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Wisconsin basketball: the whole dang country preview roundtable

When the Badgers aren’t on, who else should you be watching?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Minnesota vs Louisville Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Here is our third and final roundtable before the college basketball season tips off. We have already talked about the Badgers and the B1G, so now it is time to talk about the whole dang country.

Tyler, Belz, Drew and Ryan give you their thoughts on who is going to the Final Four, who the freshmen to watch are and what Wisconsin’s toughest non-conference game will be. Read on, friends!

Who is Wisconsin’s toughest non-conference opponent? Why?

Tyler: There are a lot of tough games on this year’s non-conference slate including trips to Tennessee and NC State as well as “rival” Marquette at home. However, I think the toughest game will be the Auburn Tigers if they end up playing them in the Legends Classic. Auburn lost a lot of talent from last year, but they’re still pretty deep and have some new faces that should fill those roles. Additionally, it will be a fun game to watch considering the drastic difference in styles of play. Auburn wants to run more than anyone and Wisconsin will want to slow it down. It should be fun to watch that battle.

Belz: I think the toughest non-conference matchup will be Marquette. Jordan Howard is one of the most talented players in the country, and Wisconsin has struggled at times against dominant point guards. I think there are a couple of different possible answers here, but the annual “battle for Wisconsin” brings the energy on both ends. I expect Wisconsin to take care of business with it at the Kohl Center, but the Badgers have struggled against the Golden Eagles, losing three of the last four.

Drew: I think the Badgers will get their toughest non-conference test right out of the gate against No. 20 Saint Mary’s. The Gaels have usually played second fiddle to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference, but this year they should give the Bulldogs a run for their money. Senior guard Jordan Ford will be tough to contain both on the perimeter and when creating for his teammates. The Gaels also have multiple 7-footers that will test the Badgers frontcourt depth. I hope the Badgers keep it close, but I can also see Saint Mary’s running away with this one.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round- Villanova vs Saint Mary’s Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan: Marquette. As Belz said, Howard is one of the most talented guys and Marquette has played us very tough the past couple of years. Tennessee should also be a tough one.

What is the non-conference game you are most looking forward to watching? Doesn’t have to be a Badgers game.

Tyler: There are sooooo many good non-conference games this year and I cannot wait to see it. Early season college basketball is so much fun with all these tournaments on all day long. The week before and of Thanksgiving are a sports bettors dream as there is always something to watch and lose money on. I love the Champions Classic but I get sick of watching the same four teams play in some NBA arena. I prefer games on great college campuses. Overall, I think Louisville at Kentucky will be the one to watch this year given the talent and hatred for one another. Additionally, I love the Memphis/Tennessee game. I mean it gets so wild that fans just defecate everywhere.

That’s hoops, baby.

I’m also looking forward to Kansas at Villanova, and a sneaky good rivalry will be on display when Gonzaga travels to Washington.

Belz: The Champions Classic is too easy of a choice here. Those games are obviously the headliners to kickoff the season, and will clearly be intriguing to watch. The game that has caught my eye though is Oregon at Memphis. Beyond the crazy jersey possibilities, both teams have some individual stars. Oregon lost a haul of players to the NBA draft, but rebounded nicely by adding some phenomenal freshman class and some good transfers.

Memphis will likely have an entire starting lineup comprised of freshman, with two of the players already projected lottery picks. Penny Hardaway has brought some glitz and glam back to Memphis, and this Nike showdown should be great. Also, Memphis has top-100 recruits named Precious and Boogie, life is Duany Duany, I mean good.

Drew: The opening night Champions Classic (Duke vs. Kansas and MSU vs. Kentucky) will obviously be great, but sometimes teams are still shaking the rust off in the first game of the season. I’m really interested to see how the Illinois at Arizona (Nov. 10th) game plays out.

These are two teams that are usually quite good but have struggled in recent years, Illinois with even making the NCAA Tournament and Arizona with...uh...the FBI, but both have higher expectations this year. There are a bunch of impact freshman to watch on both sides, but Nico Mannion for the Wildcats is who I’ll be focusing on. Watching him and Ayo Dosunmu go back and forth should be a blast.

Ryan: The opening night Champions Classic could very well be a preview of the Final Four. Should be a great night of college hoops. Wisconsin/Saint Mary’s is also a big one that I am looking forward to just to see how Wisconsin stacks up and to get a good look at this year’s squad.

Who was the best new coaching hire?

Tyler: I think Buzz Williams was the steal of the century for Texas A&M. I think he got a bad rap at Marquette, and he never really found his footing at Virginia Tech. Now he’s onto a GIANT school in A&M that can provide him the resources he needs to recruit and win games.

Belz: Mick Cronin has done it everywhere he has been. He helped Murray State and Cincinnati become legit threats in their conferences. Now he gets the keys to UCLA, what could go wrong? I think it will take some time, but he can really coach, and UCLA is a hotbed for bringing in talent. I also am really excited to see what Jerry Stackhouse can do at Vanderbilt after some time as an assistant in the NBA.

Drew: If I may subject you to some Philadelphia Big 5 talk, I think that Saint Joe’s and Temple made two of the best hires this offseason. The Owls lost a Philadelphia coaching legend when Fran Dunphy retired but plugged in assistant coach, Temple grad and former Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard Aaron McKie. If you’re talking about a guy who “gets it” you couldn’t do better than McKie for the boys on North Broad St.

Head a quick 15 minutes east to St. Joe’s and you’ll find another great hire by a Big 5 school. The Hawks fired 24-year veteran Phil Martelli, another Philadelphia coaching legend, because, well, they’ve stunk it up pretty bad the last few seasons. Billy Lange, formerly a Villanova and Philadelphia 76ers assistant, is the perfect man for the rebuild because, much like McKie, he gets it. The Hawks have a depleted roster due to transfers and graduation and are basically a full demo and redo. Hopefully Lange gets the chance to bring them back to prominence.

Ryan: Buzz Williams is a solid hire at Texas A&M. He’s won everywhere he has been and will now be at a big-time SEC school, who should draw a lot of talent.

Who are your top-three freshmen?

Tyler: James Wiseman (Memphis), Cole Anthony (UNC), Isaiah Stewart (Washington)

Belz: James Wiseman (Memphis), Cole Anthony (UNC), Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky).

Drew: James Wiseman (Memphis), Anthony Edwards (Georgia), Matthew Hurt (Duke), BONUS PICK: I’m really intrigued to see what LaMelo Ball does in Australia in pro ball this year. He could be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft and sadly we’ll have more of Lavar Ball in our lives again.

Ryan: James Wiseman (Memphis), Cole Anthony (UNC) and Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky)

Who are your first team All-America members?

Tyler: I don’t know if they still do it by position or not, so I am going with the best five players IMO. Cassius Winston (MSU), Myles Powell (Seton Hall), Jordan Nwora (Louisville), Kerry Blackshear (Florida), Udoka Azubuike (Kansas)

Belz: I will go with Cassius Winston (MSU) and Myle Powell (Seton Hall) as the guards. I would have added Devon Dotson (Kansas) if it wasn’t for his preseason injury. In his stead I will go with Kerry Blackshear (Florida) at the power forward spot and I like Jordan Nwora (Louisville) a small forward. James Wiseman (Memphis) was an absolute stud in high school, so I will go with him at center.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Villanova Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Drew: Cassius Winston (Michigan State), Markus Howard (Marquette), Jordan Nwora (Louisville), Kerry Blackshear (Florida), James Wiseman (Memphis)

Ryan: Cassius Winston (Michigan State), Markus Howard (Marquette), Jordan Nwora (Louisville), Kerry Blackshear (Florida), Myles Powell (Seton Hall)

Predict the winners of the ACC, SEC, Big XII, Pac-12 and Big East.

Tyler: ACC: Louisville, SEC: Florida, Big XII: Kansas, Pac-12: Colorado, Big East: Seton Hall

Belz: ACC: Louisville, SEC: Florida, Big XII: Kansas, Pac-12: Washington, Big East: Villanova.

Drew: ACC: Louisville, SEC: Kentucky/Florida tie, Big XII: Kansas, Pac-12: Washington, Big East: Villanova

Ryan: ACC: Louisville, SEC: Florida, Big XII: Kansas, Pac-12: Washington, Big East: Villanova.

Does Wisconsin make the NCAA Tournament? If so, how far do they go?

Tyler: I think they do, I mean they rarely don’t and I think they’re going to be better than expected. They’ll win a game I think.

Belz: I think the Badgers will make it. I would not be throwing money down on it, but roll Badge.

Drew: I’m not super confident about this pick, but I’ll say yes, and then they lose in the first round.

Ryan: I think Wisconsin will make the tourney. As for how far they will go, I will say the Sweet 16. Sconnie usually can pull out a win or two in the tourney.

Which teams make the Final Four? Who wins it all?

Tyler: Louisville, Florida, Michigan State, and since it’s rarely chalk i’ll take…. Utah State to make a run. Watch out for them in the MWC.

Belz: I’ll stick to my guns from the podcast and go with Michigan State, Kentucky, Louisville, Florida in the Final Four. Feeling chalky right now. I like Seton Hall as a surprise team that could maneuver their way into the mix with Myles Powell leading the charge though. Kansas could easily make it too, but who knows what to think about the Jayhawks with the NCAA snooping around.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Wofford vs Seton Hall John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Drew: Louisville, Duke, Florida and Villanova. If I had to pick a dark horse contender I’d take Maryland (but only so Phil faints).

Ryan: Louisville, Michigan State, Florida and Villanova will be my Final Four. I hate to say it, but I am going to go with MSU to win it all.