Last season, the Badgers went 19-12 overall and 9-7 in the Big 10 conference, good for 4th place. A repeat performance will not be nearly enough to get Wisconsin into the top 5. That's why Alando Tucker, the 6'6" 1st team all-conference senior swingman, is going to get a lot of help from returning center Jason Chappell, point guard Kammron Taylor and a host of incoming freshmen who will add some youth to an already deep and experienced team.
The Badgers return all but one of their starters from last season. In addition to Tucker, Taylor and Chappell, junior Brian Butch led the team in rounding last season.
Marcus Landry, a sophomore forward, and junior center Greg Stiemsma, both of whom were declared academically ineligible for the second semester last year, will play the full season and are expected to add punch off the bench. Three freshman guards will be vying for playing time, with redshirt Mickey Perry probably having the best shot at significant minutes. Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon may have a more difficult time finding their way into the deep lineup.
The Badgers lost in the opening round of the NCAA tournament last season to Arizona and are aiming for a much higher seed and a better result this time around. Their depth and a sense of purpose (plus a full season from two important subs), gives them a great shot at competing until late in March 2007.
Of course, the Badgers will have to contend with Ohio State along the way. The Buckeyes are the defending Big 10 champs and won't go down easily.
The Badgers will have ample time to tune up and sort out the lineup for conference play (which begins January 6 vs. Minnesota), especially in games after Thanksgiving against Florida State (Nov. 28), Pitt (Dec. 16) and at Marquette on December 9.
Should Wisconsin win at least two of those three, the Big 10 will be on notice that this is a team poised to take home big iron in the conference. And there is no tougher small forward in the country than Tucker. If he stays healthy, the Badgers may find themselves in the Final Four.
This Wisconsin State Journal article was used in preparing this post on the Badgers.