Basketball season is fast approaching, and we are hoping to expand our women’s hoops coverage here at B5Q. The Badgers have a new coach, some new players and hopefully a new upward trajectory in the Big Ten. To start off some of our preseason coverage, we invited Wyatt Crosher who writes the fun and informative newsletter Hoopla, which is free to subscribe to and gives you one post a week about Big Ten women’s hoops and one post a week about whatever the hell else Wyatt feels like talking about.
Wyatt covered the Ohio State women’s hoops team for years so he has an understanding of the Big Ten and he is currently on the last of his team previews for each B1G team. For reference, here is Wisconsin’s.
Alright, here are Wyatt’s thoughts on the Badgers and who he thinks is going to win player of the year and be top-four in the conference at the end of the year.
Wisconsin has been, well, pretty bad over the past decade. What are some achievable goals for Marisa Moseley in her first season as head coach?
I would tend to agree that it has been quite a brutal decade or Wisconsin, but this Marisa Moseley hire is enough to bring some real optimism about the future of the Badgers. She helped turn around Boston University, another program that was in a deeply bad place, and was a UConn assistant for nine years, experience that I probably don’t have to explain much.
But it is also year one, and Wisconsin won just two Big Ten games last year, so the goals should not be very high in 2021-22. I think if the Badgers get out of rock bottom in the conference, that is a victory, but I think even getting to No. 11 and winning one of the opening round Big Ten tournament games would be a monumental win for this group that needs to rebuild and develop.
With that being said, where do you see the Badgers finishing the season in the Big Ten?
I do think Wisconsin will finish in the bottom two again, with Illinois being in a similar spot. Purdue lost a whole lot and I could see that being a pretty distinct bottom three, but my wager would be on the Badgers staying in last for another season.
This is a team looking more at next year and the years following, especially if Moseley can improve things on the recruiting end.
The Badgers lost all-B1G performer Imani Lewis from last year’s team but return a decent amount of their production otherwise. Who, besides Sydney Hilliard, do you see stepping up to score some point this year?
Wisconsin had two Big Ten wins and one of them happened to be against Ohio State, and watching that game as someone that used to cover the Buckeyes was...something. Imani Lewis cooked Ohio State in that game and earned an All-Big Ten vote from me, so that is most certainly a big loss.
That being said, I look to the guards to step up, and I think Julie Pospisilova should become more of a factor in the offense. She was a solid three-point shooter (36.6 percent) and should increase her volume without Lewis being one of two key players running the offense.
The big name to watch for if Wisconsin is to make a jump this year is Katie Nelson, who follows Moseley over from BU. She is an excellent three-point shooter, and that trio of she, Pospisilova and Hilliard should make for a fun backcourt to work around while Sara Stapleton looks to pick up the slack inside.
Moseley brought a potential impact transfer with her from Boston University in Katie Nelson. What does she bring to the Badgers?
As I said above, the big thing with Nelson is shooting. Hitting 40.6 percent from deep should translate regardless of the conference, and her 4.3 assists per game just gives the Badgers another playmaker to work with alongside Hilliard. Plus, working with Moseley at BU should help with getting the rest of the roster acclimated with what she is hoping to run.
Of the incoming freshmen, who do you like to contribute early?
I think the departures put Sacia Vanderpool in the pole position to get the most opportunities. She averaged a near double-double in her senior year of high school and added three blocks per game, and at 6-foot-4, she has the size to see the floor early.
Maty Wilke seems to be the freshman with the most acclaim coming in, and because Wisconsin isn’t flooded with talent as is, she should also get plenty of chances to prove that acclaim can translate to the college level.
Who do you think the top-four teams in the Big Ten will be this year?
I think the top four is pretty clear cut this year, at least on paper. I think it goes Maryland, then Indiana, then Iowa and then Michigan. Starting at the top, I mean come on. If the Terrapins reign of terror was going to end, it would have happened last year when they lost everyone, and they still won the damn conference. Now, Maryland brings back almost everyone, so it has to be a lock at the top.
I do think the competition is heating up past the Terps though, and Indiana is a veteran group with a starting five full of experience who I like to make a similar run through the NCAA Tournament that it did last year.
I think Iowa makes a big jump because it has Caitlin Clark and, well, Caitlin Clark is the most exciting player in college basketball, men’s or women’s. Plus they have great complimentary pieces like Monika Czinano and McKenna Warnock. If the Hawkeyes score 100 a game I won’t be surprised.
Michigan has Big Ten Player of the Year Naz Hillmon with a strong supporting cast that includes Leigha Brown, Amy Dilk and Maddie Nolan. I don’t know that the Wolverines will be as strong as last year, but I think they hold off teams like Northwestern and Ohio State to stay in the top four.
Who is your B1G Player of the Year?
I may have given this one away with the last answer. I voted for Caitlin Clark last year and she should be even better this year. If Clark leads Iowa to a top-three finish in the Big Ten, she should be competing with her friend Paige Bueckers at UConn for the national award as well.