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Wisconsin basketball: Folks, let’s have discourse about Greg Gard

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Buddy you better settle down over there or I’m gonna have to come talk to ya.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Alright y’all, we gotta have a talk.

I’m sick of this bullshit nonsense (Men In Black tv edit szn) about Greg Gard not being the right guy for the job at Wisconsin. He’s got the Badgers tied for third (editor’s note: now fifth after Thursday night’s action, but the point stands.) in the toughest conference in the country, with multiple big wins this year.

Guess how many scholarship players they have on the roster right now. Go ahead, guess. *Very Vince McMahon voice: “I SAID GUESS GOD DAMN IT”.

Eight. That’s how many scholarship players he has on the roster right now.

The amount of success he’s had as the Badgers coach, in particular the last year and a half, should be enough of a track record to get people off of his back. But the haters and losers, of which there are many, still aren’t satisfied. Sad!

I’m going to crack some eggs of knowledge on y’all on some of the common criticisms of Gard that I’ve seen, and hopefully persuade you to reconsider your opinion through mildly petty and passive aggressive methods.

Let’s take a look at my favorite one:

Greg Gard can’t recruit.

Looking from a thousand feet, I can get this misconception. The roster, as I very aggressively laid out earlier in this article, isn’t strong or deep. I can see that Gard, who has been the head coach in Madison for four and a half years now, could be looked at as the reason. But he’s not. Let’s take a look at why.

They don’t teach you this in school, but Bo Ryan’s final recruiting class crippled the development of this roster. Five players (one third of the roster) who have provided modest at best production for the program, and stunted the growth of the roster before Gard could get started.

  • Brevin Pritzl - fairly lauded in-state recruit who has turned into a nice contributor over the past two years. Maddeningly lacking confidence early in his career to the point where Nigel Hayes is publicly stating they’re telling him to shoot the ball.
NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
  • Khalil Iverson - multi year contributor who was a good defender and arguably the most springy athlete the Badgers have had. Never was able to develop any type of jump shot **motions you in to whisper and then yells** (WHICH HURTS THE SWING OFFENSE).
  • Charlie Thomas - big, athletic kid who never quite seemed to find his role on the team or in the offense, and for four years had potential written all over him that was never realized.
  • Alex Illikainen - literally how you draw up stretch fours for the Badgers to use in the swing offense. Never lived up to expectations, transferred out after two seasons.
  • Andy Van Vliet - I can’t completely kill Bo for this one, the NCAA mucked this up to start his tenure in Madison, but he eventually transferred.

That’s a large part of your roster which ultimately ended up in two contributors. When you bring in a class of five, that can’t be the production you get from them.

Then came the Tyler Herro/Joey Hauser fiasco. The Badgers had offered two kids in the class of 2019. Two in-state talents who were legitimately program-raisers from a skill standpoint. Herro is balling for the Miami Heat right now, and Hauser should have been a multi-time All-Big Ten kid by now.

Those two hurt, but losing two kids of that caliber shouldn’t be a nail in the coffin of a Wisconsin head coach. That 2019 class ended up being Tai Strickland, who has since transferred, Taylor Currie, who has since transferred, and Joe Hedstrom, who is a four for five kid (walk-on redshirt turned scholarship player after year one). Not great, admittedly, but put in a bad spot due to late de-commitments (Herro) and losing out on Plan 1B (Hauser).

Gard now has the No. 20 (per 247 Sports) incoming recruiting class in the country in 2020, including two Minnesota bigs who will get early playing time (see: eight scholarship players), a talented point guard from Michigan, and twin brothers from in-state La Crosse Central, one of which will also push for early playing time.

In 2021? Currently the No. 1 ranked class in the country, with all three commitments among the top-150 nationally.

So...maybe he can recruit.

We need to fire Greg Gard, and pay Tony Bennett whatever he wants to “come home”.

Look,,,,,,I don’t know how else to word this, but if you think Tony Bennett isn’t going to come in here and run the swing offense and play man-to-man defense, we’re gonna have a problem. The scheme isn’t the problem. The system isn’t the problem.

NCAA Basketball: Stony Brook at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Idiots: “Oh, well we haven’t been to the Final Four or past the Sweet Sixteen since he took over.” Me: “Nigel Hayes turned the ball over against Notre Dame with under a minute left, and if he doesn’t they win that game.” Also me: “Florida had to hit a full-court runner with their backup point guard to beat Wisconsin in Hayes and Koenig’s senior year.”

The Wisconsin basketball program is JUST fine. Yes, Oregon bounced Wisconsin last year in the first round. We wanna talk about Bo Ryan getting beat in the first round by Ole Miss? Or Arizona? They did miss the NCAA tournament in 2018, though I’d say a lot of that had to do with trying to replace four two-plus year starters and having to start two freshman point guards (D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison) because there were no worthy replacements.

Well why don’t they hire Shaka Smart? He’s a Wisconsin boy!

You want the Badgers to hire a coach with a 52% winning percentage at Texas, who runs an up-tempo, full-court defense? Talk about knowing what your program’s identity is...

My other huge gripe with wanting Gard fired, is I hope you have an alternative past one of these two in mind to replace him, then. If you’re gonna fire someone, you better know who you’re hiring to replace them.

In Conclusion/Kobe King/Tyler Herro/Incoherent Ramblings

Look, I can’t keep you people from having your own wrong opinions about Greg Gard, that’s what makes this country so special. But the Wisconsin basketball program is doing just fine, and they’ve got the right guy at the helm to lead them into the future.

One last thought, and I’ve been meaning to put this thought out there somewhere and this might as well be the place to do it. Re: Kobe King’s departure from the program and Tyler Herro’s tweets about Wisconsin’s system and their ability/inability to land higher profile recruits due to their fairly rigid affinity of the swing offense.

I was talking to a buddy recently whose opinion on basketball I greatly respect. He played in a high school program that was very much run like a college program, and was extremely successful. His take on the matter I thought was extremely accurate and articulated rather eloquently. These are his quotes:

“Idk, people want Wisconsin to be Michigan State. Herro was smart for what he did. And honestly the conversation around college hoops is becoming more like AAU. All about exposure, much less about winning. I still think the NBA should let kids come out of high school and play. Kobe King said “I felt like I was being used to win games” well....... yeah. Like doesn’t sound like someone who is playing to win the Big Ten. Sounds like a guy who wants exposure and wants to play in the NBA.”

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Now, I have no ill-feelings towards Kobe King, and neither should any of you. It’s his life, he can do what he wants. But I think that last line is the important one. Wisconsin does a great job, for the most part, finding their guys who “fit” the Wisconsin model. Wisconsin isn’t about exposure. Wisconsin is about winning. Wisconsin does what they do, and it works, because they know what and who they are.

If Wisconsin wanted to try to run up-tempo and do what other programs would do: 1. they would be bad for years until they could get the dudes in place to do it. 2. what makes them special and difficult to prepare for would be gone, and they’d be another faceless basketball program who looked like everyone else. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer a program with an identity and “gimmicks” for lack of a better word, rather than just being another basketball program.

#FireGard #HireGard !