gard and the Badgers, who controlled the game from the jump, overcame a rough shooting night by winning the ole Wisconsin way – with suffocating defense, holding the Cardinals to a mere 36.2% from the field and 1-of-17 from beyond the arc.

UW struggled to find an offensive rhythm, connecting on just 5-of-20 three-point attempts but mitigated their shooting woes by taking care of the basketball – turning the ball over only eight times.

Senior forward Tyler Wahl again led the way for the Badgers, finishing with 17 points, five rebounds, and three steals in 32 minutes. UW also received contributions from Jordan Davis and Chucky Hepburn, who registered 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Here are three takeaways from Wisconsin basketball’s win over Stanford.


Wisconsin’s defense looked fantastic

UW showed enough moxy to win the old-fashioned way on a night when the shots weren’t falling, holding the Stanford Cardinals to 36.2% from the field and an abysmal 5.9% from beyond the arc.

In addition, Wisconsin’s defense forced 16 turnovers, which they turned into 18 points, and prevented Stanford from scoring a single fastbreak point. Small sample size, but the defensive versatility and grit were on full display tonight.


Connor essegian was ready when called upon

Starting shooting guard Max Klesmit spent a healthy portion of the game in foul trouble, forcing freshman Connor Essegian into an extended role right out of the gate.

In 23 minutes, Essegian was active on defense and added eight points and two rebounds on 3-of-9 shooting from the field (2-of-4 from three).

The Indiana native has proven to be a spark plug off the bench offensively and has already made my prediction of him becoming the sixth man look good. Every time he shoots the ball, it feels like it’s going to go in.

Buy Connor Essegian stock now, Badger fans, because this kid is really damn good.


Tyler Wahl is a star

The Wisconsin Badgers have a star, and his name is Tyler Wahl. Not only is he the best and most versatile defender on the court, but he’s also become an assertive low-post presence on offense for UW.

Wahl led the Badgers with 17 points tonight, and it’s abundantly clear that coach Gard wants the offense to run through him and Hepburn whenever possible. UW has made a concerted effort to touch the post, which will undoubtedly lead to a greater potential offensive efficiency as they work to find their identity.


What’s next

Wisconsin basketball (2-0) returns to the court on November 15 when the Badgers take on UW-Green Bay at the Kohl Center.


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 Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

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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 Badgers Basketball vs. South Dakota

The 2022-2023 season is officially underway for the Wisconsin Badgers as they hosted South Dakota. My thoughts on the season opening win. 

3-Point Shooting

Wisconsin finished last season as the worst 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten. Without the presence of Johnny Davis’ 19.7 points per game, the Badgers will rely heavily on their outside shooting. Tonight was a nice start in that direction as the badgers went 9/15 from 3 in the first half. With the improvement in Wahl’s shooting, Crowls ability to step outside, all five Badgers on the floor at a given time can shoot it from deep. 

New Faces?

There are some new faces for Badger fans to get used to. Max Klesmit is a transfer from Wofford that will start. Kamari McGee will come off the bench and play some point guard, he is a transfer from UW-Green Bay. Finally, Freshman Connor Essegian who will also come off the bench and provide some scoring. 

Klsemit looked really solid in his Badger debut. He is a transfer that didn’t go nationally recognized but I think is and will prove to be one of the biggest impact transfers this season. I would love to see more minutes from Connor Essegian, especially in non-conference games like this. I believe he will be pivotal for this Badgers offense that will look stagnant at times. Greg Gard will have to live with the defensive mistakes, because Essegian belongs on the floor more. 

Improvements

A few familiar Badgers have really improved their games this offseason and it shows. Tyler Wahl didn’t shoot it well tonight, but he has improved his outside game and play making ability. Steven Crowl looks much stronger and more comfortable in the post. Chucky Hepburn picked up where he left off last season and is looking like that next great Wisconsin point guard. 

Overall, a nice start to the season and this seems like it will be a fun team to watch all year. Come back for more Badger Basketball recaps all season long.

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 Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Griffin Gamble on Twitter, @gamble_griffin3

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.


BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – FEBRUARY 15: Greg Gard the head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers against the Indiana Hoosiers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on February 15, 2022 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Expect Consistency From Wisconsin Badgers Basketball

Expect Consistency From Wisconsin Badgers Basketball

Wisconsin’s season was filled with ups and downs last year. All in all, it was a success compared to the expectations coming into the year. The Wisconsin Badgers were supposed to be in rebuilding mode in the ’21-’22 season after a disappointing season, mass exodus, and some drama hinting at a leadership crisis.

Johnny Davis, a sophomore from LaCrosse that blew up on the scene at the start of last season, was the biggest reason for those increased expectations. His performance in the Maui Invitational, when he scored 71 points in the three games against Texas A&M, Houston, and St. Mary’s, helped Bucky take home the trophy to open the eyes of many. His athleticism was the team’s biggest weapon in the season ahead.

Wisconsin’s offensive struggles in 2021-22

At times, Wisconsin relied too much on Davis bailing them out on the offensive end. The ball movement took a hit, and Davis was asked to do too much against stifling B1G defenses. Along with that was poor passing numbers. The Badgers as a team doled out a measly 11 assists a game and ranked 310th out of the 352 teams in division 1 basketball in that category. It also led to poor shooting from the floor, only making 42% of their shots which was good for just 279th in the country, most notably from beyond the arc, where they only converted 30.6% from long distance, which put them at 319th. That ultimately did them in during their round of 32 loss to Iowa State 54-49 when they shot less than 30% from the field and went 2-22 from three.

This year though much has changed. Davis has moved on as an NBA lottery pick to the Washington Wizards, Chris Vogt, the relief for Steven Crowl, has graduated, and Brad Davison finished his 14th year and will be playing overseas this year.

What does this mean for Bucky?

It’s going to be a change in philosophy. Instead of running an offense through one player, Wisconsin hopes to be able to hit you with multiple weapons. This versatility will give the Badgers more options for running their offense based on how defenses are playing or who is playing well on any given night. The “give Johnny the ball and get out of the way” offense Wisconsin lulled into led to some stale outings when it wasn’t working for one reason or another. While there is nobody touching Davis when it comes to talent on this current squad, they’ll be less apt to run an offense relying on a single player with the pieces they have now. Wisconsin had five players score three or more points a game. Look for that to increase to seven or eight.

That said, while the floor is higher than it was last season for this team, the ceiling is also lower. From what we’ve seen so far, there is no generational talent on this team, and it will depend on players like Tyler Wahl, Chucky Hepburn, and Steven Crowl to improve enough to move this team forward.

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


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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

 


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Mar 18, 2022; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Chucky Hepburn (23) brings the ball up court against the Colgate Raiders in the second half during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Badgers Basketball: Point Guards Preview

Wisconsin Badgers Basketball: Point Guards Preview

The Wisconsin Badgers are set to kick off their basketball season on Monday, November 7th, 2022. Wisconsin will have three returning starters this season but will be without key contributors such as Johnny Davis and Brad Davison.

One of the returning starters will be point guard Chucky Hepburn. With plenty of youth behind him, the Badgers will have a new look in their second unit.

Let’s take a look at the point guards for the Badgers’ 2022-23 season.


Chucky Hepburn

Hepburn heads into year two coming off of a solid season as a true freshman. Last year, the Nebraska native averaged 7.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Hepburn also tallied the most assists on the team with 77 and the second most steals with 36.

After an impressive freshman year, Hepburn is expected to take a big jump. With Johnny Davis no longer with the program, Chucky will be one of the focal points of the offense. His playmaking ability makes him stand out, and his high IQ as a floor general will be a key component in the Badgers’ success this season.

Kamari McGee

McGee, a UW-Green Bay transfer, is one of the newest additions to the program. In his freshman year at UW-Green Bay, McGee posted averages of 11.6 points per game, along with 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. The six-foot, 180-pound guard was the focal point of Green Bay’s offense and posted shooting splits of .388/.275/.808.

McGee currently sits behind Hepburn on the depth chart. The sophomore guard will take the reigns as the floor general in the Badgers’ second unit. McGee’s scoring and playmaking ability make him one of Wisconsin’s best options off the bench.

Luke Haertle

Haertle, a true freshman, comes to the Badgers as one of the best players in the state. The walk-on guard won a Division 3 WIAA State Championship at Lake Country Lutheran in 2022. He averaged 22.9 points per game, with 10 rebounds and 4.9 assists. As an All-State selection, Haertle brings valuable depth to the Badgers’ backcourt.

While Haertle may not see extended playing time, he will be a valuable piece for the future with his scoring ability. He could provide some excellent offense for Wisconsin if his number is called.


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