As the final seconds ticked down in yesterday’s loss to the Baylor Bears to conclude an underperforming season, UW head coach Greg Gard gave the four seniors on the court a curtain call.
One by one, Aleem Ford, Micah Potter, D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison were subbed out before the final horn sounded. The four joined their teammates, along with fellow seniors Trevor Anderson and Nate Reuvers, on the bench and watched the final seconds of UW’s season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
There were a lot of tears, a lot of sunk shoulders and a lot of hugs from a team who fell short of their goals.
“Honestly, it didn’t hit me until I started shaking the hands of the coaches and the players,” D’Mitrik Trice said. “It’s just tough. It’s tough to go out like that as a senior. Time really flies by. I know I’ve been here for a while and a lot of guys are probably tired of seeing my face, but it really felt like it was a blur.”
Returning nearly everyone on the roster that won the Big Ten Title last season, Wisconsin could never fully correct an inconsistent offense, poor perimeter shooting or sticking to the core fundamentals that the program was built on (turnovers, defense, etc.). All of those shortcomings contributed to the Badgers falling well below their preseason goals and expectations.
How the Badgers will rebound for the 2021-22 season will be determined over the next few days, weeks and months. Due to the NCAA granting a blanket waiver to all student athletes this season, all seniors could return for a free year of eligibility in 2021-22, meaning the entire roster (plus the 2021 recruiting class) theoretically could return intact next season.
It’s unknown how many of Wisconsin’s seven seniors (six scholarship players) will return. But D’Mitrik Trice’s father confirmed last month that it’s “highly unlikely” he comes back. Potter, the teams second leading scorer this season, is also likely to move on, along with most of the class.
If all seven seniors don’t return for the 21-22 season, UW will have to replace their top five scorers, 68.8 percent of its scoring, 64.6 of its rebounds and 79.7 percent of its assists.
For the young guys on the roster, the coaching staff likes the development of Tyler Wahl from year one to year two and the immediate impact from true freshman Jonathan Davis. While the two didn’t play much this season, UW does have some promising young forwards in Steven Crowl and Ben Carlson, both who will likely play considerable minutes in 2021-22.
2021 signee Matthew Mors, a McDonald’s All-American, likely will compete for minutes as well.
Another 2021 signee, Chucky Hepburn, who led his team to the Nebraska state championship game the last two seasons, has the skill set to step right in and contribute. UW is also hopeful to have Lorne Bowman back in the mix.
Regardless of how many seniors return, Wisconsin’s rotation will likely look very different, but a lack of talent won’t be the problem.
More importantly, UW will likely have a normal offseason (which is imperative to the program) with strength and conditioning programs and with everything else and have fans return to the Kohl Center.