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Fall/Winter Badgers Sports Report Card

Let’s evaluate how every Badgers team has done as the calendar year comes to an end.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Jovanny Hernandez / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

As we close the book on the first semester, I want to take the opportunity to give grades for all the Wisconsin Badgers Fall/Winter sports teams. For the fall sports, these are final grades (even if Football has a game left). For the winter sports, it’s a midterm grade. While The Don is always 100% correct, I’d still like to hear your thoughts in the comments below, especially if I’ve nailed it. (Note: I won’t be using the dreaded AB and BC grades that UW-Madison has come to love. They’re not specific enough.)

Volleyball: Although the season ended in heartbreak with a Final Four loss to the defending champion Texas Longhorns, this version of Kelly Sheffield’s volleyballers was outstanding, with several monster wins (including sweeping #1 Nebraska) and a National Player of the Year Award for Sarah Franklin, who returned from injury to lead one of the best teams in Badger history. Final Grade: A

Football: Expectations were sky high in Luke Fickell’s first season, but it became clear fairly early on that 2023 was going to be more challenging than anyone expected for this team. While two late wins over Nebraska and Minnesota were gutsy and important, they weren’t enough to save the season from being a disappointment, and the coaches and players would tell you the same thing. The future is bright for the Badgers, but this season has been a pretty tough one. Final Grade: C+ (Pre-Bowl game)

Men’s Soccer: The season began strong with a massive win over #1 Kentucky, followed by gutsy back-to-back draws against ranked IU and Northwestern squads. But the team was unable to string victories together and finished the campaign with a tough 2-1 loss to the Hoosiers in the Big Ten Quarterfinals, leaving them 6-5-5 overall and 2-2-4 in the Big Ten: Final Grade: C+

Women’s Soccer: Paula Wilkins’ squad had a very impressive season, led by a deep and talented team, including high-scoring senior, Emma Jaskaniec. The Badgers finished 3rd in the Big Ten and 2nd in the Conference Tournament, before eventually falling to Texas in the NCAA Round of 32 as a 4 seed. Despite the difficult finish, this team had a tremendous season (14-5-4 overall, 7-2-1 in the Big Ten) featuring an amazing No. 12 national ranking before the NCAA Tournament (finishing #19). The only thing stopping this grade from being a straight A is the team being upset in the tournament, albeit to a No. 5 seed. And the future looks bright! Final Grade: A-

Men’s/Women’s Cross Country: Mick Byrne’s harriers were their usual steady and successful selves this fall, culminating in a men’s Big Ten title (women were 2nd), as well as a 10th-place finish in the NCAA Championships for the men and 22nd-place finish for the women. This is a big deal and appreciating this kind of excellence happening outside the spotlight is important for Badger fans. Final Grade: A (Men)/A- (Women)

Women’s Hockey: Nobody does it better than coach Mark Johnson, and expectations have been through the roof for this team, coming off of a 7th NCAA title. Injuries have been a problem in the first half, leading to a strong but not spectacular (by our standards) 14-4 record (10-4 in conference) and No. 3 national ranking as we hit Christmas. But, there’s no reason to think Johnson’s high-wattage, ultra-talented team, led by Kirsten Sims, Britta Curl, and Lacey Eden, won’t be right in the thick of things come March. Midterm Grade: A-

Men’s Hockey: While expectations for the Badgers men’s hockey program were elevated after hiring Mike Hastings in March, unlike with the football team, fans seemed reluctant to make any bold predictions about the upcoming season. Then the games started and things really took off. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the ‘23-24 Badgers have been a wild success as he hit the halfway mark of the season. After having reached No. 1 in November, the team now sits at No. 6 in the country and No. 2 in the Big Ten (8-2). With a bounty of huge wins already under its belt (sweeps of Minnesota and Michigan, amongst them), this team has all the makings of a squad that could make a deep NCAA Tournament run in March, and has some fun guys on it, too. Midterm Grade: A

Men’s Basketball: It’s no secret that ’22-23 was a disappointing season for Greg Gard’s team, so it was even more important than usual to start strong this season with a re-tooled roster, which included transfer A.J. Storr and freshman guard John Blackwell, amongst others. And, the first half of the season has been largely successful, even with a gauntlet of a schedule. While they’ve been far from perfect, wins over Marquette, Virginia, and Michigan State have shown what this team is capable of against top competition, and even a 25-point loss at No. 1 Arizona felt flukey. If the No. 23 Badgers stay healthy and locked in, there’s no reason to believe they can’t make noise in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament. I’ve definitely subscribed to this idea from the jump and even KenPom likes us again. Midterm Grade: A-

Women’s Basketball: It’s still early on Coach Moseley’s tenure, but there’s a tangible sense of excitement around the women’s hoops program. Despite sustaining some portal and graduation losses, the ‘23-24 squad is much more competitive than they were just a couple of seasons ago. They sit at 6-4 now and, while they won’t contend for a lofty Big Ten finish, it’s easy to imagine a steady improvement this season, which will hopefully establish momentum for the program on the recruiting and transfer trail. Midterm Grade: B

Wrestling: As I confirmed in my preseason podcast with Coach Bono, this is a rebuilding/reloading year in many ways for the Badgers, but the squad still has talent. Things are still relatively early in the season, so I’m willing to give a pass for the humbling 42-0 loss to Bono’s alma mater, Iowa State, but the 4-1 Badgers will have to make a notable jump and really begin to gel in order to compete in an absolutely loaded Big Ten. Midterm Grade: B

Men’s/Women’s Swimming: With the meatiest part of their seasons to come in 2024, Yuri Suguiyama’s 13th ranked Badger women are 4-0 and 2-0 in the Big Ten and 22nd-ranked Badger men are 3-1 and 2-0 in the Big Ten, leaving both in a very good place as Christmas break approaches. Midterm Grade: A (Women)/A- (Men)