Badgers Basketball

3 Things We Learned From Wisconsin’s Championship Run at the Maui Invitational

Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team won big in Vegas! The Badgers are the 2021 Maui Jim Maui Invitational champions after going 3-0 in the tournament. UW beat Texas A&M, 12th ranked Houston, and St. Mary’s to claim the Wayne Duke Championship Trophy for the first time in program history. We learned a lot about this young Wisconsin team the past few days in Las Vegas. Here are three things that really stood out. 

1. The Badgers can play from behind

Wisconsin was down by as many as 16 in the first half against Texas A&M. The Aggies came out hot, and it looked like they would run away with it early. However, UW didn’t panic. They played their game and continued to chip away at the Aggies’ lead. By halftime, the Badgers had the lead, completely erasing the early deficit. 

Wisconsin once again found themselves trailing during the championship game against St. Mary’s. UW was down 10 with under 16 minutes to play in the second half. Once again, they remained calm and stuck to their game. UW battled back to win the game by six. 

The Badgers proved over this three game stretch in Las Vegas that they are comfortable playing from behind, something many wouldn’t expect from such a young squad. This is something worth noting, especially when they enter conference play in such a competitive Big Ten. Though we as fans would rather not watch them play from behind, we must trust that they will be in the game at the end – when it really matters what the score is. 

Wisconsin guard Chucky Hepburn (23) drives on St. Mary’s guard Tommy Kuhse during the championship game at the Maui Ivitational in Las Vegas, Nevada (Rick Scuteri / AP Photo)

2. Johnny Davis is Wisconsin’s best player – and has the potential to be the next UW great

Going into this season, it was unclear who Wisconsin’s “guy” was going to be. Well, it’s clear now. It’s Johnny Davis. 

Davis put on a clinic in Las Vegas. He solidified his spot as Wisconsin’s best player this season. Though only a sophomore, Davis proved his ability to take over games on both ends of the court. 

Davis scored a career high 21 points in the quarterfinal versus Texas A&M, and followed up that stellar performance with an even better one against number 12 Houston. Davis scored 30 points (his new career high) while adding two blocks and four steals for the Badgers. Additionally, he notched 20 points and seven boards in the final against St. Mary’s. Davis was named the 2021 Maui Invite MVP for his efforts. 

People who follow Wisconsin sports knew Johnny Davis was going to be special. He was named Wisconsin Mr. Basketball in 2020, flashed signs of brilliance in his role off the bench as a true freshman last year, and won a gold medal with USA Basketball at the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup this summer. However, not many people outside of Wisconsin were familiar with Davis and his talents. 

Davis’s performances in Las Vegas over the past three days have changed that. He has garnered national attention and praise. Some even said he looked like an NBA lottery pick – a pretty big compliment for someone a lot of people didn’t know about a few days ago. 

If Davis continues to develop and consistently perform at a high level, he could be Wisconsin’s next great player. By the time he’s finished at UW, Johnny Davis’s name could be mentioned along with Kaminsky, Leuer, Taylor, Harris, and Tucker as one of the best to ever play in the cardinal and white. 

Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis (1) shoots over St. Mary’s guard Logan Johnson in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game at the Maui Invitational in Las Vegas (Rick Scuteri / AP Photo)

3. Wisconsin’s bigs have a hard time staying out of foul trouble 

Wisconsin’s big men – predominantly Steven Crowl and Chis Vogt – had a difficult time staying out of foul trouble, especially early. Both picked up two first half fouls against Houston and St. Mary’s, forcing Greg Gard to put Ben Carlson at the five spot for Wisconsin. Though Carlson stepped into the role well, he is three inches shorter than Crowl and Vogt, which could give Wisconsin’s opponents a substantial height/size advantage. With both big men on the bench, Wisconsin loses a considerable amount of scoring and rebounding ability. Crowl and Vogt can’t put themselves on the bench as Wisconsin moves closer to conference play against some of the best bigs in the country. They must play smart and be more disciplined on both the offensive and defensive ends going forward.  

The Maui Jim Maui Invitational gave Badger Nation a lot of things to be optimistic about! On, Wisconsin! 

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