Head Coach Greg Gard and the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team return six different starters this season and look to make their deepest tournament run since their 2015 title game appearance. The Badgers will lean heavily on their experience and leadership behind returning guards Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice, small forward Aleem Ford, and skilled big men Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter.
Led by last season’s leading scorers in Reuvers (13.1 PPG) and Potter (10.1 PPG), much of this team’s production should come from the inside. Though they prove effective from the inside, they both also boast impressive shooting percentages from beyond the arc — Reuvers shot 33.7% while Potter shot a tremendous 45.1%.
In terms of incoming recruits, look for 6-foot-10-inch power forward Ben Carlson to find his way on the court early, making an immediate impact for the Badgers. The four-star recruit was the Badgers’ highest-ranked player in this class, followed by shooting guard Johnny Davis, who comes to school with his twin brother Jordan. Look for Johnny Davis and Carlson to fill the void left by graduate Brevin Pritzl and mid-season transfer Kobe King in the eight-man rotation.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Badgers enter a season of uncertainty. They will have a somewhat altered schedule, playing primarily conference games with just six non-conference games to open the season.
Gard said the team is prepared for whatever they face this season.
“We intentionally made the preseason much more rigorous than ever before really in terms of our conditioning aspect,” Gard said.
The Big Ten looks to be one of the strongest, if not the strongest, conference in the country. With seven teams in the preseason AP Poll, including Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Rutgers and Michigan, the Badgers will face a daunting schedule in January and February. The Badgers enter the season ranked No. 7, second in the Big Ten behind only Iowa.
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Iowa and Illinois will be Wisconsin’s biggest obstacles in pursuit of a Big Ten Championship and a deep March Madness run. Iowa is led by Wooden Award-favorite Luka Garza, who withdrew his name from the NBA Draft to return for his senior season. The 6-foot-11-inch, 265-pound center averaged 23.9 points last season while pulling in 9.8 rebounds per game during the 2019-20 season, numbers he’ll look to improve this season.
The Hawkeyes led the Big Ten in scoring last season and return six of their eight leading scorers, but the team lacks defensive capabilities. When the Badgers meet the Hawkeyes, the Badgers must be aggressive on offense and limit Garza’s impact in the post through the defense of Potter and Reuvers. The Badgers struggled against Garza last year as he sparked a 12-point comeback to beat the Badgers, posting a statline of 24 points and 19 rebounds.
In their highest preseason ranking since the 2005-06 season, Illinois looks to impede on Wisconsin and Iowa’s title hopes. Their team stock shot up when star center Kofi Cockburn withdrew his name from the NBA Draft to return for his sophomore season in Champaign.
The Fighting Illini bested the Badgers in the Kohl Center last season 71–70, led by a strong 3-point shooting performance while the Badgers shooting suffered in the second half. Illinois Head Coach Brian Underwood has taken this program to new heights since his arrival in 2017 and shows no plans of slowing down, entering a season with a talented roster.
Wisconsin will face Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, Illinois, Penn State and Maryland twice each, leaving the Badgers with one of the toughest schedules in the Big Ten.
Among the Badgers non-conference matchups, Wisconsin will face Eastern Illinois, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, UW-Green Bay, Marquette, Louisville and Northern Iowa.
The Big Ten will be one of the most competitive conferences in men’s college basketball, setting the Badgers and their foes up for an exciting Big Ten Tournament come March. Badger fans should be excited for what’s in store for the 2020-21 season as Gard pushes his team toward a tournament run.