The Associated Press released the AP Top 25 Poll for the 2020-21 men’s college basketball season Monday morning and the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team came in at No. 7 in the nation.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who watched Big Ten basketball last season. The Badgers finished the season on fire, winning eight consecutive games to earn a share of the Ben Ten regular-season title. They shared the honor with co-champions Maryland and Michigan State, but this year the Badgers came in ranked significantly higher than both of those teams. This is largely due to the squad’s heavy return in offensive production from last season.
Wisconsin is returning the entire starting lineup, with the exception of sharpshooter Brevin Pritzl, who started seven games during the 2020-21 season. As much as Greg Gard would probably love to have Pritzl back, there is no reason to worry. The Badgers are returning players who combined for 77.5% of their total minutes last season. They are also returning 78.3% of their scoring production, 83.48% of their rebounding production and 86.15% of their assists.
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The Badgers have no shortage of veteran leadership this season as they have four redshirt seniors and two other four-year seniors seeing significant minutes. This type of veteran roster could be the recipe for an unforgettable year in Madison.
The rest of the Big Ten was also represented well in the rankings. Iowa leads the conference at No. 5, while Illinois comes in one spot behind Wisconsin at No. 8, giving the Big Ten three teams in the top 10. Michigan State earned a respectable ranking at No. 13 in the nation, especially after losing their senior leader, Cassius Winston.
The Big Ten rounds out the back end of the top 25 with No. 23 Ohio State, No. 24 Rutgers and No. 25 Michigan. Last year, the Big Ten proved to be the most durable conference in the country, with as many as eight teams appearing in the top 25 at any given time. This year, the conference looks even better. They will start with seven teams in the top 25 but there will likely be 10 teams fighting for a berth to go dancing in March.
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Right now, the Badgers only have three games listed on their schedule. They open Nov. 25 against Eastern Illinois, followed by a Dec. 4 trip to Milwaukee to take on in-state rival Marquette. The remaining game scheduled thus far is Dec. 9 with a showdown against Louisville as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Obviously, more games will be added soon, and we will be able to look at a more complete schedule. The SEC released their full conference schedule this past Friday and it is likely for conferences like the Big Ten to follow suit soon with the season right around the corner.
CBS Sports college basketball analyst Jon Rothstein announced via Twitter Nov. 6 that the “Big Ten is hoping to release its conference schedule for the 2020-21 season at some point next week.” The only guarantee in the Big Ten this year is that there will be no such thing as an easy game.