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Breaking Down Wisconsin Basketball’s 2019-’20 Schedule

What will the Badgers face this season?

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Life without Ethan Happ begins this year in Madison. The Badgers will take on the impossible task of replacing one of the most productive players in Big Ten history.

Wisconsin will try to make do with a trio of talented players in D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, and Nate Reuvers. It will be interesting to see how Wisconsin replaces a player so central to their identity over the past 3-4 seasons. The Badgers were pretty much plug and play each year under Bo Ryan, but with successor Greg Gard missing the 2018 NCAA Tournament and getting blown out in the first round to Oregon last season, that reputation could be in question.

Can Gard get this team back to the NCAA Tournament? Let’s take a look at what Wisconsin is up against in an interesting schedule this season.

Wisconsin’s 2019-’20 Schedule

  • 11/5 vs Saint Mary’s
  • 11/8 vs Eastern Illinois
  • 11/13 vs McNeese St
  • 11/17 vs Marquette
  • 11/21 vs Green Bay
  • 11/25 vs Richmond
  • 11/26 vs Auburn/New Mexico
  • 12/4 at NC State
  • 12/7 vs Indiana
  • 12/11 at Rutgers
  • 12/21 vs UW-Milwaukee
  • 12/28 at Tennessee
  • 12/31 vs Rider
  • 1/3 at Ohio State
  • 1/8 vs Illinois
  • 1/11 at Penn State
  • 1/14 vs Maryland
  • 1/17 at Michigan State
  • 1/21 vs Nebraska
  • 1/24 at Purdue
  • 1/27 at Iowa
  • 2/1 vs Michigan State
  • 2/5 at Minnesota
  • 2/9 vs Ohio State
  • 2/15 at Nebraska
  • 2/18 vs Purdue
  • 2/23 vs Rutgers
  • 2/27 at Michigan
  • 3/1 vs Minnesota
  • 3/4 vs Northwestern
  • 3/7 at Indiana

Non-Conference Schedule

Holiday Season Tournament

The Badgers will compete in the Legends Classic in the Barclays Center this season. This four-team tournament consists of Wisconsin, Richmond, New Mexico, and Auburn. The Badgers will first play Richmond on November 25th.

The Spiders have struggled the past two seasons under long-time coach Chris Mooney, but return a top 5 this season with four upperclassmen. KenPom initially has them in the 92nd spot and T-Rank at 91.

Should the Badgers win, they likely will play Auburn. The Tigers are ranked no. 24 in the preseason AP poll and the analytics people are divided on how good they might be this season. KenPom has them at no. 22, and T-Rank all the way down at 94.

There are a lot of teams with some questions heading into this tournament. This might be a big opportunity for Wisconsin to seize some early momentum to propel them into some tougher matchups later in the season.

Gavitt Games

Wisconsin will not participate in the Gavitt Games this season but plays in-state rival Marquette in their annual series this season at the Kohl Center.

The Golden Eagles are receiving votes in the initial AP Poll and are headed by National Player of the Year candidate Markus Howard.

Howard is one of the best scorers in the country. In three previous matchups against the Badgers, he’s averaged 24 points per game. The way Wisconsin defended him last season might be the Badgers’ best approach as well. Howard scored 27 points but took 29 shots. It still equated to a Marquette victory but with the game in the Kohl Center this season that may be enough to sway it in a different direction.

Take a look at some highlights of Howard from last season.

ACC/Big Ten Challenge

The annual ACC/Big Ten competition finds Wisconsin engaging in a rematch with NC State. This time the Badgers will be going to Raleigh to try and take consecutive games in the series. Last season Wisconsin and NC State battled it out to a close 79-75 Badger win in Wisconsin.

The Wolfpack must replace leading scorer Torin Dorn, but return most of the lineup Wisconsin played last year. This should a tough, intense road game for the Badgers. The teams are pretty evenly matched and Wisconsin could use this as a chance to grab a resume-building non-conference win.

NC State is also out for revenge in this one. They led Wisconsin 65-57 with under eight minutes to play in last year’s game only to be outscored 22-8 the rest of the way.

NC State’s top returning player, 6-foot-1 senior Markell Johnson, led the Wolfpack in last year’s game against Wisconsin with 21 points. Take a look at some highlights of his season below.

Conference Schedule

Toughest Stretch

  • 1/14 vs Maryland
  • 1/17 at Michigan State
  • 1/21 vs Nebraska
  • 1/24 at Purdue
  • 1/27 at Iowa
  • 2/1 vs Michigan State

This stretch of play in mid-January to early February gets tough for Wisconsin.

The Badgers play the no. 1 team in the country, Michigan State, twice, another top ten team in Maryland, and visit one of the toughest places in the Big Ten in Purdue. A road game against Iowa also presents a challenge on January 27th.

If Wisconsin can survive this stretch the back-end of the schedule is more manageable. A 3-3 mark here would be respectable and keep Wisconsin aligned with their goals to get to the NCAA Tournament.

Best Chance For An Upset

  • 2/18 vs Purdue

Later on, in February Wisconsin welcomes Purdue to the Kohl Center. The Badgers and Boilermakers played in an OT thriller last season. Purdue won’t have Carsen Edwards around this time (he scored 36 points), but the combo of Matt Haarms and Trevion Williams could hurt Wisconsin in the post.

Still, this is a great opportunity for Wisconsin to earn a potential ranked win over a solid top-4 Big Ten team.

Overall Outlook

It is an interesting schedule for Wisconsin this season. The non-conference slate is full of nice Power 6 wins. Not previously mentioned is a neutral-site game against Saint Mary’s in the first game of the season, and a road game against Tennessee. Wisconsin will need to navigate this tricky non-conference schedule with a lot of questions in the frontcourt. If they can weather that storm and pick up some victories, they will welcome Micah Potter back and need to keep up the momentum in a tough first 10 games in conference play. The back half of conference play is a little more manageable, but still offers some opportunities for nice resume-building wins over teams like Purdue and Ohio State at home.