A trip to the Kohl Center for a Badger Basketball game usually marks an evening getaway for most college students. Not the case for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point men’s basketball team. Their trip Saturday to Madison will be all business.
The Pointers begin their 2011-12 campaign with an exhibition game against the Badgers. It may seem odd that a Division Three team would play a potential Big Ten champion, even in a season-opening exhibition. However, stiff competition is all part of Head Coach Bob Semling’s system.
"Our goal is to craft a schedule that is among the top 10 in Division III in strength of schedule. We’ve done that consistently over the past five years and that should be the case again this season," Semling said. "Each year we want to challenge ourselves with a demanding schedule."
Beating Bo Ryan’s Badgers should prove to be the early challenge that Semling is looking for. But the Pointers have an opportunity to steal one from UW-Madison this weekend.
Point enters the season ranked number 24 nationally in Division III, extending their top-25 streak to 77 consecutive weeks. The Pointers beat opponents by an average of 21.5 points last season and shot nearly 53 percent from the field, both ranking first in Division III.
Semling also boasts the league’s second highest win percentage all-time. The Pointers certainly have the coaching to sneak out a win; the question will be if they have the man power.
Point returns just one starter from last season, junior guard Tyler Tillema, who averaged nine points per game last season and scored the most points last season of any returning player. Tillema’s brother Dan, a junior forward, has the highest scoring average of all returners, just under 10 points per game through 20 games.
It will be a tall order, but if the Pointers are on top of their game they may be able to catch the Badgers off guard.
Although this Saturday is an exhibition game, don’t expect any player on either side to be going through the motions haphazardly. The Pointers have been waiting nine months to get back on the court and there’s no better place in Wisconsin to do it than the Kohl Center.
Anyone going to the game can expect a lot of running and hard-nosed play. While neither team is running on all cylinders by any means, both teams will open the season with a lot of energy.