Wisconsin hopes to be successful without its usual experience

MADISON, Wisconsin – Wisconsin generally relies on experience to bring the Badgers to the NCAA tournament every season.

Not this year.

The Badgers have one of their youngest teams in two decades after losing six seniors on a team that went 18-13 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“The teams don’t really expect us to be touted as much as we have been in years past, but I’m really looking forward to playing with this new group of guys,” said sophomore guard Johnny. Davis. “We have a lot of talent coming.”

Wisconsin have played in 21 of the last 22 NCAA tournaments, and the Badgers’ chances of winning an invite this season may depend on how quickly their young talent matures.

“We obviously know this is a work in progress,” said coach Greg Gard. “Every day is a new day. They are constantly learning something new, but it’s a fun group to work with.”

The Badgers roster includes seven sophomores and five freshmen, giving the Badgers their largest collection of subclasses in at least 20 years. The newcomer roster includes a trio of transfers in guards Isaac Lindsey (UNLV) and Jahcobi Neath (Wake Forest) as well as center Chris Vogt (Cincinnati).

The only returning players who played at least 10 minutes per game last season are Brad Davison, Tyler Wahl and Davis.

“Over the last three or four years you kind of get to know the ins and outs of what your teammates want to do,” Davison said. “For me, it’s been a learning curve over the last three or four months, just getting used to being on the pitch with this new young group and this new young core. I loved it.”

DAVIS’S NEXT STEP

Davis averaged 7 points in his first year in a senior-dominated team. The Badgers are counting on him to become a featured artist this year.

The 6-foot-5 runner-up spent the summer winning a gold medal with USA Basketball at the FIBA ​​Under-19 World Cup. Davis said he also worked on improving his 3-point shot after scoring 14 of 36 from beyond the arc last season.

“I had a decent amount of open looks (last season) that I probably didn’t shoot,” Davis said. “And when I was open, I didn’t hit enough shots that I was supposed to.”

WHERE DID THEY GO?

The NCAA allowed last year’s seniors to return for an additional year of eligibility due to the pandemic, but Davison was the only one of seven Wisconsin seniors to return.

“I love being here,” Davison said. “I love basketball. I love people. I love the city. There is nowhere else I would rather be.”

Last year, some Wisconsin seniors had issues with the Gard which came to light when parts of a February team reunion were secretly recorded and leaked to the media.

THE RETURN OF BOWMAN

Guard Lorne Bowman II will make his Wisconsin debut a year later than expected. Bowman returned to his Detroit home last year to deal with a family issue.

“Coming back to UW has always been my first and foremost goal,” Bowman said. “I didn’t know how long it would take, but basically I knew I would end up being back here at UW.”

AVOID TURNOVER

One of the challenges Wisconsin face is whether they can play their usual style without error with such a young team. The Badgers had just 9 turnovers per game last year, the lowest average of any team in Division I.

THIS IS HEPBURN

Wisconsin’s inexperience could translate into an immediate opportunity for first-year point guard Chucky Hepburn, who reached three state championship games and won a title at Bellevue West High School in Omaha, Nebraska.

“He’s a competitor,” Davison said. “He’s playing really, really hard and leaving everything out there with every possession. He really values ​​defense.”

The first game of the season is on November 9 at home against St. Francis (NY).

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About Marc Womack

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