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Game Preview: Northern Kentucky at Wisconsin

The preseason top-4 Badgers tip-off their season against Northern Kentucky on Friday night in Madison.

Battling mutual opponent Kentucky in last year's Final Four.
Battling mutual opponent Kentucky in last year's Final Four.
Tom Pennington

Matchup: Northern Kentucky University Norse vs. University of Wisconsin Badgers

Date / Time: Friday, November 14th, 9 pm ET / 8 pm CT

Location: Kohl Center, Madison, WI

TV / Radio: Big Ten NetowrkBadger Radio Network

The Badgers will be raising last year's Final Four banner, while starting their 2014-2015 campaign on the road to this year's Final Four. Or more accurately, the Badgers will be adding a date to the ring of the upper deck of the Kohl Center because they took down all the banners. Banner talk aside, this will be the first time most of the nation (call your cable companies if you don't get Big Ten Network, folks!) gets to see the Badgers play this year.

Wisconsin will be without the services of fifth year senior forward Duje Dukan for the game due to super relevant and fair NCAA rules that are in no way silly. The Badger faithful will also be waiting with baited breath to see the starting five that Bo Ryan trots out for the first game of the season and how the rotation shakes out. The rotation won't be set because of Dukan's absence, but that doesn't mean we cant speculate wildly when Bronson Koenig only plays one less minute than Traevon Jackson!

Let's take a minute and learn a little about the Norse, which is a kick-ass nickname.

Getting to know Northern Kentucky

The Norse are members of the Atlantic Sun Conference (home of Dunk City, FL) and are located in Highland Heights, Kentucky, in what I can only assume is the northern part of the state. They have been members of the A-Sun since 2012-2013 and will become a full Division 1 member, and eligible for the NCAA Tournament, starting in 2016.

Last year the Norse finished 9-21 (5-13 in the Atlantic Sun) which placed them eighth in the conference. This year, returning seven of their top eight scorers, the Norse are predicted to finish fifth in the conference. In their first two games of the season last year, NKU lost at Purdue by one point and at Kentucky by 30. 29 points sounds about right as the disparity between Purdue and UK, right? Northern Kentucky is nothing if not the thermometer of college basketball.

Star senior guard Jordan Jackson returns for the Norse after averaging 13.5 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game and 2.9 assists per game. The 6-2 senior from St. Paul, Minnesota will again be counted on to lead the way for the Norse with both scoring at crucial times and setting up teammates to do the same. Sidekick Tyler White is also back for NKU, and the 6-3 guard from Lima, Ohio will look to improve on his 10.8 points per game average.

Northern Kentucky is decidedly guard heavy this year, with no player clocking in over 6-7. While this might cut it in the A-Sun, it probably won't be enough against a Badger lineup that features three (likely) starters over 6-8, including preseason All-America team member, 7-0 Frank Kaminsky. NKU's rebounding margin was -3 last year, and will probably be quite a bit worse against a Badgers team that crashes the boards from all five positions. The one big body that NKU has is 6-7, 250 pound junior forward/center Jared Bryant who transferred from Chatanooga and sat out last year.

What to watch for

This should be a mere tuneup for the Badgers before heading off to the Battle for Atlantis in two weeks. The main things to look for are: what the starting lineup is and what the rotation might look like. Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes should have their way down low against NKU's undersized frontcourt and Sam Dekker should be able to slash at will from the wing, as well as knock down some threes over shorter defenders.

It will be important to see if Traevon Jackson can limit his turnovers against an overmatched opponent and how well Koenig does in relief at the point. The Badgers will want to start their season off with a solid, and dominant, win where they control all facets of the game from the opening tip. The schedule gets much tougher in a few short weeks, so they don't have a whole lot of time to "work out the kinks."

Prediction

The starters watch most of the second half from the bench and the Badgers win comfortably 79-41. Kaminsky leads all scorers with 19 points in limited minutes and Jackson has under 2.5 turnovers. Dekker will throw down one monster dunk and Hayes will give an excellent post-game interview to someone.