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A look into the Badgers incredible efficiency in 2024

The Badgers have their best offense statistically in over three decades.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Wisconsin Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers pulled off their 14th victory of the season over the weekend, beating the Indiana Hoosiers 91-79 in an offensive shootout where guard Max Klesmit led the team with 26 points.

It was the second time that Wisconsin eclipsed the 90-point mark this season, as they scored 105 points in the opener against Arkansas State, while breaking the 80-point mark four times, with three coming in conference play.

With nearly the entire roster back for the 2023-24 season, along with some new pieces, the Badgers have looked much different from their inconsistent 2022-23 selves that failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

Wisconsin has always been a strong defensive team, but what’s really changed this season is the team’s efficiency, which has been off the charts.

The Badgers are scoring 76.5 points per game, which is the first time they’ve averaged over 70 points since the 2016-17 season, and their best mark since the 1993-94 season.

How have they managed to score at such a high rate?

Well, it boils down to their efficient shooting at all three levels on the court. Wisconsin is hitting 47.8 percent of their shots, as well as 35.9 percent of their threes, both of which are top-five marks in the Big Ten. Add in the league’s best free-throw shooting team at 77.8 percent and you have one of the most efficient offenses in college.

The Badgers are Top 20 in points per possession in the country this season, which has picked up as of late, as Wisconsin has been over 1.2 points per possession in each of their last five games. They’re second in the conference to Purdue in both points per possession and true shooting percentage.

And, this is all coming while Wisconsin ranks 333rd in the country in pace, averaging just 67 possessions per game.

This leads me to a conversation that I had with head coach Greg Gard in the offseason about the evolution of his offense as the times are changing, to which he responded that a change in pace isn’t necessary, but rather a change in efficiency.

And he was exactly right, as the Badgers have managed their best-scoring offense in over three decades, despite posting one of the lowest paces in the NCAA.

Reflecting on this philosophy a few weeks into the season, I asked Gard about what he’s seen from his team in the efficiency department this season compared to last.

Here was his response:

“I think what we wanted to eliminate was the dry spells, the empty possessions where we’d go five or more possessions,” Gard said. “Now I try to track anything more than three [possessions] or we get to three, we start to dissect why and what we need to do to get to break that streak. And in order to do that, you have to have really good players.”

“I’m not naive to think that it’s all coaching and scheme. It’s really good players that are unselfish. I think our depth helps that because guys can stay fresh. And you saw that we have some punch off the bench, too. But like I said, it’s just trying to minimize the dry spells and maximize getting good shots all the time. Not having those stretches of looking like we’re walking and running in mud and those things. I don’t know if there was any number put on it. We just wanted to eradicate as much of the dry spells as we’re in the back.”

Looking back at last year, those dry spells were crucial, especially in late-game situations, in Wisconsin’s losses, which placed extra pressure on the team’s defense, as the Badgers just couldn’t put together consistent scoring over a 40-minute period to effectively compete with their competition.

However, with the added depth of A.J. Storr, John Blackwell, and Nolan Winter this season, the Badgers have been able to roll out a deeper rotation, while also getting more of a scoring punch, which allows them to mix and match different lineups to ensure a scoring presence is always on the court.

This has eliminated those dry spells to where we’ve only seen one crucial one occur this season: the end of the 87-83 loss to Penn State, where Wisconsin didn’t have a field goal for nearly five minutes at the end of the game. However, that wasn’t an issue, as the Badgers consistently got to the free throw line during that stretch, rather; it was their inconsistent defense that struggled to compile numerous stops that ultimately lost them the game.

With the lack of those dry spells and an improved bench, Gard is seeing the offense he envisioned in the offseason when bringing in the new pieces come to fruition.

As a result, Wisconsin is second in the AP Top 25 to only Purdue in the Big Ten, while still leading the conference with a 6-1 record.