The Big Ten schedule for the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team was released on Tuesday.
The team is coming off a Final Four appearance (Okay, Final Four for the NIT, but considering how they played in their Big Ten Conference schedule, that should be considered a win.)
Wisconsin basketball is returning all five starters after Tyler Wahl decided to come back for his fifth year of eligibility.
This is a veteran-laden team led by Greg Gard, who is entering his ninth season as the team’s head coach.
Wisconsin underperformed last year, stumbling to a 20-15 overall record, including a 9-11 conference record, and went 2-6 in January, which led to their free-falling season.
But veterans Chucky Hepburn, Tyler Wahl, Max Klesmit, and Steven Crowl are returning, and three-point marksman Connor Essegian is entering his second year on the team. Wisconsin Badgers also added transfer AJ Storr from St. John’s and highly-touted recruits Gus Yalden, Nolan Winter, and John Blackwell.
The Wisconsin Badgers have to get back into the NCAA Tournament this year, and anything less than that will be considered a failure (sorry Giannis.) Let’s look at the five challenging games for the Wisconsin Badgers this season.
Five toughest games for the Wisconsin Badgers this season:
5- Vs. Tennessee (Nov, 10, 2023)
The last time these two teams faced off was in December 2019, when Wisconsin annihilated Tennessee 68-48 in Knoxville. Tennessee was set to come to Madison the following year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that was pushed back until this year. This upcoming matchup concludes the two-game contract between the two schools.
This will be an early test for Wisconsin, as unlike his predecessor, Bo Ryan, Greg Gard hasn’t had much success winning challenging early-season non-conference games.
This game is no different, as Tennessee welcomes back the leading scorer from last year, Santiago Vescovi, and Point Guard Zakai Zeigler is returning after suffering a torn ACL last season.
This game has a lot of intrigue from both sides. Wisconsin is looking to win its first early-season test against Tennessee, and Tennessee is looking to march into the raucous Kohl Center and come out with a victory.
Only three players remain from the last time these two schools faced off (Tyler Wahl of Wisconsin,) Josiah-Jordan James and Oliver Nkamhoua of Tennessee.) Both teams have experience and veteran leadership coming into the season.
It will be a fun matchup of two old-school programs battling it out.
4- Vs. Marquette (Dec. 2, 2023)
If anybody will be looking for revenge this upcoming season, it’s the Marquette Golden Eagles. Wisconsin has beaten Marquette in the last two years and leads the all-time season series 70-59.
Last season, led by Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl, Wisconsin defeated Marquette in overtime 80-77. That ended up being a marquee win for Wisconsin, as Marquette won the Big East Tournament and was a number two seed in the NCAA Tournament this past year.
Marquette has the top two leading scorers from last season, Kam Jones and Tyler Kolek returning. Last season against Wisconsin, Jones dropped 26 points on 9 of 12 shooting. He will be a difficult matchup for Wisconsin, as they have struggled to defend against high-volume scorers.
They did keep Tyler Kolek at bay, as he only had 6 points on 2 of 7 shooting, including six turnovers.
Wisconsin is going for its third consecutive win against Marquette in the I-94 rivalry. The last time Wisconsin did so was in the 1998-2001 seasons when the Badgers beat Marquette four straight times in those years.
Marquette will be hungry to thwart Wisconsin’s winning streak in the series and to bring the series back to Marquette with a win.
3- Virginia (neutral site game) (Nov. 20, 2023,)
Safe to say, this won’t be an 85-80 high-scoring game. No, this will likely be a 50-49 slugfest in which points will be hard to come by. Stylistically, these two teams play a similar brand of basketball. Virginia and Wisconsin win games by defending at an elite level, with some offense in between.
The last three matchups between the two schools have been the scores. [48-38 Wisconsin,] [49-37 Virginia,] and the most recent matchup [53-46 Virginia.] So, if you want to catch up on your sleep or do some Thanksgiving shopping, this game would be the perfect time to do it.
The Cavaliers will have to replace top scorer Armaan Franklin from last season, but they do have Jayden Clark and Kihei Clark returning.
This will be a good matchup between two offensively challenged teams, and this game will provide entertainment value for other reasons. You won’t miss much scoring, but if you want to watch what an old-fashioned basketball game is supposed to look like, this is the game for you.
2- At Michigan State (Dec. 5, 2023)
Michigan State always provides its own set of challenges for Wisconsin. The Spartans have a Hall-of-Fame coach in Tom Izzo, and no matter who Michigan State has on the roster, they play Wisconsin as tough as anybody in the Big Ten.
Michigan State has won their last two meeting against Wisconsin, including a 69-65 win in Madison last season. The Badgers have won their previous two meetings in East Lansing and are hoping to get some revenge on the Spartans this season.
That will be no easy task for the Badgers, as Michigan State has Malik Hall and AJ Hoggard returning, along with Mady Sissoko and Tyson Walker. Like Wisconsin, Michigan State is essentially bringing back the same roster from last season.
Playing Michigan State is always a tough matchup for Wisconsin. Since 2010, Wisconsin has only beaten Michigan State 9 times and lost 19. That has to change. Wisconsin has to play this game with a sense of urgency and come in playing their best basketball if they hope to knock off a tough, well-coached Michigan State team.
1- At Arizona (Dec. 9, 2023,)
Ah, to remember the glory days of Wisconsin basketball again. This team isn’t the same as the two Wisconsin teams who made it to a Final Four, but they did knock off the Arizona Wildcats in back-to-back Elite Eight’s to get to those Final Fours.
In the present day, Arizona is leaps and bounds above Wisconsin in terms of talent and recruiting, which could make this the most formidable non-conference game Wisconsin plays all season.
Arizona added highly-touted transfer Caleb Love from North Carolina and has Pelle Larsson and Oumar Ballo returning.
This could be one of those games where Wisconsin has a solid first half before Arizona pulls away in the second.
This won’t be the last matchup between the two schools, as Wisconsin and Arizona are expected to play a home-and-home series. Arizona will be in Madison in the 2024-25 season; that’ll be a good opportunity for Wisconsin to win that matchup on their home floor because I don’t see it happening in Tuscon.
The Wisconsin Badgers have five brutal matchups heading into this season. It will be interesting to see how they look at these top-tier opponents.
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