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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, January 24, 2022
Ford Sports

The Badgers struggled to shoot in Brooklyn, shooting 17 percent from behind the arc in the two games. 

How the Big Ten shapes up around Badgers as they open season against St. Mary's

Basketball season is back as the Badgers prepare to officially kick things off on the road against St. Mary’s on Tuesday, November 4. Wisconsin began play this year with an 82-53 victory over UW La Crosse during in an exhibition game Friday night. However, although the Badgers took care of business Friday night, so did the rest of the Big Ten conference.

The Badgers will face a tough and competitive Big Ten conference this year, as is to be expected. In the AP preseason polls, there are four Big Ten teams ranked in the top 25. Undoubtedly, Michigan State will likely be one of the toughest opponents Wisconsin faces this season as the Spartans claim the No. 1 ranking. Michigan will return much of its Final Four roster, including senior point guard Cassius Winston, who averaged 18 points in the 2018-19 season. The Spartans took care of business during its exhibition game, defeating Albion 85-50.

Coming in next in the pre-season polls for the Badgers is No. 7 Maryland. The Terrapins took down Fayetteville 76-43 in their exhibition matchup, but struggled significantly at the line. Maryland lost out on some points from the line as it went 16-30. Maryland also returns its star player, senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. who led the team last season with an average of 15 points per game. Donta Scott and Makhi Mitchell are two new faces expected to appear in regular rotation for Maryland this season.

Sitting at No. 18 comes the Ohio State Buckeyes. Having demolished Cedarville 95-52, junior forward Kaleb Wesson led the way with 23 points, going 3-4 from behind the arc. Following close behind was freshman guard D.J. Carton with 15 points. Wesson was a top scorer for the Buckeyes last season, and with the addition of a potential explosive offensive player like Carton, the Badgers will have to apply extra pressure to the three-point perimeter when it comes time to face Ohio State.

Wrapping up ranked Big Ten opponent play is No. 23 Purdue. The Boilermakers defeated Southern Indiana 88-59, bringing them to 26-0 in exhibition games under coach Matt Painter. Purdue was explosive on the offensive end, putting up 54 points in the first half alone, which is the most scored in first half play under Coach Painter. Sophomore forward Aaron Wheeler and junior center Matt Haarms led the Boilermakers on offense, putting up 17 and 16 points, respectively. 

Although those are the only ranked opponents so far, the season has just begun. Out of the Big Ten teams who have already played their exhibition games, all have walked away with a win. In Minnesota’s victory, its offense was on fire as all nine players who saw the floor in the first half scored. The Gophers were led by redshirt junior guard Payton Willis with 14 points. Northwestern put up the most points in its 105-64 victory over Gannon, accumulating 6 players in double-digits. Nebraska’s offense also stemmed from multiple players as it too had 6 players in double figure scoring. Lastly, Michigan has always been a top contender, but with an injury expected to keep the highly-touted freshman guard Franz Wagner out for 4-6 weeks, the Wolverines will need to find another player to make up for the points that forward Ignas Brazdeikis put up for them last season. 

As for Wisconsin, there are a lot of “if this happens” which will determine the team’s success this year. For example, if junior forward Nate Reuvers can truly replace Ethan Happ’s presence in the paint, while knocking down shots consistently from behind the arc, that will be a big offensive boost for the Badgers who struggled with shooting the ball late in the 2018-19 season. Additionally, if junior forward Aleem Ford breaks out as the star player many have anticipated, that will be yet another offensive outlet for the team. 

Overall, Wisconsin will face a number of tough Big Ten teams this season, all of which offer height in the paint and players who can knock down the shot from behind the arc. The Badgers will rely on D'mitrik Trice, Brad Davison and Brevin Pritzl to shoot the ball well, and Reuvers and freshman Tyler Wahl to clean it up in the paint as they officially start the season this week. 

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