Name: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Enrollment: 50,633 this fall, with 35,665 undergraduates
School Colors: Cardinal and white, officially, but no one is going to yell at you if you say red and white.
Appropriate use of names: It’s hard to argue with their decision to call the red “cardinal” since, as AE Editor Emeritus Rubie Q once pointed out, Wisconsin fans have become the St. Louis Cardinals fans of college sports.
Why “Badgers?” Wisconsin was dubbed the “Badger State” because of the lead miners who first settled there in the 1820s and 1830s. Without shelter in the winter, they had to “live like badgers” in tunnels burrowed into hillsides. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from there to naming the sports teams of the flagship university after the state’s nickname.
Notable Alumni: John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club; former Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig; hockey players Chris Chelios, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, and Hilary Knight; John L. Savage, chief engineer of Hoover Dam; professional poker player Phil Hellmuth; US women’s soccer star Rose Lavelle; Arthur C. Nielsen, Sr., founder of the Nielsen television ratings company; Olympic speed skater Eric Heiden; Academy Award winner Don Ameche; Harry Crane, head of television at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce; Jerome Chazen, co-founder of Liz Claiborne; film composer Alf Clausen; actress Carrie Coon; astronaut Jim Lovell, best known as the commander on Apollo 13; actor Tom Wopat, best known as Luke Duke on The Dukes Of Hazzard, children’s author Kevin Henkes, perhaps best known for Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse; actress Joan Cusack; actress Jane Kaczmarek; William S. Harley, founder of Harley-Davidson; Ben Karlin, Emmy winning producer of The Daily Show; 14 Nobel Laureates; Donald Goerke, the inventor of SpaghettiOs; Tom Skilling, meteorologist for WGN in Chicago; Steven Levitan, co-creator of Modern Family, amongst other television shows; director/producer Michael Mann; author Stephen Ambrose, probably most famous for Band Of Brothers, the book that inspired the HBO mini-series; directors/producers David & Jerry Zucker, best known for their work on Airplane!; and finally, Mary Brunner, member of the Manson Family and ex-girlfriend of Charles Manson.
Campus Traditions: Pretending that they own the complete and full rights to House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around,’ interrupting graduation ceremonies to play ‘Jump Around’ because they think they own it, yelling at teenagers on Twitter because said teenagers don’t want to go to their school, illegally acquiring shoes, yelling at teenagers on Twitter because said teenagers changed their minds about going to their school, getting paid millions of dollars to trip and fall, failing to help a star player play a home game as a senior, microwaving parrots, quitting your job in the middle of the busy part of the year, failing to out-slow Virginia, spending hundreds of dollars on custom clothing and then being sad that no one noticed, missing the NCAA tournament for 46 consecutive years and then pretending that never happened after making the tourney for 10+ straight years, burglary, being a millionaire and calling teenagers soft, harassing stenographers who are just trying to do their damn jobs, being a pantsless freak who Facebook stalks women and as a result has no friends on campus, punching basketballs into teammates’ faces, and finally, using Photoshop to try to pretend that they have a racially diverse campus.
Last Season: 20-15, with a 9-11 record in the Big Ten. This kept Wisconsin out of the NCAA tournament for the second time in the past six seasons, but they did advance to the NIT’s Final Four as a #2 seed before being eliminated by North Texas.
Final 2022-23 KenPom.com Ranking: #61
Final 2022-23 T-Rank Ranking: #59
Preseason Poll: The Big Ten did not release a projected order of finish for their preseason poll because they are bad people and they should feel bad. With that said, there are no Badgers on the 10 man Preseason All-Conference Team, even though Dawson Garcia made it and not one but two Michigan State players made it. CBS Sports picked Wisconsin to finish fifth in the league this season.
This Year: 5-2, including a 13 point road loss to Providence.
Current KenPom Ranking and Projection: Wisconsin is currently ranked #22 and projected to finish 19-12 overall and 12-8 in Big Ten play. That is good enough for fourth place in the league.
Current T-Rank Ranking and Projection: Wisconsin is currently ranked #37 and projected to go 18-13 overall and 10-10 in Big Ten play. That would get them into a four-way tie for fifth place and projects as a #10 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Returning Stats Leaders
Points: Chucky Hepburn, 12.2 ppg
Rebounds: Steven Crowl, 6.9 rpg
Assists: Chucky Hepburn, 2.8 apg
Actual Stats Leaders
Points: AJ Storr, 13.3 ppg
Rebounds: Steven Crowl, 7.9 rpg
Assists: Chucky Hepburn, 3.0 apg
Shooters? That’s an interesting question.
Steven Crowl is shooting 60% from beyond the arc this season, John Blackwell is shooting 50%, and so is Markus Ilver. Those three men have combined to shoot 25 three-pointers in seven games. Yes, they’re shooting a combined 13-for-25, which is very very good..... they’re also averaging less than two makes on 3.5 attempts per game.
Wisconsin also has three guys attempting at least three long range shots per game — effectively the same number individually as Crowl, Blackwell, and Ilver together — and all three are shooting less than 31%.
Chucky Hepburn: 3.7 attempts, 30.8%
Max Klesmit: 3.3 attempts, 30.4%
AJ Storr: 3.7 attempts, 23.1%
There’s also Connor Essegian, who is shooting 18.8% on 2.3 attempts per game.
To be fair: Storr shot 40% at St. John’s last season, Hepburn shot 41% for the Badgers last season and is a 38% shooter for his career, Klesmit shot 38% for the Badgers last year and 35% for his career, and Essegian shot 36% as a freshman last year. The trio of returning Badgers shot 8-for-14 against Marquette last season, including a very stupid 5-for-6 from Hepburn.
Bigs? The aforementioned Steven Crowl leads the way here, measuring in at 7 feet tall and 217 pounds. He is currently ranked #33 in the country in offensive rebounding rate per KenPom.com, and so he becomes the #1 biggest problem for Marquette due to the Golden Eagles’ challenges on the glass. His assists are down this season, although 2.1 per game is still good for a center, and his lack of helpers is almost nearly 100% attributable to the fact that Wisconsin’s shooters have, so far, been unable to throw the ball into either Lake Mendota or Lake Monona.
Nolan Winter is a 6’11”, 220 pound freshman, also from Minnesota just like Crowl. He’s played in all seven games and averages just under 10 minutes an outing. He’s not 100% Crowl’s perfect backup, as there’s still three-ish minutes per game unaccounted for, but I presume we can just call Winter the guy who comes off the bench for Crowl. He’s got great rebounding rates in limited minutes and has gotten five of his eight shot attempts to fall.
Tyler Wahl has somehow escaped the conversation until now, largely speaking because he does not shoot three-pointers. The 6’9”, 220 pound — wait for it — Minnesotan is averaging 11.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He’s clearly the 4-man in the rotation next to Crowl, but with 137 career long range attempts and just two this season, he’s not what you would call a stretch 4 by any — I’m sorry — stretch of the imagination.
Markus Ilver (6’8”, 219 lbs.) is more of the stretch 4 by way of his shooting numbers.... but he’s also only playing just over seven minutes a game, and that’s only because he went for 19 minutes in the opener against Arkansas State and 14 minutes on Monday night against Western Illinois.
Gus Yalden (6’9”, 245 pounds) is a top 125 freshman in the eyes of 247 Sports, but he’s yet to play for the Badgers this season. I can’t say whether or not that was a plan to redshirt him with Crowl expected to play so many minutes this season, because, uh, the Appleton native is, uh, not the favorite son of the coaching staff right now.
Head Coach: Greg Gard, in his 8th full season as Wisconsin’s top man and 9th overall. He has a record of 169-95 overall and 93-61 in Big Ten play.
What To Watch For: Marquette’s pathway to victory against this particular version of Wisconsin basketball may lay in getting to the free throw line.
Historically speaking, Greg Gard’s teams are very good at not letting you get to the free throw line. They’ve been top 100 in defensive free throw rate in all but one of Gard’s seasons in charge, and the only one was his first season.... which also happens to be the one that Bo Ryan quit on in December.... and they were still “only” #105 in the country that year.
This year? #275 in the country according to KenPom.com. That #105 year, the actual percentage of free throw attempts vs field goal attempts was 33.6%. This year? 39.4% through seven games. The guards aren’t the problem, as AJ Storr and Chucky Hepburn are top 300 in the country in terms of best fouls per 40 minute numbers and Hepburn is inches away from allowing us to say top 250. It would seem to me that the best idea would be to make Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl defend Oso Ighodaro and David Joplin in space and let the Badgers figure out how to deal with that problem. This also sounds like a fantastic opportunity for Ben Gold to make use of his multi-dimensional talents both on the glass and on the wing.
Marquette’s game from Tuesday night provides an interesting way for the Golden Eagles to prepare for Wisconsin. I’m not saying that Southern is running the same defensive structure as the Badgers, but the Jaguars sure do like forcing turnovers, ranking #55 in the country in rate, which is a bit of a drop after facing the Golden Eagles and only seeing a turnover on 8% of possessions. UW is right about in the neighborhood of where Southern was before Tuesday night’s game, currently standing at #34 in the country in turnover rate. If MU’s usually sound ball control can withstand the Jaguars’ pressure, then things likely look like they’re heading towards a good place against Wisconsin as well, but the Golden Eagles can’t just take that for granted.
Lastly, I’ll say the same thing I say about Marquette/Wisconsin every year, but especially so with Shaka Smart as the head coach of the Golden Eagles: Run.
Yes, I know that KenPom.com is currently showing Marquette ranking down in the 240s in tempo. Whatever. That’s really barely slower than last season’s adjusted tempo, less than half a possession per game change. You and I both know that’s because opposing offenses are struggling to unlock the MU defense and that’s slowing the game down over there. The MU offense is trying to get up the floor and over halfcourt with at least 27 seconds still on the shot clock. Wisconsin doesn’t want to play that way, not with their sub-300 and falling tempo ranking. Get moving. Shaka Smart runs a “everyone has to sprint in transition or we start over” drill in practice. Run that for the whole game. Cut the legs off Wisconsin’s stout offensive rebounding by pushing every time you pull in a miss. Throw it ahead when you’re taking it out of bounds after a make.
Make them run, make them move, make them tired, make them make mistakes, win.
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads, 70-59, and has won both games in the series since Shaka Smart took over at Marquette.