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Wisconsin Basketball: 8 Key Games to Return to March Madness



Wisconsin Badgers basketball head coach Greg Gard
Mar 17, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Greg Gard talks with the media during a practice day before the first round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin basketball fans were left with a sour taste in their mouths at the end of the 2022-23 season. As the Wisconsin Badgers near a return to the Kohl Center, what has to change if they wish to return to the NCAA Tournament? 

Here at BadgerNotes, we are counting down the days to college basketball season and analyzing the road ahead for UW. When Wisconsin tips off against the Arkansas Red Wolves on Monday, November 6th (just eight days from now), be ready by catching up on all things Badgers with our season preview series:

Wisconsin Basketball Faces Daunting Schedule in 2023-24 Season

Among the first noticeable things on Wisconsin’s schedule this season, is the amount of ranked teams on the schedule. The Badgers will face eight teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 25. Even for a team returning all five starters, staying afloat against that rigorous schedule will be a challenge. Of course, not each of those teams will end the season ranked, but other teams on Wisconsin’s schedule might be ranked by the end of March.

Wisconsin Basketball Excluded in AP Top 25, But Analytics Like Badgers

The ranked matchups on UW’s slate are:

  • November 10th vs. #9 Tennessee
  • December 2nd vs. #5 Marquette
  • December 5th at #4 Michigan State
  • December 9th at #12 Arizona
  • January 26th vs #4 Michigan State
  • February 4th vs #3 Purdue
  • March 2nd vs #25 Illinois
  • March 10th at #3 Purdue

Those are not just games against ranked opponents. They are eight matchups with highly ranked opponents. With six games against opponents ranked in the top ten and five in the top five, Badgers head coach Greg Gard will undoubtedly have his hands full.

Wisconsin Badgers basketball player Max Klesmit

Mar 2, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Max Klesmit (11) celebrates a three-pointer during the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

Notably, Wisconsin faces three opponents which received votes in the preseason AP poll, but did not crack the top 25. Those opponents are Virginia, Maryland, and Indiana.

Positive and Negative Takeaways from the Wisconsin Badgers Schedule

Fortunately for Wisconsin, several of these high-profile matchups will be played in the Kohl Center. In another season with so many difficult games in the Big Ten, playing two of the three biggest non-conference games at home could buoy the Badgers’ record. Although not at home, UW will play Tony Bennett‘s Virginia Cavaliers in a neutral-site game at the Fort Myers Tip-Off.

Wisconsin Badgers Basketball court: The Kohl Center

Photo Credit: Dillon Graff

The negative comes in the form of one of the most difficult weeks of regular season college basketball I have ever seen. Wisconsin basketball fans: bookmark this page now. If the Badgers go 0-3 in the first week of December, the season is not lost. UW facing its #5 ranked in-state rival at home, then facing #4 Michigan State, and #9 Arizona on the road will be incredibly difficult. By December 10th, we will have learned so much about this Wisconsin team that it will already feel like February.

Can Wisconsin Basketball Overcome Challenges and Make the NCAA Tournament?

Last season, Wisconsin faced four teams that ended the season ranked in the AP top 25. In those games, the Badgers went 1-3. The lone victory was at Marquette. The three losses came at the hands of Kansas, Indiana, and Purdue. UW ended regular season play with a 17-13 record overall and 9-11 record in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin Badgers basketball

Nov 24, 2022; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Kansas Jayhawks guard Dajuan Harris Jr. (3) drives to the basket as Wisconsin Badgers forward Carter Gilmore (14) and Wisconsin Badgers guard Kamari McGee (4) defend during the first half at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

KenPom and BartTorvik predict slight improvements in the win and loss column for the Badgers. KenPom projects UW will finish with a 20-11 record; BartTorvik’s projected record for Wisconsin is 19-12. With a one to two game improvement in the loss column and two to three games in the win column, the Badgers would likely find themselves in the Big Dance. Despite a less than stellar record, the difficult schedule would likely propel Wisconsin back to the NCAA Tournament somewhere in the range of a nine seed.

Any one of these eight ranked matchups that Gard can scheme up a way to steal would be huge for Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament hopes. Snagging three wins could be enough – as long as the season is not derailed in Big Ten play by injury or otherwise. But going 4-4, and getting a huge win somewhere on the road, would be the cherry on top.

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BadgerNotes' resident college basketball sicko, Kedrick Stumbris covers Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball and women's hockey teams unlike anyone else. He received his B.A. with economics and political science majors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 and has had his work published on Bleacher Report and Verbal Commits.