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Big Ten men’s basketball preview: Wisconsin Badgers

How will the Badgers fare this season after losing four of their top six players?

NCAA Basketball: St. Francis-NY at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Badgers

Head coach: Greg Gard (seventh season)
2020-21 record: 18-13 (10-10)
Season finish: NCAA tournament round of 32

What comes back

The Badgers are going to be in an interesting position as are a lot of teams in the conference with what they have lost and their transition of roster. The big name that is back is super-duper senior point guard Brad Davison, who announced he was coming back for one more season back in April. Davison averaged 10.0 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game and 1.1 steals per game. Davison is also one of the top on ball defenders in the conference and will help provide some veteran leadership to a fairly young team.

Jonathan Davis and Tyler Wahl also return as guys who will move into the second and third scoring roles for the Badgers. Both played in 31 games, but Davis started zero while Wahl started in 18. Davis averaged 7.0 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game and while Wahl averaged 5.2 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Ben Carlson, Lorne Bowman, Steven Crowl and Jordan Davis are all returning guys who did not have huge roles last season but will provide big minutes for the Badgers this season.

The Badgers are bringing in a great recruiting class, ranked as the fifth best in the conference and the 32nd ranked class in the country. The class is led by three-star point guard Chucky Hepburn from Bellevue West high school in Bellevue, Nebraska. Hepburn was the 2020 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the year in route to a state championship.

The other three commits Markus Ilver, Matthew Mors and Chris Hodges are all top 150 guys in the 2021 class, according to 247 sports. They should all play valuable minutes and Hepburn has started all three games for the Badgers thus far. Big man Chris Vogt comes into the program from Cincinnati, Isaac Lindsey comes in from UNLV and Jahcobi Neath comes in from Wake Forest.

What was lost

As mentioned above, the Badgers are coming into this season losing four of their top six producers from last season. Guard D’Mitrik Trice, forward Aleem Ford, forward Micah Potter and forward Nate Reuvers all graduated and moved on from the Badger basketball program. Trice averaged a team high 13.9 points per game and added 3.4 rebounds per game and 4.0 assists per game. Potter, an Ohio State transfer, averaged 12.5 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game, largely off the bench.

Aleem Ford averaged 8.7 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game and Reuvers, who had somewhat of a down season, averaged 8.3 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game. Through those four guys, they averaged 43.4 points per game out of the Badgers total of 69.9 points per game last season. That is about 62 percent of their scoring offense and that becomes extremely difficult to replace in a conference with this much talent.

They also lost Walt McGrory to South Dakota, Trevor Anderson to Valparaiso and Joseph Hedstrom to Valparaiso as well. None of these guys were huge contributors last season but all were potential replacements to the four graduated guys and had a chance to play a larger role in the rotation. Anderson played in 29 games last season off the bench but only averaged 3.1 points per game.

Against Ohio State in the Chris Holtmann era

The Badgers and the Buckeyes have played in 127 contests in the history of the two programs. In the 2000’s, fans were treated to a great coaching matchup with Thad Matta taking on Bo Ryan twice a season.

Since Chris Holtmann got to Columbus, The Badgers are one of the few teams with a winning record over the Buckeyes, going 3-2 against Ohio State over the past four seasons. In Holtmann’s first season, the Buckeyes 25 point win at Wisconsin was one of the main games that really got people interested in the program. However, since then, the Badgers are 3-1 against Ohio State.

Season prediction

The Badgers are 2-1 to start their season with convincing wins over St. Francis College and Green Bay, but they dropped their most recent game to Providence 63-58.

The Providence game was pretty evident of the issues the Badgers are going to have this season. They need to find where their production is going to come from when it isn’t coming from Brad Davison or Tyler Wahl. Those two combined for 41 of the teams 58 points and the other three starters, Crowl, Carlson and Hepburn combined for 11 points. Jonathan Davis missed the contest with an injury and that made a key difference in this one. They will need production from guys not named Davison or Wahl to compete in the big ten this season.