Basketball is back in Madison. The 2011-12 season starts Saturday with an exhibition game against UW-Stevens Point in Madison at 8 p.m., so Badgers fans can just walk on over from Camp Randall after the football game and watch Wisconsin take on the Pointers. The overall series between the two teams is tied 1-1 with the last game being a 35-10 Wisconsin win back in the 1933-34 season. The lone Stevens Point win came a year earlier as the Pointers beat the Badgers 28-24.
Following a 25-9 season which ended with an appearance in the Sweet 16, the Badgers look to make its first trip to the Final Four since 2000. UWSP went 26-4 a year ago before losing in the Division III Sectional Round to St. Thomas, who was the eventual national champion, 66-64. The Pointers won both the regular season and the tournament titles in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, going 14-2 during the season in conference play.
Stevens Point, coached by Bob Semling, is ranked No. 24 in the D3hoops.com Preseason Poll, the 77th consecutive week the Pointers have been been in the top 25. They do lose four of its starters to graduation, including its two leading scorers. The Pointers do have junior forward Dan Tillema, who averaged 9.9 points per game and returns after missing half the season with an injury, as well as his brother junior guard Tyler Tillema, who is the only returning starter and averaged 9.1 points per game last year. If you are a college basketball fan in this state the Tillema name should be familiar as Dan and Tyler’s older brother Ryan was a 1,000 point scorer for Green Bay.
Even though UW-Stevens Point only returns one starter, they do return six letterwinners and they ranked first out of all Division III schools in scoring margin at 21.5 as well as field goal percentage with shooting at a 52.6 percent clip.
Like all games against Division III schools, the Badgers will have a significant height advantage, as the Pointers only have two players on its roster who is are at least 6-8 and one of those players is true freshman Nate VanHandel.
With the significant height advantage, look for junior forward/center Jared Berggren to assert himself and play a big role in the game. The game may also feature 6-8 freshman Jarrod Uthoff, as he has played himself into a big role on the team.
It will also be interesting to see about how sophomore guard Ben Brust does for an encore after shining in the Red/White scrimmage this past weekend, scoring a game-high 22 points while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists for the Red as they won the scrimmage 72-56.
The natural progression of players like sophomore guard Josh Gasser, Berggren, sophomore forward Duje Dukan and redshirt freshman center Evan Anderson will also be interesting to watch, as will seeing the freshman for the first time as Badgers playing against competition in real game situations.
Taylor will have a typical Taylor night and all Wisconsin players will get some playing time with Berggren having a big night on the glass and Uthoff making his presence felt with a big game in his Wisconsin debut. The Badgers won't learn a whole lot from this game, but it's nice to see Wisconsin basketball at the Kohl Center for the first time in the 2011-12 season.
Wisconsin 82, UW-Stevens Point 56