Wisconsin basketball was tested early in their season last night. The Badgers welcome ninth ranked Tennessee to the Kohl Center. The Volunteers were picked to win the SEC this season. It was a great crowd and they were into the game the entire time. However, it was the Volunteers that came away with an 80-70 win. AJ Storr was one of four Badgers in double figures with 17 points, Steven Crowl had 14, Chucky Hepburn added 13, and Tyler Wahl chipped in 10. Tennessee senior Dalton Knecht was the leading scorer with 24 points. Here are three takeaways form last nights game.
The Wisconsin Basketball Defense Has Struggled Early On
61 of Tennessee's 80 points came from inside the paint or the free throw line. #Badgers
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) November 11, 2023
I’m not sure I’ve seen a Wisconsin basketball team give up 78 points a game at any time in my life. It seems strange a team who has a lot of above average defenders is giving up so many easy looks at the rim. Tennessee did what Arkansas State did on Monday. They got to the rim and got to the free throw line.
I also know you can’t judge a season based on two games. The Badgers have over 30 games left this season. It’s not a matter of if they’ll find their footing on defense, but when. I still find it odd that a Greg Gard team is getting beat so bad at the rim.
That’s not to take anything away from Tennessee. They are good basketball team and I would be shocked if they were not playing in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Rick Barnes is a great coach and they have a mixture of veterans and athletes.
The Offense Is Further Along Than We Thought
While the defense has been an issue already on, the Wisconsin basketball offense has played well the first two games. Sometimes a team like Wisconsin has had to rely on their defense early in the season while they find their offensive identity. That hasn’t been the case early on.
AJ Storr has been the change this offense needed. After Johnny Davis left following the 2021-2022 season, this team missed that one player teams needed to circle on the scouting report. The Badgers have one now in Storr.
Credit also goes to Chucky Hepburn. He’s leading the team in scoring with 16.5 points a game and looks like the player Wisconsin coaches and fans envisioned. He looks more confident in his role and I think that is going to carry over as the season goes along.
This Was a Good Test For a Young Team
You can take a half glass half full or half empty approach on this game. On one side, the Badgers only shot 14-23 form the line, left points on the court, and had a really good shot to win this game. On the other side, this is a young team that took a top 10 team in the country to the final five minutes and did it in early November.
I’m taking the half full approach. I didn’t pick the Badgers to win this game, but I think this is a team that can play with just about anyone in the country right now. It’s clear this roster is much better than the roster a season ago. The experience is there and the talent and depth is starting to show as well.
The schedule only gets harder for Wisconsin basketball as games such as Providence, Marquette, Arizona, and Virginia still loom on the non-conference slate. It feels like Wisconsin basketball let one get away last night. I wouldn’t disagree with that, but I’m also confident they will pick up some good non-conference wins before Big Ten play begins.
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