Three Types of Players Greg Gard Should Pursue for The Badgers Final Roster Spot

Wisconsin Men's Basketball has already reeled in three players from the transfer portal, but with one spot remaining, what holes are left to fill?
Jacksonville State v Wisconsin
Jacksonville State v Wisconsin / John Fisher/GettyImages

1.) Big-Bodied, Rim-Protecting Center

Zach Edey and Hunter Dickinson are no longer haunting the Big-10's painted areas, but there are still plenty of forceful bigs in the conference. Currently, the Badgers don't have a good enough answer for those bigs. Steven Crowl is a more-than-capable offensive player and an intelligent defender. However, he lacks the frame and strength to defend physical, back-to-basket centers. Nolan Winter was picked on consistently by opposing bigs during his freshman campaign, and although he'll likely put on some pounds for 2024-25, he's not going to transform into a plus-defender in one offseason. As a team, the Badgers ranked 348th in blocks per game in 2023-24 and have yet to really address the lack of rim protection.

There is precedent for a move like this, with Greg Gard bringing in seven-footer Chris Vogt from the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2021-22 for his final year of eligibility to back up Crowl. While there wasn't another viable center option on the roster at that time, Vogt ended up playing a key role off the bench for a team that was a three-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Inserting another center into the rotation would almost certainly cut into Winter's workload, but it would make the Badgers a more well-rounded team, and minimize one of their biggest weaknesses from a season ago.

2.) Forward with Positional Versatility

Landing John Tonje and Xavier Amos to fill the holes vacated by AJ Storr and Tyler Wahl was a good start to revamping the forward room. However, there's still plenty of question marks with forward depth. Carter Gilmore and Markus Ilver didn't exactly shine as backup fours last season, and although each can give serviceable minutes in certain situations, they shouldn't be relied upon consistently.

When Storr was on the bench in 2023-24, Gard was forced to fill the perimeter with guards; usually leaving Max Klesmit or John Blackwell at the three. The Badgers' lack of size on the wing was exploited by big guards like Terrence Shannon, Marcus Domask and Terrence Edwards Jr, who were able to get downhill and attack the basket with relative ease. Adding a player with a large enough frame to play both forward positions would give Gard more options to fill out the rotation and the ability to experiment with lineups based on matchups.

3.) Young 3-And-D Wing

Unlike the first two player archetypes on this list, a 3-and-D wing isn't an obvious need for this roster. However, in today's era of basketball, you can't have enough wings who can both shoot and defend. Currently, Klesmit and Tonje fill this role, but both are entering their last year of eligibility. Incoming freshman Jack Robison could grow into that role, but I don't see him contributing until his second or third year on campus.

Addressing the need a year early would be especially beneficial considering the large class of players set to graduate next offseason, giving the hypothetical 3-and-D player an extra year to get acclimated to Gard's system and allow for more continuity in a 2025-26 roster that's expected to have plenty of turnover. Plus, the right player could immediately step into a rotation spot and help out the team this season.

The Takeaway

Right now, the Badgers could go nine or 10 deep and have what should be a competitive roster. That being said, there's glaring holes and weaknesses in the frontcourt and on the wing, which need to be fixed in order to take the next step. Although the amount of portal options has diminished since Wisconsin got their first three transfers, there's still plenty of players out there who could come in and help this team win in 2024-25 and beyond, making roster spot number 15 quite important.