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Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Doesn’t Need a Roster Overhaul



Wisconsin Badgers basketball

Opinion: Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Doesn’t Need a Roster Overhaul

Madison, Wis. — I understand the struggles the Wisconsin men’s basketball program has had this season — I watch the same games as everyone else. 

However, I consider myself an optimist, and I don’t for one second believe this program is the dumpster fire that the vocal minority would lead you to believe. Sure, it has its warts, but the foundation is solid. 

While an NCAA Tournament birth might be a longshot, I evaluate every Wisconsin Badgers roster by how many players would earn minutes on a Big Ten title-worthy team–something we’ve been lucky enough to see firsthand two of the last three seasons (thank you, Greg Gard). 

I then use that curve to determine how many pieces Wisconsin men’s basketball needs to add to get back in the hunt. 

By my count, the Badgers currently have six players who would play for Greg Gard on a GOOD Wisconsin team.

That’s not to say there aren’t others deserving of minutes this season — or players capable of developing into those roles down the road — instead, it’s simply who fits the criteria as I write this today. 

Who Makes up the Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Teams Foundation?

Oct 12, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, US; Wisconsin Badgers players Steven Crowl, Chucky Hepburn, and Tyler Wahl speak to the media during the Big Ten Basketball Media Days at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

I might be in the minority, but I firmly believe that Connor Essegian and Steven Crowl are the two best/most important players in the Wisconsin men’s basketball program — and the advanced stats agree. 

Per, Big Steve and Essegian lead UW in PRPG with 2.7 and 2.6, respectively. PRPG is a metric that essentially accounts for how many points a player is worth to a program – relative to a replacement-level option. 

Realistically, an argument could be made for anyone of UW’s top four players as the most important — but Essegian’s scoring and Crowl being a seven-footer with an expanding low post game and facilitating ability make these two vital to the team’s success moving forward.

But That’s Not All…

Then, Wisconsin men’s basketball has a dynamic two-way forward like Tyler Wahl, who is the perfect complimentary player that can be a go-to option in the low post against the right matchup, + he could use his extra year of eligibility next season and help make up an impressive frontcourt duo.

Wofford transfer Max Klesmit is a dawg on the defensive end, knocks down threes at an efficient clip, and is a low-usage offensive player – AKA a glue guy. Every good Wisconsin team has featured a player just like him + he has multiple years of eligibility remaining.

Chucky Hepburn, the sophomore point guard, is the straw that stirs the drink. He is far from a finished product, and he could easily become UW’s best player with some seasoning. Still, his ball security, defense, and three-point shooting make him a foundational piece for Wisconsin men’s basketball to continue building around.

Last but not least, the sixth player, at least in my eyes, is Jordan Davis. He plays good defense, doesn’t turn the ball over, provides some shooting off the bench, and is a solid rebounder.

This isn’t a knock on Carter Gilmore, I’m a supporter of him and think he’s done a terrific job given the minutes he’s been forced into, but on a Big Ten title-contending team, there wouldn’t be this sizable of a role for him.

Additionally, Kamari McGee could become a quality bench piece (he’s shown flashes), but he’s still putting it all together at the Power 5 level.

So Where Does that Leave Wisconsin Men’s Basketball? 

All of this is to say that Wisconsin Men’s basketball isn’t that far away from competing for a Big Ten title and could even make a run as early as next season if Tyler Wahl returns and no key contributors leave.

And I know everyone loves to talk shit about Greg Gard’s recruiting efforts, but the 2023 class is pretty damn good, IMO. Gus Yalden, Nolan Winter, and John Blackwell are great schematic fits and will instantly provide an influx of talent on the roster, regardless of their ability to play as true freshmen. 

This roster desperately needs another true big man off the bench (sorry, Chris Hodges ain’t it) and a small forward with size + perimeter skills (I’m looking at you, Andrew Rohde). 

If coach Gard can find one or two players in the transfer portal capable of slotting into the rotation immediately and count on some internal development — Wisconsin men’s basketball should be a top-25 preseason team in 2023-24. 

I’d never tell anyone how to fan, but it’s OK to be a glass-half-full person from time to time. Cheers.

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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.