As we watched Wisconsin fall to overtime at Nebraska yesterday, a lot of the same problems this Wisconsin team has had all season showed up again. Not being able to score late in games, being out-toughed, poor late game decisions, and overall bad execution. After this loss to a pretty bad Nebraska team, it could have been the dagger to Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament hopes, barring something crazy. It’s easy to blame Greg Gard. It’s easy to blame the players. It’s not just one to blame. Both coaches and players are at fault for this as it’s been an issue all season.
The Players Are Not Executing
The players are the ones who have to put the ball in the basket. To be blunt, Wisconsin has struggled all season doing this. Chucky Hepburn is the only player that can create his own shot and Connor Essegian is a very good spot-up shooter. Wisconsin’s offense depends on getting touches in the paint and then either going at the basket or kicking out for a three. A lot of Bo Ryan’s teams did this. They were able to score. This team hasn’t been able to do it and they can’t put teams away because of it.
Free throws are easy points in the college game. You have to be mentally tough late in games and win them at the line. This is a bad free throw shooting team and it starts with Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl who are two of Wisconsin’s leaders. They have taken a step back this season when this team can’t afford it. They are limited as a team to what they can do on offense. When you have that, free throw shooting is a must in order to generate points. Talent doesn’t matter at the line. Toughness does and this team is not tough at the line.
Greg Gard was not happy about that shot.
Tough to say what the call was, because Hepburn held the ball the entire time and only got a ghost screen to work with. #Badgers
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) February 11, 2023
If we go back to Chucky Hepburn and his late game decisions over the last month, I can guarantee Greg Gard is not telling him to sit behind the three point line and wait until the last second to shoot a low-percentage shot. Gard mentioned after both Northwestern games he wanted Chucky to drive in the lane. That might not be the shot at the end, but it’s on Hepburn to figure out a different way. His shot against Purdue was incredible, but that can’t be the shot selection every time late in games. He needs to change it. That’s on the players, not the coaches.
It Ultimately Falls On The Coaches
When a team isn’t getting the results, the coaches have to take the heat. If it gets really bad, they have to fall on the sword. They wouldn’t disagree either. These are only 18-22 year old kids. They are learning how to be adults and they’re not ready to take that responsibility yet.
Wisconsin lost a chunk of their 2020 recruiting class after last season. They took a big hit after Johnny Davis went to the NBA and Ben Carlson transferred to Utah. Carlson would have solved a lot of Wisconsin’s depth issues and would have provided some points too. Greg Gard and his staff didn’t replace either Matthew Mors, Carlson or Davis in the transfer portal. He did however replace Brad Davison with Max Klesmit and that has looked to be a pretty good swap. Depth is an issue and that is on the coaches.
It’s no secret Gard has a lot of faith in players such as Chucky Hepburn late in games. He made the shot that clinched a share of the Big Ten last season. Gard has also won two of the last three Big Ten championships. He’s a good coach and not many in the Big Ten can say the same thing.
Does he need to potentially switch things up? It hasn’t worked the last six weeks and it looks like there hasn’t been many adjustments made. He did switch Connor Essegian and Jordan Davis in the starting lineup, but that was becoming a must. Maybe Chucky Hepburn doesn’t need the ball late in games. Maybe Max Klemsit? Connor Essegian?
I’m not saying this will happen or should happen, but when something isn’t working and you don’t make changes such as late game situations, that falls on the coaches.
Everyone is to blame for the collapse of this 2023 season. There’s still some life left, but if the execution continues to be this bad from both sides, there will be no March Madness this year for the Wisconsin Badgers.
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Dylan you are delusional, Gard is not a good coach. A good coach does not take a powerhouse school and make them avg. (3 mostly bad years in the last 6), he takes an avg school and makes them great, think Houston, Virginia, etc. If they can do it there, UW can do it, bar needs to be raised. We all know what is going to happen at the end of these games and it’s very frustrating and it’s ALL on coach, he develops the players and the plays, and if they don’t execute it’s because he didn’t lead them properly
Jonas is spot on!! The recruiting has been so bad. Many of the players on this team are division 2 players, not 1. We have No bench what so ever. Lets pay what we have to and bring Tony back Home. Virginia been in Top Ten of the nation for yrs.