After Thursday night’s commanding victory over Ohio State at home, the Badgers have now extended their winning streak to six, with the last four coming in Big Ten play.
Many critics projected this team to be on the outside looking in on the NCAA tournament as the Badgers entered the season. Even after early-season success, the doubters were still there — especially after the Badgers were defeated by Ohio State in Columbus. But this young Wisconsin squad has successfully flipped the script by cementing themselves as a tournament lock by mid-January with recent wins over the Buckeyes and Purdue.
Though sophomore sensation Johnny Davis has been putting up elite numbers, he’s not solely responsible for the Badgers’ success as one of only three Big Ten teams with five conference wins. Similar to the triumphant Wisconsin teams of the past, this year’s squad has flourished by playing as a team. Every man in the rotation has been the best version of themselves, and no person has exemplified that as much as Tyler Wahl.
Thursday night against Ohio State, Wahl truly came out of his shell, making up for a rare off-night for Davis. Wahl was a swiss army knife, finding success at all three levels. He was getting to the rim, knocking down shots from deep and dishing out assists, which ultimately helped the Badgers secure a win against one of their Big Ten rivals.
It has been a common question proposed by critics — where will Wisconsin get their offensive production? Besides experienced guard Brad Davison, Wisconsin needs a reliable third option if they want to dance in March. They’ve been getting it from Steven Crowl, but it looks like Wahl could also be their man.
Throughout the season, the Badgers have been a second-half team — a key reason they’ve achieved so much success lately. Whether it be a trio of close wins to take the Maui Invitational crown, late heroics at Purdue or storming all the way back for a win over Indiana, Greg Gard’s squad always shows up in the biggest moments. They always find a way to stay in the match in late-game situations, shooting 76% from the free-throw line as a team, which is good for 38th overall in the nation.
But most importantly, the Badgers have a lethal closer in Johnny Davis, who can get a bucket down the stretch anytime he wants. Davis’s offensive talents were plainly displayed against Purdue when he closed them out on the road with several difficult buckets, finishing the game with a monster stat line of 37 points and 14 boards.
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When discussing Wisconsin’s basketball program, it’s impossible to gloss over the impact Brad Davison continues to have. Davison’s leadership qualities are one of the main reasons why this team has hit its stride.
Even as the number two option, Davison continues to set an example for the younger guys by putting his body on the line every single match. Beyond serving as the heart and soul of the Badgers ball club, he is having his best statistical season, averaging 15.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. This team will need Davison when it matters most in March.
The Badgers are currently sitting at 14–2, and they’ll look to extend that to 15 wins as they take on Northwestern in Evanston. Coming off a big road victory, the Wildcats won’t be a pushover. Johnny Davis has played a significant role in the Badger’s success this season, but the supporting cast has shown they can get it done when the chips are on the line.