Though Wisconsin will be the away team for this one, the Badgers should have a great shot at exacting revenge on Xavier after last season’s 80-70 loss at the Kohl Center. The Musketeers’ two studs from last season, Trevon Blueitt and J.P. Macura, are gone, as are two other key contributors in Kerem Kanter and Kaiser Gates. In addition, head coach Chris Mack took the job at Louisville and has been replaced by Travis Steele, one of his assistants.
Those are definitely some brutal losses, but Steele returns some talented players poised for breakout seasons in Quentin Gooden, Naji Marshall, Tyrique Jones, and Paul Scruggs, and also added three of the top grads transfers on the market over the offseason. Make no mistake, Xavier should still hover around the Top 25 and contend for an NCAA berth once again this season.
These teams are pretty evenly matched and this should be another contest that goes down to the wire, but in the end, I think Wisconsin will get the win by a few points.
Similarly to the Coppin State game to kick off the season, consider Wisconsin’s matchup with Houston Baptist out of the Southland Conference a tune-up game before the team heads to the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament a few days later.
Though the Huskies do return four out of their top five leading scorers from last season, led by senior center Josh Ibarra (16 ppg, 10 rpg), they are still coming off a horrendous 6-25 season in which they lost by an average of 32 points to the five high-major programs they faced.
I would expect Wisconsin’s margin of victory in this one to be right around that.