The University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team suffered through another losing season, making it their fifth straight losing season and fifth straight season finishing outside the top 10 of the Big Ten.
The season did not bear winning results, but there seemed to be a spark in its later stages. The offense appeared crisper, the ball went in the basket and wins followed. UW even picked up a win in the Big Ten tournament, something that has not happened since the 2012-13 season. Despite the losing season, things are starting to look up in Madison.
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New head coach Jonathan Tsipis could be a major reason for optimism in the coming years for the Badgers. He took his former team, the George Washington University women’s basketball team, from a 14-16 record in the 2012-13 season to a 26-7 record in 2015-16 highlighted by a NCAA tournament bid and a first-place finish in the Atlantic-10 conference. His four-year tenure with the team is notable for its three straight postseason appearances and back-to-back first-place finishes in the conference.
Based on Tsipis’s track record, it could be said that his first year with the Badgers is comparable to his first year with George Washington. He improved the record of the Badgers from 7-22 to 9-22 just like he did with George Washington. Tsipis has started an upward trend in Madison, the only question is whether or not he can sustain it and help to bring the Badgers back to the NCAA tournament.
Tsipis has proven to be a strong coach throughout his career as the associate head coach on two Notre Dame teams that made it to the national title game. He was under the great head coach Muffet McGraw at ND and the transfer of success has shown, especially with his work at George Washington. This long-term success bodes well for a Badgers team that is coming off of a losing but improved season and is in a rebuilding phase.
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It appears that Tsipis will have a strong foundation to build from as the Badgers will return every significant contributor outside of Avyanna Young and the returners include leading scorer Cayla McMorris. Players like Courtney Fredrickson and Suzanne Gilreath will be asked to produce more as sophomores to match the contributions of talented Avyanna Young. It remains to be seen, however, if Tsipis’s reputation as a respected coach will translate to more recruits and better overall recruiting classes for UW.
The question still lingers: Can Jonathon Tsipis right the ship completely and turn the Badgers into a perennial contender in the Big Ten, a conference that features national powers like Ohio State and Maryland? After all, the Big Ten top to bottom is much better than the Atlantic 10 is and this presents a very real challenge for Tsipis and the Badgers.
All in all, the Badgers seem to be headed in the right direction after hitting near rock bottom the last couple of years and failing to put a winning and entertaining product on the court lately. The Badgers will need to continue to cash in on better and better recruiting classes if they want to compete for a Big Ten title. A lot of work needs to be done and that starts with better recruiting.
In his introductory press conference, Tsipis commented that he wanted to make a dome around the state in terms of recruiting and make it a priority to retain the state’s best high school players. He failed in that this year letting two of his top area targets slip away. But there is power in Tsipis’s name and there is a good chance that recruiting will pick up for the Badgers especially if a winning season appears in the next couple of years. Strong intrastate recruiting will help to create buzz around the team and to create a network to reel in the best that the state has to offer.
The state of the Badgers is one of poor current results but also one of a bright future. An energetic, skilled coach like Jonathon Tsipis should be able to do wonders with a team that is like a ball of clay in his hands that he can shape into any form that he wants. This season wasn’t a winning one but there is no reason why this team can’t turn into a winning program once again. The reputation of Tsipis and a very young team signals to the fan base: it may be a process but winning days may be on the horizon.