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Friday, April 12, 2024

Basketball Preview: Five important games you’ll want to watch

Let’s take a look at five games (or tournaments) that fall under the “must-watch” category.

5. Wisconsin at Michigan, Jan. 24

The Badgers’ first true Big Ten road test, Michigan doesn’t have the size to match up with the Badgers down low after losing Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford. Throwing inexperienced freshmen at Frank Kaminsky might not go so well. They also lost Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas, but still have plenty of pieces in place in the backcourt.

Led by Caris LeVert, the Wolverines expect big things out of sophomore point guard Derrick Walton Jr. and breakout candidate Zak Irvin, who is one of the most lethal three-point shooters in the country. This is also the only regular season meeting between these two Big Ten contenders.

4. Wisconsin at Ohio State, March 8

Closing the season in Columbus against the team picked second in the Big Ten by conference beat writers, this game could determine the Big Ten regular season champion. Another opponent who the Badgers will only face once, if there’s one team that has had Wisconsin’s number year-in and year-out, it’s been the Buckeyes.

In a relative down season last year for the Buckeyes, they still managed to win at the Kohl Center. With a completely rebuilt starting lineup, the Buckeyes will rely on Shannon Scott to fill in for Aaron Craft while freshman D’Angelo Russell and sophomore Marc Loving make big strides forward.

3. Battle for Atlantis, Nov. 26-28

In arguably the most stacked field of any non-conference tournament, this Thanksgiving weekend tournament held on Paradise Island in the Bahamas will be a great early season test for just how good the Badgers are. Opening up with a game against UAB, if they can advance, they’ll face the winner of No. 7 Florida vs. Georgetown, potentially creating a pseudo-third place game for last year’s NCAA Tournament.

If the Badgers are able to win their first two games, they will play in the final, likely either against No. 19 Oklahoma or No. 6 North Carolina. A matchup between the Badgers and Tar Heels would be an excellent appetizer for their next home game (our No. 1 game to watch) and a meeting of potential Final Four teams.

2. Wisconsin vs. Michigan State, March 1

Every year, games between the Spartans and the Badgers become “must-watch” games and this year is no exception. On “Senior Day” with three starters (Jackson, Gasser and Kaminsky) and a key contributor off the bench (Dukan) graduating, in addition to Sam Dekker potentially playing his last home game before jetting off to the NBA, the building could get emotional for one of the best classes Wisconsin has ever had.

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Plus, with the Big Ten schedule shaping up as it is, there is a not-insignificant chance the Badgers can lock up the regular season crown with a win here with two games to play.

1. Wisconsin vs. Duke, Dec. 3

One of, if not the best non-conference game in all of college basketball this season, the matchup between the preseason No. 3 Badgers and No. 4 Blue Devils has all the makings for a classic. The last time the Blue Devils came to Madison in 2009, the Badgers won 73-69, which led to “bedlam at the Kohl Center” as the student section streamed onto the court.

While the students will almost definitely stay in their section for this one, expect an amped up crowd from well before the opening whistle as fans prepare to see Player of the Year candidates in Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky battle it out in the post. This would be the game you’ll want to watch.

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