Since being deemed eligible by the NCAA, Wisconsin forward Micah Potter has been extremely efficient for the Badgers. The junior from Mentor, Ohio is averaging 9.3 points and 6.1 rebounds on 52% shooting for the floor. For many reasons, it remains quite clear Potter should receive increased playing time.
The underlying problem is Potter averages just over 16 minutes per game and has yet to start this season. Potter’s lack of playing time makes fans scratch their heads as to why one of Wisconsin’s biggest assets continues to sit in crunchtime situations. After losing three of the last four games, inserting Potter into the starting lineup could be the solution for a reeling Wisconsin team.
Initially, many would have thought Potter’s lack of playing time could be adjusting to the system at Wisconsin. Through his first five games, Potter was only averaging 12.8 minutes per game, yet was still extremely efficient, as he averaged 6.6 points per game during that stretch.
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Potter’s first uptick in playing time came in a critical game on the road against No. 22 Penn State. Playing a season-high 28 minutes, Potter outshined Penn State’s All-Big Ten forward, Lamar Stevens, scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds on 9-14 shooting. After this outburst, many thought coach Greg Gard would increase Potter’s minutes.
The problem is Potter’s playing time continues to be relatively limited given his success. Since his breakout game against Penn State, Potter has only averaged 17 minutes per game. Though Potter has continued to be productive with an average of 8.8 points per game, he continues to not see the floor for a majority of the game.
Most recently against arch-rival Minnesota, Potter recorded his second double-double, scoring 11 points as well as a season-high 15 rebounds. After redshirt sophomore Kobe King decided to leave the program on Jan. 29, Potter’s versatility and scoring could help fill the void left by King.
At 6-foot-10, not only is Potter a factor inside the paint, but he is also Wisconsin’s best perimeter shooter. Potter is shooting a team-high 48% from the three-point line and has also excelled at the free-throw line, shooting an impressive 91.3%
Potter’s ability to shoot from the perimeter is a great compliment to junior Nathan Reuvers. Potter’s presence forces defenders to respect shooters on the perimeter, making it easy for Reuvers to work inside and see less double team looks.
Instead of starting freshman Tyler Wahl, who shoots a dismal 23.8% from deep, inserting Potter into the lineup could give Wisconsin a much-needed offensive boost.
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Potter could also improve Wisconsin’s rebounding numbers. As a team, the Badgers rank third to last in the Big Ten in rebounding margin with an average margin of -0.2. Potter leads the team with 6.1 rebounds per game on average. Adding Potter to the lineup would help hold opposing offenses to only one shot and limit second-chance points.
In Wisconsin’s ugly 70–51 loss to Purdue, the Badgers were pounded on the boards, getting outrebounded 42–16. In that game, Potter only saw 14 minutes of action.
A concern could be playing both Potter and Reuvers at the same time especially against quick teams that play smaller lineups. For example, in Wisconsin’s 56–54 win against Maryland, the Terrapins countered Wisconsin’s big lineup by playing sophomore guard Aaron Wiggins 34 minutes, forcing the Badgers to play a smaller lineup that excludes Potter. In that situation, playing Reuvers and Potter together would have exposed the team in pick-and-roll situations. Potter has a team-worst 86.6 defensive rating.
To counter, Potter’s offensive efficiency is off the charts. Potter leads the team with an offensive rating of 113.7 and has a player efficiency rating of 32.1. Potter’s player efficiency ranks higher than Wooden Award candidates Daniel Oturu and Markus Howard. With Wisconsin ranking 13th in the Big Ten in points per game (65.6), the Badgers may need to trade defense for offense by playing Potter and Reuvers together.
Also, the concept of playing two big men at the same time is not new to Gard. Last year, Gard started both Reuvers and Ethan Happ for all 34 games. Reuvers’ efficiency from long-range gave Happ the ability to shine. This year Potter could serve the same role.
Wisconsin has one of the best-kept secrets in the Big Ten in junior forward Micah Potter. The problem is Potter will continue to be a secret if coach Gard doesn’t increase his playing time. With the Badgers losing three of the last four games and endangering their NCAA Tournament fate, the time is now to insert Potter into the starting lineup.