The No. 7 University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team will hit the floor for the first time in the 2020-21 season against the Eastern Illinois Panthers Wednesday night at 9 p.m.

The Badgers square off against the Panthers for the second consecutive year. The Panthers gave Wisconsin all they could handle in last year’s November matchup. Competitive throughout, Eastern Illinois only fell to Wisconsin by 13 at the Kohl Center.

Expectations are high this season for Wisconsin and Head Coach Greg Gard. The Badgers return a loaded roster, including seven rotation players who were on last year’s team that won the regular-season Big Ten title.

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A strength of Wisconsin’s attack is their balance — the Badgers bring back five players who averaged nine points per game or more. With so many options offensively, it will be a challenge for opposing teams to key in on one guy when game-planning against the Badgers.

One returning player to watch this season for Wisconsin is senior big man Micah Potter. Potter shined after having to sit out due to the NCAA’s controversial transfer rule and played at an All-Big Ten level by the end of the season. Over his last four games, Potter averaged an impressive 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

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Potter’s ability to score inside and stretch the floor from deep complements his running mate in the frontcourt, Nate Reuvers. With defenses keying in on Potter, Reuvers will have more space to operate inside. Reuvers led all Badgers scorers last year, tallying 13.1 points per game.

One newcomer to watch for the Badgers this season is true freshman guard Johnny Davis. The 6-foot-4-inch swingman from La Crosse will look to build off an illustrious high school career. In his senior season, Davis was awarded the 2020 Wisconsin Mr. Basketball award, given to the most outstanding prep player in the state of Wisconsin.

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Davis’ ability to attack the basket coupled with his perimeter shooting should give this experienced Badgers team a key boost off the bench this season.

Wisconsin’s No. 7 preseason ranking is their highest since the 2014-15 season. In 2014-15, Bo Ryan’s team started the season ranked No. 3 nationally and ultimately fell in heartbreaking fashion to Duke in the NCAA National Championship Game. With national championship hopes, the Badgers look to be the ones cutting down the nets in April 2021.