Wisconsin begins the 2012-13 season today when it hosts Southeastern Louisiana out of the Southland Conference Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. And we know for sure that the Badgers will get a game in the books because they are smart enough to play their opener in doors.
Two days after the aircraft carrier games set up for Nike-draped, future Badger opponents were canceled, Wisconsin returns to the friendly confines of the Kohl Center in Madison, where the Badgers are 166-14 under Bo Ryan's tutelage. (The Ohio State-Marquette game was canceled outright due to court condensation, while Florida-Georgetown was stopped at halftime for the same reason.)
Much like the other day's exhibition, Wisconsin faces a team with little size to compete with them up front. In 2012, Southeastern Louisiana had its worst season (12-17) in nine years. The Lions have not been to the postseason since 2005.
One bright spot, however, is the return of 6'3" senior guard Brandon Fortenberry this season. Fortenberry is a preseason All-Southland pick despite missing the final 22 games last season to a foot injury. He was granted a medical redshirt to reboot his senior season after averaging 17.6 points per game over the first seven contests a year ago. fortenberry had an outstanding junior season, averaging 11.9 points and 4.2 assists per game to pace the Lions.
Junior transfer Dre Evans is SE Louisiana's new point guard after transferring in from junior college (he also played at Providence as a freshman). At 5-foot-9, Evans should be a fun matchup for George Marshall. Meanwhile, forward Roosevelt Johnson is the leading returning scorer for the Lions after posting averages of 11.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a junior.
In all, SE Louisiana returns eight players with some starting experience. It's hard to truly call a team's roster "deep" if not many of the players are high-quality, but let's just say head coach Jim Yarbrough plays a large rotation. Yet the Lions are not a run-n-gun team by any means, placing toward the low end in tempo at 64 possessions per game last season.
It is expected that the Lions will be one of the lowest-rated opponents Wisconsin will face this season, but the great thing about basketball is that you never know. Bucknell upset Purdue two days ago -- in West Lafayette, no less -- and Michigan State already has an unexpected loss too.
Expect the same starting lineup out of Bo Ryan -- Jared Berggren, Frank Kaminsky and Ryan Evans up front, plus Marshall and Ben Brust in the backcourt. Hopefully Ryan lets the big guys roam for while to impose their will on the undersized Lions. Traevon Jackson and Sam Dekker will most likely be the first of the bench again for UW, just don't expect all 14 Badgers to score in this one.
KenPom win probability: 99% (68-45)
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