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Wisconsin Basketball: McIntosh Defends Gard, Essegian Makes History, More



Wisconsin Basketball SG Connor Essegian
Feb 26, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Connor Essegian (3) dribbles against Michigan Wolverines guard Jace Howard (25) in the second half at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a busy week for the Wisconsin basketball program, ladies and gents, but fear not because BadgerNotes can help get you back up to speed with a roundup of some important news you may have missed.

Wisconsin Badgers Athletic Director Defends Greg Gard 

I understand that we live in a ‘what have you one for me lately’ society, but the answer can’t be to fire the head coach every time Wisconsin basketball hits a rough patch. 

So forgive me if I don’t base my personal judgments of Greg Gard on one up-and-down season while ignoring his body of work–which is a sentiment that Wisconsin Badgers Athletic Director Chris McIntosh echoed in a conversation with Jim Polzin of the WSJ earlier this week

*Gard haters may want to brace themselves because he isn’t coaching for his job down the stretch. 

“There has not even been a conversation about that,” McIntosh told Polzin earlier this week, reiterating his confidence in Greg Gard. 

“Our fan base is passionate,” he said. “We all share high expectations…And sometimes you’ve just got to push through adversity, and that’s what we’re doing right now. We’ve got a young team, and these experiences will pay dividends in the long run.”

You can never say anything with 100% confidence because none of us know the conversations happen behind closed doors. Still, Gard has won the Big Ten regular season title in two of the last three seasons and, by definition, is running a championship-level program — as defined by Chris McIntosh himself. 

So to think Greg Gard was coaching for his job after one down season is laughably premature. He’s earned the right to fix this thing in the offseason. 

If the Wisconsin basketball program is enduring similar struggles this time next year and is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, they’ll reevaluate. 

Connor Essegian Sets a Wisconsin Basketball Freshman Record

Wisconsin basketball’s standout freshman guard Connor Essegian set a school record in Sunday’s 87-79 overtime loss at Michigan.

The 6-foot-4 guard poured in a team-high 24 points and knocked down a three-pointer with just over 15 minutes left in the second half, giving him the all-time Badgers record for made threes by a freshman, eclipsing the mark (60), previously set by Brad Davison back in 2018. 

Essegian, an Indiana native, leads the Wisconsin basketball team in scoring with 12.1 points per game — which, if he can uphold, will make him the first freshman to lead the Badgers in scoring since Sam Okey did it in 1995-96. 

Wisconsin Basketball RUMOR

Last but certainly not least, there is a rumor swirling (dating back to the start of the season, but since given added fuel by Patrick Reusse) that St. Thomas freshman standout Andrew Rohde is going into the portal [this offseason] and transferring to a Big Ten school (not MN).

Rohde, a 6-foot-6 wing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is averaging 16.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists on 45.5% shooting from the field.

According to the 247Sports Composite, he was the No. 316 overall prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, the No. 51 SG in the country, and the No. 7 player in Wisconsin.

He held offers from Appalachian State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, DePaul, Illinois-Chicago, Western Illinois, Western Michigan, and UW-Milwaukee.

Although he was lightly recruited out of Brookfield Central High School, Rohde has quickly made a name for himself and would assuredly be a hot name on the market if he was to enter the transfer portal this offseason.

There have been rumblings throughout the season that Greg Gard and company would make Rohde a high priority if he became available — and there is no doubt that he would fill an immediate long/short-term need within the Wisconsin basketball program as a wing with the ideal size to play the “3”, that can score the rock and has multiple years of eligibility remaining.

I’d keep an eye on this one once the season finishes.

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