In-state rival Green Bay will travel down to Madison to try and improve on their 40-point loss from last season.
Team: Green Bay Phoenix
Location: Green Bay, Wis.
Conference: Horizon League
Head coach: Will Ryan (one season, 8-17 record)
2020-2021 record: 8-17 overall, 8-12 Horizon
Top returning players: 6-foot-3, PG, Lucas Stieber (3.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.0 apg); 6-foot-4, wing, Emmanuel Ansong (10.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.1 apg); 6-foot-8, F, Japannah Kellog III (4.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 0.5 bpg)
Top newcomers: 6-foot-8, F, Cade Meyer (Monroe, Wis.), 2-star freshman; 6-foot-7, F, Brayden Dailey (Cuba City, Wis.), unranked freshman; 6-foot-6, G, Donovan Ivory (played six minutes last season), transfer from Boise State
2020-2021 review: The Phoenix started off last season on a nine game losing streak and, despite finishing the year on an 8-8 run, they were never really able to fire on all cylinders in head coach Will Ryan’s first season at the helm. If that name sounds familiar, well, it should. He is Bo Ryan’s son and was tabbed to help rebuild the Phoenix program.
Guards Amari Davis, P.J. Pipes and Josh Jefferson were able to score the ball well, with all averaging 14.5 ppg or more, but they were not able to score more than they gave up. Green Bay’s defense was atrocious last season, ranking No. 324 in the nation in AdjD according to KenPom.
Green Bay ended up finishing ninth in the Horizon League and lost to Purdue Fort Wayne in double OT in the league tournament. The Phoenix took great care of the ball on the season, ending the year as No. 15 in turnover percentage, and had almost exactly a national average offense in terms of efficiency. It was, as mentioned above, the defense that led the Phoenix to their rough record.
2021-2022 preview: Ryan started off his first season at Green Bay with only three regular contributors returning to the team. Now in his second year he has…one returning starter and eight of his 13 players haven’t played a single minute for the Phoenix. Davis, Pipes, Jefferson and forward Terrance Thompson who were all major contributors entered the transfer portal. Five other players did too.
What I’m trying to say is, we don’t really know a whole lot about how this Phoenix team is going to look this season. Stieber and Ansong will have to be the two to lead the team, Stieber with play-making and Ansong with scoring, in the early going. Guard Blayton Williams, who transferred from Lamar Community College before last season but missed all of last year with a hip injury, will also be counted on to be a contributor.
There are three true freshmen on the roster, all of whom hail from Wisconsin, who will also be given a chance to prove themselves and carve out a role early in their careers.
All of the Horizon League projections I’ve come across have Green Bay finishing at the bottom of the league, or just above the bottom, and I don’t think they’ll put up too much of a fight against the Badgers just two games into the season. It should be another chance for a young Wisconsin squad to find their footing before getting into the more difficult portion of their non-conference schedule.
Game vs. Wisconsin: Friday, Nov. 12; Madison, Wis.; Kohl Center; TV and time TBA