The 2021-22 season came to an abrupt finish last Sunday in Milwaukee at the hands of the No. 11 seeded Iowa State Cyclones. Now it’s time for my way-too-early look at the 2022-23 Wisconsin Badgers roster.
Wisconsin is losing Brad Davison and Chris Vogt due to graduation. Redshirt Matthew Mors decided to enter the transfer portal last week to try and get closer to home and Johnny Davis will likely be headed to the 2022 NBA Draft.
The other question mark is whether or not Lorne Bowman will return to school. It was announced that Bowman was still enrolled in school and taking online classes and returned home to Detroit.
Head coach Greg Gard and staff have their work cut out for them to try and fill the pieces that won’t be returning.
MY Projected Starting Lineup (with 2021-22 averages):
G- Chucky Hepburn (Sophomore)
Hepburn averaged 7.9 points and 2.3 assists per game.
G- Lorne Bowman (Sophomore) or a transfer
Bowman played in 22 games and shot 40% from 3-point range.
G- Jordan Davis (Junior) or a transfer
Davis played in 27 games.
F- Tyler Wahl (Senior)
Wahl averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
F- Steven Crowl (Junior)
Crowl averaged 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Three Big Questions:
- Can Wisconsin allow Wahl to be a featured scorer?
The last few weeks of the season, teams had figured out how to defend UW. Shrink the floor, make UW beat them from the 3-point line, and double Wahl on every touch. Wahl was such a huge weapon for UW in 2021-22 with his ability to generate high percentage looks around the rim in a variety of different ways. With the makeup of the 2022-23 roster, those rims looks could be few and far between Wahl shot a team-high 51.6 percent from the field, but in three of the final six games of the season, Wahl was held to six-or-less field goal attempts.
However, Wahl is partially to blame for this as well. If Wahl can develop into a semi-adequate 3-point shooter and add that as another weapon, that would behoove both himself and UW. Wahl also needs to be able to score as a face-up threat in the mid-range and taking guys off the dribble and negating the opponent’s ability to double him.
2. Can the Badgers find the right pieces in the transfer portal?
Like the end of last season, there’s a significant need for UW to be aggressive in the transfer portal to fill the pieces. The addition of Chris Vogt to the 2021-22 roster was a home run in a lot of aspects. This off-season, UW will have to get an addition or two that will help with perimeter shooting and an extra ball handler will be a big priority.
Wisconsin is a little tied up with scholarship space, though, even assuming Johnny Davis leaves for the NBA Draft. Bowman’s status is still TBD, but Gard was “hopeful” that Bowman would be back in 2022-23. Either way, after the way the team played after Hepburn’s injury, the Badgers need an insurance policy in case Hepburn goes down in the future.
There are rumblings through the grapevine that there should be a nice crop of prospects for UW to get involved with. Expect some Wisconsin natives who want to come play closer to their respective home and some players the Badgers recruited in the past to surface as options.
3. Where will the shooting come from?
As mentioned earlier, the transfer portal may be Wisconsin’s best solution, at least short term. The Badgers were already very limited in terms of outside shooting. With their top 3-point shooter, Brad Davison, now will no eligibility remaining, there’s a tough hill for this roster to climb to be a really good perimeter shooting team.
Bowman is the only returning player who shot above 35-percent from 3-point range in 2021-22, and at this point, it’s probably still a stretch to say he’s in fact “returning.” Hepburn did knock down 34.8 percent of his outside shots, but he’s not an off-the-ball threat and can be very streaky. Jordan Davis (26.8%) struggled to find his rhythm down the stretch of the season, but perhaps consistent minutes can help him with that.
There are shooters on this team. Crowl has had moments and knocked in some clutch 3’s. If Isaac Lindsey can prove he can defend at this level, he’s potentially an option in 2022-23 as well. However, based on the roster (assuming no Johnny Davis), there’s likely not a quick fix and it’s tough to say they’ll get better without going to the transfer portal.
Connor Essegian – SG – Albion, Indiana
I think it’s a coin flip (50-50) on whether Essegian is ready to play in 2022-23 or not. Essegian is somewhat similar to former UW guard Ben Brust. Essegian is probably a little more skilled on the ball, but like Brust, he’s a sneaky athlete, deadly outside shooter and likely needs some time to improve his defensive ability for the Big Ten. Brust was able to help out as a true freshman, but maybe Essegian could redshirt and benefit from a year of adding strength, and by his Junior season he could be like a Sasha Stefanovic type where UW just constantly runs him off screens, tire out defenses and open up the floor.
Luke Haertle – SG – Hartland, Wisconsin
Haertle will be a walk-on at UW in 2022-23. He’s a gritty, blue-collar guard that’s been a winner in High School. Haertle is a quality addition that at the very least will make his teammates better in practice. I think his bread and butter at this level will be his ability to post up and score in the mid-range. Haertle is very good at getting defenders off their feet and out of position and he’s a bully down on the block and has shown his ability over four years to score around the rim against size and athletes.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, the roster lacks depth at the moment and some firepower as of right now. But with players like Ben Carlson and Jahcobi Neath getting a full year in the system and getting playing time, the development for those two (and anyone else that’s returning) would be huge and would drastically change the outlook on the roster. I think it’s fair to give Greg Gard and staff to do their thing and see if they get involved in the transfer portal and to take a look in the summer about the development of the roster and then we can have a fair assessment of the 2022-23 team.