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Breaking down UW's non-conference basketball schedule

While the Big Ten portion of UW's 2009-10 men's basketball schedule won't be released for another month, the non-conference slate was released this morning. Let's break it down:

Wisconsin’s 2009 Non-conference Schedule
Wed. Nov. 4 BEMIDJI STATE (exhib.)
Wed. Nov. 11 UW-SUPERIOR (exhib.)
Sun. Nov. 15 IPFW
Wed. Nov. 18 OAKLAND

Maui Invitational
Mon. Nov. 23- Wed. Nov. 25 vs. TBA (Arizona, Chaminade, Cincinnati, Colorado, Gonzaga, Maryland or Vanderbilt)

Wed. Dec. 2 DUKE (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
Wed. Dec. 9 at Green Bay
Sat. Dec. 12 MARQUETTE
Wed. Dec. 16 CAL-POLY
Wed. Dec. 23 MILWAUKEE

Overall impression: Wisconsin doesn't have a third major non-conference game this season (previously Pitt, Georgia and Texas) but the Maui Invitataional is a step up in class (although it would be easy to argue that the Maui competition is down this year) and Duke is a step up in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. With Marquette at home and with less talent, a 10-2 non-conference record is not out of the question.

Sun. Nov. 15 IPFW - After an 83-55 loss a the Kohl Center in 2007, IPFW head coach Dane Fife put on the best post-game press conference by a visiting coach I have ever seen. He turned the questions around on the reporters asking us who we wanted to win the Michigan-Ohio State game. Naturally, I told him neither. We'll see if he's still as loose this season after the Mastodons fall to the Badgers in Madison again.

Wed. Nov. 18 OAKLAND - I was kind of hoping North Dakota State would be returning to the Kohl Center under Saul Phillips, but instead Oakland, who fell to NDSU in the Summit League Championship will come to Madison. Oakland is a contender every season and could give Wisconsin some fits. Last season they won their first round game in the Post-season Tournament before losing on a buzzer beater to Bradley.

Mon. Nov. 23 - Wed. Nov. 25 Maui Invitational - The schedule has yet to be released but the teams include Arizona, Chaminade, Cincinnati, Colorado, Gonzaga, Maryland and Vanderbilt. There is some good competition here, but we're not talking about the two or three Top 10 teams like we usually see in this tournament. It is surprisingly winnable for Wisconsin, although I wouldn't bet on it.

Wed. Dec. 2 DUKE (Big Ten/ACC Challenge - The Badgers will take a week off to cure their jet lag and get prepared for Duke, a sure Top 10 team that ran the Badgers right out of Cameron Indoor Stadium in an 82-58 beatdown in 2007. The home court advantage gives Wisconsin a chance and depending on how the Maui Invitational goes, this could be a game the entire country is watching intently.

Wed. Dec. 9 at Green Bay - Wisconsin's contract with Green Bay includes two dates in Green Bay every ten years and this is one of them. It will be the only true road game of the non-conference season for Wisconsin, but it shouldn't be a hard one. Wisconsin is now 15-0 all-time in the series including two wins in Green Bay.

Sat. Dec. 12 MARQUETTE - The Golden Eagles will have to rebuild a little bit after losing Wes Matthews, Jerel McNeal and Dominic James but Buzz Williams still has the team pointed in the right direction. It won't be an easy game, but it is one Wisconsin has to win at home.

Wed. Dec. 16 CAL-POLY - Let's just hope Cal-Poly's kicker is a two-sport athlete.

Wed. Dec. 23 MILWAUKEE - Rob Jeter's squad continues to take baby steps. This marks the first of back-to-back games against Horizon League opponents and the first of back-to-back wins against Horizon League opponents.

Sun. Dec. 27 ILLINOIS-CHICAGO - The Flames seem to change personalities several times mid-season every season. This should be a win no matter what, but UIC tends to go through hot streaks so UW will still have to be on their toes.

Initial prediction: Wisconsin goes 10-2 in the non-conference slate with losses to Duke and a loss in the Maui Invitational. Once we know the Maui lineup we will have a better idea of whether or not the Badgers can win the tournament.