What is the ceiling of this veteran Wisconsin Badgers squad?
As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.
The Wisconsin Badgers head into the 2023-224 season with something to prove coming off of a 20-15 (9-11) season where they missed the tournament and were bounced out of the NIT in the semi-finals to North Texas. But, head coach Greg Gard returns 89.6% of his rotational minutes for this year’s season, good for 4th in all of college basketball.
That being said, last year’s season was extremely disappointing after a blistering start to the non-conference season where they defeated Marquette on the road, 80-77, and finished third in the Battle 4 Atlantis holiday tournament. In that tournament, they lost a hard-fought 69-68 OT game where Kansas scored on a last-minute tip-in by Bobby Pettiford but managed to turn around a day later and defeat an eventual tournament team in USC, 64-59.
The wheels came off in January when Tyler Wahl sprained his ankle against Minnesota, sidelining him for 3 games, but he never truly regained his 2022 calendar year form. He averaged 14.1 points and 6.6 rebounds prior to injury, and his stats regressed to averaging 10.1 PPG and a paltry 43% from 2-point territory. It’s no coincidence his injury coincided with a projected tournament team regressing to being NIT-bound. But, there is hope, as Tyler elected to return for his 5th year under Greg Gard, and he looks to make the most of his last year in a Badger uniform.
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Head coach: Greg Gard (9th Season, all at Wisconsin)
2022-23 record: 20-15 (9-11)
2023 postseason finish: Lost to North Texas, 56-54, in NIT Semifinals
Notable departures: Jordan Davis (Transferred to Illinois State)
Notable non-conference games: vs. Tennessee (Nov. 10), at Providence (Nov. 14), vs. Virginia (Nov. 20 in Fort Myers), vs. West Virginia OR SMU (Nov. 22 in Fort Myers), vs. Marquette (Dec. 2), at Arizona (Dec.9)
PG: Chucky Hepburn (6-2, 195, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 12.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.5 SPG
SG: Connor Essegian (6-4, 195, So.)
2022-23 stats: 11.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.7 APG, 35.9 3P%
SF: AJ Storr (6-7, 205, So.)
2022-23 stats: 8.8 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.8 APG (St. Johns)
PF: Tyler Wahl (6-9, 225, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 11.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.5 APG
C: Steven Crowl (7-0, 247, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 12.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.5 APG
6: Max Klesmit (6-4, 200, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 8.4 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 SPG
7: Carter Gilmore (6-7, 232, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 2.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.9 APG
8: Gus Yalden (6-9, 245, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 128 rated recruit
9: Kamari Mcgee (6-0, 180, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 1.3 PPG, 0.6 RPG, 0.5 APG
10: Nolan Winter (6-11, 220, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 153 rated recruit
11: Isaac Lindsey (6-4, 185, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 1.5 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.1 APG
12: Chris Hodges (6-9, 250, Rs.-So.)
2022-23 stats: 0.1 PPG, 0.2 RPG
Wisconsin Badgers MVP: Tyler Wahl
It wasn’t going to be anyone else here at this spot, as Tyler Wahl is the embodiment of the Wisconsin Badgers. As mentioned earlier, he was on his way to an All-Big Ten caliber season until an ankle injury robbed him of a lot of his mobility and sapped his shooting. He is the de-facto X-Factor for this Badger team, with his post-game, passing, and rebounding being a catalyst for this team to play classic bruising Wisconsin basketball.
If Tyler can play All-Big Ten-level basketball over the course of the season, this team has a very high ceiling. A season reminiscent of Ethan Happ’s senior season where he averaged 17.3/10.1/4.5 is not out of the realm of possibility for the Lakeville, Minnesota native. This team rides and dies with Tyler Wahl, and if he remains healthy for this Badger squad, the rest of the Big Ten should smell trouble.
Wisconsin Badgers make-or-break player: AJ Storr
Greg Gard hasn’t dipped into the portal much in his tenure as head coach, but he wanted athleticism in the portal, and he gets a big-time one in Storr. In his only year at St John’s, he averaged 8.8/1.9/0.9, along with shooting a scorching 40.4% from the three-point stripe. The 6-7 guard adds height, shooting, and athleticism the Badgers haven’t had in…well, ever, honestly.
For Badger fans out there, the highlight-level dunks will elicit memories of notable high flyer Khalil Iverson from the mid 2010’s Badger teams. Rick Pitino may not have wanted him, but Greg Gard welcomes him with open arms.
Yet, this a Badger team that is returning a large percentage of its nucleus this upcoming season, so the way he integrates himself into this team and how he plays his role will determine a lot in how the Badgers play, especially considering the daunting non-conference schedule the Badgers have to play early on in the season.
The All-Big East Freshman performer has tantalizing potential considering the big performances he had against some phenomenal Big East teams this past season. 20 points against the NCAA champion Uconn Huskies, 23 points on the road vs. Creighton. The guy can score the rock, but how well he gels into the vaunted Wisconsin swing offense will be very interesting to see.
Key analytics: Scoring efficiency
Last season, the Wisconsin Badgers finished with an effective FG percentage of 48.3%, finishing third to last in the Big Ten, and 290th out of 363 D-1 teams. There was a noticeable lack of shot-making down the stretch of Big Ten play from key contributors such as Chucky Hepburn, Tyler Wahl, and even Connor Essegian at times, so it stressed the defense even more for a unit that was not a classic vaunted Badgers backline.
The addition of Storr should ease the burden for shot creation a little more off the shoulders of the aforementioned players, and the Badgers can go back to a more balanced scoring attack that was at times, heavily reliant on three-point shot making.
Wisconsin Badgers 2023-24 projections
Projected conference finish: 3rd in the Big Ten
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16 Exit