Wisconsin Basketball: Early Projections High for ’20-’21 Team

Projections are already beginning to roll in for the ’20-’21 college basketball season and you might be surprised to see just how high the Wisconsin Basketball program is landing.

It makes sense that the Wisconsin Basketball team would be highly regarded going into this fall. Fresh off the heels of a regular-season Big Ten Championship, Greg Gard’s squad has a lot going in their favor for next season.

Brevin Pritzl is the only major rotation player who doesn’t return from last year’s conference championship team. On top of that, they get an entire year with forward Micah Potter, who burst on to the scene for Wisconsin this past season.

As if that weren’t enough, the Badgers have one of their best recruiting classes in years joining them this fall as well. Four-star recruit Ben Carlson, as well as three-star recruits Johnny and Jordan Davis, Lorne Bowman, and Steven Crowl, combine to form the 21st best recruiting class in the nation for next year according to 247 Sports.

So it’s understandable that the Badgers head into the ’20-’21 season with high expectations. But just how high some of these early predictions place the Badgers, as well as one of their top contributors from last season, might shock you.

Are the Badgers a Top 10 team?

With a starting lineup that will likely consist of all seniors combined with the team’s finish last year, it makes sense that the Badgers would be high up on the initial rankings for next season. But top 10? That seems to be what Andy Katz of NCAA.com thinks.

That’s quite the high praise considering that the Badgers were absent from both the AP and Coaches’ polls for all but the final three weeks of last season. But if you thought 6th was impressive, Seth Davis of The Athletic (subscription required) has the Badgers 4th in his Early Top 25 rankings! He had this to say about Wisconsin:

“It’s not often we see an all-senior starting five, but that’s what the Badgers will have as they bring back the entire core of the group that won a share of the Big Ten title. The three freshmen mentioned above (part of a five-man class) will push the older guys for minutes, and I expect 6-7 forward Tyler Wahl to take a significant step forward in his sophomore season.”

In Katz’s rankings, he has the Badgers just behind No. 5 Iowa for second in the Big Ten. That’s not surprising since they might get back Naismith award finalist Luka Garza, depending on how the NBA draft process goes for him. However, Davis gives Wisconsin the edge in the conference and has them trailing only Gonzaga, Baylor, and Villanova in his overall rankings.

Potter projected for big year

The Badgers may have only gotten half a season of playing time out of Micah Potter, but he clearly made quite an impression. So much so that John Gasaway of ESPN.com had him at No. 18 in his Top 25 list of returning college players for ’20-’21. He had this to say about Potter:

“Potter logged far fewer minutes last season than any other returning player on this list. Well, so be it. What we did see from him was pretty darn impressive. Required to sit out the first 10 games of the season after transferring in from Ohio State, the 6-10 junior made up for lost time by shooting like a taller Big Ten version of Buddy Hield. Potter put up percentages of 86, 57 and 45 at the line, on 2s and from beyond the arc, respectively, and he did so while dominating the defensive glass and altering a fair number of shots. If he cracks the starting lineup as a senior, we might be in for more of all of the above.”

There’s so much to admire from Potter’s shortened season. Besides falling just short of a 40-50-90 season, as Gasaway alluded to, the junior finished second on the team in points per game (10.1) behind just Nate Reuvers and he led the team in rebounding per game (6.2) while only playing the 7th most minutes per game (17.5) on the year.

What’s further eye-opening is when you view his stats from last year on a per 40-minute basis. He overtakes Reuvers for the lead in scoring at 23.0 points per 40. Meanwhile, Potter’s 14.2 rebounds per 40 were more than double that of the next closest Badger, Reuvers at 6.9. Perhaps that is part of the reason why Gasaway sees so much potential for Potter next season.

There will be plenty more projections to come between now and this fall’s college basketball season. However, with the ones that have come out so far, the Wisconsin Basketball program is sitting pretty.