This past weekend was a good one for the Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team. They traveled the short few hours south from Madison to the United Center in Chicago and took care of business as the Big Ten Tournament's No. 1 seed by staging an amazing comeback against Michigan State and winning the tournament in overtime. Directly after the game they discovered that they had earned the program's first ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and celebrated accordingly.
To top off the sundae that was this wonderful weekend, Kendrick Lamar's new album leaked late Sunday night on Spotify and is the ideal audio cherry.
The Badgers got exactly what they wanted out of the conference tournament, some resume padding wins and some adversity from which they needed to battle back. "I thought it was really good for us to have a game like this where we were behind with seven minutes left," sophomore point guard Bronson Koenig said. "They kind of thought they had us when we were down 11, but I just kept telling our guys you keep fighting, never give up, and that's what we did."
So, the Badgers have already accomplished two of their main goals this year (winning the Big Ten regular season and conference tournament titles) but now the real season starts. Wisconsin reached the Final Four last year and lost to Kentucky on a last second shot by Aaron Harrison and will look to make it one game further this year. As the No. 1 seed in the West Region, the Badgers get a lower conference champion and this year's matchup is the No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. The game is late Friday night (approximately 8:20 CT) in Omaha, Nebraska.
Coastal Carolina (24-9, 12-6 Big South) comes into the game as champions of the Big South Conference after beating Winthrop in the conference tournament finals by 11. The Big South was extremely competitive this year (at one point in February, seven teams were tied for first) with five teams within one game of winning the regular season crown, but the Chanticleers rolled through the tournament and earned their second straight bid to the Big Dance.
The leading scorer for Coastal Carolina is guard Warren Gillis who gets 13.1 points per game while backcourt mate and sixth man Josh Cameron is right behind him with 12.9 points per game. The Chanticleers are lacking in the height department, which will be a problem against the Badgers who are the second tallest team in the nation, but their leading rebounder Badou Diagne pulls down 7.4 per game but only stands 6'7" which would be good for fourth tallest in Wisconsin's starting lineup.
If the Badgers beat Coastal Carolina, their next matchup would be with the winner of Oregon vs. Oklahoma State. Playing Oregon would mark a rematch from last year's tournament instant classic game that the Badgers won by storming back in the second half to beat the hot shooting Ducks. The Sooners finished with a losing record in the brutal Big XII and have lost six of their last seven games, but due to a number of excellent wins earlier in the year they enter the Tournament as a 9-seed.
In Los Angeles, North Carolina would likely await Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, followed by another potential 2014 NCAA Tournament rematch with Arizona in the Elite 8. A lot can happen between now and the second weekend of the Tourney though, so we'll save detailed breakdowns of those potential games for later.
Bo Ryan's boys have met high expectations all season and will look to keep rolling over the competition on their way to a second consecutive trip to the Final Four. All of these questions will be answered starting on Thursday with the start of the best sporting weekend of the year. March Madness is finally back, baby!