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Wisconsin Basketball: Are the Badgers a Top-16 Team in the Country?



Wisconsin basketball; Badgers forward AJ Storr
Dec 2, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard AJ Storr (2) celebrates after a basket against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the second half at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, I believe that after Wisconsin Basketball showed what they did vs. Marquette on Saturday. They can officially carry themselves & their KenPom Ranking! They aren’t “flashy” from an offensive standpoint, with an eFG% at an average rank of 147th out of 362 Teams.

While effective field goal percentage (eFG%) is the most highly correlated individual factor to Offensive efficiency. You can get an even better R-squared value (validity of projection) when looking at Four-Factors.

This brings into the equation three other factors (Offensive Rebound %, Turnover %, & FT Attempt Rate). Looking at these three factors, the Badgers are (27th, 93rd, and 96th), which doesn’t sound ELITE, but most teams struggle to be above the NCAA Average in every category of offensive efficiency. And it’s especially impressive when you look at the level of defenses we’ve played. Let’s take a quick look:

Here is UW at about 115.5 Offensive efficiency. UW is better than the NCAA Average in EVERY category. Only five other teams have done this so far while playing even remotely as tough of a schedule: North Carolina (#5 ADJ OEFF), Purdue (#4 ADJ OEFF), Villanova (#26 ADJ OEFF), Florida (#24 ADJ OEFF), and Utah (#25 ADJ OEFF).

Villanova, Florida, and Utah have all played much easier schedules and performed similarly to slightly better than the Badgers. This gives Wisconsin the edge, coming in at #19 in ADJ Offensive Efficiency, and rightfully so.

Versus weaker competition ARK State, Robert Morris, and Western Illinois; we went 129, 116, and 127 in Offensive Efficiency, respectively. Flexing our ‘scoring muscle” or “flashiness” with eFG%s above 55% in all those matchups. As of right now, though those are the only three opponents outside the Top 75 in KenPom Defensive Efficiency we’ve played!

Defensively, we’re there, and we will be almost every season. Gard’s teams average an ADJ Defensive Efficiency rank of 22.33. With the 2018 Year pulling that down dramatically, excluding 2018, it’s 16.88 as an AVG Rank. As we continue to show Tennesee and Providence were anomaly games we’re going to continue creeping up in the ADJ Defensive Efficiency rankings as well.


Let’s dive deeper into the results of the Game and the Analytics to further break things down!!

4-Factor Prediction vs. Actuals Analysis:

As you can recall, I projected a 2-point LOSS vs. Marquette:

We were better in every factor Saturday!!

  • NoT eFG% Margin | UW Gained 1.10 Points vs. Expectation
  • STOP FACTOR | UW Gained 3.62 Points vs. Expectation | WOW!!
  • OPP STOP FACTOR | UW Gained 1.87 Points vs. Expectation
  • FT MARGIN | UW Lost 6.58 Points vs. Expectation

Based on the results, the Model would have projected a 11.08-point Victory. SPOT ON.

Now let’s look at the results driving the 4-Factors to get a better sense of what happened:

NoT eFG% Margin:

I projected a loss in NoT eFG% Margin, which still hung true.

But UW outperformed the model MASSIVELY in 2P%; this was all built off of smothering Marquette on every driving opportunity forcing them into outside shots!

So we lost the NoT eFG% battle, how did we still win the game??? Well we’ve done it this way I’m about to show in nearly every matchup!


A 1.92 STOP FACTOR, is a really solid performance. We performed pretty much in line with DREB%, but by holding Marquette outside the paint that did the job in helping boost our STOP FACTOR!

Marquette STOP FACTOR:

Here is where we really won the game! Despite our poor shooting, we were able to get a TON of extra possessions and shot opportunities by attacking the offensive glass. Grabbing over 48% of Offensive Rebounding chances will win you a ton of games, or at the very least keep you in it even if you’re not shooting well.

This has been the primary reason Wisconsin Basketball is an ELITE Offensive Team this Season. It’s primarily because we’ve rebounded our misses so well, based on Gard’s Post-Game he called out an improved ability to do so this year. And let me tell you IT SHOWS:

Here is a chart that looks at KenPom Data & TOTAL Rebounding, which just takes our OREB Rate + (100-DREB RATE) = Total Rebounding.

That’s a massive bump over what has been a pretty huge dip, over the course of Greg Gard’s tenure. And this is all related to Offensive Rebounding!

Here’s Defensive Rebounding | Very Consistent + Very Solid #’s Here!

Now Offensive Rebounding | MASSIVE SPIKE & Highest Rate in KenPom Era

This is a fantastic development for Wisconsin, if this can be a staple for us: attacking the O-Boards night in and night out. It will help us in avoiding those games of the recent past where poor shooting destroyed any chance of winning! This right here is one of the biggest feathers in our cap right now!

FT Margin:

  • Wisconsin: FTAR = 51.9% | FT % = 85.7% | 24/28
  • Marquette: FTAR = 25.4% | FT % = 78.6% | 11/14
  • FT Margin = +13

This is another key area where we’ve been outperforming our recent history:

An old adage for Bo Ryan and Gard was to make more FTs than our Opponents ATTEMPTED. This has two facets, one you’re getting to the line often and shooting a high percentage.

But also, you aren’t fouling the opponent, giving them efficient offense. Wisconsin Made TEN More FTs than Marquette Attempted, and if they keep doing that…they’re going to win a ton of ballgames this year!

Getting to the line is a pretty simple formula. You have to get the ball moving towards the hoop. Historically (KenPom Era) Heavy 3P Shooting Wisconsin Teams DO NOT get to the FT Line:

Here is a Graph that highlights this; It shows that as UW increases it’s 3P Attempts as a % of it’s overall shots. Our FTA Rate…plummets! This is BY FAR the lowest 3P-reliant/happy team in Greg Gard’s tenure. They are relentless in attacking the paint.

But it isn’t one-dimensional. Sure, Crowl & Wahl lead us in FT Attempts and have FTA Rates at 57.4% & 55.7%, respectively and is a “boring” aspect of the offense to the haters. But we’re also getting it from drives from Storr/Hepburn/Klesmit, who are all above 24% FTA Rate.

But the real star who gets to the FT Line at an ABSURD RATE is John Blackwell, with a 72.5% FTA RATE!!! Are you kidding me…probably the most ELITE 1st Step I’ve seen since Devin Harris. Add on top that he’s shooting 50% off 1.75 3PA/G, and he’s a nightmare matchup for your 3rd best Guard/Wing defender! I know some are clamoring for him to get more minutes, but he showed some youth in this matchup. We also saw how the season wore on Essegian as a Frosh last year.

I’d much rather see his workload stay in the 15-20 MPG Range and maintain this level of performance! Jacking up his minutes will only hurt Essegian & Klesmit. While simultaneously posing a risk to Blackwell’s Efficiency with higher USAGE that I don’t know he’s necessarily ready for.

Wisconsin Basketball Player Metrics:

Wisconsin Basketball PPS (Points Per Shot):

Crowl unsurprisingly leads the pack here! He doesn’t get the love he should as one of the most dynamic Big Men in the country. His Numbers are pretty eye-popping. But we’ll get to that in Points-Created.


Klesmit didn’t lead the pack, mostly because he had too much of his work off the dribble. He’s been really good to start the year off the bounce, but he’ll revert to the mean, which started on Saturday.

Hepburn has been an enigma. His Catch & Shoot numbers have been absolutely horrendous. There’s no way that will continue, he’s way too good of a shooter. While I don’t love that a majority of his shots off the bounce are midrange-2s, as they’re highly inefficient shots. But he’s been making those at a pretty good clip in part due to shooting them at lower volume. Once his C&S 3P game gets back in line with his historic performance, our Offense goes to another level!

Storr’s 3P shooting has been a concern, but given the Off-Dribble Volume and what that means from a FTA Rate, coupled with his extremely good FT Shooting. For him to maintain a 0.8 PPS is something I don’t necessarily mind. Especially from the standpoint of potential and what we’ll NEED later on in the season I’m okay with him getting the reps and comfortability NOW.

Wisconsin Basketball Points-Created/USG%:

PSA to the Gilmore Haters, he’s going to continue to get minutes & it’s because he’s a GREAT Basketball Player in every aspect of the game outside of Scoring. AND THAT IS OKAY!

Back to Steven Crowl, I think he’s one of the most Dynamic Big Men in the Country & doesn’t get the love I feel he should from Badger Faithful which could help fuel his National Campaign for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award. Which I think he deserves to be in the conversation for, even if he doesn’t realistically have a shot at winning it with Zach Edey in the picture. But let me start making the case:

Below is alLook at USG RATE (X-Axis) & Paint Points/100 Possessions (Y-Axis):

Crowl is at right at the 85th Percentile for Centers, on a really low USG RATE! Given how efficient he’s been, I think we need to go to him down low even more, not just because he can score it but because it may be our best offensive position. Here’s why:

Below is a look at Paint Points/100 (X-Axis) & AST/100 Possessions (Y-Axis):

Crowl is above the 85th Percentile for Centers in ASTs/100! He can pass out of it and initiate Plus Opportunities for Shooters or Drives off difficult closeouts. That is an extremely powerful tool to have; not only is he a guy you can rely on to get you “easier” buckets, but when that gets going and teams inevitably look to double or dig down.

He’s got the ability to create offense for others. All while taking care of the ball and keeping his USG RATES LOW. He’s truly one of the more dynamic Centers in the game and deserves more respect, and it needs to start with Badger Fans giving him some!

Wisconsin Basketball Ball Security Factor:

All this talk about Offensive Rebounding and I realized that’s one factor in BALL SECURITY I’ve been completely omitting. That is now rectified.

Hello again to the Gilmore Haters!!!

But what a game from Hepburn/Wahl/Crowl, they have been the engine to this team. There’s certainly flash from other spots, but from a consistency and performance output across the season, it’s been those three collectively pushing us out from under what was a disastrous 2022-2023 campaign!

Klesmit’s hot shooting overshadowed what was a really concerning 2nd Half. First of all his shooting reverted pretty heavily to the mean in the 2nd Half. But it was especially concerning when you look at it through a Ball-Security lens. Again I’m not at all diminishing what he did in the 1st Half; that was beyond huge. It is a shame, however, that Gard doesn’t fully trust Blackwell in those situations yet. But I understand it because when he did plug in Blackwell there were some breakdowns fundamentally on defense. I don’t know, though. I think the Hot-Hand fallacy might have gotten GG here…

One of the Three gauntlet games down, we go to MSU on Tuesday and then down to Sunny Arizona on Saturday. It’s the most excited I’ve been for December Wisconsin Basketball in a LONG TIME. Can’t wait for Tuesday Tip-Off.

On Wisconsin!

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Gard Your Fickell is a leading authority on Wisconsin Badgers analytics, specializing in dissecting the intricate data behind football and basketball. With a deep passion for the game and an analytical mindset, Gard Your Fickell offers readers a unique perspective on the Badgers performance.