Apparently the Big Ten tried to squeeze some hoops into all this pre-football hoopla by releasing its full 2012-13 men's basketball schedule Thursday, perhaps to coincide with the five-year anniversary party its throwing for BTN.
With the release of the Wisconsin's non-conference schedule weeks ago, we already knew the team would be well-prepared for Big Ten play. Now we have the Badgers' full slate for the upcoming season (see below). League play starts slow with a Jan. 3rd tip at home versus Penn State, but starts humming two weeks in with this brutal stretch: at Indiana (1/15), at Iowa (1/19), Michigan State (1/22), Minnesota (1/26), and finally at Ohio State (1/29).
The schedule is flat out great, with some tough road/neutral games, but single-plays again with Indiana, Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern. And even if you didn't ask it audibly, I can sense that you wish you could get a breakdown of the most important regular season games for Bo Ryan's squad, top to bottom.
You are in luck.
#1: Tue, Jan. 15 - Away at Indiana
The only shot Wisconsin has at "big, bad" Indiana (2012 record: 27-9) this year comes on the road at Assembly Hall, which will be an intimidating venue when Hoosiers are cheering for a possible No. 1-ranked team. Just ask John Calipari. Amazingly the Badgers have a 10-game winning streak against IU, which we'd all loooove to see continue at Tom Crean's expense. This single-play contest has major conference title implications.
#2: Wed, Nov. 14 - Away at Florida
Wisconsin's first road trip of the year is a midweek treasure pitting two of the finest football/basketball combo schools in the nation. The Gators (26-11) are a Top 10 preseason pick coming off back-to-back Elite 8 appearances. Talent just oozes out of Gainesville, so this will be very difficult task for Bucky and a huge game for redshirt freshman point guard George Marshall. The backcourt -- even minus NBA lottery pick SG Bradley Beal -- is great, led by Kenny Boynton. Yet, you look at an even more imposing frontline with Patric Young and Erik Murphy. Just the second game of the entire season, it will fairly or unfairly set expectations for UW's ceiling this year.
#3: Sat, Feb. 9 - Home vs. Michigan
Michigan is a trendy pick and maybe even an awakening giant in the conference. It definitely helps Wisconsin that the only '12 meeting with the Wolverines (24-10) is at home, one year removed from getting destroyed in Ann Arbor, 59-41. Michigan lost only complimentary shooters, holds a big edge at point guard now with Trey Burke back, and brought in two stud frontcourt freshmen in Big Dog Jr. and Mitch McGary. Nice opportunity for Ryan Evans, Mike Bruesewitz, Jared Berggren and Sam Dekker to get some national love if they come out on top.
#4: Tue, Jan. 22 - Home vs. Michigan State
Remember this one last year? Clock malfunction on the game-tying, banked 3-pointer?! Let's hope Evans makes a more lasting mark in regulation this year. Though the Spartan big men are improving, Draymond Green is gone. Can't wait to see Evans in a matchup against recovering young buck Branden Dawson for MSU (29-8).
#5: Sat, Dec. 8 - Away at Marquette
The Golden Eagles (27-8) seized control of the rivalry last season, but this intrastate series need no extra fuel. It will always be one of the Top 5 games on the schedule. Last time UW traveled to the Bradley Center, it pulled out a 69-64 win in 2010. Local products Jamil Wilson and Vander Blue must step up in place of DJO and Jae Crowder. Root for Josh Gasser to have a bounce back game.
#6: Wed, Feb. 6 - Home vs. Iowa
The Iowa-Wisconsin border war is back on in two easy steps. First, have the underdog Hawkeyes (18-17) sweep the Badgers for the first time since 1995. Next, have Fran McCaffery successfully poach an important redshirt Badger in a shadowy fashion without ever talking to him. The reception Jarrod Uthoff gets in Madison this winter will only be surpassed by the ones he gets in subsequent years when he actually plays. The home crowd will be amped up for payback in this one.
#7: Sun, Feb. 17 - Home vs. Ohio State
The two sides split meetings last year, both road teams snapping long skids on the other's home court. CBS loves to show the late season Sunday games between Ryan and Thad Matta because both are usually in the hunt for a title at that point. It sounds weird to say either one will be a darkhorse this season, but that could be the case. Hickey fans will have to choose between this contest and the Hockey City Classic vs. Minnesota in Chicago.
#8: Wed, Nov. 28 - Home vs. Virginia (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
Plenty of storylines here. Besides Virginia head coach Tony Bennett's Wisconsin bloodlines, this will be the first meeting between the quasi-protege hot shot vs. the aging master (Bo Ryan). Not to mention a return home for Merrill, Wis. native Paul Jesperson who got a "thanks, but no thanks" from the home state school.
ESPN must be kicking itself for pitting two of the most deliberate offenses in college hoops together in a marquee slot. Purists will love it. The Big Ten is riding a winning streak in the challenge and this will be a swing game that can keep the run alive. The Badgers aim to pull back to .500 in the Challenge record with a win over the Cavs (22-10).
#9: Thu, Mar, 7 - Away at Michigan State
Izzo. 'Nuff said.
#10: Fri, Nov. 23 - Neutral vs. Creighton
Basically a semifinal for the Vegas Invite, the winner will be expected to take the tourney crown the following night. This game is good exposure for UW with a spotlight matchup against National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott, who scored 23 ppg last year for Creighton (29-6). Can the Badgers cook the Bluejays after Thanksgiving?
#11: Sat/Sun, Mar. 2/3 (TBD) - Home vs. Purdue
Purdue (22-13) has had Bo's number more than any other team in the Big Ten. A nice rivalry has ensued, so maybe it's okay that we only play the Boilers once while they reload this season. The Robbie Hummel-era came to an end last March with a heart-stopping collapse against Kansas in the NCAA's second round. This will be Senior Day for Wisconsin.
#12: Jan. 26 - Home vs. Minnesota
Just like in football, the border battle streches back well over 100 meetings with Minnesota (23-15). The Gophers got some momentum back by making it to the NIT finals last year, and they'll get beastly PF Trevor Mbakwe back from a lost season (ACL).
#13: Tue, Jan. 29 - Away at Ohio State
With Jared Sullinger gone, UW might finally have an edge inside on the Buckeyes (31-8). This is yet another big game for Marshall at the point, as he will be hounded by the relentless Aaron Craft. That matchup may swing the game.
#14. Sun, Dec. 2 - Home vs. California
Yet another nice home-and-home series gets its start in 2012, as a part of the tenuous Pac-12/Big 10 scheduling agreement. Cal (24-10) lost a pair of important seniors in Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, but this is still a fortunate pairing from Wisconsin's perspective with regards to strength of schedule. The Badgers don't often play western teams and oddly, UW won't make the return trip to Berkeley until the 2014-15 season. Consider this a great way to get on point before the Marquette clash.
#15: Sat, Jan. 19 - Away at Iowa
Not going to lie, this game this freaks me out after last year's debacle. Iowa runs really well and McCaffery has upgraded the talent significantly. Here's hoping the Badgers show the Hawks slow and steady is sexier.
#16: Sun, Feb. 3 - Away at IllinoisArgh, they scheduled against Super Bowl Sunday. Oh well, make a day of it. Wisconsin is on a roll against Illinois, which will be very guard-heavy this coming season. Will be interesting to see how much was Bruce Weber's fault because there is still some talent on the Illinois (17-15) roster that crashed and burned late last season.
#17: Thu, Feb. 14 - Away at MinnesotaValentine's Day is for lovers ... and for bitter rivals. It's always important to keep the border dogs under your thumb. Another sweep would be perfect. Sadly, this will be the final game for Berggren and Bruesewitz to get a win against their home state school (though Jordan Smith and incoming recruit Riley Dearring can carry that torch).
#18: Sat, Jan. 12 - Home vs. IllinoisPutting both games Illinois games on the weekend allows those FIBs to trek up in droves to Madison. But the Illini fans are mostly of the fairweather or delusional variety, so they shouldn't pose a threat in Year 1 of the John Groce Era.
#19: Sat, Nov. 24 - Neutral vs. Arizona State or Arkansas (Las Vegas Invitational)If all goes well, Bucky gets Arkansas (18-14) in the championship, but this could be a depressing consolation game. Either way, UW will play a major conference team it's never played before. Would prefer to see the Hogs and Mike Anderson's version of "40 minutes of hell" over the Sun Devils (10-21) because it would be a great contrast and good preparation for tournament time. The game falls on the same Saturday as the Badger football finale at Penn State. Given the massive upheaval in State College, that game won't be as important as it once was. If the TBD kickoff time is just an afternoon game, you won't have to choose.
#20: Wed, Jan. 3 - Home vs. Penn StateTypically the matchups with PSU (12-20) have been among the ugliest games of the year, including the infamous Big Ten tourney exit two years ago. Wisconsin is gunning for a 10th consecutive league-opening win, against a team who's never won in the Kohl Center.
#21: Sun, Nov. 18 - Home vs. Cornell (Las Vegas Invitational)Though the Cornell game kicks off the Las Vegas Invitational, the Badgers host the Big Red (12-16) at the Kohl Center. Problem is, the Green Bay Packers travel to Detroit for a Week 11 divisional matchup that may have playoff implications (no, seriously), so Wisconsin crowd may lack a stellar effort. But those fans who do show will be out for blood, as the home team seeks revenge for one of the most disappointing losses in recent Wisconsin history. Fifth-seeded Cornell dismantled fourth-seeded Wisconsin in the 2010 NCAA tournament. Ick. Cleansing needed.
#22: Wed, Feb. 20 - Away at NorthwesternDeath. Taxes. Bad rebounding at Northwestern. We can count on these things. The Wildcats (19-14) still have not made an NCAA Tournament, despite having some of their best teams of late. They'll regress this season without John Shurna. Always a fun time to make the short drive and overtake an opponent's own arena.
#23: Sat, Dec. 22 - Home vs. UW-MilwaukeeWisconsin has lost but once ever to the Panthers (20-14) and this year should be more of the same. Now that Butler has fled the Horizon League, Rob Jeter's team hopes to get over that NCAA hump. I really like that Bo Ryan has prioritized getting the Div. 1 state teams on the schedule annually, so you can follow the Wisconsin kids who wind up somewhere other than Madison.
#24: Sun, Mar. 10 - Away at Penn StateWinning on the road in this league is always a plus. The Nittany Lions are too young to factor into the Big Ten race. But Tim Frazier is fun to watch.
#25: Tue, Feb. 26 - Home vs. NebraskaThe Badgers welcomed Nebraska (12-18) to the Big Ten with a sweep last year and I expect an even harder sweepage this season. The Huskers will be awful, so it won't take a surprising nailbiter like UW's 50-45 win at Kohl last January.
#26: Wed, Dec. 12 - Home vs. UW-Green BayThe Badgers have a history of slipping up against the Phoenix (15-15), but not at home where they are 15-0. Seven-footer Alec Brown has NBA potential and there are several former Wisconsin prep stars on the roster, but maybe Green Bay should send their women's team for a better challenge.
#27: Sun, Jan. 6 - Away at NebraskaI don't suppose many folks will travel to Lincoln for a Sunday tilt, but this will be the last time Bucky plays inside the Bob Devaney Sports Center, which will be replaced by the sparkling new Pinnacle Bank Arena in the fall of 2013.
#28: Sun, Nov. 11 - Home vs. Southeastern LouisianaYeah, Packers have a bye! Enjoy the home opener versus the Lions (12-17) on a Sunday with no conflict.
#29: Tue, Nov. 20 - Home vs. Presbyterian (Las Vegas Invitational)Another team relatively new to Div. 1 (2007-'08), and nicknamed the Blue Hose (14-15) at that! Who knew they'd let a church team into the Vegas Invite?
#30: Sat, Dec. 29 - Home vs. SamfordThis final non-con tuneup is nestled between Christmas and New Year's -- pleeeease show up to the game folks. Not that it matters against the Bulldogs (11-19) ...
#31: Tue, Dec. 4 - Home vs. Nebraska-OmahaQuick get your tickets now! This may be the first and last time in eternal history that the basketball and hockey teams play Nebraska-Omaha in the same season. Take that WCHA! The independent Mavericks (11-18) were new to D-1 last season.
NR: Wed, Nov. 7 - Home vs. UW-Oshkosh (exhibition)
Badgers invite a WIAC opponent to the "Herb Garden" for the eighth-straight year, but the Titans finished a brutal 0-16 in the WIAC last season.
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Date / Opponent
NOV. 7 UW-OSHKOSH (Exhibition)
NOV. 11 SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA
Nov. 14 at Florida
NOV. 18 Cornell (LVI)
NOV. 20 Presbyterian (LVI)
Las Vegas Invitational – Las Vegas, Nev. (Orleans Arena)
Nov. 23 vs. Creighton
Nov. 24 vs. Arizona State or Arkansas
NOV. 28 VIRGINIA (BIG TEN/ACC Challenge)
DEC. 2 CALIFORNIA
DEC. 4 NEBRASKA OMAHA
Dec. 8 at Marquette
Dec. 12 UW-GREEN BAY
DEC. 22 UW-MILWAUKEE
DEC. 29 SAMFORD
JAN. 3 PENN STATE
Jan. 6 at Nebraska
JAN. 12 ILLINOIS
Jan. 15 at Indiana
Jan. 19 at Iowa
JAN. 22 MICHIGAN STATE
JAN. 26 MINNESOTA
Jan. 29 at Ohio State
Feb. 3 at Illinois
FEB. 6 IOWA
FEB. 9 MICHIGAN
Feb. 14 at Minnesota
FEB. 17 OHIO STATE
Feb. 20 at Northwestern
FEB. 26 NEBRASKA
MARCH 2-3 PURDUE
March 7 at Michigan State
March 10 at Penn State