Norse face uphill climb in clash with third-ranked Badgers

Nov 14, 2014 - 4:35 PM Madison, WI ( - The 2014-15 season tips off at the Kohl Center for the third-ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Friday night when they take on the Northern Kentucky Norse.

Considering the Norse's status as a transitioning Division II squad over the past few seasons, they have performed admirably during their early life as an Atlantic Sun Conference member under coach Dave Bezold, but after a 9-9 conference record in 2012-13, the team regressed last season to 9-21 overall and just 5-13 in league play.

Wisconsin was outstanding a season ago, advancing all the way to the Final Four for the third time in its history, and at 30-8 overall, it finished with 30 or more wins for the third time in the past eight seasons. The Badgers, who enter their 14th season under head coach Bo Ryan, are the odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten Conference and earned eight first-place votes in the preseason poll.

The Norse and the Badgers have never before played one another.

NKU, which scored 68.1 ppg while allowing 73.7 a season ago, had a very young team during the 2013-14 campaign, and as a result all 12 players who saw the floor last season are back on the roster this time around, all but assuring an improved squad. Leading the way is guard Jordan Jackson, who enters his senior season (still one of just two seniors) looking to improve upon the 13.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg he put up last season. Tyler White (10.8 ppg) shot just 36.3 percent from the field but drained a team-best 49 3- pointers. Jalen Billups (9.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Todd Johnson (8.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg) are also expected to be key contributors yet again. Chad Jackson (6-4, 200), who redshirted last season after transferring from James Madison, hopes to bring depth to the backcourt.

The Badgers displayed excellent continuity last season in rolling out the same starting five for all 38 games. Four of those starters are back for the 2014-15 campaign, led by Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky (13.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 66 blocks). Joining Kaminsky in the frontcourt is Sam Dekker (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), and Traevon Jackson (10.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.0 apg) and Josh Gasser (8.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg) are cemented as starters in the backcourt once again. Wisconsin was one of the nation's most well-balanced teams a season ago, scoring 73.5 ppg while allowing just 64.0 ppg.

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