As the offseason begins in what was a relatively disappointing University of Wisconsin men’s basketball season, the question rises to every fan’s mind of what can be done to reach championship caliber. Madison is a city that holds their sports teams to elite standards with decades of widespread success.
For years, the Badgers have contributed to this success, constantly finishing at the top of Big Ten play. The Badgers have also appeared in 18 of the last 19 NCAA Tournaments.
While successful, the team seems stuck with what feels like an annual bowing out in either the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight. This phenomenon is a cycle of hope built through glimpses of dominance only to be dashed through inevitable crushing loss.
Lucky for Badger fans, now, the offseason is where this cycle can be broken. Even with the loss of a solid senior core, Wisconsin can replace key players through the NCAA’s transfer portal. With all student athletes granted another year of eligibility, the Badgers have the opportunity to nab players who are choosing to play elsewhere. Additionally, senior guard Brad Davison announced he would be returning for a senior season.
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Another thing Badgers fans should be optimistic about is a solid freshman and sophomore class. Sophomore guard Jonathan Davis showed promise and has the potential to be a true star in the Big Ten. Davis was by far the most athletic player on the Badgers roster, and his usage will only increase.
Davis proved to be a capable second option and bucket getter, both roles that are going to expand with the loss of an experienced senior class. Davis was forced into extended minutes due to the injury of freshman Ben Carlson.
Carlson was the 23rd ranked power forward in the country coming into the season, according to 247 Sports. The combination of Davis and Carlson could prove to be just as successful as any we have seen in the Kohl Center, and both show a lot of promise as they are young and highly athletic.
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Sadly for Badgers fans, both of these factors have little more potential than maintaining the ever-present cycle of elite mediocrity. To truly gain success in the long term, there are two routes the Badgers can take.
The first of these paths involve recruiting and creating a style that interests high-level talent. For years the Badgers constructed their roster on homegrown talent that works well within the swing offense.
With this being said, this kind of offense tends not to draw the high-level offensively dominant scorers who comprise the upper 50 of the ESPN top 100 recruiting rankings.
For the last decade, there has been a trend of these high-level talents going to teams that mimic the fast-paced game of the NBA, a pace that the Badgers hang their hat on slowing down. Additionally, there is little opportunity for individual isolation basketball in the Big Ten, where a perennial seven-footer will meet any drive to the hoop.
This strategy can read like doom and gloom, seeing as the swing offense is here to stay as long as Greg Gard is at the helm, but fans shouldn’t worry. When it comes to these aforementioned teams made up of talented five-star players, their success only eclipsed the Badgers once every three years or so.
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The reason behind this trend is the power of older, more experienced teams in the realm of college basketball. In this trend lies the key to success for the Badgers. To win in the long term, the Badgers need to continue to stick to their identity while developing strong veteran cores. It is important to remember that the class of 2020 was the first wholly recruited by Gard and was exceptional.
This trend must continue in order to gain success. The Badgers need to target high-level talent, but more importantly, talent that fits together with the slow gritty pace and low screens of the swing offense.