I have a friend who is a lawyer (gross, I know) and during his bachelor party another of our friends got kicked out of the bar we were frequenting for passing out in a booth. While pleading with the bouncer to let him stay he uttered the eternal phrase, "let's sit down and look at the facts." Wisconsin's season elicited a lot of emotions from Badgers fans ranging from elation, over-confidence, dread, and drunk (that's every year though), but let's sit down and look at the facts. Wisconsin is the seventh ranked team in the country according to RPI and has the second best strength of schedule. They were 26-7 this year and 12-6 in conference play. They were 7-5 against the RPI top-50 and lost to Northwestern at home. Now that we've sat down and looked at the facts, let's dig a little deeper and see what Wisconsin's season was really like.
The Badgers started off the year 16-0, winning all of their non-conference games and their first two B1G games (both against ranked opponents), and looked like a potential #1 team in the country. All that talk was quickly squashed when Wisconsin went on to lose five of their next six games, fall out of the top-25 completely, and lose to a Northwestern team, at home no less, who would have trouble beating most highly ranked middle school teams. The Badgers righted the ship and rattled off eight straight wins before losing to the unstoppable force of Nebrasketball in Lincoln to end the season. They earned a bye as the second seed in the B1G Tournament and pounded Minnesota before falling to a reinvigorated Michigan State team in the semifinals.
Wisconsin's best player this year has been center, Frank Kaminsky. Since announcing himself to the college basketball world in November by setting the school's single-game scoring record, Frank the Tank went on to lead the Badgers in scoring (13.6), rebounding (6.4), blocks (1.7), and field goal percentage (52.4) this year. Wisconsin's second best player (arguably) has been the mercurial Sam Dekker. The five-star prospect from Sheboygan, WI can dominate games, but often appears uninterested in doing so. He averaged 12.7 PPG and 6.2 RPG game this year, and if Wisconsin wants to make a run in the NCAA Tournament he will have to play better than he has been. Wisconsin's most important player (an arbitrary distinction, I know, but I think most Wisconsin fans would agree with me) is Josh Gasser. He guards the other team's best wing player and usually shuts them down (see: Harris, Joe) while still providing offense when called upon. He doesn't score in double figures, but he lead the team in three point field goal percentage (44.3) and also lead the team in things that made old, white sports journalists say things like, "he plays the game the right way" and "why isn't Aaron Craft the Player of the Year?" B1G Sixth Man of the Year, Nigel Hayes will also play a prominent role in how far the Badgers go in March. He's the first guy off the bench and provides a matchup nightmare as a power forward that can shoot a midrange jumper. He also has a proclivity to get to the line often, but what he does when he's there isn't great (58.6 FT%).
Alright, now you've had a crash course in Wisconsin's season, let's look ahead to their prospects in the Tourney. Wisconsin got the #2 seed in the West Region, and will play Patriot League tournament champion #15 seed American University in Milwaukee on Thursday. Time TBA! A veritable home game (Milwaukee is an hour away from Madison) gives the Badgers a great leg up in their bid to reach the Sweet 16, and expect UW to beat American. Their potential third round matchup is against either #7 seed Oregon or #10 seed BYU. Wisconsin, especially playing in Milwaukee, would be favored over either of those teams but the well-traveled Mike Moser would be a tough matchup down low if Wisconsin plays Oregon and no one has been able to guard Tyler Haws of BYU all season, so there is certainly some concern there. If seeds hold, Wisconsin would play Dougie McBuckets and #3 seed Creighton in the Sweet 16 in a matchup of who can huck the deepest three pointer, Ben Brust or McDermott. Arizona is the #1 in the West bracket and should comfortably roll through to the Elite 8, with a potential matchup against San Diego State in the Sweet 16. The West Region is widely considered to be the weakest of the four, and multiple CBS personalities (HI CLARK AND SETH!) picked Wisconsin to make it to the Final Four. The last time the Badgers went to the Final Four, they were also in the West Region and Arizona was the #1 seed, so will history repeat itself or will Badger fans be left wondering "what could have been" for the millionth (sans 2000) year in a row? Now that you've looked at the facts, what do you think?