Wisconsin Basketball is finally back! After the Australia trip and three exhibitions, Wisconsin’s tilt with South Carolina State will be their first real game of the season. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. Unfortunately, the game will air on BTN Plus and cost $10 to watch, which is ridiculous. But hey, it has been a long off-season, and it is great to have Badger basketball back on TV (kind of).
Now it’s time for the Starting Five, which is the name of our all new preview format in which we give you five interesting facts, stats, observations, or things to watch for the upcoming game.
1. South Carolina State is projected to be the fourth worst team in the country.
Yeah, that’s not very good. Out of 351 division-1 basketball teams, the Pomeroy Ratings projected the Bulldogs to be 348th. This should be a blowout for Wisconsin, which will be a good way for some of the young Badger players to gain some confidence with Yale, Xavier, and Baylor coming up shortly. Look for Greg Gard to tinker with the lineup all game, as he is still likely trying to figure out the best combinations.
2. Potential Nathan Reuvers Redshirt
This will actually be the part of the game that has the biggest impact on not only this season, but the next five seasons of Wisconsin Basketball. The 6’10 power forward was a 247 Sports Composite top-75 player and four-star recruit. However, the Badgers have a lot of depth at power forward and center, so minutes could be hard to come by. In addition, he is still a too skinny for a Big Ten player. For that reason, he has a big decision to make. If he plays, he would likely contribute in garbage time for the first half of the season before getting a few rotation minutes in the second half. But by taking a redshirt season, he could use the time to bulk up, develop, and still have four seasons of eligibility left.
3. Ethan Happ three-pointers
So Ethan Happ shoots three-pointers now. No, seriously. He went 1-2 from beyond the arc in Wisconsin’s exhibition win against University of Northern Iowa. For those of you that need to see it to believe it, here you go.
He will likely have the opportunity to attempt a few tonight. If the Badgers are up big, which they should be, Happ will likely have the green light to fire at will. This type of game is perfect to test out new skills and gain confidence.
4. Frontcourt Rotation
Junior Andy Van Vliet has likely locked up the starting big man spot next to Happ. But after that? The front court rotation is anyone’s guess. Junior Alex Illikainen is the most experienced of those bigs, but he has struggled in live game action. Junior Charles Thomas is huge and has shown flashes but is inconsistent. Redshirt freshman Aleem Ford has loads of talent but hasn’t put it all together yet. All of those guys are fighting for a spot in the rotation, and tonight’s is a great chance to build some early momentum.
5. The Freshman Guards
Freshman guards Kobe King and Brad Davison have generated a huge amount of hype in the preseason. King, like the player he was named after, is a gifted scorer. He can drive, post-up and shoot from beyond the arc and mid-range. Meanwhile, Davison is going to be a fan favorite. He’s a natural leader that will do whatever it takes to win. However, he’s not just a glue guy. He can also be a scorer, as he is a sharpshooter from deep and can use his strength to get to the rim. Tonight will be the first of their many wins as Badgers.
Prediction: Wisconsin 85, South Carolina State 53
Wisconsin is going to win this game, and it won’t be close. I know the Badgers lost their opener two seasons ago to Western Illinois, but that was a completely different situation. First of all, South Carolina State is not a good basketball team. As we established earlier, they are actually one of the worst teams in the country. Second, Wisconsin has a lot of games under its belt. This game is interesting because it is our first actual look at a brand new team, and we don’t really know what to expect. The actual game itself will not be interesting at all.