Three takeaways from Wisconsin basketball’s narrow win vs. Nicholls

The Wisconsin basketball had their hands full last night when the Nicholls Colonels from the Southland Conference came to town. We learned just an hour before the tip that star Johnny Davis would miss the game due to a non-covid illness. Before we knew that the Badgers were going to be without Davis, the Badgers were considered 19.5-point favorites over the Colonels.

I’m not sure what the spread was after the Davis news came out, but I still thought the Badgers would be able to handle Nicholls relatively easily, especially with the stifling defense of the Wisconsin basketball team.

I was very wrong.

After trailing for most of the game, the Badgers came back and narrowly defeated Nicholls, 71-68, behind Brad Davison’s 19-point effort.

There was a lot to unpack from last night’s narrow victory over Nicholls and here are three things I came away with from the game.

1. The Wisconsin basketball team needs someone outside of Johnny Davis to step up

Uh, ya think?

But after last night’s game, it was so evidently clear that this team needs that alpha. It was talked about after the Ohio State loss. The players who stepped up were him, Brad Davison, and…

*crickets*

This Wisconsin basketball team needs someone else to take on the number three role. If I had to guess, neither Brad Davison nor Johnny Davis will be in Madison next year. Someone else needs to step up and be a threat. Otherwise, this team is in trouble. Teams will start doing anything they can to take Davis out of the game and make someone else beat them. Other than Davison, I don’t see another player on this squad so far that will make an opposing team pay.

The Badgers have a week off until they take on Morgan State next Thursday (Dec. 23) for finals. I’m assuming Davis will be back and ready to go by then so at least they’ll have him back in the lineup, but if this Wisconsin team wants to make it to the NCAA Tournament and even a run at the Big Ten title, they are going to need someone outside of Davis and Davison to step up.

2. Chris Vogt should be in the starting lineup for the Wisconsin basketball team

I think it’s time for the Steven Crowl experiment to end (so to speak), for now. Crowl is really struggling on both sides of the ball. One ‘knock’ on Crowl this year was his strength. It’s a similar problem a lot of sophomore bigs have. They are tall but haven’t filled out yet. It’s not a huge deal if he can fill it up offensively, like Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren. He is a twig but is a future high draft pick because he can shoot and create on offense. Crowl isn’t there yet. So his lack of offense hurts the Badgers.

On top of that, his inside defense is killing the Badgers. Last night, it felt like whenever a Nicholls player wanted to get to the hoop, they could. That’s not all on Crowl, but when the ball got put into the post, he got bullied down there.

Chris Vogt, on the other hand, has been playing some of the best basketball this season lately. He has been very aggressive on the boards, something the Badgers desperately need with their shooting woes.

In the last three games, Vogt has been averaging 21.3 minutes per game, 8.3 points per game, and five total rebounds per game, 2.7 of which are offensive rebounds.

He has been a big spark for the Badgers in a number of games, including their recent wins over Indiana and Nicholls, both of which have been comebacks from down double-digits.

Crowl should still be getting a good amount of minutes, but I think Vogt starting and setting the tone in the post would go a long way for the Wisconsin basketball team.

3. This Wisconsin basketball team still hasn’t put two good halves together

This team is very streaky. Even head coach Greg Gard has admitted that. They go on 13-0 runs like they did last night, and then they go minutes without making a bucket. Like, five to six minutes. Alarmingly long droughts. If you watched the Badgers last year, this is nothing new. Luckily, they have Johnny Davis this year to take games over and get them out of said droughts from time to time.

The theme for this team this year has been their knack to come back and win games while being down early. They’ve won games where they were down by as much as 22 points. They’ve been down double-digits multiple times this year and come back to win this year.

They’ve been starting very slowly and digging themselves a hole they need to claw out of. Their second halves have been much better this year. It helps to get back in the locker room and make some adjustments, but a lot of times it feels like there is more energy in the second half than the first.

If the Badgers could come out with that intensity to start games, they might find that these games will be much easier to win and won’t require a gritty comeback every night.