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Strength in Continuity: Wisconsin Basketball Set to Bounce Back

Wisconsin basketball has all the pieces in place to bounce back.

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Wisconsin Badgers Basketball
Oct 10, 2023; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Wisconsin Basgers players Chucky Hepburn, Max Klesmit and Connor Essegian speak to the media during the Big Ten basketball media days at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Last season marked the second time during the Greg Gard era that the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program missed the NCAA Tournament. 

This subpar finish left fans in various emotional states of anguish. Some understood the reasons for the Badgers setback, while others feared it signaled the beginning of the end for the program.

As Gard enters a pivotal phase in his tenure as head coach of the Badgers, opinions on the team’s overall direction still vary. There’s a vocal minority clamoring for Gard to be fired — while others, myself included, still very much believe in his leadership and teambuilding mantra. 

Either way, how the Wisconsin basketball team performs in 2023-24 will go a long way in determining the temperature of coach Gard’s seat. 

Wisconsin Basketball Has Enough Talent to Contend in the Big Ten

Although Wisconsin basketball played each game last season with a razor-thin margin for error, roster continuity plus a few off-season additions have given Greg Gard and the Badgers considerably more depth.

UW returns an impressive 92% of its scoring, the highest percentage among all major conference teams nationwide. The Badgers also return 88.8% of its rebounds and 96.3% of assists. Those numbers speak to the locker room culture that exists and could give Wisconsin a leg up against programs that suffered from considerable turnover via the transfer portal.

The Badgers brought back Tyler Wahl for a super senior season, alongside Chucky Hepburn, Max Klesmit, Connor Essegian, and Steven Crowl — to help give Wisconsin a solid foundation to build around.

Add in AJ Storr, a promising small forward from St. Johns they brought in through the transfer portal — along with a talented group of freshmen such as Nolan Winter, John Blackwell, and Gus Yalden, and you’ve got a revamped roster worth being excited about.

There are also several players who earned playing time last season, such as Kamari McGee, Carter Gilmore, Markus Ilver, and Isaac Lindsey, who will likely see the floor at various points — significantly increasing the Wisconsin basketball team’s versatility in adjusting to different matchups.

That said, this team struggled to put the ball in the basket and finished No. 140 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency, finishing as the worst Badgers offense in the past 25 years. Trips to the free throw line were also infrequent and must improve drastically — which is something Coach Gard has made a point of emphasis on heading into the new season.

In the handful of practices/the red-white scrimmage I was fortunate enough to attend, there was a cohesiveness and free-flowing nature to how this team moves & shares the ball on offense that excites me. Only time will tell — but I think this team’s ceiling could be higher than I gave it credit for during the offseason.

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret that Greg Gard needs to right the ship for the Wisconsin men’s basketball program in 2023-24.

While evaluating the success of a season, one must consider multiple factors, such as a strong finish in the Big Ten conference, landing a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament, in-season improvements, and the continued development of young talents for the future.

Given the Badgers newfound depth, this should allow Wisconsin to ratchet things up defensively and apply more pressure on that end of the floor — which we all know will make Bo Ryan smile.

Furthermore, the improved depth is expected to contribute to keeping players fresh and positioning them favorably for closing out close games — which was an issue throughout most of last season.

I predict Wisconsin men’s basketball finishes in the top 4-6 range in the Big Ten standings, makes the NCAA Tournament as a 6-8 seed, and finds a way to make it to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017.



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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of BadgerNotes.com, 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.

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