The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball season is underway, as they hosted UW-Stevens Point in an exhibition match on Wednesday, comfortably winning 87-44.
It was a good start to the new-look team that includes transfer forward A.J. Storr and new freshmen Nolan Winter, John Blackwell, and Gus Yalden, but also a majority of last year’s rotation.
Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers 87-44 win over UW-Stevens Point.
A.J. Storr season
When we first saw A.J. Storr this offseason during open practices to the media, it was clear he would have an impact on this team with his unique athleticism and frame at the wing.
Storr was always confident in his scoring abilities, and that translated to the first game of the season, where the forward had 14 points on 5/7 shooting, including a pair of threes.
Storr has earned himself a place in the starting lineup, and I predicted him to be Wisconsin’s leading scorer and Most Valuable Player this season.
He’s versatile in his ability to score, notching dunks, three-pointers, layups, and jump shots, while possessing the innate ability to create his shot.
Additionally, Storr’s value comes on the other end of the court, where he’s a plus defender, accumulating a block and three rebounds in 19 minutes on Wednesday.
Storr does have some improvements to make with his passing ability out of the post, which head coach Greg Gard noted prior to the season, but it was a good start to his time in the Red and White.
The Badgers looked smoother in passing the ball on Wednesday, which led to a number of open baskets.
The effort primary came from guards Max Klesmit and Chucky Hepburn, who combined for nine assists in the first half, while Wisconsin assisted 21 times on 32 field goals Wednesday.
If the Badgers can consistently create good shots out of their sets, it’ll lead to a much more efficient offense than the one they possessed last season, and that was seen against UW-Stevens Point, as Wisconsin shot 56% from the field.
Now, they’ll need to replicate the effort against better competition, but it was a good look for the Badgers to start the season.
Connor Essegian off the bench
Once the Badgers landed A.J. Storr from the transfer portal, there were questions as to how the Badgers would tinker their lineups to accomodate their new players.
Over the final few open practices, it became more apparent that the main change would include moving sophomore guard Connor Essegian to the bench as a sixth man, while leaving Max Klesmit in with the starters.
That was the case on Wednesday, as the Badgers trotted out a starting five of Chucky Hepburn, Klesmit, Storr, Tyler Wahl, and Steven Crowl.
Essegian was among the first off the bench and finished the exhibition match with 11 points on 4/10 shooting, including 3/9 from three, in 15 minutes of action.
In a way, the Badgers have two “microwave” options in Storr and Essegian, as both possess the ability to create shots at a high level, which is why it made sense for one to move to the bench.
While not playing a high number of minutes, it was clear that the Badgers looked to feature Essegian when in the game, as he took a team-high 10 shots, with a majority coming from behind the arc.
The true debate now comes with Wisconsin’s closing lineup. Do they involve one of their top scorers in crunch time or keep him on the bench and roll with their starters?