The Wisconsin Badgers are going for their fourth Big Ten title under head coach Bo Ryan, but it will not be easy.
Wisconsin plays seven teams twice and four teams once. The teams Wisconsin only plays once are Michigan and Purdue, who the Badgers play on the road, and Indiana and Northwestern, who the Badgers play just at home.
The Badgers have the schedule that may allow them to have a strong start to the conference season with a road game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, as the Badgers welcome the Cornhuskers to the Big Ten in both football and basketball, followed by two home games against Iowa and Michigan State.
Michigan State will try to have a better season this season after getting bounced from the first round last year against UCLA after earning a No. 10 seed in the tournament. However, that will be tough with the loss of point guard Kalin Lucas and forward Delvon Roe, who decided a week ago to end his college career due to knee pain throughout his career at Michigan State.
The Spartans also have not beaten the Badgers ever in the Kohl Center with Bo Ryan as Wisconsin's coach, including an 82-56 domination last year by Wisconsin.
The toughest portion of the Badgers' conference schedule starts Feb. 4 with a home game against the Jared Sullinger-led Ohio State Buckeyes. Following that game, Wisconsin plays two straight road games in two tough venues. First, it is at Williams Arena against the Minnesota Golden Gophers Feb. 9 before traveling to the Breslin Center a week later for a date with the Michigan State Spartans. After a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions, Wisconsin travels to Iowa City to take on the vastly improved Iowa Hawkeyes.
Sullinger is a preseason All-American and is on the John R. Wooden Award preseason watch list, which is given to the most outstanding player in college basketball. Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette won the honor last season. Sullinger will also be the main competition for Jordan Taylor for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Wisconsin will renew its rivalry not only with Michigan State, but Minnesota as well, as this is the first time in three years that Wisconsin and Minnesota will play twice in the regular season. Each team has held serve at home the last two years with Minnesota winning in Minneapolis two years ago 68-52 and Wisconsin winning in Madison a year ago 68-60.
Minnesota loses sharp-shooter Blake Hoffarber and starting point guard Al Nolen, but return a good nucleus led by senior forward Trevor Mbakwe, who led the Big Ten in rebounding a season ago, and power forward/center Ralph Sampson III, the son of the legendary Ralph Sampson.
After a trip to Columbus in late February to try for payback after losing 93-65 last year there where the Buckeyes hit 14 of 15 3-pointers, the Badgers end with two home games. Wisconsin plays against Minnesota Feb. 28 before closing out the regular season March 4 against Illinois.
It will be interesting to see how everything unfolds with Nebraska coming into the mix as the 12th team, but Wisconsin has its hands full if the Badgers want to win its first Big Ten title since 2007-08.