Column: Breaking down top non-conference games

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

When the 2020-21 schedules were announced for the Eastern men’s and women’s basketball team, each team had scheduled non-conference games against tough opponents.

It will be a challenging start to the season for both teams, with the men’s team opening the season against No. 7 Wisconsin and then playing Marquette and Butler for the next two games.

The women’s team opens with a less challenging opponent in UIC, but then heads on the road to face No. 17 Northwestern and another Big Ten team in Minnesota.

Let’s break down what looks to be each team’s hardest matchup; the Wisconsin game for the men and the Northwestern game for the women.

 

Men’s Basketball- Nov. 25 at Wisconsin

This will be the second-straight year the Panthers will play the Badgers in an early season game.

In the matchup last season, a 65-52 Wisconsin victory, Eastern was led in scoring by Marvin Johnson with 12 points and George Dixon with 11. Dixon also added 8 rebounds to lead the team.

Josiah Wallace struggled in the game for Eastern, shooting 2-of-12 from the field and scoring just 5 points.

Wisconsin finished last season tied for the Big Ten lead with a 14-6 conference record.

The Badgers enter this season ranked seventh in the preseason AP poll. They had four players average double figures in scoring last season and three of them are returning, including their leading scorer in forward Nate Reuvers.

Reuvers will be a senior this season and averaged 13.1 points per game last season while starting all 30 games.

Listed at 6-foot-11, Reuvers’ size should prove a challenge for some of Eastern’s incoming players who also bring size to the table.

Wisconsin is the only team Eastern will play this season that is ranked in the top-25. Eastern had a game scheduled against No. 6 Kansas that was lost when the start of the season was pushed back.

 

Women’s Basketball- Nov. 29 at Northwestern

The men’s team is not the only team playing a nationally-ranked opponent early in the season.

The women’s team will play No. 17 Northwestern in their second game of the season.

The Panthers played a Big Ten team last season in Wisconsin, losing to the Badgers 63-55.

Northwestern is a more formidable Big Ten foe, finishing last season tied atop the conference with Maryland with a 16-2 conference record and posted an overall record of 26-4. Wisconsin was down near the bottom of the stadings with a conference record of 3-15.

Northwestern was the second seed in the Big Ten Tournament last season but was upset by seven-seeded Michigan in the quarterfinals.

The Wildcats are returning their leading scorer from last season in senior guard Lindsey Pulliam.

Pulliam finished third in the Big Ten in scoring last season, averaging 18.8 points per game, and was a unanimous first team All-Big Ten selection. She has led the team in scoring in each of her first three seasons.

Northwestern also returns their second-leading scorer in Veronica Burton, but lost both its third and fourth leading scorers from last season.

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]