Badgers: Greg Gard says ‘it doesn’t really matter’ that his team is picked to finish 9th in Big Ten

A year after being picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten only to win a share of the conference title, the Wisconsin basketball team is predicted to come in ninth this season by the conference’s media. It could be viewed as another slight to a program that has routinely outperformed expectations over the last 20 years. But coach Greg Gard clearly isn’t concerned about what people think about his team.

“I never really get wrapped up in whether we’re picked first or 14th or anywhere in-between. In the end it doesn’t really matter. You still have to go play the games,’ Gard said Wednesday at Big Ten media days in Minneapolis. “I think last year if there was ever a storyline that kind of washed all that preseason prediction stuff out, that was it.”

Wisconsin’s spot in the preseason poll is largely a result of losing All-American Johnny Davis and a five-year starter in Brad Davison. The duo served as the team’s leading scorers last year and leave a large void that needs to be filled.

But the Badgers do return three starters — point guard Chucky Hepburn, forward Tyler Wahl and center Steven Crowl — while having added a couple important pieces from the transfer portal in guards Max Klesmit and Kamari McGee. Three-star recruit Connor Essegian also appears to have a very good chance at being a pretty decent contributor as a true freshman.

“Regardless of where they have us picked, we’ve got 20 Big Ten games coming in front of us and a tough non-conference slate prior to that,” Gard said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Wisconsin opens the regular season Nov. 7 against South Dakota.