Kennesaw State (0-0) at (15) Wisconsin (0-0)
Saturday, November 12th, 1:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kohl Center (17,232) -- Madison, Wisconsin. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Kennesaw St. 0-0, Wisconsin 0-0. Away Record: Kennesaw St. 0-0, Wisconsin 0-0. Neutral Record: Kennesaw St. 0-0, Wisconsin 0-0. Conference Record: Kennesaw St. 0-0, Wisconsin 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The 15th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers lift the lid on the 2011-12 season when they play host to the Owls of Kennesaw State today at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Kennesaw State begins just its seventh season as a Division I basketball program, and the Owls have split their first six season openers at that level. Lewis Preston is making his head coaching debut this afternoon, after spending the previous 13 years as an assistant at four different schools. This bout marks only the second time KSU will have faced a team from the Big Ten Conference, the first time being an 83-66 loss to Minnesota in Las Vegas on December 29, 2007. The Owls currently call the Atlantic Sun Conference home, and this is their fifth game against a team ranked in the Top-25 (0-4).
Wisconsin is led by Bo Ryan, who enters his 11th season at the helm and owns a record of 242-91. His .727 winning percentage is the best in school history with a minimum of five years of service. The Badgers, picked by several sources to finish second in the Big Ten this year, are seeking their 10th straight season-opening win, and they are virtually unbeatable at the Kohl Center. UW went 16-0 at home last season, and has won 19 straight and 37 of the last 38 games played in Madison.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between Kennesaw State and Wisconsin on the hardwood.
While not in the same league, literally and figuratively, as Wisconsin, Kennesaw State does have some talented players on the roster, notably juniors Markeith Cummings and LaDaris Green. Cummings led the A-Sun in scoring last season at 18.3 ppg, while Green was the league's top rebounder with 8.5 rpg. The duo became the first teammates to lead the conference in those categories since 1995-96, and they'll be joined on the court this season by senior Spencer Dixon and freshman Delbert Love, the latter of whom was the only player signed in the off-season by coach Preston. In all, nine letterwinners are back, and while the Owls will be overmatched against most opponents of Wisconsin's ilk, the rest of the Atlantic Sun should take notice.
Wisconsin boasts its own star in guard Jordan Taylor, the only senior picked among this year's crop of preseason All-Big Ten First Teamers. Taylor, a Second-Team All-American in 2010-11, averaged 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game last season. He was an 84.3 percent free-throw shooter, and he was instrumental in helping the Badgers win 25 games last season, which included 13 victories in 18 Big Ten bouts. Under Ryan, UW has prided itself on playing stingy defense, and last season the opposition averaged just 58.6 ppg. If the Badgers are to challenge for the conference crown this year, Taylor will need help from guys like sophomore Josh Gasser (5.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg), junior Mike Bruesewitz (4.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and even talented newcomer Jarrod Uthoff. Rest assured, Ryan will have his team prepared for each contest.
The Owls are sure to play hard, and may even keep this one close for a while. Unfortunately for them, the Badgers are simply too good, and too disciplined to allow this one to wind up in the loss column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 77, Kennesaw State 54
11/12 10:46:03 ET