Since 1999 there have been 3 guarantees in life: Death, Taxes and the Wisconsin Badgers in the Men’s NCAA Tournament. After a furious second half of the season in 2015-16 the Badgers fell in the Sweet Sixteen to Notre Dame. They look to turn a new page in 2016-17, led by a trio of Pre-Season First Team All-Big Ten players in Ethan Happ, Bronson Koenig and Preseason Player of the Year Nigel Hayes, the Wisconsin Badgers have some high expectations heading into the first full season under the watch of Head Coach Greg Gard.
The season unofficially kicked off with the annual Red/White scrimmage followed with an exhibition game win this past Sunday against UW-Platteville 86-58 before kicking off the 117th Season in Program history. Here is a rundown of the Non-Conference schedule for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Friday, November 11th Vs Central Arkansas Bears: the Bears from the Southland Conference provide the Badgers with a nice warm up game as they stumbled to a 7-21 record in 2015-2016 posting a 2-14 record away from Conway, AR. The Bears last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2005 when they were at the Division II Level. Prediction: Badgers win by a very large margin.
Tuesday, November 15th @ Creighton Blue Jays: the first real test for the Badgers comes up quickly in the form of the Blue Jays who are picked the finish Third behind defending National Champion Villanova and Xavier (who the Badgers beat in an epic 2nd Round NCAA Tournament game last season) in the historically tough Big East Conference. Maurice Watson Jr. and Marcus Foster provide a tough backcourt one-two punch looking to lead the Blue Jays back to the tournament for the first time since 2014. Prediction: The Badgers veteran squad should have the mettle to pull out a close win, but don’t be surprised if Creighton pulls out a victory.
Thursday, November 17th Vs Chicago State Cougars: since 2013 the Cougars have played in the, once upon a time ago, potent Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Needless to say, they haven’t made much noise since joining and roll into the season ranked dead last in the WAC Preseason rankings with nothing notable to mention. Prediction: Badgers win comfortably but not by as much as one would guess after coming off a tough game at Creighton with a trip to Hawaii on their minds.
2016 Maui Invitational – Maui, Hawaii
Monday, November 21st Vs Tennessee Volunteers: a young Volunteers team comes calling in the opener of the toughest Preseason Tournament in all the land, the Maui Invitational. Featuring only 3 players holding a class distinction older than sophomore, it is no surprise the Volunteers are picked to finish 14th (last place) in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Leading returning scorer Robert Hubbs III (10.6 ppg) and transfer Lew Evans (8.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg at Utah State) along with 16 underclassmen should provide little resistance to the Badgers. Prediction: Unless the Badgers spend too much time at the beach, they should beat Tennessee handedly.
Tuesday, November 22nd Vs Georgetown OR Oregon: Georgetown would be a formidable opponent but Oregon would cause a massive headache for the Badgers. Prediction Badgers face Oregon: Oregon is the top team in the Pacific 12 Conference and is the preseason 5th ranked team in the country and could very well hand the Badgers their first loss of the 2016/17 campaign.
Wednesday, November 23rd Vs Chaminade/Oklahoma State/UConn/North Carolina: UNC, the 6th ranked team in the country would be the favorite but UCONN, ranked 16th, and Oklahoma State traditionally solid all pose a difficult test, if the Badgers can advance.
Sunday, November 27th Vs Prairie View A&M: a middle of the pack Southwestern Athletic Conference Panthers team makes the trip to Madison in the middle of a difficult non-conference stretch for the Badgers. The school known for their epic 80 game losing streak in Football doesn’t expect to provide much competition to such a veteran Badgers squad. Prediction: Badgers by several buckets.
Tuesday, November 29th Vs Syracuse Orange: this year’s opponent in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge proves to be a very large challenge for the Badgers, who are 8-9 all time in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge but defeated the Orange last season in Syracuse in Overtime 66-58. Syracuse is projected to finish 5th in the ultra competitive Atlantic Coast Conference and with the prized recruit in Tyus Battle and Nebraska transfer Andrew White (16.6 ppg last year) they look to cause some havoc come March. Prediction: Syracuse escapes Madison with a close win under the watch of Jim Boheim.
Saturday, December 3rd Vs Oklahoma Sooners: a talented Sooners team who made the Final 4 last season along with a 3rd place in the always challenging Big 12 makes a rare appearance at the Kohl Center. Oklahoma finds itself out of the preseason rankings as the season begins. With last year’s stud Buddy Hield now wearing a New Orleans Pelicans jersey the Sooners have been tabbed to finish 6th in the Big 12. Coach Lon Krueger who is familiar with the Badgers from his time as the Head coach of Illinois from 1996-2000 will embark on duplicating last year’s 65-48 victory over Wisconsin in Norman. Prediction: Badgers bounce back and take down the Sooners by a couple buckets.
Wednesday, December 7th Vs Idaho State: the Big Sky’s Bengals come calling in the middle of a tough stretch for Bucky and bring a team that is definitely not a pushover. Even though they haven’t made the big dance since 1987 but they do have explosive guard Ethan Telfair (brother of former prodigy turned bust Sebastian Telfair) who averaged 20.2 ppg, 5.4 apg and 4.0 rpg a year ago. Prediction: Badgers empty the bench and win big in preparation for the in-state cat fight against Marquette.
Saturday, December 10th @ Marquette: the Badgers travel to Milwaukee seeking revenge for last season’s tough 55-57 loss at the Kohl Center to their bitter in-state rival. It will be Greg Gard’s first time as UW Head Coach in the series as UW leads the all-time matchup 66-56. In what always turns into a tough, gritty game expect both squads to lay it all on the line in the battle for State bragging rights. The problem for Marquette is the Big East is loaded this year. Marquette lost just one noteworthy player (Henry Ellenson), has arguably the best recruited class in the Conference coming in, added two key transfers and is still predicted to finish outside the top half of the standings. Luke Fischer is Marquette’s only true big man presence on a team loaded with wing players which may be an issue over the long season for the Golden Eagles. Prediction: scrappy game that goes back and forth but the Badgers eke out a win at the end.
Wednesday, December 14th Vs Green Bay: UWGB will be the lone Horizon League opponent on the Badgers’ slate this year as they will not face Milwaukee for the first time in 25 years (ironically, after losing to the Milwaukee Panthers in Madison a year ago). Fresh off their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1995, the Fighting Phoenix and Head Coach Linc Darner. Green Bay have usually given the Badgers a tough battle and this year the Phoenix return 6 Seniors and 3 Juniors and are one of the most experienced teams in the Horizon League. Valpo is projected to run away with the League title but don’t be surprised in UWGB gives them a run for their money, led by Senior Charles Cooper who averaged 13.6 ppg and 5.5 rpg on his way to earning First-Team Horizon League honors. Prediction: Badgers win a tough game going away where they final score isn’t indicative of the game.
Friday, December 23rd Vs Florida A&M: The Rattlers, finished dead last in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with an 8-21 record last year and don’t have much to look forward to especially with leading scorer Malcolm Bernard (14.4ppg) transferring. Prediction: Badgers by a ton, most of Florida A&M’s players have probably never seen snow and everyone will have the Christmas break on their mind before conference action starts up against Rutgers on December 27th.