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Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Wisconsin

The Gavitt Games have somehow been a home-and-home with Wisconsin for Xavier. What a crock of crap; bring on the Big 12.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Wisconsin
The Wisconsin fans loved JP.
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

After taking on Michigan and running them out of their own gym in the first iteration of the Gavitt Games, Xavier has pulled Wisconsin and Wisconsin the last two times they’ve been included. Last year the Muskies pulled away late at the Kohl Center behind Tre and JP; this season they’ll host the Badgers without either of those two dudes.

The first true test of the season (I sincerely hope), this game will be played on Tuesday, November 13 at 6:30pm.

Wisconsin is no longer coached by Bo Ryan, much to my dad’s chagrin. Instead they’ll line up for Greg Gard, entering his fourth season in whatever city Wisconsin plays in. He made the Sweet 16 in each of his first two years behind really good defenses, but the Badgers took a big step back with a 15-18 record last year. This year he has an extremely veteran team with a couple of potential all-conference dudes on it that harbors realistic hopes of a deep run in March.

Key departures

None. Everyone who played at least 200 minutes over Wisconsin’s 33 games last year returns. Not a graduate, not a transfer, not a dude taking a redshirt or (to this point) sporting a season-ending injury. They bring back everyone meaningful, albeit from a team that got some fairly unimpressive results.

Key returnees

Ethan Happ, Sr., 6’10” C (17.9/8.0/3.7, .528/.091/.550)
Brad Davison, So., 6’3” G (12.1/2.3/2.5, .405/.355/.818)
D’Mitrik Trice, Jr., 6’0” G (9.4/2.0/2.3, .380/.300/.706)
Brevin Pritzl, Jr., 6’3” G (8.9/3.8/1.0, .397/.356/.855)
Khalil Iverson, Sr. 6’5” F (8.6/5.1/1.8, .546/.000/.683)

This is a coach’s dream. Happ is a big man you can play through on the post. He feeds buckets down low and has a decent mid-range game, and he’s an excellent passing big. He also dominates the glass at both ends. His Achilles heel is that he sucks at free throws.

Three veteran guards join him. Pritzl is a low-usage, high-efficiency guy who is a perfect tertiary scorer, and Davison spends a little more time on the ball but has about the same shooting numbers. Trice missed most of last year with a foot injury but has declared himself fully healthy for the upcoming campaign. He can work in either guard position.

Iverson is a veteran wing who is an excellent rebounder. He’ll play mostly the four alongside Happ. His .000 from beyond the arc came on 24 attempts, as he just couldn’t get the hint.

Incoming players

Not much to mention here, really. Who would want to jump into that pool of returning guys? Beyond the five listed above, Gard has depth in the form of Aleem Ford and Nate Reuvers at forward and Kobe King at guard. All three of those guys averaged between 5 and 6 PPG in various levels of action last year. There’s a lot of depth coming back and not many minutes to go around, to be honest.

This is the year for Wisconsin. They’ve got a solid veteran roster with plenty of upside coming off of an injury-marred campaign last year. They weren’t as bad as their results would indicate last year, and they’re poised to be a danger team this season. Xavier will be right in the deep end after their two warm-up games. This one will tell you a lot about how X is coming together early.