The Wisconsin Badgers are set to begin their season this weekend in an exhibition game against UW-Eau Claire, meaning it’s time to examine the new-look roster after star guard Johnny Davis departed for the NBA in the offseason.
Today, in the second installment of roster previews, let’s examine the Badgers’ frontcourt, which lost significant depth in the offseason and will now be relying on inexperienced players to back up their returning starters.
F Tyler Wahl
Perhaps the breakout candidate of the year for the Badgers, Tyler Wahl enters the 2022 season as one of three returning starters, where he’ll look to build off a good 2021 campaign with further developments to his game.
Wahl averaged 11.4 points per game on 51.6% shooting from the field, but only knocked down 16.2% of his three-points, although that came with a 70% clip from the free-throw line.
In the offseason, it’s apparent that Wahl has become more comfortable with his shot, which could play into better perimeter shooting in 2022, when the Badgers want to move faster offensively.
Wahl is primed to be Wisconsin’s second option behind rising guard Chucky Hepburn, but his passing ability may define how his 2022 season goes, as he’s been a facilitator of quick ball movement when getting the ball at the top of the key.
Wahl’s defensive abilities will be put to display this season as he’ll be tasked to guard some of the bigger forwards and centers in the Big 10, while having to balance foul trouble.
The second of three returning starters from 2021, Steven Crowl reclaims his position as Wisconsin’s main big man, standing at 7’0, 245-pounds.
Crowl averaged 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds on 49.6% shooing in 2021 while hitting 31.7% of his three-pointers.
In fact, 35.7% of Crowl’s shots in 2021 came from beyond the arc, so he’s no stranger to firing away from the perimeter.
Crowl will be largely important due to his defensive abilities as Wisconsin has initially struggled on that end in the offseason, as he’ll need to remain out of foul trouble, given the lack of experienced depth behind him as opposed to a year ago.
Additionally, Crowl’s presence should be a vital role in rebounding, which will be important as Wisconsin looks to deploy more three-guard rotations to further their offensive approach of a quick-hitting attack.
Another candidate to be Wisconsin’s most-improved player in 2022, Gilmore is expected to see a more substantial role after two subpar seasons in which he averaged under 10 minutes and shot with poor efficiency.
The 6’7, 225-pound forward has put it together in the weight room, which could translate on the court as he projects to be a stretch-four that could slide anywhere in Wisconsin’s lineup.
Gilmore seems more confident in his shot, especially from deep, which will be important as Wisconsin runs their 4-in, 1-out offensive scheme to stretch defenses out.
How much playing time Gilmore will receive is yet to be seen, but the Wisconsin forward should get his opportunity to earn minutes in the season.
With the departures of veterans such as Chris Vogt, forward Chris Hodges will step into the rotation and get a chance to prove himself as the backup to Steven Crowl.
The 6’9, 245-pound redshirt freshman is still learning the depths of the offense and needs to get a better feel of the game on that end, but head coach Greg Gard acknowledged that his main contributions should come along the defensive end.
Hodges needs to rotate more towards the top of the key in offensive sets to free himself up and create a passing target for the perimeter players, but should get the opportunity to grow with reps.
Defensively, Hodges appears to move well for his size, which should help Wisconsin on that end as they try and become more balanced.
Continuing with the theme of stretch-forwards, Markus Illver could be in line for some minutes with the lack of depth in the frontcourt.
The 6’8, 215-pound Estonian saw rare spot-up duty as a freshman, but is known as a player who can stretch the floor with his jumper and isn’t afraid to shoot the ball.
However, it doesn’t appear that the consistency is there yet, while he doesn’t move as well as others, raising questions as to what his role will be as the season prolongs.
Still, if Illver can continue to make strides with his shot to be an effective perimeter shooter, he could push for more minutes as another player capable of stretching defenses and clearing up the paint for slashers.