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Can Wisconsin Basketball Increase Tempo Without Sacrificing Efficiency?

Will Wisconsin basketball pick up the pace during the 2023-24 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.

At the Wisconsin basketball local media day held Wednesday at the Kohl Center, Badgers head coach Greg Gard opened up about the team’s pace of play, shedding light on his vision for the upcoming season.

Gard acknowledged his desire for a more up-tempo style of play, recognizing that playing faster can lead to easier scoring opportunities, “but the other teams and jerseys sometimes have a different idea.”

One of Gard’s key points was the team’s depth and experience, particularly at the point guard position. He emphasized the importance of being responsible with the ball while pushing the pace, highlighting the significance of efficiency in the offensive game.

“I think we’ve got an experienced point guard, and we’ve got some depth behind him,” Gard told reporters. “Our bigs are pretty mobile in terms of running the middle of the floor…and then, as I tell all of them, just be responsible with the ball. The pace of play is something that gets maybe over-exaggerated in terms of a number. It’s still about the efficiency of your offense.”

Wisconsin Basketball Team Open to Picking up the Pace … Kinda 

Wisconsin men’s basketball finished last season at No. 343 in adjusted tempo, according to Bartorvik. That number represents a figure much closer to the mean during Greg Gard’s tenure as the Badgers head coach.

However, during Wisconsin’s Big Ten regular season title run in 2021-22, the Badgers finished No. 215 in adjusted tempo — while also being No. 2 in the country in turnover percentage. UW’s performance on the hardwood may not have reached the level of the “Showtime Lakers,” but Gard’s commitment to empowering his players to play faster is not just coach speak.

For Wisconsin basketball, the freedom on the court comes down to playing within the program’s core values and taking care of the rock.

Greg Gard Measures the Badgers Offensive Success by Efficiency

Greg Gard drew a valuable lesson from the 2015 Badgers team, which famously made it to the NCAA title game. Despite having a slower pace of play (No. 344), that team excelled in offensive efficiency, averaging 1.29 points per possession. Gard emphasized that the pace of play number alone doesn’t tell the whole story; it’s the efficiency that truly matters.

Addressing the challenge of facing formidable opponents, Gard stressed that while fast-break points might be scarce against strong teams, the focus remains on creating easy baskets whenever possible. Transition play and ball security play pivotal roles in achieving this.

However, Gard made it clear that the Wisconsin basketball team’s offensive efficiency is the primary concern. If an increase in pace contributes to improved efficiency, he is all for it. 

“I’m more concerned with that 1.06 points per possession last year, Gard told reporters. “That’s got to be 1.1 something. And there’s a variety of ways to do that.”

As the Wisconsin men’s basketball team gears up for the upcoming season, Greg Gard aims to strike a rhythmic balance between offensive pace and efficiency that aligns with the team’s personnel.

Wisconsin Basketball Media Day Notebook: Thoughts & Takeaways

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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.