Virginia Set To Face Wisconsin in Fort Myers Tip-Off
By Josh Burton
After a quick 2-0 week which saw the University of Virginia Men’s Basketball team use two different lineups to pick up wins over North Carolina A&T and Texas Southern, the team will now turn its attention to Fort Myers, Florida, and the Wisconsin Badgers in the opening game of the 2023 Fort Myers Tip-Off Tournament. The game will tip at 6 pm EST on Monday (11/20) and will air on FS1. Let's take a look at the Badgers.
The University of Wisconsin Badgers of the Big Ten (B1G) are led by head coach Greg Gard. Gard is in his 9th season at UW, posting a 166-95 record so far. He was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in both 2020 and 2022. So far this season, Wisconsin is 2-2 with a pair of home victories over Arkansas State and Robert Morris, while dropping contests against Tennessee and at Providence. Wisconsin is the 42nd rated team on Kenpom with both their offense and defense rated within the top 50.
The Badgers have gone with the same starting lineup every game, and have seven players averaging double digit minutes. They start 6’2” junior point guard Chucky Hepburn (12.8 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists per game), 6’4” junior Max Klesmit (6 points per game), and 6’7” St. John's transfer AJ Storr (15.5 points per game) across the backcourt. Up front, they go with 6’9” Covid year Senior Tyler Wahl (10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds per game) and 7' 0” junior Steven Crowl (10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2 assists per game).
This game will present a similar challenge as the Hoos faced against Florida in some ways, as Wisconsin plays a big physical lineup. Crowl has shown the ability to not only pass well as a big, but also step out and knock down the occasional shot for the Badgers. It will be imperative that first year center Blake Buchanan is up for the challenge defensively while also continuing to play his aggressive style offensively attacking the basket so as to keep Crowl from getting into a rhythm.
The other key focus for the Hoos will be containing AJ Storr. At 6’7” and having shown a good ability to score from different levels, he will offer a very unique matchup for the Hoos to contend with. Because they play him as essentially a third guard and run two bigs next to him, I would expect the Hoos to begin with Reece Beekman taking the assignment of guarding him while Ryan Dunn is on Wahl. But I would definitely expect to see different matchups being thrown at him all night to give him different looks to deal with, similar to what the Hoos did to Riley Kugel from Florida.
Return of I Mac?
The last big thing for Cavalier fans to watch for is whether Isaac Mckneely is able to suit up for the Hoos this week. After an awkward moment in the first half of the North Carolina A&T game this past week, Isaac subbed out and did not return to the game. In the leadup to Thursday's win over Texas Southern, Coach Williford said on The JWilly Show that Isaac could be a game time decision.
Ultimately, Isaac did not play and was seen in a protective boot on the sideline. Isaac is the reigning 3 point contest champion for the Hoos, and his scoring ability brings a gravity to the offense that makes it much easier for the Hoos to find good looks and score. There is no info yet as to if he will be able to play this week or will have to miss some or all of the tournament.
The Fort Myers Tip Off Tournament is composed of 4 teams. The winner of the UVA/Wisconsin game will then take on the winner of West Virginia and Southern Methodist University (SMU). The losers will also take on each other, with both second matchups scheduled for Wednesday (11/22). Check back in with Locker Room Access after the Wisconsin game to see what will be in store for the Hoos next!
(Featured Image Credit: Josie Drumheller/UVA Athletics)