The day has, at long last, arrived. For the first time since the national championship game in April, the Wisconsin Badgers will take the court in a game that actually counts when they tip off against Western Illinois Friday night at the Kohl Center.
As of now, from what they have said, at least, not even the players know what the rotation after the first seven will be for head coach Bo Ryan. With that unpredictability still looming, why not try to do the impossible and predict the outcome of every Wisconsin basketball game this season? The non-conference picks are below; you can find the Big Ten predictions right here.
Looking back, if the season plays out as the predictions say, you would have to call it a success given the amount of talent the Badgers lost from last season.
Non-conference prediction: 11-2
Nov. 13 vs. Western Illinois, 8 p.m.
No game is ever an automatic (oh hey, Iowa), but the season opener against the Leathernecks is a good game for the Badgers to figure different things out within themselves. The Leathernecks finished 8-20 overall and last in the Summit League last season. Junior guard Garret Covington was named to the preseason first-team All-Summit League. He's their best threat, but it can take him a high volume of shots to get his points.
Prediction: Badgers 79, Leathernecks 55
Nov. 15 vs. Siena, 7 p.m.
Siena opens the season traveling to both contestants in last year's championship game. Yikes. The Saints went 11-20 last season, but were without a key piece to their team in center Imoh Silas. Once again, you expect the Badgers to come away with a win fairly easily, though Siena could be a MAAC dark horse this year.
Prediction: Badgers 82, Siena 64
Nov. 17 vs. North Dakota, 7 p.m.
Maybe Frank Kaminsky will return to drop 43 points on the team formerly known as the Sioux. Then again, maybe he won't and Ethan Happ will. The fact that North Dakota doesn't have a nickname isn't helping the fact that it projects to be one of the worst Division I teams this season.
Prediction: Badgers 85, Fighting Hawks/Rough Riders/That College That's Good at Hockey 54
Nov. 20 vs. Georgetown, 4 p.m. (2K Classic, New York)
Under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, Wisconsin faces a rematch with a Georgetown team that nearly handed the Badgers their first loss of 2014-15 at the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Hoyas seem like a virtual lock for anywhere from second to fourth place in the Big East this year. We know that D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera can stroke it after lighting up the Badgers for 29 points while hitting five of six three-pointers last year.
Thankfully for Wisconsin, human bowling ball Joshua Smith is gone, but Georgetown's frontcourt is still formidable with the underrated Isaac Copeland and freshman Jessie Govan getting most of the minutes. This might be the most even matchup the Badgers face all season.
Prediction: Badgers 64, Hoyas 63
Nov. 22 vs. Duke/VCU, 12/2:30 p.m. (2K Classic, New York)
A win against Georgetown would move the Badgers onto the 2K Classic Championship, which will likely be a rematch of the national title game.
Both teams lost a lot from last year's teams, but the Blue Devils, per usual, reloaded and are actually ranked first by Ken Pomeroy. Duke's freshman trio of Brandon Ingram, Luke Kennard and Derryck Thornton can do some major damage. It will have a much different feel than the game nearly eight months prior in Indianapolis, but it's difficult seeing the Badgers pull out a win against another loaded Duke team.
Prediction: Duke 71, Badgers 62
Nov. 25 vs. Prairie View A&M, 7 p.m.
For reference, the SWAC has four of KenPom's nine-lowest rated teams in all of college basketball to open the season. Prairie View A&M is one of them.
Prediction: Badgers 92, Panthers 52
Nov. 29 at Oklahoma, 1:30 p.m.
Hey, look! Another team the Badgers beat in the Battle 4 Atlantis last season.
Buddy Hield is my pick to win Big 12 Player of the Year and is a quiet contender for National Player of the Year -- kid is good. Really good. Throw in Isaiah Cousins, Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin, and you have a very formidable basketball team. This game is also in Norman, which doesn't help the Badgers.
Wisconsin's best chance comes from forcing Oklahoma into a rough shooting afternoon.
Prediction: Sooners 74, Badgers 68
Dec. 2 at Syracuse, 6:15 p.m.
As a part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Wisconsin was dealt a road trip to the Carrier Dome against a borderline NCAA tournament Orange team. Syracuse struggled to score last season, but this year's roster is significantly improved. There aren't really any black holes offensively.
We know that the Badgers can shoot any team's zone down; it's just a matter of how many possessions won't end in a shot. If Wisconsin keeps the turnovers down, it should walk away with a nice non-conference road win.
Prediction: Badgers 61, Orange 55
Dec. 5 vs. Temple, 11:30 a.m.
The tough stretch for the Badgers continues. Temple is no cakewalk, especially with Fran Dunphy at the helm. The Owls finished third in the American Athletic Conference last season and reached the NIT semifinals. They look to be competitive as a possible bubble team again this season.
Prediction: Badgers 77, Owls 65
Dec. 9 vs. UW-Milwaukee, 8 p.m.
The in-state rivalry game with Rob Jeter's Panthers is always a good time. UWM could be very dangerous in the Horizon League this season. Conference rebounding leader Matt Tiby returns along with three previously redshirted forwards, including Austin Arians. They return six of their seven best players from a year ago when they sat out the postseason due to NCAA sanctions in addition to those three redshirts and talented freshman class.
Given all this, Wisconsin should still breeze to a home-court win.
Prediction: Badgers 82, Panthers 60
Dec. 13 vs. Marquette, 12:30 p.m.
Another rivalry with a team from Milwaukee. After two down seasons, Marquette is right back in bubble contention. Freshman Henry Ellenson will make an immediate impact. Duane Wilson and Luke Fischer established themselves as solid players for the Golden Eagles last season. They lost Matt Carlino, Juan Anderson and Derrick Wilson, but Steve Wojciechowski's squad will benefit from having more than seven active players.
It seems like these two teams always play a close game.
Prediction: Badgers 72, Golden Eagles 68
Dec. 15 vs. Texas A&M Corpus-Christi, 8 p.m.
As a No. 15 seed in the 2007 NCAA tournament, the Islanders were leading the second-seeded Badgers by eight at the half.
Let's not have that happen again.
Prediction: Badgers 76, Islanders 50
Dec. 23 vs. UW-Green Bay
No Keifer Sykes for the Phoenix this season, and that's a big blow for Linc Darner's team. They return two starters, one of whom is a top-tier defender in Jordan Fouse, but have plenty of question marks after that.
Prediction: Badgers 75, Phoenix 46