The Wisconsin Badgers women’s basketball team has now played 14 games under new head coach Marisa Moseley. That is just over halfway through her first season so let’s check in and see how the team is doing in comparison to the last year of Jonathan Tsipis’ tenure. Firstly, this year the Badgers are 3-11 overall (.214 winning percentage) while they finished last season with a 5-19 record (.208). Moseley has 13 more games to get three wins and show the tiniest bit of improvement in the win column.
If we are going to keep it a buck...I don’t see three more wins on the schedule.
However, there was a theory posited by Bill Connelly and Steven Godfrey many years ago on their now defunct podcast Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody that some new coaches actually start at “Year Zero” and not “Year One.” Here is Godfrey himself explaining it:
“Year Zero” was born out of the accepted idea that not all first seasons are remotely equal. Yet it’s hard to tack down a single metric that explains why. Maybe your new staff faces a ridiculous schedule in a particularly deep conference or division. Maybe your program has been historically underfunded and had no recruiting success. Maybe your roster was decimated via NCAA probation, or by hiring Bobby Petrino.
While he was obviously using this theory in regards to football, it works for any college sport.
I think that we very clearly have a Year Zero situation with Moseley at Wisconsin. This year is not about wins and losses, as frustrating as that is for fans to hear, but about setting a foundation for two or three years from now to be competitive. Wisconsin is far and away the worst team in the Big Ten. Their closest competition, Illinois, just beat them by 21 points on Sunday.
A low-scoring second half hinders the Badgers at Illinois today. pic.twitter.com/Lb1BnuuWqA— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerWBB) January 9, 2022
The Badgers lost, at home, to Chicago State, a team that has only one other win this year AND HAD ONLY WON FOUR GAMES IN THE PREVIOUS FIVE SEASONS COMBINED!
To compound matters, Wisconsin went from Dec. 16 to Jan. 5 without playing a game due to COVID and are clearly struggling even more than usual coming out of it, as their two worst defeats have been their last two games.
So, yeah...this is a Year Zero. I think we can all agree on that. Moseley has, for lack of a better term, excellent vibes and that is important! She needs to keep people around the program positive while she gets things set up for the future. She’ll also need to appease the fan base, which admittedly isn’t large currently, so that there’ll be people there when the team gets better. Basketball is a big deal at Wisconsin. Women’s sports are a big deal at Wisconsin. If the team gets better, people will show up.
Head coach @marisamoseley met with the media today and discussed the team's return to health, recent games and building a successful team culture.— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerWBB) January 10, 2022
View video here ⤵️https://t.co/DwIz5QErQ8 pic.twitter.com/7UZspXboZ5
But what do they need to do to get better on the court? Let’s take a look at a comparison of stats from last season and this season (so far). All stats courtesy of the indispensable Her Hoops Stats.
NET PPG: -7.3
OFF RTG: 89.4
DEF RTG: 101.0
NET RTG: -11.6
NET PPG: -12.7
OFF RTG: 87.6
DEF RTG: 104.7
NET RTG: -17.2
The first thing that jumps out is that Moseley’s team is playing at a glacial pace this year. They rank No. 346 in the nation in pace (the third percentile) and it is the second slowest pace for the Badgers in the entire Her Hoops Stats database which goes back to the 2009-10 season.
With the lower pace, scoring is down for both the Badgers and their opponents but on the bright side, this year’s squad has better offensive and defensive ratings than last year’s.
Looking at some of the advanced stats you’ll also notice areas of improvement, if only slightly. Points per possession (PPP) are up 0.78 to 0.76 as is eFG%, 45.6 to 44.1. The jump in eFG% is due to the massive increase in three point rate this season. Moseley’s squad shoots 31.4% of their shots from beyond the arc, while last year’s team only shot 21.3%. The 31.4 mark is the highest three point rate for Wisconsin in HHS’ database.
There are also, naturally, some areas that NEED improvement. This year’s team doesn’t get to the free throw line nearly enough, which is part of the trade-off when you’re shooting a bunch more threes. The other problem here is...the Badgers are only shooting 29.9% from beyond the arc, which is worse than last season’s 30.1%.
The team is not rebounding as well this year, but they are passing the ball better (assist percentage up and turnover percentage down). On defense, it’s kind of a wash as their steal percentage is up but their block percentage is down.
As far as the roster is concerned, there is hope for the future. Only one player (grad transfer PG Katie Nelson) will be exhausting their eligibility after the season and 4-star freshman G Maty Wilke, who is redshirting this year after suffering a torn ACL during her senior year of high school, will hopefully be healthy and ready to hit the court.
The 2022 class features a pair of 4-star, top-100 talents in G Lily Krahn (Prairie du Chien) and F Savannah White (St. Paul, Minn.), among the four members of the class. These last two recruiting classes bring an infusion of height to the team with 6-foot-4 freshman Sacia Vanderpool already on the roster and 6-foot-4 Serah Williams and 6-foot-5 Tessa Towers joining the team next season.
I guess all of this was just a roundabout way of saying: stay patient, this is going to take a long time if we want it done properly. There is no reason that Wisconsin should be the worst Big Ten women’s basketball team and it’ll be fascinating to watch Moseley build the program in her image and hopefully, sooner rather than later, see them back in the NCAA Tournament.