Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Men’s Basketball: Wisconsin set to defend Big Ten title in 2022-23 season

What to know about Wisconsin’s schedule, roster as Wisconsin prepares to tip-off season
Abby Cima

The University of Wisconsin-Madison men’s basketball team was recently picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten preseason poll. Going off this expectation, the Badgers project to be right on the bubble of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament, and fans can expect to be monitoring NCAA Bracketology closely all season.

Fans have become accustomed to the “big dance,” as Wisconsin has only missed one NCAA Tournament since 2000 — excluding the 2020 Covid-19-shortened season. Head coach Greg Gard’s system, geared towards good defense and limiting turnovers, will be put to the test.

In August, the Badgers went on a ten-day getaway to France where they toured the country and played four exhibition games against French teams. The Badgers ended their trip with an undefeated 4-0 record, winning by an average of 18.5 points. This opportunity allowed the new squad to establish some chemistry and gave fans a glimpse of what to expect for this upcoming year. But before we look at what to expect for this upcoming season, let’s recap last season.


Last year, after losing six seniors, the Badgers were picked tenth in the 2021-2022 Big Ten preseason media poll. The Badgers outperformed their expectations by a longshot, culminating in a victory over Purdue at the Kohl Center to clinch a share of the Big Ten Championship. Key to this success is the spectacular breakout of 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Johnny Davis. Davis went from an afterthought of a sixth man his freshman year to averaging 20 points, eight rebounds and two assists and being named Big Ten Player of the Year and a consensus First Team All-American.

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The Badger’s season ended in a disappointing loss to Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament Round 32. All-in-all, the 2021-2022 season was more than Badger fans could’ve hoped for, and fans can trust that Gard will do everything he can to replicate that team’s success this upcoming season.

But he’s got his hands full. Gard has had to replace former standouts Davis, Brad Davison and more.

Sophomore Chucky Hepburn, senior Tyler Wahl, and sophomore Steven Crowl all return as starters for the Badgers and will see an uptick in playing time without Davis and Davison. Hepburn and Wahl are the only duo in the Big Ten to earn All-Big Ten preseason honors.

Hepburn, a point guard from Nebraska, is a tenacious on-ball defender who led the Badgers in assists last season, but will need to increase his gravity as a scoring threat. Wahl, the longest-tenured Badger, should provide a much-needed veteran presence in the locker room. He boasts a vintage post arsenal but will need to improve his capability as a jump-shooter to hit his ceiling. Crowl, the leading scorer on the France trip, proved his worth by holding his own against some of the best big men in the country last season. Badger fans hope he can maintain his scoring aggression this upcoming year.

Three newcomers — UW-Green Bay transfer Kamari McGee, Wofford College transfer Max Klesmit and freshman Connor Essegian — will play key roles this season. McGee, a member of the Horizon League’s All-Freshman team last season, will fill the backup point guard role the Badgers desperately need after last year’s midseason departure of freshman Lorne Bowman Jr. Klesmit and Essegian will try to do their part in replacing the combined 33.8 points per game that Davison and Davis averaged at the two and three positions, respectively.

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Klesmit seems like a good candidate to be a player Wisconsin fans love and opposing fans hate. Essegian, an Indiana native, will make an offensive impact right away, but will need to work on his defense to find steady minutes.

Two players who will play more this year are sophomores Markus Ilver and Chris Hodges. Ilver, a bouncy 6-foot-8 forward from Estonia, played in just eight games last season but appears ready to take a leap with strong performances in France.

Hodges spent last year honing his game in practice as a redshirt. In a surprising move, the Badgers elected not to pursue a backup center to replace veteran center Chris Vogt. Hodges, at 6-foot-9 forward with a strong frame, will likely fill the five position while Crowl is on the bench.

The rest of the rotation will consist of senior Jahcobi Neath, junior Jordan Davis and junior Carter Gilmore. Guard Jordan Davis will do his best to fill the shoes of his twin brother Johnny. Jordan Davis averaged double figures on the France trip and will fight for a starting spot. Neath, a 6-foot-4 guard who transferred from Wake Forest before last season, will look to improve on his first season as a Badger where he struggled to stay on the court due to injuries. Gilmore, a former walk-on, played sparingly a season ago, but his height and defense could earn him significant playing time this year.

Year in review: Top five moments, athlete awards

The Badgers out-of-conference schedule is highlighted by the Brew City Battle, a matchup with the Stanford Cardinal played at the Milwaukee Brewers’ American Family Field Nov. 11.

Less than two weeks later, the Badgers will depart for Paradise Island in the Bahamas where they will compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis, a tournament they’ve had recent success in, including a runner-up finish in 2018 and a championship in 2014. Wisconsin will likely face their toughest non-conference competition in this tournament, as they’re set to open up against preseason no. 24 Dayton, then play either defending national champion Kansas or North Carolina State the following game.

After returning from Paradise Island with full bellies, sunburns and hopefully a championship, the Badgers host Wake Forest in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge Nov. 29. In their last game before Big Ten action, the Badgers head east to square off with in-state rival, Marquette.

Wisconsin’s 20-game Big Ten schedule will be grueling as ever, but Badger fans have one game circled on their calendars. There will be no love lost between Wisconsin and Michigan as they face off at the Kohl Center on Valentine’s Day. This will mark the first time the two teams have faced each other since Michigan head coach Juwan Howard took a swing at Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft following an altercation with Gard in the handshake line over a timeout call last season. The two were recently photographed smiling together at Big Ten Media Day but Badger fans will let Howard and the Wolverines hear about it all game.

All in all, Badger fans should have tempered expectations following last season’s Big Ten regular season championship, but there is plenty to be excited about as a promising future awaits.

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