The Big Ten Conference released the 2023-24 men's basketball conference league schedule on Tuesday. The Wisconsin Badgers will play 20 Big Ten games in addition to their 12 non-conference games, beginning on Dec. 5 when the Badgers travel to play against No. 5 Michigan State.
Wisconsin has a difficult schedule ahead of them as they will be playing six teams ranked among NCAA’s top 25 teams.
In addition to Michigan State, ranked conference opponents include No. 23 Illinois and No. 2 Purdue, who won last season’s Big Ten regular-season title, Big Ten Tournament and a No. 1 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. The Badgers will face the Boilermakers twice and Illinois once.
Outside of conference games, Wisconsin will face No. 14 Tennessee, No. 6 Marquette and No. 17 Arizona.
Head coach Greg Gard, who was listed in the top 25 coaches by the College Basketball Report, will enter his ninth season with the Badgers this year. His team missed the NCAA tournament last season, finishing the season 20-15 and tying for 11th place in Big Ten standings.
However, the Badgers should not be underestimated. They have high expectations for this year’s season as their roster consists of both returning star players and eager, talented freshmen rookies who look to make their mark on the team.
Returning sophomore Connor Essegian is playing guard for the Badgers. Essegian played in all 35 games last season and started the final 19. He averaged an impressive 11.7 points per game and became the eighth Badger to earn Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors and just the fifth in over the last 25 years to average double figures in their freshman season.
Junior guard Chucky Hepburn also returns to the Badgers after being named an All-Big Ten Freshman in his first season and an honorable mention league honoree as a sophomore. Hepburn averaged 2.8 assists per game last season, and his current 1.98 career assist-to-turnover ratio would rank as the seventh-best mark in school history.
The Badgers will have four seniors on their roster this year, including fifth-year senior forward Tyler Wahl. Wahl, who averaged 11.3 points per game last season, is a player who should be watched out for. He was named one of 20 candidates to the 2023 Julius Erving Award watch list last year, and he has great potential to lead the team with his physicality and mental grit due to his veteran experience.
Another senior playing for the Badgers is Steven Crowl, who averaged 12.1 points per game and more than 20 points in five games last season. He had a notable career-high 36 points in Wisconsin's first-round NIT win over Bradley. Additionally, senior transfer Max Klesmit scored in double figures for Wisconsin in seven of the last 12 games, including 15-plus points in four of the last eight games.
Returning senior forward Carter Gilmore, who played in all 35 games last season, will look to make a difference on this year’s team. Gilmore scored his career-high eight points at Iowa with four field goals.
Several skilled rookies are also joining the Badgers this season.. Freshman John Blackwell was recognized as the 26th-best combo guard in the nation and the third-best prospect in the state of Michigan. Three-star recruit Nolan Winter was the No. 2 basketball recruit in the state of Minnesota, according to 247 Sports. Gus Yalden, another freshman, ranks as a top-100 recruit in the country.
Greg Gard also discussed walk-on Jack Janicki, another highly-rated incoming freshman.
“His hustle, grit and championship mentality will remind Badger fans of many former players that have helped our program sustain a high level of success,” Gard wrote, in discussing the 2023 signing class. “He has always played the game with an underdog mentality and has earned everything that has come his way.”
Taking on such a difficult schedule will be an arduous feat for the Badgers, but it is certainly one that they can handle. Essegian, Hepburn, Crowl, Wahl, Klesmit and Gilmore will be guiding the new additions to the team.
The Badgers have incredible potential this season. Despite last year’s difficult season, this year’s team is promising for not only Wisconsin’s 2023-24 season but also the team’s future.
The Badgers will face off against Michigan State on Dec. 5th at the Breslin Center in their first conference matchup of the season.