New court. New players. Same enthusiasm. 2023 marks 125 years of Wisconsin basketball.
They’re picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten’s preseason media poll, but never count out the Badger Men’s Basketball team.
Wisconsin is fresh off a season where players far exceeded all preseason expectations, coming out of nowhere to grab a share of the Big Ten title. For the second time in three years. That, of course, earned them an automatic spot in the NCAA tournament, which they’ve only missed once this century in years it actually happened (looking at you, 2020.)
As the No. 3 seed, they beat Colgate and advanced to the second round for the sixth time under Head Coach Greg Gard. Gard won his second Big Ten Coach of the Year award and was a finalist for Naismith National Coach of the Year. And while replacing reigning Big Ten MVP and first-round draft pick Johnny Davis may be the hardest task any team faced this offseason, Badger fans have a lot to look forward to.
1. The Badgers are the only team with two players on the prestigious All-Big Ten list.
Senior forward Tyler Wahl and sophomore point guard Chucky Hepburn both made the Big Ten’s preseason all-conference team, which has just 11 players on it. They’re two of the top defensive players in the league and two of Wisconsin’s key pieces coming back this season. This is the fourth time Wisconsin has had two or more players on the list since 2014, following former Badger greats:
- Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker (2014-15)
- Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig (2015-16)
- Ethan Happ, Nigel Hayes, and Bronson Koenig (2016-17)
2. Wisconsin has a history of going far in the tournament, even after losing first-round draft picks.
After Devon Harris was drafted in 2004, Wisconsin made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. In 2007, the team made the Sweet 16 after Alando Tucker turned pro. And in 2015, they made it just as far, after losing both Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker to the NBA draft. Despite Johnny Davis’ absence, history shows you shouldn’t overlook a consistently-deep Badgers’ bench.
3. The Badgers are already off to a great start.
Wisconsin went 4-0 in an August trip to France. Hepburn, Wahl, and junior center Stephen Crowl proved they still play well together. Shooting guard Max Klesmit and small forward Jordan Davis (Johnny’s brother) were put to work as the team’s other two starters. But Crowl is the man to watch, according to some analysts: he’ll be counted on when it comes to providing interior defense without getting into foul trouble. The 7-foot junior only fouled out once last season, but had seven games where he picked up four fouls.
4. For the first time ever, the Badgers will bring basketball to the Brewers’ ballpark.
On November 11th, the Wisconsin’s men and women’s basketball teams will tip off inside the American Family Field for the first-ever Brew City Battle. In development by Coach Gard for 15 years, one of the biggest challenges of creating a new, neutral site game was finding an opponent who would agree to an early-season date. Stanford and Kansas State eventually came to the table for the men’s and women’s programs, respectively. But don’t hold your breath for a ballpark matchup between in-state rivals Marquette and Wisconsin. The Golden Eagles are contractually obligated to play their home games at the Fiserv Forum, so the Badgers would have to give up one of their home games to make that happen.
5. When the team returns to the Kohl Center, they’ll play on a new court.
This October, crews installed a new court inside the Kohl Center. The boards are now a darker shade of wood inside the three point line and a more vibrant shade of red overall. Click here to watch a 19-second timelapse and see how it compares to its predecessor. The Kohl Center has been used by both Badger basketball teams as well as the men’s hockey program since 1998 and can hold more than 17,000 fans.