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Wisconsin Basketball Is Still in “Find Yourself” Mode



Not a lot went right for Wisconsin Basketball in Friday Night’s matchup vs. KenPom Ranked #279 Robert Morris. But in the areas things did go well, they went REALLY well and could prove to be a foundation to build upon moving forward.

Right now though, the areas with which they need to improve upon.

  • Defensive Fundamentals: Limiting Straight-Line Drives | Strong Rotations – Not Over/Under Helping | Screen Communication
  • Offensive Continuity: Reading Cuts | Mixing Actions | Consistent Penetration
  • Taking & Making available 3P Looks.

Are going to severely limit UW’s ability to compete vs. High-Level Opponents. The biggest culprits in these areas are well known. Defensively, it’s Essegian/Klesmit/Storr/Winter. In terms of Offensive Continuity, it’s AJ Storr + Crowl/Winter. Taking & Making 3P looks everyone is at fault except John Blackwell, although Crowl/Wahl/Gilmore are the biggest sore spots in how their inability severely limits the overall offensive spacing/flow.

The bright spots?

  • John Blackwell: Elite 1st Step | Excellent On-Ball & Off-Ball Defense (TRUE FR!!!) | High PPS | Good→Great Ball-Security
  • Tyler Wahl & Steven Crowl – FTAR = 80% & 74.1% Respectively

That’s about it, which tells me if we can get some more guys going. Essegian/Klesmit, with consistent enough Defense and Ball-Security, adds two more 10PPG capable guards into the lineup. Now Gard doesn’t have to play McGee & Lindsey a combined 14+ MPG.

AJ Storr settling into his role and understanding the offensive & defensive principles to a point where he can play without “thinking” and just be instinctual. Winter getting better on defense, specifically in P&R Coverage adding better front-court depth.

If those things happen more quickly than I think, there’s going to be a huge outperformance to where current expectations are. If they take time, which isn’t out of the norm for guys like Storr/Winter in their first year. But it would be a bit dishearting to see Essegian and Klesmit take the STEP BACK that it looks like they have so far this year.


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

4-Factor Prediction vs. Actuals Analysis:

As you can recall I projected a 11-point victory vs. Robert Morris. Right on point, although there is a major divergence within the Model!

We were much worse in every factor but ONE on Friday Night.

  • NoT eFG% Margin | UW Lost -1.30 Points vs. Expectation
  • STOP FACTOR | UW Lost -1.91 Points vs. Expectation
  • OPP STOP FACTOR | UW Lost -0.59 Points vs. Expectation
  • FT MARGIN | UW Gained 9.54 Points vs. Expectation

Based on the results, the Model would have projected a 16-Point Victory. So a bit of underperformance by UW! So let’s take a look at the results driving the 4-Factors to get a better sense of what happened.

Wisconsin Basketball NoT eFG% Margin:

UW was much better than expected from inside the arc on Friday. 21/32 is a pretty decent performance from 2P. Where we continue to underperform the model is from the 3P Line. Going 3/13 is not going to cut when we go against more physically imposing teams in Non-Con but also the B1G. It was nice to see our TO Rate come back down to 13.4%, the model was expecting much more of our offense to come through FGAs vs. FTAs so that’s why an outperformance vs. our Season Average Rate of 16% actually contributed to a worse impact on our overall NoT eFG%. We made that up and more through the increase in FTA Rate!!

eFG% Rates:

  1. AT-RIM (< 4.5FT) = 90.9% (10/11)
  2. IN-PAINT = 57.9% (11/19)
  3. MIDRANGE = 0% (0/2)
  4. ATB 3s = 25% (1/6 = 1.5/6) | 3 > 2
  5. Corner 3s = 43% (2/7 = 3/7) | 3 > 2

Robert Morris shot the lights out from 3P Land Friday Night!!! If they had taken care of the ball, this might have been a completely different game!

eFG% Rates:

  • AT-RIM (< 4.5FT) = 80% (4/5)
  • IN-PAINT = 44.4% (4/9)
  • MIDRANGE = 33.3% (3/9)
  • ATB 3s = 71.4% (10/21)
  • Corner 3s = 56.3% (2/4)

A ton of miscommunication on Screens (Off-Ball & On-Ball) led to a lot of easy looks from 3. That, coupled with some over-helping/rotating also caused a lot of looks throughout the game Friday. I get we wanted to sure up the paint, as teams have been dominating us inside. We limited Robert Morris to a 27% FGA Rate inside the Paint vs. NCAA Average of 50%! But there’s a balance we didn’t strike early which gave Robert Morris confidence early, and by the time we corrected our mistake in the 2nd Half they had the confidence to take and make much tougher shots!!

Wisconsin Basketball STOP FACTOR & OPP STOP FACTOR:

In the Post-Game Greg Gard commented that he wasn’t too concerned with the rebounding effort last night. Based on my Model, I think he should be! We underperformed the Model by 7.6%; Their 3PA Rate & 2P Shooting hurt but even outside of that given our Size & Physicality advantage we should have grabbed a much higher % of DREBs!

For Robert Morris the opposite was true. They outperformed the DREB% Model by about 3%. Giving them a nice boost vs. the Prediction Model in STOP FACTOR.

FT Margin:

  • Wisconsin: FTAR = 88.9% | FT % = 67.5% | 27/40
  • Robert Morris: FTAR = 17.3% | FT % = 78% | 7/9
  • FT Margin = +20

Badgers Player Metrics:


Wisconsin Basketball PPS (Points Per Shot):

Wow, a much better looking chart than Monday’s!! John Blackwell is a player folks, 1.80 PPS on 10 “Shots” (FGAs + [FTAs *0.5]) is really great stuff. I’m not sure how often his FTA Rate is going to be 200% so that’ll definitely put some more focus on his ability to continue that efficiency on higher FGA Volume. But from what I’ve seen so far I think he can handle it!!

Wahl & Crowl – Both over 1.25 PPS on similar volume, the one area where we can see some improvement is in FT%. Especially if their FTA Rates stay where they are, it’ll be critical to get strong efficiency out of those trips to the FT Line! Shooting 75% from the FT Line is like shooting 50% from 3P, but to get the same output (Points). You’d need to get 2x the FTAs vs. 3PAs. It’s much harder to near impossible to get to the FT Line every time down the court, but you can certainly take a 3P every time down. But imagine mixing in half a 3PM every 2 or 3 Possessions. That’s what FTs are when you’re making > 70%-75%.

So the key with FTs is to maximize the opportunities you do get, and on a Per Possession basis, if you can get to the line often enough, your efficiency SKYROCKETS. Right now we have the highest FTA Rate in the KenPom era at 46.1% with an Average FT% of 70.5% (168th per KenPom). Wahl & Crowl are crucial to that, and that is why playing through them in the Post still needs to be a high priority for UW.

Wisconsin Basketball Points-Created/USG%:

Blackwell…Enough Said! 18 in 18 is huge, and a nice 3P Assist really improves his Assist Value/40! Even on very high USG% he created a lot of value for Wisconsin!

Winter & McGee also had good nights offensively in short stints. The big issue for Winter will be on the defensive end. Wahl/Hepburn/Crowl all really positive on strong USG, exactly what you want to see from your veterans!!

Klesmit | Storr | Essegian:

Outside of Storrs High-Volume & Scoring, he hasn’t been very special so far. There’s a big learning curve to being successful at Wisconsin, which makes what Blackwell is doing all the more impressive. So Storr is going to get the benefit of the doubt…for now.

The same can’t be said for Klesmit & Essegian, they have been pretty bad compared to what expectations were coming into this year. Essegian has been dealing with the injury vs. Arkansas State, but even at 70%-85% and expectations lowered, his performance defensively is still not up to snuff.

As for Klesmit, I have no words other than he looks like he’s pressing way too hard. In the opener vs. Arkansas State, he couldn’t have looked smoother and more comfortable. Whatever he needs to do to get back the THAT, we need to be done ASAP.

Wisconsin Basketball Ball Security Factor:

Ilver and Winter skewing the numbers a bit, but both did a lot of good and nothing bad in their small run Friday Night!

Blackwell | Hepburn | Crowl – All shined on Friday Night from Ball-Security standpoint. High DREB% & Steal Rate, with strong AST-TO Rates! The one area I’m a bit concerned with is the trend with Chucky & his TO Rates. They’ve been way too high and so far this season his AST/TO Rate is only 1.33 vs. 1.90 & 1.97 in 2023 and 2022 respectively!

Wahl/Storr/Klesmit – Have a lot of room for growth!! TO Rates are way too damn high.

Wisconsin Basketball is in for a great matchup on Monday vs. Virginia & Tony Bennett. I’ll have a Preview out Sunday Night or Monday Morning!

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.