What should the expectations be for Wisconsin basketball in 2021-2022?
Preseason expectations when we’re still six months away from college basketball season? We don’t all sleep in May.
While 2019-2020 has been a year in which Wisconsin basketball has exceeded the wildest expectations, 2020-2021 has brought the Badgers back to earth. Prior to the start of the year, our BadgersWire team viewed a second weekend tournament appearance as the barometer of success. Despite being ranked 4th in the country at the start of the year, Wisconsin limped through the Big Ten to finish 18-13 overall and 10-10 in the conference game.
Finishing four games below where they had been in conference the year before was not the final chapter in the storybook for the senior class of 2020. Regular season struggles drove the 9 seeded Badgers to a failure in the playoffs, because after beating North Carolina by hand in the first round, the defensive pressure and athleticism of 2021 national champion Baylor was too much of a task in the second round.
While a number of factors related to COVID-19 made the year an unforeseen challenge, a team led by senior Wisconsin leaders fell short of expectations last year.
Turn everything you knew about last year’s Badgers back on its head for the year to come. Close your eyes and imagine a world where every time you turn on Big Ten Network, you don’t hear about the overwhelming Wisconsin experience. No older than the Chicago Bulls credentials, no middle-aged graphics and the beginning of the youth movement.
The Badgers will have a young and inexperienced core outside of the return of fifth-year goaltender Brad Davison. The Big Ten conference may not be as good at the top as we saw last year, but it will likely be recharged with a double-digit number of teams that are good at the NCAA tournament level. .
So where should we expect Wisconsin to fit in? Davison returns his 10 points per game to go with 3.5 rebounds, but mostly comes back as an emotional leader. As a fifth-year player alongside a number of freshman and sophomore guys, the Minnesota native will be a teacher for the young backcourt. This young backcourt consists of red-shirted freshman Lorne Bowman and freshman Chucky Hepburn, with second Jonathan Davis leading the wing.
There are more question marks than certainties when looking up and down the list. Will Wake Forest transfer Jachobi Neath regain confidence and play a significant role in the first year as Badger? Can 7-foot-1 transfer to Cincinnati Chris Vogt come into the year healthy and fill a need for Wisconsin? Can Chucky Hepburn or Lorne Bowman (or both?) Step up their offense in their first season to give Wisconsin another reliable goalscorer?
The funniest question of all might be a leap from grade one to grade two for Davis. A flexible operator in the mid-range and tenacious on the glass the first year, he averaged 7 points per game and over 4 rebounds per fight as a rookie. This happened on just over 6 basket attempts per game. Wisconsin will have to replace well over 1,000 placement attempts this year with the departure of top executives D’Mitrik Trice, Aleem Ford, Micah Potter, Nate Reuvers. Expect Davis’s basket attempts per game to drop to at least around 10.
In a Big Ten conference that will once again have depth, five-star talent, and real contenders, Wisconsin seems to fit somewhere in the middle of it all. Their identity should, as usual, start with defending a team that has the potential to be versatile for this purpose. With greats like Ben Carlson, freshman Matthew Mors and Tyler Wahl, the Badgers can send rosters that won’t be afraid to switch big for guards.
The offense will be hard to come by in stages, as Wisconsin must rely on a plethora of freshmen and sophomores for most of their score alongside Davison. With the offensive fouls, expect the Badgers to fight the top of the conference. As for the corresponding conference in Wisconsin, the Badgers pose an entirely different problem this year.
Instead of the Big Ten knowing exactly what the top contributors tend to be, how to best match them, and who the Badgers will go to most often as they did last season, the distribution of offensive punches will be at least a mystery. . the beginning of the year.
While the 2020-2021 Badgers were similar at the start of the year versus the end, expect a very different 2021-2022 Wisconsin squad in February than you see in November. Youth comes with excitement, but also with growing pains and unknowns.
Are Wisconsin an expected tournament team? Probably not, but a tournament appearance seems like a fair goal. It feels like the Big Ten have had the middle of the conference sandwiched between a few great teams and a few terrible teams over the past decade. Wisconsin will be firmly in the middle of this sandwich. Finishing between 8 and 12 in the conference is likely, but the difference between those two numbers means the difference in the appearance of a tournament.