The storybook season that was the 2019-2020 season has come to a close sooner than many anticipated. Covid-19 essentially shut down the college basketball/sporting world as we know it. What we’re left with is a season that ended with the Wisconsin Badgers as Big Ten champs and a lifetime of wondering what could have been.
Entering next season, Greg Gard and his staff will be returning seven of his eight rotation players. Wisconsin will be looking to fill only 27 minutes a game, vacated by RS Senior Brevin Pritzl (graduation). Couple that with a six-man recruiting class that ranked top 20 nationally. That gives you a wonderful problem to sort through, who gets the minutes?
This past season, Wisconsin had the luxury of going nine deep until Kobe King left the program. That’s when things shortened up due to the lack of scholarship players available. While the rotation remained strong and every player seemed to understand their role, program depth was an issue that couldn’t be overlooked. Wisconsin was always one injury away from the danger zone. Playing seven players heavy minutes is a good way to wear down even the best of teams.
The 2020 class provides Greg Gard with something all coaches long for, options. Not only is this class loaded with talent, it provides several college ready players, and adds depth at almost every position on the court. There is an unusual amount of incoming true freshmen that are capable of contributing right away. Not to mention a few others that are going to add depth.
On paper what makes the most sense is for Potter to step into the starting lineup against bigger teams like they did last season. Johnny Davis should assume Pritzl’s spot in the starting lineup against smaller teams. Wisconsin had great success playing matchups throughout the season once King left. That should not change next season.
The most obvious candidate to contribute right out of the gate is Johnny Davis. The Lacrosse, Wisconsin native brings an elite athlete/slasher this team hasn’t had in quite some time. Davis has the talent to step right into the role vacated by Pritzl and allow the team to play a faster pace when they want to go small. While he’s not the shooter that Brevin was (few people are) he still provides an interesting wrinkle that teams will have to adjust for. He isn’t likely to assume all of Brevin’s minutes but 15-20 minutes a night is possible. Davis is tenacious on both ends and can provide a big-time spark for Wisconsin, he’s going to be really good.
The highest rated member of the 2020 class by 247 sports, Ben Carlson figures to find minutes in the rotation as well. He possesses a college ready body, and will offer another versatile option at forward. Carlson is in the stretch four mold that is best suited for a system like Gard’s. He also has the ability to take big’s off the dribble, knockdown spot up opportunities, and is a relentless rebounder. There will be minutes available for someone as talented as Carlson, even on a team returning seven established rotation pieces.
Not All Is Clear Though..
The big question is whether or not point guard Lorne Bowman will redshirt his Freshman year. I’d like to go on record saying that Bowman is certainly good enough to push Anderson and earn minutes right away. However, Bowman might have more to benefit from a red-shirt season where he gets the keys to the car as a RS Freshman. We all remember how worn-down Trice and Davison were two years ago without a viable ball handler off the bench. Having a myriad of options at point is a good problem to have.
In most seasons I would say that Steven Crowl is skilled enough to earn minutes his first season, but due to depth at the position a red-shirt season can only stand to benefit him.
I expect Coach Gard to tinker with the allocation of minutes early in the season, as he has more options than a year ago. I think it’s fair to say Wisconsin will have the depth to run anywhere between 8-10 deep this coming season. Iron sharpens iron, and having more than seven healthy scholarship players entering next season, I expect to see an improved team with a Final Four type of ceiling if everything falls right.
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