A week before the start of the 2020-21 season, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team finally has a schedule in place.
How many COVID-19 road blocks will stand in the Badgers’ way over the next months remains to be seen, but at least they have a path that begins next week when they host Eastern Illinois on Wednesday at the Kohl Center.
The highlight of a 26-game slate that is expected to grow by one in the near future? A showdown at No. 13 Michigan State on Christmas Day.
“I’m happy to finally have a schedule put together and grateful to those who put a lot of time and effort into something none of us have ever navigated before,” UW coach Greg Gard said in a statement, singling out director of basketball operations Marc VandeWettering in particular.
“We have six non-conference games on the schedule right now, but we are still looking to add one additional home opponent in the month of December. Overall, with our non-conference schedule we tried to create the safest environment possible and having so many games at home allows us to have a little more control over some of the variables. As we all know, even this schedule could be fluid given the times we’re in. But today is confirmation that opening day is just a week away and I know our players will be excited to get on the floor and start playing games.”
UW is scheduled to play six non-conference games before jumping into a 20-game Big Ten slate that, once again, figures to be a grind.
The Big Ten has seven teams ranked in the preseason Associated Press Top 25, including three in the first 10. The highest-ranked team, No. 5 Iowa, wasn’t even picked to win the conference in poll of 28 beat writers. Instead, the media’s favorite is No. 8 Illinois, with No. 7 UW predicted to finish third.
Michigan State, No. 23 Ohio State, No. 24 Rutgers and No. 25 Michigan are also ranked.
UW plays home-and-home games against seven conference opponents: Nebraska, Maryland, Penn State, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State and Illinois.
Its six one-play opponents: Minnesota, Ohio State and Indiana at home; Michigan State, Purdue and Rutgers on the road.
That matchup against the Spartans is one of four Big Ten games scheduled on Christmas Day.
If the Big Ten race comes down to the wire, the Badgers have a difficult stretch run to navigate: home against Illinois on Feb. 27 followed by road trips to Purdue on March 2 and Iowa on March 7.
UW’s non-conference slate includes previously announced games at Marquette on Dec. 4 and against Louisville five days later at the Kohl Center, a game that is part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Other non-conference highlights include a Dec. 1 game against UW-Green Bay, coached by Will Ryan, the son of former Badgers coach Bo Ryan. On Dec. 16, the Badgers welcome Northern Iowa, which returns several key players from a team that went 25-6 overall and won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title.
Check out the Badgers’ 2020-21 schedule below:
(Home games in upper case)
Nov. 25 – EASTERN ILLINOIS
Nov. 27 – ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF
Dec. 1 – UW-GREEN BAY
Dec. 4 – at Marquette
Dec. 9 – LOUISVILLE
Dec. 16 – NORTHERN IOWA
Dec. 21 – NEBRASKA
Dec. 25 – at Michigan State
Dec. 28 – MARYLAND
Dec. 31 – MINNESOTA
Jan. 3 – at Penn State
Jan. 7 – INDIANA
Jan. 12 – at Michigan
Jan. 15 – at Rutgers
Jan. 23 – OHIO STATE
Jan. 27 – NORTHWESTERN
Jan. 30 – at Maryland
Feb. 2 – PENN STATE
Feb. 6 – at Illinois
Feb. 11 – at Nebraska
Feb. 14 – MICHIGAN
Feb. 18 – IOWA
Feb. 21 – at Northwestern
Feb. 27 – ILLINOIS
March 2 – at Purdue
March 7 – at Iowa
6-1, 185, Guard
Bellevue, Neb. (West)
Hepburn was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Nebraska last season after helping Bellevue West go 21-3 and win the Class A state title. A two-time first-team all-state pick, Hepburn averaged 17.7 points, 6.1 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 3.1 steals as a junior. Off the court, Hepburn earned the HomeSchool Papillion TeenService Award and was a Special Olympics Volunteer Award winner.
UW coach Greg Gard: “Chucky is a proven winner. Our staff watched as he led his Bellevue West team to a state championship last winter. A true point guard, Chucky brings everything we look for at that position. He leads by example, always giving maximum effort on both ends of the floor. He has tremendous vision and feel for the game, combined with the ability to score from all three levels. As much as he is able to carry his team on offense, what makes Chucky a great fit here at Wisconsin is that his defense and toughness is where he hangs his hat. A leader and role model in the community and a motivated student, Chucky is the kind of person we are excited to add to our Badger Family. We’re excited to get to work with him and to help him reach his potential as a Badger in the years to come.”
6-9, 235, Forward
Schaumburg, Ill. (HS)
Hodges, who played in the same Illinois Wolves AAU program that produced former UW standout Frank Kaminsky, was named Mid-Suburban League West Player of the Year after helping Schaumburg go 25-7 and winning the MSL title while advancing to the regional finals. He averaged 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game to earn second-team Class 4A all-state honors in Illinois.
Gard: “Chris is an excellent addition to our program and member of another strong recruiting class. He impressed our staff immediately during our advanced camp and has continued to improve since. Chris has tremendous potential with his large frame and natural strength, paired with an eagerness to get better. He will immediately bring both physicality and tenacity to our program. Chris fits in well with the work ethic and culture that our program has established. He comes from a great family that has clearly taught him to value hard work and education first. We are excited to welcome both Chris and his family to the Badger Family.”
6-7, 220, Forward
Yankton, S.D. (HS)
Mors is the reigning back-to-back Gatorade Player of the Year in South Dakota and has been named all-state four times during a career that began when he played on the varsity in the seventh grade. He averaged 19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game as a junior and enters his final season as South Dakota’s Class AA all-time leading scorer with 2,127 points.
Gard: “We are very excited to add Matthew to our program. He has challenged himself as a student-athlete year in and out to become as well rounded a competitor as possible, both on and off the court. As a state champion in basketball and a successful multi-sport athlete in Yankton, Matthew has gained valuable lessons that will help him become the best leader and player possible. On the court, he plays with a certain level of toughness and physicality that fits our style of play, specifically in the Big Ten. He has a versatile skill set that will allow him to be effective in the post, off the dribble and is a terrific shooter from outside. Matthew's skillset, combined with a championship mentally, has us excited to begin working with him. We're excited for Matthew to join our Badger Family and we can't wait to begin working with him to help him reach his goals as a Badger.”
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