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Badgers face daunting challenge with loaded Big Ten schedule looming

Badgers face daunting challenge with loaded Big Ten schedule looming

For everything the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team has accomplished to date this season — and there’s plenty on that list — one reality looms once the calendar flips to 2019:

Now comes the hard part.

The Badgers (10-2), who will complete the non-conference portion of their schedule on Saturday with a game at Western Kentucky (6-6), moved up one spot Monday to No. 15 in the Associated Top 25 poll.

More importantly, UW is No. 4 in the NET rankings, the metric now being used to evaluate teams for placement and seeding in the NCAA tournament.

The Badgers’ most impressive wins, based on the NET rankings, were against North Carolina State (6), Oklahoma (15) and Iowa (36). The latter two were away from home, and the one over the Hawkeyes was a true road win.

The only blemishes on UW’s schedule were both quality losses: to Virginia (2) in the final of the Battle 4 Atlantis and at Marquette (13) in overtime.

“I think we like where we are, but we’re definitely not satisfied,” UW sophomore guard Brad Davison said recently. “We know our record could be better. We’ve lost a couple games (that were close), against really good teams. But we know how good of a team we are, we’re confident with that.”

And yet the Badgers’ work is far from over.

The Big Ten sent only four teams to the NCAA tournament last season, but that number could double this season. In fact, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has 10 Big Ten teams in his most recent bracketology projection.

There are six Big Ten teams among the top 20 of the NET rankings: Michigan (3), UW, Michigan State (9), Nebraska (14), Indiana (16) and Ohio State (19). Four more teams from the conference — Iowa (36), Purdue (38), Northwestern (44), Minnesota (47) — are among the top 50, and Maryland (52) is hovering just outside that group.

“The bulk of our schedule is coming up,” Davison said, “and we’ll have to be locked in and ready to go.”

Here’s a look around the Big Ten as the Badgers and others get closer to resuming conference play:

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