Wisconsin Basketball: Predicting team awards for the Badgers

Feb 21, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Jonathan Davis (1) and forward Tyler Wahl (5) and guard Brad Davison (34) celebrate after scoring in the second half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Jonathan Davis (1) and forward Tyler Wahl (5) and guard Brad Davison (34) celebrate after scoring in the second half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports /

The Wisconsin basketball team kicks off their season in just under three weeks when they take on the St. Francis (BKN) Terriers at home on November 9th.

With a new season comes a new sense of optimism. Last year, the Wisconsin basketball team couldn’t live up to the sky-high expectations a year after winning the Big Ten regular-season title. With a senior-laden team, the Badgers finished with an 18-13 (10-10) and 6th in the conference. They made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Baylor, the eventual champions.

Now, the expectations for this squad are relatively low. Many of the projections have the Badgers finishing near the bottom of the conference, but that’s to be expected with a young team that has a lot of inexperience and unknowns.

With that, there are some predictions we can make about how the players will perform this season. Here are our preseason award predictions for the 2021-22 season.

MVP – Jonathan Davis

I think this is probably a no-brainer. He is probably the most talented player on the Wisconsin basketball team and the expectations for Davis are high heading into the new season. He showed some flashes last season coming off the bench.

With the team structured the way it is, I think Davis is going to have to make some plays and the Badgers will probably lean on him and Davison to create some offense.

After he participated as a member of the 2021 USA Basketball U19 World Cup Team, he reportedly came back much more confident and ready to take over as the man on this team. I think when the season is all said and done, Davis is going finish as the leading scorer of this team and possibly an All-Big Ten first or second-team player.

Other considerations: Brad Davison

Freshman of the Year – Chucky Hepburn

Chucky Hepburn is probably the most exciting freshman coming into the program this year. Matthew Mors, who was a scoring machine in high school is also coming to the program, but I think Hepburn will have more of a chance to get some early playing time. In fact, he may even start. Brad Davison is really the lone returning guard with meaningful minutes from last year. Trice and Trevor Anderson have both left the program, leaving Davison, Hepburn, and fellow freshman, Lorne Bowman.

Even if he doesn’t start, Hepburn will likely get a lot of playing time this season, especially if he is what he has been hyped up to be. With Davis and Davison in the lineup, I don’t think the offense will be centered around him, but I think he will still have a chance to make an impact on the team this year.

Other considerations: Matthew Mors, Markus Ilver

Sixth Man of the Year – Jahcobi Neath

This is a tough one to peg because we aren’t 100% sure who Greg Gard will start or even what the rotation will look like. 247Sports’ Evan Flood had some thoughts about the team and the rotation following the Red-White scrimmage that took place over the past weekend.

Flood thinks Hepburn, Davison, and Davis could be a starting combination for the backcourt, so that leaves Neath as a reserve player. In the Red-White scrimmage, Neath scored just two points but took seven shots. You may look at that and think his efficiency is not great, but in a scrimmage, I think it’s encouraging to see a transfer player be that aggressive. Flood pointed out that Neath was also able to back some smaller guards down in the post, a place he will likely find himself as a part of the swing offense.

I think he will provide a nice spark off the bench for the Badgers and be a solid defender on the perimeter as well. He could carve out a nice role as a leader for the second unit.

Other considerations: Chris Vogt, Ben Carlson (depending on the starting lineup)

Defensive Player of the Year – Tyler Wahl

Outside of Brad Davison, Tyler Wahl is the most veteran player on this Wisconsin basketball squad. When he came to Madison, he wasn’t the most polished player offensively. It’s still something he has continued to work on. But defense is where Wahl shines.

Greg Gard and the coaching staff consistently put Wahl on some of the toughest opponents the Badgers face.

According to Sports-Reference, Wahl was tied for 10th in the Big Ten in defensive win shares (1.4), 10th in defensive rating (96.6), 9th in steal percentage (2.5), and fourth in defensive box plus/minus (4.9).

Jonathan Davis was on a lot of those lists as well, but for now, I think Wahl is going to be my DPoY heading into the season. I could see Steven Crowl or Chris Vogt winning this award as well with their presence in the post.

Other considerations: Johnny Davis, Chris Vogt

Newcomer of the Year – Chris Vogt

Christ Vogt is the 7-foot transfer from Cincinnati that comes to a Wisconsin basketball team that is in need of a veteran big after Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers both left the program. Although he may not start, I think Vogt is going to play a big part in this season, especially in the post. If he Greg Gard and the coaches didn’t have a plan for where Vogt could impact the game, I don’t think they would have brought him in from the transfer portal, especially since he has just one year of eligibility remaining. This is a one-year deal for the big man to bridge the gap between Potter and Reuvers to Crowl and Carlson.

I have him as a contender for the defensive player of the year on the team as well because I think he is going to be a force defensively in the post, making life hard for opposing teams to score near the basket.

Other considerations: Jahcobi Neath