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Wisconsin Basketball Hosts Western Illinois Before Daunting Stretch

Wisconsin basketball opens as a 26-point favorite against the Leathernecks.



Wisconsin Badgers basketball point guard Kamari McGee
Nov 22, 2023; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Kamari McGee (4) reacts a after a play against the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the first half during the Fort Myers Tip-Off championship game at Suncoast Credit Union Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, the Wisconsin basketball program looks to extend its three-game winning streak when they host Chad Boudreau and the Western Illinois Leathernecks at the Kohl Center. 

The Badgers, standing at 4-2, secured an impressive comeback victory against SMU, overturning a 10-point second-half deficit behind a late Chucky Hepburn takeover to win 69-61 in the Fort Myers Tip-Off championship game. 

Following the clash against a 2-4 Western Illinois team, the Badgers brace for an intense eight-day stretch, encountering No. 4 Marquette, No. 21 Michigan State, and No. 3 Arizona.

But before that happens, let’s look at the two teams taking the court this evening in Madison. 

Wisconsin Basketball Making Strides on the Defensive End 

In their recent victory over SMU, the Wisconsin basketball team showcased some resilience, recovering from a challenging first half to close the game on a high note. Head coach Greg Gard emphasized the need to build on these performances and maintain momentum.

The team’s defensive improvement since the loss to Providence is notable, conceding an average of just 56.7 points during their three-game winning streak, a significant decrease from the earlier season average of 76.0 points. 

Players like Kamari McGee and John Blackwell have stepped up coming off the bench, with Connor Essegian working his way back from injury — and elevated the team’s defensive intensity. The evolution of the Badgers rotation will be fascinating to watch over the coming weeks. 

Small forward AJ Storr — who transferred from St. John’s in the offseason — leads Wisconsin basketball in scoring with an average of 13.3 points per game, while center Steven Crowl anchors the rebounding efforts with 7.3 rebounds per game. 

Like in most years, the scoring will be a collaborative approach night in and night out, but it’s worth noting that the comfort level of this unit is starting to take shape more with each passing game. 

Meanwhile, Western Illinois is coming off two straight losses to Valpo and Illinois. The Leathernecks are led by junior forward James Dent Jr., averaging 17.7 points per game on just 36.8% shooting from the field. 

This is a poor defensive team (allows 77.3 PPG) — that also shoots just 39.2% from the field as a team. Wisconsin should have a field day if their big men can finish around the rim — and connect on a few shots from beyond the arc. 

The Badgers are currently 26-point betting favorites. However, Western Illinois surprisingly holds a 2-1 historical advantage over Wisconsin basketball, with their last encounter resulting in a surprising 69-67 win for the Leathernecks in the 2015-16 season opener (I was in attendance).

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author 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, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.