The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team opens the 2020-21 season with debatably their best roster since their Final Four run in 2015. While they lost a gritty guard in Brevin Priztl, the team returns six different players who started games last season.

Coming off a hot second half of the season and winning the Big Ten regular-season title while posting a 21-10 record, the Badgers have earned high expectations from the media. ESPN analysts predict the Badgers to be a top-10 program in college basketball this season, relying on the experience and added depth.

Many seniors, transfers, coaches and draft prospects were unable to live out their final season this past year, but the Badgers are back in full force in preparation for the upcoming season. In a trio of predicted unofficial rankings, the Badgers are ranked No. 8 in USA Today’s rankings, while CBS Sports has the Badgers at No. 11 and ESPN’s Dick Vitale has them as high as No. 5. 

Their high preseason rankings are attributed to returning key starters D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter. The team’s stock soared midseason when Potter was granted eligibility after his transfer from Ohio State. The Badgers went 16-5 with him on the floor.

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Alongside Potter, the Badgers have a consistent post scorer in Reuvers who averaged 13 points per game last season and is only expected to improve. The gritty veteran guards of Trice and Davison should produce experience and efficient shooting to compliment Reuvers and Potter in the frontcourt.

Though they won a share of the regular-season Big Ten Championship, the Badgers aren’t projected as the top-ranked Big Ten team. Illinois and Iowa also have title aspirations, and they are without a doubt the toughest teams the Badgers will face in the Big Ten this season.

Iowa is led by 6-foot-11-inch big man Luka Garza, who is a preseason favorite for the John R. Wooden Award, given to the nation’s top player each season. Illinois returns three core players in Ayo Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn and Trent Frazier, while also adding quality depth via new recruits. The Big Ten will most likely run through these three teams, but if the Badgers can shoot effectively and get solid production from their returning starters and big men, they have a shot to win the conference outright.

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The success of the Badgers this year is fairly dependent on the consistent production of Potter and Reuvers, complemented by the veteran guards. Trice improved drastically last season as a facilitator passing the ball and should be a top point guard in the Big Ten. Trice was even named to the watchlist for the 2021 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award, a list that features just 20 point guards from across the nation.

To complement Trice, Davison has consistently improved as a shooter during his time as a Badger, improving both his field goal and 3-point percentage this past season. Davison should be able to take another step forward and average well over 10 points per game this season, while also providing elite defensive clamps on the perimeter.

Badger fans should be excited to see where Head Coach Greg Gard and his team land in the official AP Poll in the coming weeks. CBS is currently doing a daily countdown of all 357 college teams ranked, so stay tuned for more updates to come.