Wisconsin Badgers basketball season preview
The Wisconsin Badgers should have their sights set on big things in the 2020-21 college basketball season. Wisconsin opened up as the No. 7 team in the AP Top 25 poll, the highest ranking to start a season since Greg Gard took over as head coach full time in 2016.
The Badgers had a fascinating season last year, with plenty of twists and turns. Wisconsin held a 12-9 overall record when one of their best players, Kobe King, quit the team in late January. The Badgers responded by winning 9 of their last 10 games, including their final 8, to earn a tie for the B1G title. Wisconsin would’ve been the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament had it not been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Wisconsin returns everybody of importance from last season’s roster, aside from Brevin Pritzl, who ran out of eligibility. Expectations should be high in Madison for the 2020-21 season.
I watch every second of every Wisconsin basketball game, and it took a long time for me to make a decision on this. The Badgers do not have a clear No. 1 guy, but I’m going to go with big man Nate Reuvers as the team’s best player this season. He is a 6-foot-11 senior who can do just about everything fairly well.
Reuvers led Wisconsin last season with 13.1 points per game in a balanced offense that saw 7 players average 8 points or more. He needs to be more aggressive in rebounding the ball and can have issues with fouls and turnovers, but he is a solid defender, averaging 1.9 blocks per game last year to rank 6th in the conference. He is 11 blocks away from setting the school record for career blocked shots, held by Frank Kaminsky.
There could be plenty of debate for the best Badger this season, but my vote goes to Reuvers.
Wisconsin fans shouldn’t see too many new faces, with a ton of players back who saw plenty of time in the rotation. The Badgers’ top 7 returning players should see the floor quite a bit, but there is room for others to contribute. Wisconsin did not bring in any transfers, so let’s go with freshman Johnny Davis, who was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin last season playing at La Crosse Central High School.
Davis is a 3-star prospect, according to the 247Sports Composite, and joined Wisconsin with his twin brother Jordan in the recruiting class of 2021. Johnny Davis is a 6-foot-4 guard who had offers from Marquette, Iowa, Minnesota and others. He should be able to provide the Badgers with scoring off the bench.
Forwards Ben Carlson and Steven Crowl have plenty of potential to be a big part of the Badgers’ future. But Wisconsin is pretty loaded with big guys, so they’ll have to wait their turn to see a significant amount of playing time.
Wisconsin has a very veteran team with plenty of experience. There is an eligibility freeze this basketball season, so it’s possible some of these players will come back next year. But most of their contributions will be from seniors this season, including Reuvers, Micah Potter, D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Aleem Ford and Trevor Anderson. Everybody has his own role, and they come together as a solid unit.
The NCAA forced Potter to sit out Wisconsin’s first 10 games of last season after sitting out the previous season, transferring from Ohio State. There still hasn’t been much of an explanation as to why that happened, but that’s a topic for another day. He came in and made a huge impact for Wisconsin, and after King left, the Badgers rallied together as a program and played very well, eventually winning the B1G.
Wisconsin figured out how to win together, and that will be huge coming into this season with a roster filled with veteran players.
I’m pretty excited about this team, but there are a few places to be concerned about if you’re a Wisconsin fan. While everybody on the floor will be able to shoot from long range and Wisconsin should be good on the defensive end, the Badgers lack a go-to player right now. There is not an obvious guy who can take the ball late in the shot clock or late in a tight game and who can create and get his own shot. Maybe that ends up being Trice running the point, or maybe it’s getting the ball to Reuvers to make something happen. Wisconsin has plenty of time to figure that out during the regular season, but hopefully, a No. 1 option can develop over the course of the year.
The B1G released its schedule just this week, and I’m sure there will be plenty of changes as we continue to battle with the coronavirus. The Badgers’ schedule includes 6 non-conference games, with the possibility of adding a 7th. Wisconsin will get their season going on Wednesday against Eastern Illinois at home. They will also see Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Green Bay, Marquette, Louisville and Northern Iowa in the non-conference slate, as of now.
The conference portion of the schedule will get started on Dec. 21 when Wisconsin hosts Nebraska. In their 20-game B1G schedule, the Badgers will see 6 opponents just once, including road games at Michigan State, Rutgers and Purdue with single home matchups with Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio State. Every other team in the conference, Wisconsin will play twice home and away. The Badgers close out their regular season with a road matchup at Iowa on March 7.
Wisconsin has the depth and talent to make a deep run during the NCAA Tournament. For many of the players, this may be their last year of playing college basketball, so it should be fun to see how the entire season plays out. Wisconsin’s expectations for March Madness should be in the Sweet 16 at the very least, with a trip to the Final Four as a goal. This is a realistic hope for this Wisconsin team.