UW in South Dakota vs. St. John's? How'd we get here?

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MADISON, Wis. -- When the Badgers open the season Friday night, they will do so in atypical fashion, traveling to Sioux Falls, S.D. for a neutral-site contest with St. John's.

Wisconsin has not opened the season away from the Kohl Center since 2005 when they played in the Paradise Jam tournament in St. Thomas.

Further, UW hasn't opened against a team from one of the "Power 6" conferences since traveling to Tennessee to begin the 2000-01 season.

So how did we get here?

Two reasons: this game gives the Badgers a quality non-conference opponent on their schedule and UW gets to help out an old friend.

"This is a great RPI team," Ryan said of a St. John's team who played in the NIT last season. "They've got everybody back; they're very athletic. It's a team that's going to make some noise."

UW's opener will also mark a reunion of sorts.

Sanford Health CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft, father of former Badger Joe Krabbenhoft, was looking for two major programs to help with the grand opening of the brand-new Sanford Pentagon, which is the cornerstone of a $19-million, 162-acre sports complex.

Ryan's connection with the Krabbenhoft family made the Badgers an ideal fit to participate in the first-ever regular-season game played on the building's Heritage Court, a 3,200-seat retro-styled fieldhouse.

"There are some really neat features at the Pentagon and I'm excited to see it," Ryan added. "Plus we get to help Kelby showcase their new arena. Everybody wins."

Well, not everybody gets to win. Either Wisconsin or St. John's will return home with a loss on their ledger, but the early-season experience and resume-building contest can only help in the long run.

"I'm sure that the opponents that we're playing non-conference will give us the test that we need," Ryan concluded "And how we respond to them? We'll see."

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