With the final piece of the puzzle in place for the 2021-2022 men’s basketball roster at UW, it is time to start wildly guessing about what the starting lineup and rotation might look like. Rest assured, it will look radically different than the past two years (we can argue about whether that’s a good or bad thing in the comments) so for the first time in a long time there are a TON of question marks surrounding who is actually going to, you know, do basketball stuff on the court for the Badgers.
Even though basketball, particularly at the NBA level, has gone to a positionless model with players switching on screens and multiple players handling the ball and initiating offense, there are still some basic bins we can put players in.
Here is the list of of players that Wisconsin will have at their disposal next season:
Brad Davison, super-duper senior, 6-foot-4
Jahcobi Neath, junior, 6-foot-3
Carter Higginbottom, junior, 6-foot
Jordan Davis, sophomore, 6-foot-4
Isaac Lindsay, redshirt freshman, 6-foot-4
Lorne Bowman, redshirt freshman, 6-foot-2
Chucky Hepburn, freshman, 6-foot-1
Jonathan Davis, sophomore, 6-foot-5
Carter Gilmore, sophomore, 6-foot-7
Justin Taphorn, sophomore, 6-foot-5
Matthew Mors, freshman, 6-foot-7
Markus Ilver, freshman, 6-foot-8
Chris Vogt, redshirt senior, 7-foot-1
Tyler Wahl, junior, 6-foot-9
Ben Carlson, sophomore, 6-foot-9
Steven Crowl, sophomore, 7-foot
Chris Hodges, freshman, 6-foot-8
You can probably quibble with the placement of one or two players, but let’s not get bogged down by whether or not Jordan Davis is also a wing because his twin brother Jonathan is listed as one. Instead, let’s take a look at what the potential starting five could be next fall!
Option 1: youth movement
PG: Chucky Hepburn
SG: Brad Davison
SF: Jonathan Davis
PF: Tyler Wahl
C: Steven Crowl
Option 2: transfer time
PG: Jahcobi Neath
SG: Brad Davison
SF: Jonathan Davis
PF: Tyler Wahl
C: Chris Vogt
Option 3: switchability
Same as Option 1 but you sub Ben Carlson in for Crowl.
As we’ve often discussed around here: it doesn’t necessarily matter who starts the game as opposed to who finishes it but for the sake of this blog we’ll talk starters.
I think I speak for most Wisconsin fans when I say that I can’t wait to see true freshman Hepburn take the court for the Badgers. He seems like the perfect point guard to me. He can set his teammates up, he can take over and score when needed and he’s a ferocious defender. It would not be shocking if he took the starting point guard duties over as soon as he stepped on campus.
He’ll have every opportunity to do so because the other two point guard options have also played the same amount of minutes in Madison: zero. Bowman, a talented recruit in his own right, sat out last year while dealing with personal issues. He is supposed to be back on the team and ready to go this year, but taking a full year off means he may be a bit behind the eight ball so to speak. Neath, a transfer from Wake Forest, had two wildly varying shooting seasons for the Demon Deacons so it’s hard to tell which version will show up for Wisconsin. Neath also must tone down the turnovers, which more than offsets his solid assist numbers.
I don’t think there’s much of a chance that Bowman will be starting and Neath seems like he’d be best used as the first guard off the bench because he can probably fill either guard role and potentially be a microwave scorer against other teams’ second units.
Let’s pencil in true freshman Chucky Hepburn in as the starting point guard.
Not much to discuss at the other guard spot. Davison decided to return for one last run in Madison and there is basically a zero percent chance that he WON’T be starting so let’s just move on now that we have our starting backcourt of Hepburn and Davison.
The next position is also pretty close to being set in stone as Jonathan Davis will be a starter at, well, some position. We can call it small forward but it’s basically just a “wing creator” kind of spot.
Davis has the potential to be the leading scorer and best player on the team next year. It’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a true sophomore, but he appears up to the task. He’s already one of the team’s best defenders and after a full offseason working out and practicing with the team hopefully his full offensive game starts to flourish.
Up next are the big men! I don’t know if the Badgers have found the ideal spot to play Tyler Wahl at yet, but power forward might be where he is best suited. Wahl improved markedly as a free throw and three point shooter last season, got better defensively and turned the ball over less as well. Wahl is a switchable defender who can easily defend 2-5 and probably check a point guard in limited attempts. He’s also quick and athletic enough where a lot of traditional bigs won’t be able to keep up with him when he puts the ball on the floor. His free throw rate skyrocketed last year and if he keeps improving his shooting stroke, he’ll make a living from the charity stripe.
Wahl will definitely be a starter.
I am legitimately befuddled by who will be the other starting big man or the “center” of the team. The three options, as far as I can tell, are Steven Crowl, Chris Vogt and maybe (??) Ben Carlson. My guess? Crowl plays 60% of the “center” minutes and Vogt plays 40%...but Carlson plays the crunch time minutes, if that makes sense. I just see Crowl and Vogt getting abused in pick and roll situations late in the game whereas Carlson will be able to handle himself a little better there.
So, I guess my decision would be to have Option 1 be the “starting lineup” and Option 3 will be the “closing lineup.” Alright, let’s get into it in the comments and talk about what the rotation might look like.