With Wisconsin’s men’s basketball 2023 season-ending, these questions come to everyone’s minds: What went wrong? Should head coach Greg Gard get fired after a disappointing season? “What does this mean for UW athletics?” The Wisconsin men’s basketball team finished the 2022-23 season at 17-14, excluding the results from the ongoing NIT, and missed the NCAA Tournament.
Photo Cred: UW Athletics
The Badgers have made it to the semifinals of the NIT tournament with wins against Bradley, Oregon, and Liberty. They will face off against North Texas next Tuesday. So how did the Badgers get here, and who’s to blame? I’d argue that the answer to that question comes in two forms. The first would be Coach Gard and his ancient, old-fashioned style of basketball, which sounds familiar to the reason Wisconsin’s ex-head football coach Paul Chryst got fired.
Let’s start with their porous offense this season. The Badgers rank 300th or worse in all of college basketball in four offensive categories: points per game, fast break points, rebounding differential, and field goal percentage – that’s embarrassing. Their defensive numbers were decent, coming in at 32nd in points allowed per game and 64th in 3-point percentage against. Defense means nothing if you can’t score.
Photo Cred: NBC
Recruiting has also been an issue for the Badgers. They rank at a pedestrian 40th according to 247 Sports in recruiting for the 2023 class. Their best recruit is 4-star Center Gus Yalden from La Porte, Indiana. Another astonishing revelation is that roughly 65% of the top 100 recruits for 2023 are either from the east or west coast. Wisconsin relies on recruits from the Midwest. That’s the case yet again for 2023. It might be time to rethink matters to compete with the best and expand their reach.
This is now the second time in seven years under Gard where the Badgers have missed the NCAA Tournament. Under Bo Ryan from 2002-2015, they made the tournament every year. This will not sit well with UW-Athletics Director Chris McIntosh, who took over the job in July 2021. After recently firing football coach Paul Chryst, and men’s hockey coach Tony Granato, after disappointing seasons of their own, I’m sure McIntosh has been pondering the question of firing Greg Gard.
Photo Cred: USA Today
I’d support the firing if it were to happen, as a change is potentially necessary to fix the lackluster men’s basketball program. However, Gard has had success with this program, so it is ultimately up to the UW-Athletic program. Regardless of my opinion, it’s safe to assume Gard is presently on the hot seat.
Even if given another year, McIntosh will watch closely and probably with a short leash. A narrative has developed around Wisconsin Athletic Director Chris McIntosh and his “quick trigger” approach to Wisconsin’s coaching staff. McIntosh wants to appeal to Badger fans, and because the Badgers missed the NCAA tournament, fans are calling for the firing of Greg Gard.
Photo Cred: Badger Note
However, as I mentioned, Gard has had a lot of successes with the Badgers. The men’s basketball team earned a share of the conference regular season title in 2020 and 2022. Gard was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2020 and 2022. He won the Big Ten regular season title two of the last four years. Gard is also bringing in the 40th-ranked recruiting class in the country next year, so firing him could cause those recruits to change their mind.
Wisconsin’s 18-14 record and absence from the NCAA Tournament stand out. Seven of Wisconsin’s 11 losses were decided by four points or less. The season started with a lot of promise. The Badgers were 11-2 overall and 3-0 in conference play. Then the Badgers were hit by multiple injuries, starting with senior forward Tyler Wahl. After these injuries, the Badgers went 6-12, which brought them to their unimpressive 17-14 record.
Photo Cred: UW Athletics
The Badgers only scored 65 or more points four times. Last year the team scored 65 or more points nine times during the season’s timespan. While the blame was on Gard, this year’s team did not have the offensive creativity and power to succeed, especially in the free-throw department.
Last year’s team had superstars, Johnny Davis, and Brad Davidson. They were the team’s closers and point makers. This year the team was struggling during crunch team, and as mentioned, they struggled to make their free throws when it mattered most. Overall, the Badgers had a lackluster season, but I am confident that next season will be better than this. Sometimes teams have off-seasons, but that doesn’t mean the Badgers are doomed. It means that the coaching staff and players have a lot of work to do for next season.