We don’t know exactly what next season’s roster will look like for the Wisconsin men’s basketball team, but now is as good a time as any to wildly speculate what the starting five and rotation might look like.
Starting shooting guard Brad Davison is gone after a lengthy, record-setting career in Madison, and fellow seniors Carter Higginbottom and backup big man Chris Vogt will also be moving on.
We haven’t received official word on whether or not Johnny Davis will be back, but I am assuming that he will declare for the NBA Draft and won’t be including him. We also don’t know what players will be transferring in because the Badgers will have a couple of scholarships open as well as some major needs.
One final thing to note is: if the Badgers find three transfers that they’d like to bring in, will Carter Gilmore return to being a walk-on? I know that is a touchy situation but it is an option.
This one is not up for debate on who the starter will be...it will be Chucky Hepburn, who appears to have avoided a serious injury when he went down and missed most of Wisconsin’s second round loss to Iowa State.
A welcomed sight for #Badgers fans:— Matt Foster KETV (@MattFosterTV) March 26, 2022
No walking boot on @ChuckyHepburn's injured left ankle - turned out to be just a sprain.
Told me that he thought he fractured it when the play happened -- same ankle he broke during his freshman year of football.
(Also - kick game ) pic.twitter.com/9L4GYUokw8
However, the minutes behind Hepburn ARE up for debate. If Lorne Bowman returns to the team, which head coach Greg Gard is hopeful happens, he can be a valuable backup floor general. There are legitimate questions on if Bowman can stay healthy, but he is a good shooter and is familiar with Gard’s system.
Jahcobi Neath filled in at point guard some when Hepburn went down in the NCAA Tournament and his defense was solid. There is a reason I didn’t mention his offense as it stunk against Iowa State and, quite frankly, the entire season. He had his worst shooting season and worst assist rate of his career, but he massively cut down on his turnovers.
1 - Chucky Hepburn
2 - Lorne Bowman
3 - Jahcobi Neath
This is a position where an impact transfer would be welcome with open arms. Without one, the starter is...Jordan Davis? Neath? Isaac Lindsey??? There aren’t any high-quality options on the roster currently.
Could Davis take a big leap this offseason a la his brother? Sure, maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it. Could Neath live in the gym this summer and improve his three point stroke to be as good as/better than Brad Davison’s? Sure, maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it. Lindsey is basically an unknown quantity at this point and true freshman Connor Essegian out of Indiana will most likely take time to adjust to Big Ten basketball.
There is also a world where Bowman plays here and Davis moves up to the wing/small forward position. Gard has a number of combinations that he could go with, although none of them are exactly ideal.
Again...an impact transfer is pretty much mandatory here.
1 - Transfer No. 1
2 - Jordan Davis
3 - Jahcobi Neath
This is an interesting position because the Badgers could go a couple of directions here. If they want to go small, Davis is an option here. If they want to go bigger but retain some shooting versatility, Markus Ilver could play. If they need to go big and focus on rebounding and defense, then maybe Ben Carlson is an option.
You’ve also got Carter Gilmore, a personal favorite of mine, in the mix. However, Gilmore needs to improve greatly this offseason in order to get more minutes. For the entire months of February and March, Gilmore played two (2) minutes and the last time he scored a point was Jan. 9. He shot poorly and wasn’t particularly solid on defense, but there is potential there and, presumably, another offseason to work on his game will help.
1 - Jordan Davis/Ben Carlson (depending on matchup)
2 - Markus Ilver
3 - Carter Gilmore
This, like point guard, is a position that is pretty set in stone. Tyler Wahl is going to be the starter here and, more likely than not, Ben Carlson will be the primary backup. It would be great if Wahl could develop a more reliable jumper/three pointer because he does not need to be guarded outside of the paint right now. With Carlson, it would be great if he could rediscover his long-range stroke that abandoned him during his sophomore season.
1 - Tyler Wahl
2 - Ben Carlson
3 - Transfer No. 2
The third, and final, settled spot in the starting lineup is Steven Crowl at center/second big man. Crowl took a big step forward in his second season and if he can start draining threes at a little bit higher rate and gain a little more strength in the post, he has the makings of an all-conference player.
Redshirt freshman Chris Hodges will be called upon to soak up some backup big man minutes next year. While Hodges is “only” 6-foot-9, he weighs 240 pounds and has long arms. He’ll obviously have to get into game shape, but he’s an intriguing option.
I noted “Transfer No. 2” above, but the main role that player would fill is as backup center to Crowl. A similar role to what Vogt filled this past season, but with a little more offensive punch.
1 - Steven Crowl
2 - Transfer No. 2
3 - Chris Hodges