The spring of 2019 saw a blend of success and disappointment in Wisconsin athletics. With summer fast approaching, we asked two of our writers to offer their reflections on the semester that was for the Badgers and provide their thoughts on what’s to come in the fall.
The University of Wisconsin’s spring sports teams showed success and promise throughout.
The women’s volleyball team finished their spring season while losing in just one set over the course of their three matches against teams that made the NCAA Tournament last fall.
The men’s tennis team showed that they have a rising star in freshman Jared Pratt, who won his last eight regular-season matches in Big Ten play.
The football team has shown improvement after a disappointing season, as the quarterback battle rages on between freshman Graham Mertz and junior Jack Coan.
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Among several other teams, these performances show that despite a disappointing year in some areas, the UW Athletics Department as a whole continues to trend in the right direction.
This summer, I expect to see the quarterback battle continue to heighten, as Coan looks to solidify himself as the starting quarterback despite tough competition from Mertz.
I also expect to see the Badgers track and field team to ride their success after promising performances across the board, in both men’s and women’s events.
The men’s basketball team will also look to find their way after a poor performance at the NCAA Tournament in March. The team will also hit the reset button as they learn what their new identity will be with the loss of All-American Ethan Happ and the maturation of the backcourt.
Lastly, I expect to see the Wisconsin fall sports teams gear up for another grueling season with preparation over the course of the remainder of spring and summer to get back to the top in their respective sports.
Overall, the spring season can be labeled as a success in almost every sport, but the Badgers will be looking for more next season as teams and individual athletes hope to bring National Championships back to Madison.
Many would agree that this was a down year for Wisconsin’s biggest programs. From an 8-5 football season to the men’s basketball team’s first-round NCAA Tournament exit, to the men’s hockey team struggling to find footing in a strong Big Ten Conference, the sole bright spot in Madison was the women’s hockey team winning the National Championship.
Looking forward, two of the three men’s programs mentioned above have a positive outlook going into the 2019-20 school year. The third, not so much.
The two teams who will take steps forward next year are the men’s hockey team and the football team.
Head Coach Tony Granato’s men’s hockey team was extremely young this year. Specifically, five of Granato’s top six point producers on the team were underclassmen. Going into next year, Granato returns much of his production on the ice and welcomes in a freshman class of 13, four of which are projected to be drafted to the NHL in June.
This combination of incoming and returning talent should lead to success next winter.
On the gridiron, where Head Coach Paul Chryst said goodbye to his starting quarterback, four starters on his offensive line and a majority of his defensive talent after last season ended — though saying goodbye to now-Florida State Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was probably for the best.
What Chryst does have for him going into next fall is year three for star running back Jonathan Taylor, the presumed breakout of sophomore linebacker Jack Sanborn and the presence of Kansas high school sensation Mertz.
A more stable quarterback situation — sophomore Jack Coan or the freshman Mertz — paired with Chryst’s team only playing just one truly challenging road game at Ohio State, points toward a successful season after a disappointing one a year ago.
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The team who will most likely regress next season is Head Coach Greg Gard’s men’s basketball team, though recent news has opened a potential lane to success.
Since Gard has been at Wisconsin, he has struggled to bring top-level to Madison. Yes, Nate Reuvers and Brad Davison were the No. 2 and No. 3 2017 recruits from Minnesota, respectively, but even with them at Wisconsin, it’s been clear these last two years that Gard’s recruiting classes lack the star power that Bo Ryan was able to bring to Madison.
One reason for this was losing out on ex-Kentucky Wildcat Tyler Herro and ex-Marquette Golden Eagle Joey Hauser. It was announced two weeks ago, however, that Joey Hauser and his brother Sam were transferring from Marquette, and listed Wisconsin as one of their possible destinations.
If Gard wants to have success in the coming years, he needs to land the Hauser brothers. Without them, it’s hard seeing his basketball team succeeding in the near future.