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 to take on James Madison in first round of March Madness

Badgers can use height, shot-making skill set to surpass Dukes in first round
Soren Goldsmith

The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team is back in the NCAA Tournament after being excluded from the field of 68 teams in 2023. UW earned a No. 5 seed after an up-and-down season — finishing the year with an appearance in the Big Ten Championship game before losing to the University of Illinois in one of the best conference matches of the year.

It seems that UW has put their February struggles behind them after their extended weekend in Minneapolis and they are primed for a run in March Madness. The selection committee assigned James Madison University as the Badgers first opponent — the No. 12 seed in the South Region.

The game will take place in the Barclays Center — home of the Brooklyn Nets — in Brooklyn, New York at 8:40 p.m. CT on Friday.


The Dukes are arguably one of the hottest teams in the country — winning the Sun Belt Conference championship to add on to their current 13-game winning streak. They have the most wins of any team in the tournament with 31 on the season.

James Madison is led by guard Terrence Edwards Jr., a dynamic three-level scorer who is averaging 17.4 points per game and shooting 35.4% from 3-point land. Edwards Jr. stands at 6-foot-6, which could present some problems for the Badgers.

While he isn’t as explosive as their last matchup with Terrence Shannon Jr. of Illinois, Edwards Jr. presents a similar skill set —one that also includes getting to the free-throw line. It proved effective against Michigan State University — where the guard took over and led the Dukes to their first win of the season in an upset fashion.

Forward TJ Bickerstaff is another athlete to watch out for, as the 6-foot-9 prospect is James Madison’s second-highest scorer at 13.4 PPG. The Dukes then look to forward Julien Wooden and guard Michael Green III to accumulate buckets in their starting lineup.

Similarly to UW, James Madison is a deep team with multiple scorers. The Dukes usually go nine-deep during game action.

As much as the 31-3 overall record intimidates and intrigues people to call for the classic No. 5 vs No. 12 seed upset, UW faithful have reason to be positive.

It seems that the Badgers’ offense got their rhythm back against Rutgers University on Mar. 7, and then in Minneapolis after going through a drought throughout most of February.

Head coach Greg Gard’s group also got back to their defensive principles they rely on. Adjustments were made in limiting Northwestern University’s guard Boo Buie, and the same could be said for point guard Jahmir Young of the University of Maryland.

Much of that has to do with the work of Badgers’ point guard Chucky Hepburn, who has elevated his defensive status to new heights in the 2023-24 season. Guard Max Klesmit has performed similarly, as both players have locked in on the defensive end — shutting down elite Big Ten guards for a majority of the year.

AJ Storr’s offensive game has taken off, as the 6-foot-7 guard has made huge strides in his shot-making ability as a part of UW’s program. Forwards Tyler Wahl, Steven Crowl and Nolan Winter will be key in Friday’s matchup, too.

A flaw within James Madison’s program is their lack of height as a team. Their tallest contributor is Bickerstaff with his 6-foot-9 frame. Wahl counters at 6-foot-9 as well, while Crowl and Winter both enter around the 7-foot area.

While UW’s and James Madison’s defense ranges near the same level of play, the Badgers enter the tournament with the 12th most efficient offense in the nation, according to KenPom. The Dukes settle in at No. 55 against weaker competition in comparison to Gard’s group.

UW’s fanbase should have confidence heading into Friday based on a quality season of work from this veteran Badgers program, and with the rhythm they picked up in their most recent outings.

UW will need to slow the tempo down and limit 3-point baskets for James Madison in order to win, along with using their size and physicality to dominate the Dukes on the interior.

If the Badgers can secure a victory on Friday night, they will face the winner of No. 4 seeded Duke University and No. 13 seeded University of Vermont on Sunday. Duke is a team that has lost their last two games of the season, and Vermont is fresh off of a America East Conference championship this past week.

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