The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team ended last season disappointingly in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, losing to the Oregon Ducks in San Jose, California.
Despite such a storied career with the Badgers, Ethan Happ departed the team without an appearance past the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament, a major departure from the Final Four teams in years past.
Wisconsin has also lost seniors Khalil Iverson and Charlie Thomas IV. Iverson — perhaps known best for his emphatic dunks — took over as one of the leading scorers late in his senior season, while Thomas was a serviceable reserve player throughout his career.
Moving on from these players this season will be difficult, but the Badgers will be forced to create a new identity for themselves as they move forward with veteran juniors D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison.
Davison and Trice proved their worth last season with several impressive games, but the tandem also struggled from beyond the arc at various points in the season, especially down the stretch when the team needed their abilities the most.
Wisconsin will look to support the duo with scoring from players who will see an increase in minutes this season, including juniors Aleem Ford and Nate Reuvers.
Without Happ, it will be interesting to see if Wisconsin continues to focus on utilizing their big men, a trend that has continued since Frank Kaminsky took the college basketball world by storm in the 2013-2014 season. If this is the case, Reuvers is a likely candidate for a breakout season with his ability to shoot from outside and his height advantage under the rim.
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Junior Trevor Anderson will also return from injury this year, while sophomore Kobe King will likely see an increased role on the offensive end after playing some meaningful minutes in his redshirt freshman season.
Graduate student Brevin Pritzl will also contribute to what is likely to be a high-octane offense, as his three-point shooting has continued to improve throughout his career, making him a deadly weapon off the bench.
Even though the team lost two of its top scoring options, look for the Badgers to continue to be a force in the Big Ten, especially if the trio of Trice, Davison and King can shoot as well as they’ve shown previously.
The Badgers also won’t be as young of a team as many fans may have thought, considering nearly all of their projected starting lineup consists of sophomores and juniors.
It also remains to be seen how Wisconsin plays this season under interim assistant coach Alando Tucker as Howard Moore takes a season off under medical leave following a tragic car accident that took the lives of his wife and daughter.
Tucker — Wisconsin basketball’s all-time leading scorer — will return to the Badger bench this season as the assistant coach under head coach Greg Gard.
“We’re thankful to have someone like Alando able to step into this role. His familiarity with the program and our players, combined with his incredible basketball experience and energy will be a great fit,” Gard said.
Despite Wisconsin’s strong offense and consistent coaching staff, the Big Ten will prove to be a challenge with perennial super-team Michigan State and teams like Maryland and The Ohio State University on the rise this season.
Michigan State will more than likely provide the toughest competition of any team in the Big Ten, as they head into the season as one of the top teams nationally behind the scoring duo of senior Cassius Winston and junior Joshua Langford, who will return from injury after missing all of last season.
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The rest of the Big Ten is more balanced than ever before, as eight of the 14 teams made the NCAA Tournament last year and all but one team finished with at least six conference wins a season ago.
The Badgers’ season will tip off Friday, Nov. 1 in an exhibition against UW-Lacrosse at the Kohl Center, followed by their first regular season game Nov. 5 on the road against Saint Mary’s.
Wisconsin will open Big Ten play with a matchup against Indiana at the Kohl Center Saturday Dec. 7. UW-Madison has won 15 consecutive games against the Hoosiers in Madison.
The team has several high-profile home games this season, including Marquette, The Ohio State University, Maryland, Michigan State and Purdue. Be sure to get your student season tickets when they go on sale Thursday, Sep. 12 at 7 a.m. on uwbadgers.com.