After more than 18 months of anticipation, Greg Gard and the new-look men’s squad aim to revitalize the Kohl Center — as well as an in-person Badger faithful — on Oct. 17, for the annual red white scrimmage.
Both of the University of Wisconsin’s hoops programs will make an appearance at the scrimmage Sunday. There will be team introductions, classic shooting and skills competitions, and interviews from both Gard and new women’s head coach, Marisa Moseley, as an added bonus to the live scrimmage from the men’s unit.
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Coming off an 18-13 performance and a ninth-seed bid to The Big Dance during the 2020-21 campaign, UW faces an ultra-competitive group this season, with 20 interconference battles scheduled prior to the start of the Big Ten tournament on March 9.
Anchored by veteran Brad Davison, the Badgers are expected to showcase a combination of young talent and experience, with true-freshman guard Chucky Hepburn, sophomore Johnny Davis and junior forward Tyler Wahl at the helm. Incoming transfers Isaac Lindsey, Chris Vogt and Jahcobi Neath also bring differing skill sets and much-needed experience to bolster an exciting freshman class.
Another name to monitor is playmaking guard Lorne Bowman, who missed the entirety of last season to attend to a family matter. The six-foot-two redshirt freshman was ranked no. 94 in the ESPN 100 before becoming a Badger. As a first-team all-state player, he averaged over 25 points, six assists and six rebounds for St. Mary’s High School, propelling the Eaglets to a 21-1 record and division title during his senior year.
With limited depth in the backcourt and the departure of D’Mitrik Trice, who led UW in almost every statistical category last year, Bowman will serve as an integral piece to the puzzle as the season progresses.
Down low, Tyler Wahl, Chris Vogt and Steven Crowl will need to anchor the paint and assert a powerful defense given the departures of versatile Aleem Ford, efficient Micah Potter and defensive workhorse Nate Reuvers. Vogt, a Cincinnati transfer, has three years of collegiate experience under his belt and should help fill the void and contribute as a stout defensive player with excellent size and mobility on the block.
The Badger’s X-factor, however, is Johnny Davis. As a true freshman, the talented six-foot-five guard appeared in all 31 games, putting up seven points-per-game over 24.4 minutes as the team’s sixth man.
During the offseason, he represented the Badgers by winning a gold medal for the United States at the FIBA U19 World Cup — and with potential to elevate into a lead-scoring role this season, all eyes will be on Davis this year.
The 2021-22 campaign officially tips off when St. Francis from Brooklyn arrives in Madtown for the Badger’s first regular season bout on Nov. 9 at the Kohl Center. This matchup could provide fans with a glimpse of a potential starting lineup and act as a tone-setter for a hungry team looking to succeed in a tough conference.
At the 2021 Maui Jim Maui Invitational in Hawaii, possible matchups against Houston and Oregon — two competitive tournament teams from last spring — could occur on Nov. 23 and 24, depending on how the invitational plays out. An early-season test versus a talented Houston program would prove challenging, but a noteworthy win could instill confidence across the roster.
On Dec. 8, the first Big Ten match against Indiana will take place in Madison. Three days later, Ohio State awaits the Badgers in Columbus. Kofi Cockburn and the Fighting Illini, who boasted a one-seed during the 2020 tournament, will face Wisconsin in Champaign on Feb. 2.
This battle will unfold about a month away from the 2022 Big Ten Tournament and a commendable performance against an accomplished roster like Illinois will only help Greg Gard make pivotal adjustments for the spring. If the Badgers aim to secure a bid and appear in Joe Lunardi’s bracketology, the most pivotal dogfight following a trip to Illinois will occur on Feb. 20 when UW hosts Michigan at home.
Finishing with a 23-5 record, consensus second-team All-American Hunter Dickinson and the Wolverines reached the elite-eight in March, and their combination of size and athleticism could bother Wisconsin.
Regardless of how the Badgers finish this season, the team tends to fare better with the relentless noise and passion from the student section, and the entire program is awaiting a thunderous return to the Kohl Center.