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B5Q Roundtable: Wisconsin men’s basketball 2020-21 season preview

Our writers get together to make some predictions about this year’s basketball team.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at St. Mary’s Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball season starts late Wednesday night and so we decided to convene the brain trust (aka whoever was available) to make some predictions about the Badgers for this upcoming season.

Drew, Bremen, Tyler and Belz sat down virtually to talk about the freshman they are most excited to see, what the rotation might look like and how far the Badgers will go come March.

Where will the Badgers finish in the Big Ten this year and what will their conference record be?

Belz: I think the Badgers will finish in the top-three of the league, but I’m not certain that they will win the conference outright. For the sake of this exercise, I will guess that Greg Gard’s squad finishes second in the standings with a 15 - 6 record in conference.

Tyler: I think it will be a three team race that includes Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois BUT you also have to consider that the state of Michigan has two pretty good basketball teams year in and year out as well. I think any of those five could finish in the top five in any order and I would not be surprised. The conference will be a lot like last year and I cannot wait as Big Ten basketball was high level entertainment every week.

Bremen: As the talking heads love to say, the Big Ten might be the best conference in all of basketball. Illinois and Iowa are definitely going to be tough considering who they return — Ayo Dosnumu and Kofi Cockburn for Illinois, Luke Garza for Illinois — and both schools in Michigan signed fantastic recruiting classes. It’ll be tough, but I think I’m backing Wisconsin’s experience this year and say they end up at least in the top four and champions league soccer (I mean, a double-bye in the Big Ten tourney). Final record: 16-5

Drew: The Badgers probably have to be a favorite to finish in the top-four of the league and I think they’ll end up third. I think the top of the conference, even though they are more talented than the middle of the conference, will struggle some due to ::waves hands at world’s problems:: and Wisconsin will finish 14-7 in the Big Ten.

After Trevor Anderson and Tyler Wahl, who will be the next player off the bench for Greg Gard and why?

Belz: I think it will be Jonathan Davis. The Badgers need a wing that can defend some of the quicker players in the league, and Davis is a good on ball defender. Add in his positional versatility, and ability to help the team in a lot of different ways and I think he is the most logical answer here. I don’t anticipate him playing Pritzl like minutes this season, but I think he will see the court a ton.

Tyler: Gotta be Jonathan Davis. His game fits perfectly into what the Badgers will need off the bench. I think by the end of things he’ll be the first guy off the bench for Wisconsin then a guy like Wahl for size purposes.

Bremen: Jonathan Davis would be the name for me. He has been explosive in practice according to his teammates and would add a different type of player from the guard/wing spot than many other options.

Drew: Jonathan Davis is a good choice, and I do see him playing meaningful minutes this year, but I think that Ben Carlson will be next off the bench for the Badgers. While Wisconsin may be transitioning to a more positionless version of basketball, for right now they still play with two traditional big men. While Wahl has allegedly grown some this offseason, he seems like more of a wing to me. I think Carlson will be the first big man off the bench to help spell Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers.

Who will lead the Badgers in scoring, rebounding and assists this year?

Belz: I will guess Reuvers for scoring, Potter for rebounds, and Trice for assists. I could very easily see Micah Potter leading the team in points as well, but I will run with Nate Reuvers for the time being.

Tyler: I’ll go with Potter for scoring and rebounds, Trice for assists. I think Micah Potter is going to be an absolute problem for teams on the offensive side of the ball. Only problem is late in the game when you need defense its hard to have him out there. Hopefully that side of his game has improved.

Bremen: The duo of Potter and Reuvers will probably be going back and forth for the scoring title for Wisconsin, but I think Potter is the most consistent and will be top scorer. It could be either of them for rebounding, though I’d back Potter for that too. Trice improved so much in getting assists last year, and that will continue again in 2020-21.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Drew: Reuvers leads for scoring, but only barely over Potter, Potter leads for rebounds, but Wahl is a surprise runner up, and Trice leads for assists pretty comfortably.

Which freshman are you most looking forward to seeing on the court and why?

Belz: I already mentioned Jonathan Davis earlier. I think he is the player that will see the court most frequently out of the freshmen, but I will say Ben Carlson. He was a highly sought after recruit, and with the Badgers potentially graduating their entire frontcourt after this season, I think the development he undergoes this season will be huge for the future.

Tyler: For the sake of being different than Jonathan Davis I will say Ben Carlson as well. He’s just your typical Wisconsin hooper that is going to have a strong four year career and play a lot of basketball.

Bremen: Although Davis and Carlson are both more likely to start right away, I need y’all to picture this. It’s the 2022-2023 season and the Badgers are facing some blue blood like Duke or Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen and it’s down to the wire and close. After some brilliant ball movement, taking the shot clock down to 1 second, a corner three is fired and, swish. Ian Eagle says “THE DAGGER FOR WISCONSIN! The former walk-on Carter Gilmore is playing out of SIGHT!” I want to see Gilmore, not just because I’m intrigued by his upside — he was a walking bucket in high school — but also because he would be everything non-Wisconsin fans hate about Wisconsin. Just a gritty, hard-nosed, grinder who can hit ridiculous threes and ball a little bit like Sam Dekker. While Davis and Carlson are probably the future (and now) of the Badgers’ freshmen, I just want to have this fake scenario in my head. I want Kentucky fans to vomit at the very thought of a guy like Gilmore going 15/11/6 against them in a tournament game.

Drew: Hoo boy, that Carter Gilmore fan fiction really got me in the mood for some freaking basketball. However, I am most looking forward to seeing Jonathan Davis on the floor. In Monday’s press conference, Trice mentioned that Davis has been throwing down dunks in practice and I, for one, need someone to violently drop a dunk on Luka Garza’s head this season.

What seed do you project the Badgers to get in the NCAA Tournament and how far do you think they’ll go?

Belz: I think the Badgers will end up being in the 3 through 5 range in terms of seeding. For some reason Wisconsin usually gets underseeded, and I could easily see that happening again with how tough the B1G should be. I think this team has the makings of an Elite Eight team — or potentially better — if they are playing well down the stretch given the talent they have returning.

Tyler: I would say a 3 or a 4 seed is the most realistic at this point. I thought they’d be a 4 coming into the tourney last year so I hope they can get back to that mark.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Bremen: Last year, Wisconsin was projected to be a five or six-seed before COVID turned the world upside down (ahhh, remember those days????). The Badgers this year have loftier and weighty expectations, and a high preseason ranking. If Wisconsin lives up to that hype and has good out-of-conference performances against Marquette and Louisville, then they might end up as high as the two seed. The higher ranking gives Wisconsin more leeway, so I’d say the Badgers end up on the 3 or 4 seed line.

Drew: I’ve got the Badgers pegged as a 4-seed who play to their seeding and make the Sweet 16. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I think their egalitarian view of scoring might make things difficult in close NCAA Tournament games when teams often turn to their star to get them a bucket.