The Southeastern Louisiana Lions take on the 23rd-ranked Wisconsin Badgers at the Kohl Center in Madison this afternoon in the 2012-13 season opener for both squads.
SE Louisiana was rather lackluster in the Southland Conference a year ago, going just 12-17 overall with a 5-11 mark in league play. The Lions did not fare well at all playing games on the road, as they won just one of their 14 contests outside of Hammond, Louisiana.
Under head coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin continues to prove year in and year out that it is not only one of the best teams in the Big Ten Conference, but in the nation as well. The Badgers put together another outstanding season in 2011-12, going 26-10 overall (third-most wins in school history) and 12-6 in conference, culminating in their second straight run to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. Wisconsin has been a model of consistency, qualifying for the Big Dance in 14 straight seasons.
This bout marks the first time these non-conference foes have met on the hardwood.
SE Louisiana was a dreadful scoring team last season, as it shot just 41.1 percent from the floor in putting up less than 60 ppg, but it expects to receive a huge boost this season with its star shooting guard back in the lineup. Brandon Fortenberry was one of the Southland Conference's most explosive scorers (17.6 ppg), but he only played in seven games while missing the rest of the season due to injury. Fortenberry's presence will only help his teammates' production. Roosevelt Johnson (11.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg) returns for his senior season as one of the league's best forwards, and he was even better down the stretch by putting up 17.1 ppg and 10.6 rpg over the final seven games. Jeremy Campbell (7.7 ppg) and Todd Nelson (6.5 ppg) also expect to be big contributors from the guard position.
A staple in coach Ryan's game plan has always been an unrelenting effort at the defensive end of the floor, and 2011-12 was no different as Wisconsin held its opponents to a national-low 53.2 ppg on 38.9 shooting from the field, meaning that a modest offensive effort (64.0 ppg) was still more than enough to win most times out. The offensive production is expected to take a hit now that top scorer Jordan Taylor (14.8 ppg) has departed, but the Badgers have savvy veterans who are more than capable of picking up the slack. Seniors Ryan Evans (11.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Jared Berggren (10.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg) have been consistent performers throughout their careers, and they will continue to play crucial leadership roles. A pair of three-point specialists in Ben Brust (7.3 ppg) and Josh Gasser (7.6 ppg) are very important in extending the floor for the Badgers. Mike Bruesewitz (5.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) will surely play a valuable role in the frontcourt at some point this season, but he is out indefinitely as he recovers from off-season surgery.