No Big Ten men's basketball games are easy, but the Badgers' early schedule should help Greg Gard break in several new faces
Teams generally have to be ready to compete for 40 minutes or risk losing.
Nevertheless, the 2021-22 Big Ten schedule released Wednesday isn’t as daunting early as it could have been, which should benefit a UW team with two seniors and eight new players on the roster.
The Badgers, who finished 10-10 in the league and 18-13 overall last season, play half of their first six league games at home.
They don’t face either Michigan or Illinois, the teams that finished 1-2 in the league last season and are projected to challenge for the league title this season, until February.
UW is set to open league play Dec. 8 against visiting Indiana. The Hoosiers, who finished 7-12 in the league last season, are led by first-year coach Mike Woodson.
Three days later, UW faces what should be a formidable Ohio State team on the road. The Buckeyes finished 12-8 last season and, led by E.J. Liddell (20 points, seven rebounds), handed UW a 74-62 loss in the Kohl Center.
However, the Buckeyes must replace guards Duane Washington Jr. (16.4 ppg) and C.J. Walker (9.5 ppg).
After facing the Buckeyes, UW has its final three nonconference games before resuming league play on Jan. 3.
And that game comes on the road against Purdue, which could be favored to win the league title this season.
The Boilermakers return the bulk of the talent from a team that finished 13-6 in the league last season. UW suffered a 73-69 loss at Purdue last season. The Badgers have lost their last five league games in Mackey Arena and are 18-73 overall against the Boilermakers in West Lafayette.
A home game Jan. 6 against Iowa follows.
The Hawkeyes won all three meetings with UW last season but must replace Luka Garza, Big Ten player of the year; Joe Wieskamp, who turned pro; and CJ Fredrick, who transferred to Kentucky.
That trio combined to average 50.4 points per game last season.
UW then travels to Maryland for a Jan. 9 matchup.
The teams split two games last season, with UW winning at Maryland. The Terrapins must replace two of their top four scorers from last season, Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell.
Game 6 of league play is a second meeting with Ohio State, this time on Jan. 13 at the Kohl Center.
The Badgers went a combined 0-4 against Michigan and Illinois last season. They face both teams just once this season, with both games in February.
Illinois, which finished 16-4 in the league last season but must replace Ayo Dosunmu (20.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 5.3 apg), hosts UW on Feb. 2.
UW hosts Michigan on Feb. 20
The Badgers play Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue and Rutgers home and away.
They face Iowa, Michigan and Penn State in the Kohl Center and face Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern on the road.
UW also plays consecutive road games with a short turnaround just once. That comes when the Badgers face Minnesota on Feb. 23 and Rutgers on Feb. 26.
That is followed by UW’s only back-to-back home dates — March 1 against Purdue and March 6, the regular-season finale, against Nebraska.
UW's annual Red-White scrimmage is set for Oct. 17 at the Kohl Center. The Badgers are set to play an exhibition game Oct. 29 against visiting UW-Whitewater and open the season Nov. 9 against visiting St. Francis Brooklyn.