The Wisconsin Badgers won the national championship in 1941, defeating Washington State by five points, and were kings of the college basketball world for the briefest of moments. And even though they haven't missed the NCAA tournament since 1998, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment for a team that made it all of four times before that, UW wasn't really considered college basketball royalty again until this season. This year, for the first time in program history, the Badgers earned a No. 1 seed in the tournament. Wisconsin matches up with No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina in the West region on Friday night.
Coming off a Final Four appearance last year, the Badgers had enormous expectations placed on their shoulders headed into this season and so far they have reached every goal. Wisconsin won the Big Ten regular season title by a full two games and then bested Michigan State (in OT) in the Big Ten tournament final to complete the double net cutting. This is a positive step for the Badgers, who had struggled some in the conference tournament recently.
Wisconsin has made the NCAA tournament 21 times now, making three Final Fours, and winning the one aforementioned national championship. Their overall record in the tourney is 29-19, which is pretty solid, and have only lost the first game of their tournament run five times, most recently in 2013 to Ole Miss and Marshall Henderson while shooting 25% from the field.
In the Badgers' most recent tourney run (2014), UW beat American, Oregon, Baylor, and Arizona before losing to Kentucky on a last second Aaron Harrison three pointer in the Final Four. Strangely, Oregon, Baylor, and 'Zona are all in Wisconsin's region again this year and if they make it back to the Final Four they will likely face UK again. Despite the poor game in 2013, the Badgers have made the Sweet 16 three of the last four years. They lost to Syracuse by one in 2012 in the regional semifinals and to Butler (on their way to their second straight Final Four) by seven in 2011.
The most points ever scored by a Badger in the tournament was 36 by Michael Finley in 1994, while Rashard Griffith has the most boards ever in a Wisconsin tournament game with 15 in 1994, and Tracy Webster has the most assists in a game with seven, also coincidentally in 1994. 1994 was a great year for personal records in the NCAA tournament for Wisconsin.
The Badgers will look to continue their recent string of success by making it one game further than they did last season. If they can make it to the final game, and potentially win the whole thing, this will be the best team to ever lace up sneakers for Wisconsin and it won't even be close.