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Badgers offense among Top 5 in efficiency, despite facing tough defenses

The Badgers are seeing some serious growth as an offense in 2023.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Wisconsin Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers have cruised to a 16-4 record this season, which has earned them the No. 6 ranking in the AP Top 25 this past week.

Amid a three-game winning streak, Wisconsin faces another tough week, as they’ll travel to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who are undefeated at home this season, on Thursday before hosting the No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers in a marquee Top 10 matchup on Sunday.

How have the Badgers skyrocketed to the Top 10 after struggling to even make the NCAA Tournament last season?

It all starts with their offense, which sits fourth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions, adjusted per opponent) at 121.7, behind only Alabama (125.3), Purdue (124.9), and UConn (123.8). Arizona rounds out the Top 5 at 121.5.

While Wisconsin’s tempo ranks 328th in the nation, according to KenPom, their elite efficiency marks have led to their best offensive showing in the Greg Gard era, as the Badgers are scoring 76 points a game, while shooting 47.7 percent from the field, 36.1 percent from three, and 77.6 percent from the free throw line.

The added depth on the team with A.J. Storr, who leads the team at 15.9 points a game, and freshmen John Blackwell and Nolan Winter have made things easier for the remainder of Wisconsin’s team, leading to career years for Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl down low.

At guard, Max Klesmit is enjoying a most improved-caliber season, while Chucky Hepburn has settled into his role as the team’s top facilitator.

The evolution of Wisconsin’s offense has allowed it to operate at such a high level, despite facing the fourth-toughest defenses in college basketball, according to the average adjusted defensive efficiency of their opponents.

This year’s team has been uniquely impressive on the offensive end, despite staying true to head coach Greg Gard’s principles, showcasing how the coach has adapted his offense to the modern era by creating more efficient looks for his players.

A part of maintaining that efficiency is limiting turnovers, which the Badgers have been able to do after a short rough patch, ranking second in the Big Ten behind only Northwestern.

The crazy part? Wisconsin hasn’t reached its full potential yet, as players like Connor Essegian are just beginning to find their groove offensively, while Chucky Hepburn is still working through some shooting struggles in a role that involves lesser volume than the past two seasons.

But, one thing’s clear: the Badgers have generated one of the best offenses in college basketball this season according to the numbers, and they’ve done so against some of the toughest defenses in the country.