Nigel Hayes [Getty]
Note: Wisconsin has played two games thus far, overwhelming a cupcake at home and losing to a solid Creighton team on the road, 79-67. Surprisingly, they allowed 1.20 points per possession to the Blue Jays and went 11-39 from three themselves. Turnovers, typically uncharacteristic of Wisconsin teams, were also a problem. Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig led the Badgers in scoring in that game.
It’s hard to believe that Wisconsin opened up the 2015-16 season with a home loss to Western Illinois; they started out 7-5 (with only one of those losses to a tournament team) before Bo Ryan surprisingly retired midseason. Long-term assistant Greg Gard was given a trial run to secure the job permanently, and when the Badgers started conference play 1-4, it looked like the odds of that were slim. Three of those losses were to quality opponents but a loss to Northwestern was particularly tough. It looked like even an NIT bid would require a significant turnaround.
Fast-forward to this offseason and Wisconsin – which returns all five of its starters – is the consensus favorite to win the conference. They responded to that Northwestern loss with a home upset over Michigan State by a single point, and including that game, finished on an extended 11-2 streak to end the regular season – they beat every tournament team in the league except for Purdue. Even with a first round upset loss to Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament, they made it safely into the NCAA Tournament.
[Rest of the preview after the JUMP]