The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team starts one of their most intriguing seasons in recent memories on Tuesday night. UW has a new look starting lineup and a ton of new players that are champing at the bit to get out on the floor and show what they can do. Will they make the NCAA Tournament? Will they win 20+ games? Will they lose 20+ games?
We don’t really know!
Here are J.J., Bremen and Belz’s thoughts on how this season will go and what to expect from some of the players in the rotation. I, for one, am glad to see that they all thought the correct starting lineup is the one that the media guide says will be out on the court vs. St. Francis Brooklyn.
What is your preferred starting five for the first game of the season?
J.J.: Chucky Hepburn, Brad Davison, Jonathan Davis, Tyler Wahl, Steven Crowl
Bremen: Chucky Hepburn, Brad Davison, Johnny Davis, Tyler Wahl, Steven Crowl.
Belz: 1. Chucky Hepburn 2. Brad Davison 3. Jonathan Davis 4. Tyler Wahl 5. Steven Crowl
Who else do you see in the rotation this season, and specifically, who will be sixth man?
J.J.: Ben Carlson was a guy that looked like he could provide a spark when he got into games last year in extremely limited minutes before his injury. I suspect now that he’s fully healthy Greg Gard will once again use him in that role of being the first guy off the bench to add another option down low where Wisconsin doesn’t have a lot of established options.
Bremen: I think it will depend on the lineups or matchup for who will get the most minutes off the bench, but it seems like Ben Carlson will be the guy. He started off pretty well last season and had some really nice moments before he went down with the somewhat mysterious injury. He and Jahcobi Neath will probably earn the lion’s share of the minutes, with Neath bringing versatility as well as some experience. I think Vogt will be the only obvious replacement for Crowl, so he’ll definitely see some time on the court. The x-factor for the rotation is how Lorne Bowman performs after his time away from the court last season. If he shows his potential early, he might just up the pecking order quicker.
Belz: I think that Ben Carlson will be the first guy off the bench this year given his ability to play either post spot and Wahl’s ability to shift up to play the three. Outside of Carlson, I think that Jahcobi Neath and Chris Vogt will both see plenty of time off the bench, and Lorne Bowman will probably be the backup point guard. I think Carter Gilmore and/or Markus Ilver will also see some minutes this season depending on the opponent and flow of the game.
How many games will Wisconsin win this year?
J.J.: I agree with Belz and say 18 would be a very solid year for this Badgers team. But with the amount of question marks in the rotation this team certainly could be a 23 win team or a 13 win team for all we really know.
Bremen: It seems like 20 might be the absolute cap for Wisconsin. With so many new pieces in the team and a whole lot of flux, it seems hard to predict a hugely successful year. That said, Johnny Davis is very talented, and I think he’ll be able to bring the Badgers over the line in some surprises.
Belz: I think somewhere between 16 and 18 wins is reasonable when you look at their non-conference schedule. I would not be shocked if this team did better or significantly worse either given how many new faces there are this year and the talent level of the conference though. However, the new faces are really what excites me because I have legit no idea what the team will do. An almost totally clean slate is really intriguing as a fan and I hope that it is still a fun season!!
Where will they finish in the Big Ten and how many conference games will they win?
J.J.: I think they finish between eighth and tenth in the conference winning about half their conference games and being one of the last teams on the in/out side of the bubble. I’ll take eight wins as the over/under.
Bremen: The Big Ten is always talked about as one of the deepest conferences in the country for good reason. In a rebuilding year, Wisconsin will probably be right around .500 and finish tenth in the conference. That probably means nine or eight wins depending on the hot/cold nature of college basketball.
Belz: I think this team will finish No. 9 in the Big Ten, and be a fringe tournament team. I think they will hover around the .500 mark in conference play, so if I have to pick a number I will go with nine.
Do the Badgers make the NCAA Tournament?
J.J.: I think it’s going to be a toss up, and I think this team will be doing a lot of stressing come decision day, but at the end of the day I think, like Belz said, Wisconsin’s status as a program with a strong tradition and recent history will give them the benefit of the doubt if they need it.
Bremen: If they are right around .500 and have some decent conference wins or no terrible non-conference losses, anything is possible given the reputation and storyline of the Badgers being a rebuilding team. I would guess we’re bubble watching all season, and would need a decent run in the Big Ten tournament — and help — to reach the Big Dance.
Belz: Yes, I think there is a reputation and respect level by the NCAA Tournament committee for UW hoops that should help them if they are fringe worthy.
Who leads the team in scoring and what is their average?
J.J.: Jonathan Davis looks for all intents and purposes to be both the current and future star of this Badger team. He’ll get a lot of opportunities this year with Brad Davidson the only returning consistent starter likely on the floor at the start. I’ll be optimistic about just how much he breaks out and say 18 points a game.
Bremen: It has to be Johnny Davis as the leading scorer. Him taking control of the offense will be something that makes me want to watch this year. Given the load he’s shouldering, I would guess he’s going to average around 15 or 16 points per game.
Belz: This is tough, but I will go with Jonathan Davis at 13.5 points per game. That is around the sweet spot for the Badgers leading scorer the past few years.
How much should we tweet about Carter Gilmore this year? A lot or more than that?
J.J.: I have zero insight here. Gilmore is a name that keeps coming up, but precisely what his role will be is a total question mark to me. Is he in the starting lineup? For all we know, he might be.
Bremen: I joked about Gilmore in a season preview last season, but it seems from the training camp chatter that Carter Gilmore will be a huge rotation or X-Factor for the Badgers. Or is he a glue guy?
GREG GARD SAYS HE HAS BEEN PLEASANTLY SURPRISED BY OFFICIAL B5Q FAVORITE CARTER GILMORE!— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 11, 2020
"HE JUST KNOWS HOW TO PLAY," SAYS GARD
Belz: I think he will see the court more this season, and I personally think we should need a Happy Gilmore gif or meme on the ready for him at all times.
What are you hoping to see from Lorne Bowman this season?
J.J.: I’m not expecting him to suddenly breakout into a 10 ppg guard, but I do expect him to be an experienced hand that could see some crucial minutes on a young team that might at times see itself getting flustered in big moments especially early on.
Bremen: It was super unclear at times last season if Bowman would come back to the program at all. I am very pro-Bowman because he has already come this far, and it shows his character and will to succeed that he reached this point. I hope that he will be pushing Jachobi Neath and the other guards on the bench for minutes, and show he can help run the offense and take some pressure off Davis, Davison or Hepburn at times.
Belz: I want to see if he can help the Badgers out as both a backup point guard but also steal some minutes at the two. He is a solid shooter and I think he could be part of the answer at the two-guard spot next season unless Brad Davison comes back for a last-last ride through some miraculous NCAA loophole we are unaware of.
Do any Badgers make an all-B1G team? If so, who and which team?
J.J.: Another clean sweep here. I think Jonathan Davis has to end up somewhere on that honor sheet.
Bremen: Johnny Davis is the only person in the running unless they decide to give Brad a super senior discount and put him on the team for getting even more charges.
Belz: I think Jonathan Davis will make either the third team or honorable mention.
Which UW newcomer are you most excited to see on the court?
J.J.: Hepburn, but less because of the hype and more because of the role he’s going to have to play for this team.
A true freshman taking over in the Big Ten as a pure starting point guard is extremely rare, and this team is going to need him to hit the ground running to succeed. I’m excited to see him rise to that challenge, because clearly Gard has a lot of faith in him if he puts him in that spot.
Bremen: With the hype and build up surrounding the diaper dandy, it has to be Chucky Hepburn. It is rare a freshman is slated to start for UW; even rarer that a freshman point guard is handed the keys. If he can repeat what he did in high school at the college level, he will be a star at Wisconsin.
Belz: No doubt, Chucky Hepburn. I think he will only get better as the season goes on.