The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (0-0) will return to the court to take on Division III UW-Whitewater (0-0) in an exhibition Friday at the Kohl Center.
The game doesn’t count on either team’s record, but there should still be some takeaways about the Badgers’ roster at the end of the 40 minutes.
What: Wisconsin vs. UW-Whitewater (exhibition)
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Kohl Center
TV: Big Ten Network+, with Noah Clark and Cade Johnson.
Radio: 1310 AM and 101.5 FM, with Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas
Last meeting: The Badgers and Warhawks last played Nov. 11, 2008, when UW pulled away for a 64-47 victory at the Kohl Center.
Fast fact: The average age of the players on UW’s roster is 19.5 this season, compared to last season’s 22.6-years-old.
Coach: Greg Gard, 119-70 in his seventh season at UW
Probable starters: Ben Carlson, Steven Crowl, Brad Davison, Jonathan Davis and Tyler Wahl
Player to watch: Davis stepped into the limelight as a leader this season as one of three returning rotational players. He also is expected to increase last season’s 43.9% shooting rate, which was second best on the team.
Fast fact: The Warhawks return 13 players and all five starters from last season's roster. They finished with a 1-7 record in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and earned a sixth place finish.
Coach: Pat Miller, 394-148 in his seventh season at UW-Whitewater.
Probable starters: Gage Malensek, Trevon Chislom, Breontae Hunt, Jack Brahm and JT Hoytink
Player to watch: Malensek was the leading scorer for the Warhawks last season as a junior with an average of 20.5 points per game.
If you go
Tickets: UW no longer issues team-printed tickets, fans attending the game can either print their ticket at home or present their digital ticket on their smartphone at the gate.
Gates open at 4:30 p.m. UW is encouraging fans to leave early and allow extra time for arrival. Due to the UW Homecoming Parade, as well as an event at the Nicholas-Johnson Recreation Center, additional congestion is expected downtown this Friday.
For fans still looking for a ticket to get into Saturday's game, as of Thursday at 5 p.m., UW still had seats available for $26-$34 before fees and the ticket brokering website StubHub was offering seats for $6-$65 plus fees.
COVID-19 protocols: Fans will need to bring a face-covering to the game, with UW requiring fans to wear masks at all times when inside the Kohl Center regardless of vaccination status unless they’re actively eating or drinking.
Cashless concessions: Concession stands at the Kohl Center will accept only credit and debit cards, Google Pay and Apple Pay.
Three things to watch for
How do the newer faces react to playing in front of fans?
Just three players on UW’s roster have played a game against another team in front of fans at the Kohl Center. The five freshmen, six sophomores and three transfers have only played in front of fans at the Kohl Center during the Red/White Scrimmage on Oct. 17.
“I think the biggest thing with Friday is just going to get people in front of fans and in the Kohl Center in that environment again,” Davison said. “Even as a fifth year senior, I'm super excited for that. It might take some time to get used to.”
Who runs the point?
UW brought in three potential options for the point guard position — Jahcobi Neath, Chucky Hepburn and Lorne Bowman. Neath has played more shooting guard during three preseason practices that have been open to media members, while both Hepburn and Bowman missed more than a week of practices due to injury.
Davis has played the most at the point guard position in practice, the Red/White Scrimmage and during the team’s “secret” scrimmage against Loyola Chicago.
Hepburn and Bowman returned to full participation in practice earlier this week. They both got chances to run the point, but the exhibition will be the first action against opponents other than teammates in practice.
“They both bring so much to the table,” Davison said. “Bowman's ability to just change the pace, get downhill, he's a really creative scorer. Chucky's ability to defend — he really values the defensive side of the ball, and his ability to get downhill and get to place and find open guys. We'll see how coach integrates them into the rotation in the swing of things.”
It’s likely that all three — Hepburn, Bowman and Davis — will play point guard in the exhibition.
How effective is UW’s bench?
UW seems likely to have a rotation that is seven deep plus another three players who might be in the mix. There’s the projected starting five — Carlson, Crowl, Davison, Davis and Wahl — plus Neath and Chris Vogt.
Last season’s rotation often included eight players. Davison is the only returning player who averaged double digits in scoring last season with 10.0 points per game. Wahl and Davis were in the rotation, averaging a combined 11.9 points in about 24 minutes each per game.
The Badgers shot 42.5% from the floor and 36.5% from 3-point range last season. Gard has said multiple times during the preseason that he hopes the team’s 3-point shooting improves.
Vogt and Neath bring experience from their previous institutions and are likely to play the most substantial minutes after the starting five.
The big question is how all of these players work together. Davison, Davis and Wahl played minutes with each other last season, but the rest of the team doesn’t have experience together on the court yet.
Get to know the Wisconsin Badgers' 2021 men's basketball recruits
6-1, 185, Guard
Bellevue, Neb. (West)
Hepburn was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Nebraska last season after helping Bellevue West go 21-3 and win the Class A state title. A two-time first-team all-state pick, Hepburn averaged 17.7 points, 6.1 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 3.1 steals as a junior. Off the court, Hepburn earned the HomeSchool Papillion TeenService Award and was a Special Olympics Volunteer Award winner.
UW coach Greg Gard: “Chucky is a proven winner. Our staff watched as he led his Bellevue West team to a state championship last winter. A true point guard, Chucky brings everything we look for at that position. He leads by example, always giving maximum effort on both ends of the floor. He has tremendous vision and feel for the game, combined with the ability to score from all three levels. As much as he is able to carry his team on offense, what makes Chucky a great fit here at Wisconsin is that his defense and toughness is where he hangs his hat. A leader and role model in the community and a motivated student, Chucky is the kind of person we are excited to add to our Badger Family. We’re excited to get to work with him and to help him reach his potential as a Badger in the years to come.”
6-9, 235, Forward
Schaumburg, Ill. (HS)
Hodges, who played in the same Illinois Wolves AAU program that produced former UW standout Frank Kaminsky, was named Mid-Suburban League West Player of the Year after helping Schaumburg go 25-7 and winning the MSL title while advancing to the regional finals. He averaged 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game to earn second-team Class 4A all-state honors in Illinois.
Gard: “Chris is an excellent addition to our program and member of another strong recruiting class. He impressed our staff immediately during our advanced camp and has continued to improve since. Chris has tremendous potential with his large frame and natural strength, paired with an eagerness to get better. He will immediately bring both physicality and tenacity to our program. Chris fits in well with the work ethic and culture that our program has established. He comes from a great family that has clearly taught him to value hard work and education first. We are excited to welcome both Chris and his family to the Badger Family.”
6-7, 220, Forward
Yankton, S.D. (HS)
Mors is the reigning back-to-back Gatorade Player of the Year in South Dakota and has been named all-state four times during a career that began when he played on the varsity in the seventh grade. He averaged 19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game as a junior and enters his final season as South Dakota’s Class AA all-time leading scorer with 2,127 points.
Gard: “We are very excited to add Matthew to our program. He has challenged himself as a student-athlete year in and out to become as well rounded a competitor as possible, both on and off the court. As a state champion in basketball and a successful multi-sport athlete in Yankton, Matthew has gained valuable lessons that will help him become the best leader and player possible. On the court, he plays with a certain level of toughness and physicality that fits our style of play, specifically in the Big Ten. He has a versatile skill set that will allow him to be effective in the post, off the dribble and is a terrific shooter from outside. Matthew's skillset, combined with a championship mentally, has us excited to begin working with him. We're excited for Matthew to join our Badger Family and we can't wait to begin working with him to help him reach his goals as a Badger.”