Wednesday, along with the first fully in-person classes the University of Wisconsin-Madison has seen in over a year, the Big Ten added to the excitement by unveiling its 2020-2021 basketball schedule.
The schedule brings out feelings of uncertainty for many fans, with the Badgers’ squad looking far different from the battle-hardened group of veterans Greg Gard had last season. Even with their youth, the Badgers are far from unfamiliar with the same mold of tall Midwest players complemented by fast, skilled guards from the refined prep school ranks in the South and East Coast.
In the Kohl Center, this season will be one of Gard’s best-recruiting classes. Additionally, the Badgers have utilized the transfer portal this offseason, acquiring transfers such as Chris Vogt and Jahcobi Neath. During the offseason, Brad Davison announced he is returning to the team for one final season. The fifth-year senior has played 4,000 minutes in his Badger uniform.
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Overall, the Badgers are shrouded in uncertainty about their ability to perform at young ages and see if their young core doesn’t melt in the crucible of the Big Ten.
Given this uncertainty, the next step is to break down the first games leading into winter break, trying to put together an accurate prediction of an opening month that will most likely be a complete rollercoaster.
The Badgers’ Big Ten schedule does not start softly as they host an underrated Indiana team. The Hoosiers match up as basically anti-Wisconsin with no shortage of upperclassmen. The Hoosiers not only have the Karl Malone award finalist and leaper Trayce Jackson-Davis, but they also added Miller Kopp who lit it up for Northwestern last season.
Ultimately, the Badgers will need to contain Jackson-Davis, a task that will test young center Steven Crowl and introduce fans to Vogt as a Micah Potter-level addition to the team.
The good news for the Badgers is that following Indiana, they go on the road against an equally youthful Ohio State squad. Ohio State gives both Crowl and Vogt a chance at either redemption or continued dominance, a real possibility given Vogt’s height and Crowl’s natural talent.
Ohio State’s Kyle Young has produced enough on the floor to be one of the best rebounding power forwards in the Big Ten. Apart from Young, the game will come down to guard play with Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis having to earn buckets against Ohio State’s Jamari Wheeler, one of the best defenders in the Big Ten during his time at Penn State.
The first two games of the Big Ten schedule leave the Badgers with what will be a truly coming-of-age narrative. Following the winter break, the Badgers run the gauntlet playing teams with highly recruited players from teams such as Purdue, Michigan State and Maryland.
The Big Ten season is a mountain for any team to climb. Given the youth and incredible upside of the Badger squad, the sky is the limit for what could be a highly successful Big Ten season that hinges significantly on the outcome of the first two heavyweight opponents of the season.
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