The Badgers should be feeling pretty darn good about their schedule for next season. The Big Ten released all schedules last Thursday, and while the Badgers have a challenging non-conference slate, things could be a lot worse for their conference battles.
A fancy and clean version of the whole schedule is right HERE for your perusal.
For my more detailed non-conference takes, I wrote this a few weeks ago. While little of importance has changed, we now know exactly what will go down. Their first 5 games will be at home, starting with UW-Parkside and Northern Kentucky. Both should be a breeze. UT-Chattanooga's tallest player is 6'8", so the Badgers shouldn't have a problem destroying the Mocs (apparently that's short for Mockingbird - read about the rich history of their name here).
Next, UW-Green Bay and Boise State come to Madison. Last season, UW-GB was 75th and Boise State was 79th in the final Kenpom ranking, so both will bring solid squads. However, Green Bay no longer has 7'1" center Alec Brown to protect the inside. Without him, the Badgers should take care of the Phoenix. Boise State had a great offense last season, led by Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic. That's a game that could get interesting. I would be surprised if the Badgers blow that one, but do not sleep on the Broncos.
Then, the hard part. The Battle 4 Atlantis and Duke. This handy-dandy tweet explains who the Badgers could face at Paradise Island.
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) August 6, 2014
Those are some historically great teams, and Wisconsin will be tested. But thankfully, Wisconsin won't be playing any of those teams on the road. They'll either be at a neutral side in Atlantis (although I hear the mermaids are big Oklahoma fans) or at home against Duke. Right now, we just don't know how Duke's freshman class will adapt to the college game. Because of that, it's hard to make any predictions. Don't worry, as we'll cover that in thorough detail when the time comes.
After that, they travel to Milwaukee to play Marquette and UW-Milwaukee and eventually travel out west to play California. On December 28, they wrap up their non-conference slate by hosting Buffalo on December 31. Ultimately, I struggle to see them repeating last season and going undefeated in the non-con. I think the Battle 4 Atlantis could trip them up and Duke will be Duke. I'm predicting 1 loss in the non-conference. I don't know when or where that loss will come, but think that they'll go down at least once.
At long last, Big Ten play begins. First, let's see who they play twice (both home and away).
- Penn State (Home - 12/31; Away - 2/18)
- Northwestern (Home - 2/7; Away - 1/4)
- Nebraska (Home - 1/15; Away - 2/10)
- Iowa (Home - 1/20; Away - 1/31)
- Minnesota (Home - 2/21; Away - 3/5)
That's a fantastic draw. To only play teams like Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State once is a major coup for next season. Don't get me wrong, Iowa and Nebraska have strong teams and Minnesota is always a tough rivalry game. But Penn State and Northwestern are significantly easier than some other Big Ten teams.
As always, the Badgers' conference schedule ebbs and flows in terms of easiness. They'll start soft by playing a murder's row of Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue and Rutgers to start. But once the halfway point of January hits, the Badgers enter a tough stretch. They host Nebraska and Iowa and then travel to Michigan and Iowa. Wisconsin beat both Michigan and Iowa on the road last season, but the back-to-back nature of those games could give them a fright. For what it's worth, the Badgers fell into their rut in mid-to-late January last season. Could it happen again?
February also fluctuates between easy and hard. They host both Indiana and Northwestern to begin the month, then travel to Nebraska. Both the Indiana and Nebraska will be on ESPN's Super Tuesday, and could be tough.The game I'm most looking forward to will be at Maryland at the end of the month. Maryland crowds are notoriously loud and crazy, and now that they're in the Big Ten, they'll be looking for a new rival. No better team to choose from than a Final Four-caliber team. I hope Wisconsin-Maryland blossoms into a fun rivalry, so that could be the beginning of an era.
Things don't get any easier as the regular season ends. They host Michigan State, then head on the road to Minnesota and Ohio State to wrap it all up. While that's a challenging finale, Badger fans should be thankful that their conference schedule isn't that bad. Yes, road games at Michigan, Nebraska, Maryland and Ohio State won't be easy, but things could be worse.
Expectations are high in Madison, but the Badgers' schedule is very manageable. If they can survive Atlantis, late January and early March with minimal damage, they'll be in great shape for the NCAA Tournament.