The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team will look very different this season. Seven players from the Badgers 2020-2021 team moved on to either play professionally or play elsewhere via the transfer portal after the team finished with an 18-13 record (10-10 Big Ten).
The off-season also brought about a change in the coaching staff, as head coach Greg Gard replaced one former Badger, in Alando Tucker, with another, as Sharif Chambliss came aboard.
While this past off-season was like an episode of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, this year’s team does have the consistent presence in super senior guard Brad Davison. He is back for his fifth season in a Wisconsin uniform, and honestly, his picture could have been used as the thumbnail for this preview post each of those seasons.
During his career, he has averaged 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists per game while shooting 36% from three. He is a proven commodity for a young team, and he should provide a leadership presence from his shooting guard spot. Oh, and he will probably still look to draw charges this year.
Alongside Davison, Jonathan Davis is the other proven option. He came off the bench a season ago, but he still managed to average seven points and four rebounds a game. He is the most dynamic player on the Wisconsin roster with the ball in his hands and he has a tremendous mid-range game.
This past off-season he won a gold medal while playing with Team USA, and many around the program are expecting him to have a big season. With so much offensive production gone from a season ago, Davis is a player that should be in line for a much bigger role this season. He can play both shooting guard or the three for Wisconsin, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the team in minutes this year.
True freshman point guard Chucky Hepburn appears poised to take over the lead guard duties. He is a heralded recruit out of Nebraska and is very smooth with the ball in his hands. Offensively, Hepburn is a good distributor, but he is also a very capable scorer. A fairly built guard, he kind of reminds me of a young Jordan Taylor at times. He is under control and methodical, but he is also very quick and a capable jump shooter.
The area that Hepburn is best though might be defense. He has a low base and sticks on his man well. There is a reason that he is projected to be a starter from the jump this season, though there may be some growing pains this year after he missed a chunk of practices early with an injury. I think Hepburn is a player that will likely get better as the season goes on.
Beyond the three projected starters listed above, the other guards that will probably be in the rotation are Wake Forest transfer Jahcobi Neath and freshman Lorne Bowman.
Neath, a junior, is a longer guard that should provide some flexibility off the bench. At 6-foot-4 he has the ability to spell Brad Davison or Jonathan Davis when they need a breather, and he has multiple years of experience to draw upon. With the Demon Deacons, he averaged 4.7 points and just under two rebounds a game. His shooting ability has been rather boom or bust over the course of his career, but he can get to the rim off the bounce. He shot 90% from the free-throw line last year and 48% from three as a freshman, so the talent is there. He will need to make sure to limit turnovers however because that is an area that he has struggled with at times.
The other guard that figures to be part of the rotation is Bowman. Like Hepburn, he also missed a few practices with an injury, but he also missed all of last year as he dealt with a family issue off the court. He is a talented player and a good shooter, but it will likely take him time to get back into proper conditioning for a larger role. Bowman will probably be limited to backing up Hepburn this season, but he is capable of playing some shooting guard as well down the road.
Also listed as guards on the official roster are Jordan Davis (So.), Carter Higginbottom (Jr.), Isaac Lindsey (So.), and Justin Taphorn (So.). Of the list, Jordan Davis is the only scholarship player, and I think the majority of the minutes this group sees this season will probably come in late-game situations when the game is out of doubt.
Davis and Lindsey are each players that I could see having a role on the team down the line once Brad Davison moves on because they do provide the ability to shoot the ball well. However, I just don’t see a ton of minutes for either of them this year based on the construction of the roster.