It hasn’t been since March 7 that we saw the Badger basketball team take the court. That day, they beat the Indiana Hoosiers 60-56 and clinched a share of the Big Ten Championship. The team received the number one seed the following week in the Big Ten tournament. Before they took the court in their first tournament game, the rest of the season was cancelled due to COVID 19. As a new season approaches, it’s never too early to look ahead to this year’s team. In this article, we’ll look at five early facts about the 2020-2021 Wisconsin Badgers.
A Fantastic Returning Core
Wisconsin returns seven of their eight rotational players from last year. Only Brevin Pritzl leaves the team, leaving a great core to build the season around. There’s a chance Wisconsin starts this year with five seniors in the starting lineup, such as 6’11 senior Nate Ruevers, who was also the teams leading scorer last year at 13.1 points per game. Joining Ruevers as likely starters are D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Aleem Ford, and Micah Potter.
Redshirt senior Trevor Anderson and sophomore Tyler Wahl also played significant roles in the rotation a year ago and return as well. This unit was clicking on all cylinders late last season. They ended the year as the number one scoring defense in the conference (62.2 ppg), number two in three point shooting (35.2%), and number one in free throw shooting (76.4%). The team opens up as one of the favorites in the Big 10 and a solid pre-season ranking in the country.
The 2020 Freshmen Class is Extremely Talented
There’s no doubt about the hype the 2020 class brings to the program. The freshmen class enters as the fourth best class in the Big Ten. This class bring in talent such as Ben Carlson, Johnny Davis, Jordan Davis, Lorne Bowman, and Steven Crowl. Carter Gilmore and Justin Taphorn join the team as walk-ons.
Carlson is the highest ranked recruit of this class at four stars. Johnny Davis and Lorne Bowman are ranked just behind Carlson. There has not been this much hype around an incoming class in Wisconisn since arguably Sam Dekker and the 2012 class. I am really excited to see the impact this class has for four years in Madison.
A Good Combination of Experience and Inexperience
Wisconisn is going to have six seniors in their rotation this year and will have up to five freshmen fighting for minutes in the rotation. It takes a lot of college basketball teams time early in the season to find their identity. Wisconsin should not have a problem with this since there is seven guys who played valuable minutes last year. This should help the young players gain experience and get used to speed of Division One basketball.
It’s a good thing to have inexperience in the rotation as well. There’s no doubt there will be freshmen mistakes as the year goes on. However, the talent of the freshmen class is without question. They should provide sparks from the bench as well this year.
This Team is a Big Ten Championship Contender
There are only two teams that came to mind that might be better than Wisconsin right now. Those teams are Iowa and Michigan State. If Luka Garza and Xavier Tillman elect for the NBA draft, then Wisconsin is potentially the early season favorite in the Big Ten. The Big Ten season is a brutal part of any team’s season. Senior play is extremely helpful during the January-March stretch. Besides Iowa and maybe Illinois, there is not a team in the conference that brings back more experience than Wisconsin. Wisconsin knows how to play in February as they won their last eight games to end the season last year. It does not hurt that Wisconsin also won a share of the Big Ten championship last year so the championship pedigree is there for them.
This Team is Poised for a run in March
It is really early to look ahead to March Madness 2021. On paper, this team is set to be a second weekend team in the Big Dance. Most experts saw Wisconsin as a four or five seed and a potential run at the Sweet 16 before the season was cancelled. Early bracketology has Wisconsin at either a two or three seed this year. February and March are about the teams who are playing the best basketball and teams that have senior leadership. Wisconsin has the leadership, talent, and experience to make their run. With a great returning core and great recruiting class coming in, this could be a special season for Wisconsin basketball. I am not ready to bring up 2014 and 2015, but Badger fans should be excited for this season and the season after.