Ed. note: Basketball season is back, and how sweet it is.
Curtis Hogg already previewed Wisconsin's non-conference slate, which begins Friday night at the Kohl Center against Western Illinois. A two-loss campaign is his pick as of now, but of course, so much remains to be settled with this Badgers team. How will the starting five shake out, and what's the rotation like after the top seven players? Which freshmen will see early playing time? Are Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig capable of filling the void left by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker?
Looking even further ahead to Big Ten play is a risky proposition, but hey -- this is the internet, and this is what we do. Check out Curt's conference predictions below and be sure to add your own in the comments.
Big Ten conference prediction: 12-6
Dec. 29 vs. Purdue, 6 p.m.
The Boilermakers return 7-footer A.J. Hammons and 7'2 center Isaac Haas in addition to forward Vince Edwards and a deep group of guards. Matt Painter also nabbed the ninth-rated freshman in the country in forward Caleb Swanigan, as if their frontcourt wasn't loaded without him. Watching Purdue's bigs battle with Ethan Happ, Hayes, Charlie Thomas and Vitto Brown will be fun.
Early on in winter break, the Kohl Center won't be its usual self. Purdue could take this game with its stellar frontcourt.
Prediction: Boilermakers 64, Badgers 61
Jan. 2 vs. Rutgers, 1 p.m.
Rutgers is bad.
Prediction: Badgers 82, Scarlet Knights 56
Jan. 5 at Indiana, 6 p.m.
The Hoosiers' roster is stacked with talent. Yogi Ferrell could be Big Ten Player of the Year, and his supporting cast is loaded with Troy Williams, James Blackmon Jr., Thomas Bryant, Max Bielfeldt, Nick Zeisloft, Robert Johnson and Collin Hartman. Offensively, there are so many threats. This team could make a run, but alas, Tom Crean is its head coach.
Assembly Hall can be a challenge for any opponent and Indiana's depth may prove to be too much as Wisconsin opens up 1-2 in conference play.
Prediction: Hoosiers 70, Badgers 65
Jan. 9 vs. Maryland, 11 a.m./Noon
Maryland opens up ranked third in the AP Top 25 with Big Ten preseason Player of the Year Melo Trimble. Freshman center Diamond Stone won't exactly get a friendly greeting at the Kohl Center after spurning the Badgers for the Terrapins last spring. Dion Wiley will be out for the season, which hurts Mark Turgeon's squad.
If the Terps win at North Carolina on Dec. 1, it's very likely that they come into the Kohl Center undefeated. A No. 1 team playing at the Kohl Center? UPSET SPECIAL, BABY.
Prediction: Badgers 64, Terrapins 59
Jan. 12 at Northwestern, 6 p.m.
The Wildcats are a capable but undersized team coming into the season. Vic Law is out for the season with a torn labrum, but Tre Demps, Alex Olah and Bryant McIntosh present a formidable trio. This team may not make the tournament, but expect at least one or two upsets out of Northwestern. Wisconsin will try to avoid one of them.
Prediction: Badgers 72, Wildcats 60
Nov. 7 vs. Michigan State, 12:30/3:30 p.m.
If the Hoyas are the most evenly-matched team the Badgers will play, then Michigan State deserves some consideration. Denzel Valentine leads the Spartans and a top recruiting class, along with Bryn Forbes, will make Tom Izzo's team, once again dangerous in March. Luckily for Wisconsin, this game isn't in March as the Badgers grind out a win behind a big performance from Hayes.
Prediction: Badgers 59, Spartans 56
Jan. 21 at Penn State, 7 p.m.
Penn State won all of four Big Ten games last season and lost three starters, including DJ Newbill. For the Nittany Lions to beat the Badgers in this one, Wisconsin would have to play fairly poorly. I'll take my chances of the Badgers rattling off their fifth straight win.
Prediction: Badgers 77, Nittany Lions 67
Jan. 26 vs. Indiana, 6 p.m.
By this point, the Badgers haven't lost since their trip to Indiana three weeks ago. Wisconsin hasn't lost at home to Indiana since I was a small child, and that won't end here.
Prediction: Badgers 66, Hoosiers 62
Jan. 31 at Illinois, 6:30 p.m.
This could be a tricky game for the Badgers. The Illini don't have an incredibly strong frontcourt last season, and Wisconsin took advantage. Their guard play, however, is even better this year. Wisconsin's six-game winning streak ends in Champaign.
Prediction: Illini 75, Badgers 66
Feb. 4 vs. Ohio State, 6 p.m.
The Buckeyes are a young, albeit talented, team. You aren't going to replace D'Angelo Russell, but Jaquan Lyle could step in nicely as a freshman. They'll be on the bubble in 2015-16, but could be a major contender next season.
In Madison, Wisconsin waltzes to a comfortable win.
Prediction: Badgers 72, Buckeyes 57
Feb. 10 vs. Nebraska, 6 p.m.
Nebraska is in the midst of a rebuild and likely facing a season under .500. It would take an impressive effort to beat Wisconsin on the road.
Prediction: Badgers 78, Huskers 60
Feb. 13 at Maryland, 5 p.m.
Even with one of the nation's toughest projected schedules, this could be Wisconsin's hardest game. At Maryland in mid-February, when the Terps are likely to be clicking. Then again, it could turn out that we've overrated them and the Badgers could walk out with a big win.
What is for certain is the Xfinity Center will be rocking.
Prediction: Terrapins 71, Badgers 60
Feb. 18 at Michigan State, 8 p.m.
Back-to-back trips to College Park and East Lansing wasn't exactly a gift from the schedule-makers. Wisconsin tends to struggle at Michigan State, though it should be a close contest. Valentine hits a couple big shots down the stretch to give the Spartans a win as they begin their annual late-season run.
Prediction: Spartans 70, Badgers 66
Feb. 21 vs. Illinois, Noon/6:30 p.m.
Does anyone really see the Badgers somehow losing twice to the Illini this season? Didn't think so. An offensive outburst is just what Wisconsin needed after a couple rough games on the road.
Prediction: Badgers 80, Illini 67
Feb. 24 at Iowa, 8 p.m.
Iowa is another Big Ten team that expects to make a push at a solid tournament seeding. Expect to see the Hawkeyes as a NCAA tournament team and dark horse contender behind Jarrod Uthoff, in spite of losing Aaron White. They might struggle to score at times, however. White was that important to this team.
Prediction: Badgers 56, Hawkeyes 51
Feb. 28 vs. Michigan, 3 p,m/5 p.m.
In the latter stages of conference play, the Wolverines could very well still be in contention for the Big Ten title. Caris LeVert returns from an injury that cost him almost all of last season. KenPom loves Michigan, ranking it as the third-best Big Ten team at No. 17. Spike Albrecht is somehow still around, and Zak Irvin developed well having to do a lot of scoring last season.
The Badgers win this game at home behind Hayes and Happ, as the Wolverines don't have answers for them.
Prediction: Badgers 72, Wolverines 64
March 2 at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
Minnesota could still be a bubble team and finish in the top seven in the conference. That would give the Gophers around a 35-to-45-percent chance of beating the Badgers at home.
I tried to come up with sound logic as to why Minnesota has a good shot to beat Wisconsin here, but nothing was entirely convincing. Somehow, on a gut call, Minnesota beats Wisconsin at The Barn.
Prediction: Gophers 66, Badgers 63 (OT)
March 5 or 6 at Purdue
The Badgers return the favor against the Boilermakers on their floor to round out the season. Bronson Koenig has a career day as the Badgers roll.
Prediction: Badgers 74, Boilermakers 66
Final regular-season record: 23-8 (12-6, fourth in Big Ten)
Big Ten tournament
The Badgers finish with the fourth overall seed. After knocking out fifth-seeded Michigan in the quarterfinals, Wisconsin drops a semifinal matchup to conference champion Michigan State.
Let's take a look at Wisconsin's tournament résumé: 24-9 record. fourth place in the Big Ten. Good wins: Georgetown, at Syracuse, Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan (twice), at Purdue. Bad losses: At Illinois, at Minnesota.
A No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament would be very reasonable. The floor would be a No. 5 seed, with the ceiling a No. 3. (Last season, Louisville earned a No. 4 seed with a similar body of work: finished 24-8, 12-6 in the ACC.)
Wisconsin beats its first-round opponent, presumably from the MAAC or somewhere. In the second round, the Badgers go up against No. 5 Utah and pull out a close win.
Their season comes to an end, then, in the Sweet 16 against top-seed Kansas.