Crowl on the Prowl: Why 2024-25 should be a breakout year for Steven Crowl

From Brian Butch and Jon Leuer to Frank Kaminski and Ethan Happ, the Badgers are known for their dominant big men. After three years of solid play as UW's starting center, Steven Crowl is set up to take the next step and join the long list of elite Wisconsin bigs.
Wisconsin v Michigan
Wisconsin v Michigan / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

He's never been the Badgers leading scorer. He's never been a top-seven rebounder in the Big 10. He's never even made an All-Conference team.

Yet, if you ask those in and around Wisconsin men's basketball about Steven Crowl, you'll hear how integral he is to the team's success. It doesn't always show up on the stat sheet, but Crowl just makes winning plays; oftentimes at the expense of his individual statistics.

With another offseason for growth and a flurry of roster changes, Crowl's final season of eligibility is shaping up to be his best.

Despite taking a step back in his per-game scoring and attempting nearly two fewer shots per game, 2023-24 was Crowl's best offensive season from an efficiency standpoint. He knocked down 44.8 percent of his three-point attempts and saw his true shooting percentage jump from 56.8 percent to 63.2 percent, per CBB Analytics.

The decrease in overall volume can mostly be attributed to the acquisition of AJ Storr, who quickly emerged as the Badgers' top offensive option and averaged 13.8 field goal attempts per game before bolting to Kansas this offseason.

With Crowl boasting a more polished offensive game and expected to shoulder more of the scoring load, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him pace Wisconsin in points and push the 15 ppg mark.

Plus, with Xavier Amos -- a 38.5 percent three-point shooter in 2023-24 -- replacing the now-graduated Tyler Wahl, who was effectively a non-shooter, at the power forward spot, the painted area should be cleared out for Crowl to work in the post.

In prior years, an entry pass to Crowl on the block would almost always be met with a double-team, as the defender on Wahl would either sink into the paint or shade toward the vacated offensive player. Not only would the double-team shut down any hopes of a jump hook or dropstep from the seven-footer, but it also minimized Crowl's passing options.

Crowl is a talented passer and can both identify and complete cross-court passes to moving targets. However, his passing capabilities were often neutralized by the lack of spacing caused by having a non-shooter at the four. Instead, with Amos playing the power forward spot, Crowl will have four capable shooters around him, and thus, the capacity to punish defenses that double in a simpler way. As Crowl picks apart double-teams, he'll likely get more one-on-one looks, which is where he's feasted throughout his career.

The departure of Chucky Hepburn also leaves a massive hole in playmaking and distributing. In 2022-23, and for portions of last season, the Badgers offense ran through Crowl, giving the Eagan, Minnesota native multiple touches per possession. While he wouldn't be tasked with putting the ball on the floor, coach Greg Gard ran plenty of actions around Crowl at the top of the key and trusted the big man to keep the offense flowing.

While Camren Hunter and Daniel Freitag have filled out the point guard position, the team lacks a veteran ball-handler. As Hepburn got more comfortable facilitating last season, Crowl saw his usage rate drop from 22.8 percent to 19.3 percent, per CBB analytics. That number could jump right back up to where it was in 2022-23 or even exceed that mark considering all the new transfers have little experience in Greg Gard's offensive scheme.

Already the program's 37th leading scorer and 15th leading rebounder, Crowl has etched his name in the Badgers' record books with one season still to go. With a better fitting supporting cast and another offseason of improvement, the stars are aligning for Crowl to shoot up the all-time ranks of Badger big men.