Tuesday the projected starting five for the 2020-2021 University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team was established. Now we address the key role players and young studs ready to make an impact off the bench.
With Brevin Pritzl gone and Micah Potter looking to join the starting five, Tyler Wahl is left to fill a critical sixth man role. The six foot seven inch forward entered 31 games during his freshman campaign, contributing 2.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and one assist per game. While certainly not flashy, the sophomore from Lakeville, Minnesota looked promising in the opportunities he had.
Wahl appears to be a true slasher who is always around the ball. He is aggressive in the paint and on defense with his length. He comes in with high energy and hustle. This type of play style is ideal for providing a spark off the bench. One thing Wahl will need to improve upon is his shot. The Badgers are a team that likes to shoot the three at volume, but Wahl only shot 21% from beyond the arc in just under one attempt per game.
Wahl likely won’t see a huge leap in minutes (15.4) from last year to this year, so it will be interesting to see how much more efficient he can be. Even if his stats don’t improve tremendously, don’t be surprised to see Wahl playing key minutes. He does a lot of little things right that can’t be measured in a few columns on the boxscore. Wahl will be a needed spark off the bench and the Badgers’ sixth man.
Trever Anderson will continue to play a role in his final year of eligibility. After one season at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay — one season sitting out due to transfer regulations and then another on the shelf due to a season-ending knee injury in 2018 — the former Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin will look to make his mark in his last chance for the Badgers. Anderson played in 31 contests in 2019 and 2020, putting up a slash line of 1.8 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game while averaging just over 12 minutes on the floor.
Mostly used as a floor general, Anderson struggled to make his presence felt coming back from his knee injury. He spent a lot of time at the top of the key dribbling and setting up plays before dishing the rock and getting the offense in motion. At times, Anderson looked timid. With another year of recovery under his belt, he will look to use his quickness and ball security to be a more explosive, versatile and efficient offensive player. If Anderson can take his defenders off the dribble and scoot to the hoop or stop and pop a pull up jumper, Anderson will open up passing lanes and more holes in the defense and become an important backup guard.
Since Wisconsin’s eight, often seven, man rotation last year appeared shallow enough, look for Greg Gard to insert his prized 2020 recruiting class into the action right away. This Badgers class is deep with five freshmen on board and is ranked 19 in the country by ESPN and 30 by 247Sports.
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While ESPN cites point guard Lorne Bowman as the Badgers’ top get, 247Sports instead lists Ben Carlson. While Bowman appears to be the future of the Badger backcourt providing an innate ability to get to the rim, and Ben Carlson appears a shoe-in to fill the eventual void left by Nate Reuvers as a stretch big man, we can see both of these players playing enough minutes to get their feet wet for bright futures.
The freshman with the best chance to make an impact this year is La Crosse native and 2020 Wisconsin Mr. Basketball, Johnny Davis. With Pritzl and Kobe King gone, Wisconsin is left with few true wing players. Davis fills the void perfectly. At six feet four inches, Davis has all the tools to be a dynamic wing player. According to Matt Belz, Davis has the chance to be a quality slasher and an elite defender from the get. His quickness and athleticism will be a must against teams who want to push the pace against Gard’s methodical pace.
Alongside key returning players like Wahl and Anderson is a host of young new talent. The 2020-2021 Badgers will look to provide their core group of starters with more depth than recent memory in the form of a valuable second rotation. Where the Badger starters will look to do most of the damage, it is the performance of the bench that will determine how far this team can go.