top of page

Season Review : Badger Basketball

Ahead of the National Championship game for March Madness coming up, it's finally time for a season recap. With the Badgers getting upset by the 12th Seed in James Madison, it's time to dive into the last part of the season for the Wisconsin Men's Basketball team and see what went right, and what went wrong.


Let's start all the way back to the Indiana game here as pulling a fire alarm on a Badger run that would tie the game at 50 was the story of this one for Wisconsin. As I stated in my last article, the Badgers post-defense would have to step up if they wanted to take home this one, and it's safe to say that Ware and Indiana had their way this time around. Ware would lead Indiana in scoring, going off for 27 points and tallying 11 rebounds to go along with that as well. While Wisconsin played a very clean game, only having three turnovers to Indiana's eleven, Indiana shot just over 61% from the field, and Wisconsin would shoot way worse at 43.5%. That stat alone tells the story of this whole game, and the only things that kept it close were Wisconsin's experience and the clean game that they played by not giving the ball away. In a 74-70 loss in what should have been a nice bounce-back game for the Badgers, Chucky Hepburn would lead them in scoring with 15 points. Three other Badgers would go into double-digits, with AJ Storr totaling 14, Max Klesmit pouring in his share of 11, and Steven Crowl adding 10 of his own.


After a tough loss on the road at Indiana, the Badgers would be looking to get back on track at home against the number thirteen team in the nation, the Illinois Fighting Illini. This test would not be an easy one, and the stacked Illini made sure to make that known. This game would be a shootout, which if you said that after watching the Badger offense just a few days prior, nobody would have thought that would be the case. Tyler Wahl would lead things in scoring for the Badgers, totaling 20 points, while Max Klesmit would add 16, Chucky Hepburn with 15, and AJ Storr would tack on 13 more. While that seems it would be good, and that most teams win when all of those starters are working together at the same time, the Badgers would end up doing a lot of double-teaming on defense, especially on Illini guard, Terrance Shannon Jr. While they were doing so, other key contributors for the Illini would beat the Badgers in the end. The Badgers would get torched from all over while double-teaming and would drop another game on this tough stretch against Illinois.


With a tough stretch going on for the Badgers, they would head back on the road to play the number three team in the nation, the Purdue Boilermakers. On Senior Day, it would be the last time the Badgers would have to play Purdue big man Zach Edey in the regular season. The Badgers would end up dropping another game here at home, while Purdue would continue to stay hot.

Big Ten Tournament

It finally was time for the Big Ten Tournament ahead of March Madness, and the Badgers came out looking like the former shell of themselves as the number six team in the nation at one point. Not only did Wisconsin dominate 12th-seeded Maryland, they would go on to beat the 4th-seeded Northwestern Wildcats, and the number one-seeded Purdue Boilermakers back to back to back. Wisconsin, led by AJ Storr and Chucky Hepburn during this tournament run, would face the number two seed, Illinois Fighting-Illini, once again in the Big Ten Tournament Championship. The offense came out once again on fire for the Badgers, as AJ Storr would continue his dominant season for Wisconsin, dropping 24 points, while Chucky Hepburn would contribute 20 as well. Other double-digit scorers for the Badgers would include Max Klesmit with 16, and Steven Crowl with 11 to tack on to a shootout between the Badgers and the Fighting Illini. While it seems that with those stats, the Badgers should've had that game locked up, the defensive side of the ball was a different story. Despite scoring 87 points, the Badger defense would allow 93 points in a Championship Game loss to Illinois. Terrance Shannon Jr., who has been the leader of the Illinois team all season, would go on to drop a game-high 34 points, and Marcus Domask, who averages 10 more points a game against Wisconsin than he does as his season average, would drop 26 points as the former Wisconsin high school standout basketball player who chose Illinois would prove why once again. While this game was disappointing for the Badgers, they had seemed to gain their shooting back and looked to be on a good track ahead of the Selection Sunday Show for March Madness.

Welcome to March

After their Big Ten Championship loss to Illinois, Wisconsin knew they would still have another opportunity to go out and compete for a bigger cause in March Madness. While they were a lock to make the tournament, the question was unanswered of who, where, and when. That was until the Badgers finally saw their name revealed as a 5th Seed in the big dance. This seed was more than fair for a team who at one point was number six in the country around mid-season, who then struggled, and found themselves again in the Big Ten Tournament. There was only one thing left, and that was who they would play. As they knew they would get a 12 Seed, they would see the James Madison Dukes revealed as their first opponent in the tournament. Not only did the Dukes win their conference tournament, they hadn't lost a game since late January. At a record of 31-3, the Badgers seemed to have gotten not only one of the hottest teams in the nation but a team that hadn't lost in months. From the jump, it seemed that James Madison had been under-seeded due to their schedule not having as many quality opponents, and they would prove themselves come round one. From the first tip, you could tell James Madison had a different fire lit under them than the Badgers did. The defense was about as physical as Wisconsin had seen the whole year, and there wasn't much that went right for the Badgers, as they got down by double digits early. Led by guard Terrance Edwards Jr., the Dukes of James Madison would go on to upset the Badgers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 72-61. AJ Storr, who was the spark all season for Wisconsin, would put up just 13 points, which was second behind the game's leading scorer, Max Klesmit, who had 18 points. This game was flat-out embarrassing for the Badgers, and with AJ Storr, among others, uncertain about their future with the program, it was going to be a wild ride in Madison.

Since The Loss

Since their first-round exit in an upset suffered to James Madison, the Badgers have had a lot going on, and not much positive. They would announce that they are keeping Head Coach Greg Gard for another year and would then see quite a few transfers as well. Among those transfers, they would lose the following players to the NBA Draft or the Transfer Portal. The most notable player would be the team leader for most of the year in points, AJ Storr, who announced that he would enter the NBA Draft with the intention of keeping his college eligibility but in the transfer portal instead. This was a big blow to the Badgers, but not that surprising, as Storr seemed to have done enough to warrant either a bigger NIL Package elsewhere or to live out his dream by being in the NBA Draft. Another non-surprising transfer was guard Connor Essegian. Essegian, one season after scoring over 11 points a game as a Freshman, would see his playing time reduced to almost nothing out of nowhere. Among the rest of the transfers would be forward Gus Yalden, guard Ross Candelino, and guard Luke Haertle. While those are transfers, the Badgers also will lose forward Tyler Wahl due to eligibility as he was a senior. There will be multiple holes to fill, but the Badgers will return key players such as Chucky Hepburn, Steven Crowl, Max Klesmit, and John Blackwell, as well as bring in a four-star guard from Minnesota, in Daniel Freitag.

All in all, this team had talent but fell short of a very tough James Madison team in the first round. The Badgers will now look to the transfer portal to see who they can bring in to replace the voids left by transfers, as well as the leadership that will not return in Tyler Wahl.

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)


bottom of page