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Wisconsin Basketball: Two Badgers Will Bounce Back This Season



Wisconsin Badgers basketball
Feb 11, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Carter Gilmore (14) and forward Tyler Wahl (5) lift guard Chucky Hepburn (23) up after a foul call against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first half at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin basketball floundered last season for several reasons. Failure to win close games down the stretch, lack of frontcourt depth, and scoring droughts all contributed to a disappointing season for the Wisconsin Badgers. The primary reason Wisconsin failed to make the NCAA Tournament, however, was because it expected more from its primary playmakers. Fortunately for the Badgers, two of those playmakers are back and can bounce back.

College basketball is back in just two days. Get ready for Wisconsin’s season opener against the Arkansas State Red Wolves by reading our full season preview series on BadgerNotes:

Wisconsin Badgers Tyler Wahl Back for Fifth Season

Tyler Wahl has long been a key contributor to Wisconsin basketball, but his performance last season was a bit disappointing. Two seasons ago, he was one of the most effective shooters around the rim in the country. After the departure of Johnny Davis, however, Wahl’s usage increased, and his efficiency suffered. Plus, after suffering an ankle injury during a 63-60 victory at Minnesota in January, the forward never performed as well as he was expected to.

Wisconsin Badgers basketball forward Tyler Wahl

Mar 8, 2023; Chicago, IL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Tyler Wahl (5) brings the ball upcourt against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The dropoff in Wahl’s effectiveness around the rim hamstrung the Wisconsin Badgers. The Lakeville, Minnesota native was the ninth-highest two-point shooting percentage in the Big Ten two seasons ago. Last season, however, he posted career lows for a season in two-point shooting percentage at 43.8% and effective field goal percentage at 43.9%.

The six-foot-nine-inch, 225-pound graduate student is poised for a comeback. He had a full offseason to get 100% healthy. Plus, he should have more help in the frontcourt this season. Junior Markus Ilver appeared to be much improved in the exhibition against UW-Stevens Point after Wisconsin basketball head coach Greg Gard praised the Estonian in his weekly press conference. Add in Wahl’s fellow Lakeville native, freshman forward Nolan Winter, and Wahl should be more spry on a game-to-game basis.

Wisconsin Basketball Point Guard Can Play His Best Role

Chucky Hepburn did not necessarily have a setback season last year. His worst moments came when he was not set up for success. The point guard does his job as a facilitator extremely well, but too many times last season, Hepburn was called upon as a go-to scorer.

The junior from Omaha, Nebraska, is an elite playmaker. According to KenPom, Hepburn was among the very best in the Big Ten in assist rate, turnover rate, and, on the opposite end of the court, steal rate last season.

Wisconsin basketball head coach Greg Gard talks to Badgers point guard Chucky Hepburn

Wisconsin heard coach Greg Gard speaks to guard Chucky Hepburn (23) during the first half of their game Saturday February 12, 2022 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. Rutgers beat Wisconsin 73-65.
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If the exhibition between the Wisconsin Badgers and UW-Stevens Point Pointers was any indication, Gard wants to get back to using Hepburn in his natural role. Against the Pointers, the former four-star recruit recorded six assists, zero turnovers, and four steals in 20 minutes of action. Potential increased efficiency from Wahl, an injection of athleticism and scoring from St. John’s transfer AJ Storr, and maybe even a sophomore-year jump from Connor Essegian could take a lot of the pressure to score off of Hepburn’s shoulders.

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BadgerNotes' resident college basketball sicko, Kedrick Stumbris covers Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball and women's hockey teams unlike anyone else. He received his B.A. with economics and political science majors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 and has had his work published on Bleacher Report and Verbal Commits.