Greg Gard’s Coach of the Year case for Wisconsin Basketball

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 15: (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 15: (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Ever since Greg Gard took over as head coach of Wisconsin Basketball, fans have gone back and forth about whether or not Gard is a good coach. This season may have finally caused both sides to agree on the fact that Greg Gard indeed can coach.

A look at Greg Gard’s National Coach of the Year case for Wisconsin Basketball.

In the Big Ten preseason media poll, Wisconsin Basketball was picked to finish in 10th place in the conference. 

Instead of playing to those expectations, the Badgers have gone 21-5 so far with a 12-4 record in the conference. They join Purdue and Illinois at the top of the conference as teams with only 4 losses. Considering where most preseason predictions had Wisconsin placed, it’s very impressive that they’ve managed to be a contender for the Big Ten Title this season.

The biggest factor that has played into the fantastic season for the team so far has been the development of their players. Seeing as some fans have been critical of Wisconsin’s lack of player development since the end of the Bo Ryan era, Gard and the rest of his staff can point to this season as a reason why those thoughts no longer have any merit.

The most prominent example of a player that has developed nicely has been future All-American Johnny Davis. As a freshman last season, Davis had a limited role behind an entire starting lineup of seniors. In his freshman season, Davis averaged only 7.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. This season, Davis has taken an unbelievable jump with averages of 20.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game.

Anyone that saw Davis play last season knew that he was going to be one of those elite players, but there are probably not too many that saw as extreme of a rise as the one that has occurred.

Davis is in discussions for Conference and National Player of the Year in college basketball. Davis is very likely going to be a top-10 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, something that some of the state’s other top recruits throughout the years thought couldn’t be done at Wisconsin.

Another player worth noting that has taken a leap in the 2021-2022 season is Tyler Wahl. Wahl has been described by some fans as the glue that holds Wisconsin Basketball together. Wahl, just like Davis, was expected to be a future star when he arrived with the program during the 2019-2020 season. Wahl has taken that leap this season and has become the star that he was expected to be.

Even throughout this season, Wahl has continued to develop as a leader. In the first 10 games this season, Wahl scored in double figures only two times. Since then, Wahl has reached double-digit point totals in 12 games. A newfound aggression and growth in confidence have found Wahl becoming one of the quietly great players in the Big Ten.

The ability of Coach Gard and the rest of his staff to develop his players this season has been responsible for much of the team’s success. The expectations were not very high for the Badgers before the season started, and Gard has put them on the doorstep of a Big Ten Title and possibly even bigger aspirations—which has landed Gard on the Naismith Late Season Watch List for Coach of the Year.

Gard is one of the underrated coaches in the game of college basketball. He could certainly start to gain some respect if he’s able to lead Wisconsin to great levels and take home the National Coach of the Year Award.