Things looked good for the Wisconsin men’s basketball team a month ago. Greg Gard had the Badgers sitting with a 11-2 record. But the rosy outlook has changed. The Badgers have gone from 12-2 to on the outside looking in for NCAA Tournament odds.
Wisconsin has lost seven of its last nine games and lost at home to a solid Northwestern team – but a team you have to beat at home when you’re in this predicament. It is the first time Wisconsin has been swept by Northwestern in 27 years.
The Wisconsin Badgers now sit at 13-9 and on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament according to many bracket projections. Injuries struck a bit with Tyler Wahl missing three games and Max Klesmit missing two (the Badgers went winless in those games). If Wisconsin misses out on the NCAA Tournament, is Greg Gard in danger of being fired?
Tom Izzo: "Coach Gard losing Wahl is like me losing my guy who made big plays down the stretch.
"I hope he does get healthy. He's one of the better kids and players in this league."#Badgers
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) January 11, 2023
Why would Gard be on the hot seat?
Gard has been solid with Wisconsin. He has coached two teams to the Sweet 16 and won a Big Ten Championship with the 2020 team who didn’t get to play in an NCAA Tournament due to COVID.
Former Badger players and those around the program like Brian Butch think it’s blasphemous to even pose the question whether Gard should or is in danger of being fired.
I can’t believe this has become a hot take, but Greg Gard—the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year—shouldn’t be on the hot seat.
Making a change at this juncture is laughably premature. #Badgershttps://t.co/63dT6oMsun
— Dillon Graff (@DillonGraff) February 1, 2023
While the situations are not that similar it’s hard not think a bit about the firing of football coach Paul Chyst. Chryst put together a consistent winner, but the football program lacked excitement and after starting 2-3, it seemed like UW wouldn’t get over the hump with Chryst at the helm. Now, look at the excitement around Luke Fickell and the Badgers.
For Gard, the basketball team isn’t exciting. In an offensive era, the Badgers struggle to get to 60 points many nights. Gard has been solid, but if this slide continues the seat could get hot in Madison particularly if the Badgers miss out on the NCAA Tournament altogether.
Mac firing Chryst and bringing in Fickell was surprising enough that I can't say Gard's job is 100% safe
Previously I would have said there's no chance but we're in a post-No chance era at Wisconsin
That said, I think Gard is safe
— Scary Alvarez (@barryisthedon) February 6, 2023
The Wisconsin Badgers are a developmental program. However, the lack of depth on the Badgers for a Power 5 conference team is startling for a team without a coaching change. It wasn’t a secret the Badgers needed to be active in the portal this go-round to get some immediate impact scoring on the roster. By-and-large that didn’t happen. Max Klesmit is a solid role player, but Isaac Lindsey and Kamari McGee are likely career bench players.
Tyler Wahl and Chucky Hepburn are nice all-around players, but neither are particularly strong offensive players. This team needed an offensive player to help fill the huge shoes of Johnny Davis but didn’t find anything remotely close to that in the portal. Ultimately the lack of offensive talent could prevent Wisconsin from reaching the NCAA Tournament. They have nice all-around and defensive players, but this team is offensively challenged.
Northwestern took away Wahl and Crowl (11-pts on 10-shots) … daring Wisconsin to win with Guards. Only Essegian answered.
This team is terribly challenged on offense—that has been unchanged.
NCAA tournament is highly unlikely
— Mike Heller (@HellerSports) February 6, 2023
The 2023 recruiting class looks to have some talent with Gus Yalden (4*), Nolan WInter (3) and Blackwell (3*) committing to Wisconsin. Gard I think realized that there needs to be an uptick on the recruiting front so the depth issue doesn’t happen again. While it is considered a nice class, it’s also the ninth ranked class in the Big Ten.
Gard needs to likely get in the portal as well as Wahl is a senior. This team needs a top player to come to Madison. Gard may need it to save his job or cool the seat.
Top-100 recruit @GusBus2023 talked with @Badger_Notes about his last stop at La Lumiere before he joins Greg Gard and the Wisconsin #Badgers next season. https://t.co/B69ozkAxfp
— Dillon Graff (@DillonGraff) February 4, 2023
I think the basketball situation is different between Gard and Chryst. Gard has shown he can win in the tournament and shown he can win the Big Ten. If the Badgers miss the NCAA Tournament there will be some smoke, but I doubt Gard is fired unless things go off the rails. If that happens though, Gard needs to start next year well to avoid the hot seat becoming sizzling. As shown with football Athletic Director Chris McIntosh has shown he will go after the candidate if he feels strongly, he is the right man. If a big name or proven coach who can recruit is available and the Badgers miss the tournament, things could get very interesting.
I can’t believe I have to reiterate this for a vocal minority of the fan base, but Greg Gard is a damn good basketball coach.
The Wisconsin #Badgers are in good hands.
— Dillon Graff (@DillonGraff) January 17, 2023
Spacing on offense is pathetic. 2 pass them shoot making Defense able to overload best players. I coach to pass the ball around make the defense work Draw could of layups. Way to many 3s in crucial situations. Defense is a attitude play using feet square to your man pathetic. Free throws win games also Lose. Coaching problems with no answers sinking fast. Team with no guts.