After the University of Wisconsin football team’s loss Saturday to Northwestern, the eyes of Madison are now turned to UW basketball, who begin their season Wednesday in an exhibition against Eastern Illinois.

There is a lot of excitement surrounding Badger basketball after they won their last eight consecutive games and a share of the 2019-20 Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin returns seven rotation players from last year’s team and also adds a strong freshman recruiting class.

This Badgers team has all the makings of a contender in the coming season with important matchups that could push them to national contention. These two matchups are Wisconsin’s Dec. 4 game against Marquette and a battle against Louisville Dec. 9.

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Wisconsin’s strength is their team chemistry, losing only one key rotation player from last year in Brevin Pritzl. Players like forwards Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter will need to play strong against Marquette’s Theo John.

Aside from the matchups inside, fans should keep their eyes peeled for the young talents from both teams. Marquette also has talented freshman Dawson Garcia who was a McDonald’s All-American following a storied career at Prior Lake High School in Minnesota.

Minnesota natives and Badger freshmen Steven Crowl and Ben Carlson have matched up against Garcia multiple times, and the tape shows. In a 2019 game, Crowl played against Garcia, and his team defeated Prior Lake without an issue. With that being said, Crowl and Carlson’s familiarity with Garcia’s game will be an advantage for the Badgers in their matchup.

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In their second marquee matchup against Louisville, Head Coach Greg Gard will have his hands full against impressive transfers Charles Minlend and Carlik Jones. Jones impressed at his previous school, Radford, averaging 20 points per game, and was listed as one of the top graduate transfers in the NCAA, according to ESPN.

Another player to watch for the Cardinals is sophomore power forward Aidan Igiehon. Igiehon was an incredibly polarizing player in high school for his size and physicality, but he has yet to truly show out at Louisville after having suffered a shoulder injury last season.

At the end of the day, Wisconsin basketball fans have a lot to look forward to this upcoming season. With enticing non-conference matchups early, Badger fans will get a good idea early in the year of what to expect from the 2020-21 season.