I'm jealous of how well Wisconsin fans have it. Even when everything looks about as grim as the new Batman vs. Superman movie -- Remember the Northwestern game? Or perhaps that loss to Western Illinois in their season opener? -- they still somehow put together an unprecedented run to force their way into March.
Do you remember where this team was just a few months ago? They weren't even on the bubble. They were down and out. They were bruised. Battered. Beaten. They were on the fast track to going through a coaching controversy.
Nothing was going right for Bo Ryan before he retired and nothing started right for then interim coach Greg Gard; who early on looked like he didn't have the ability to reel these guys in to play that sound, efficient basketball we all have grown accustomed to Wisconsin playing.
But as Bucky fate would have it, they turned on the jets. Nigel Hayes called out his teammates, Gard got his guys to believe in him -- and themselves --and the Badgers clinched their 15th consecutive top-four Big Ten finish and a seven seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Once again proving that Barry Alvarez sold his soul to the devil himself so Wisconsin could prosper until the end of times.
But in all seriousness, how many programs like Wisconsin (not a collegiate blue blood by any stretch of the imagination) just keeps turning out consistent finishes like that? How many programs like Wisconsin get to play for five Sweet 16's in six years? How many programs like Wisconsin have the potential to go to back-to-back-to-back Elite Eight's?
And most importantly, how many programs in Division-I basketball have the same amount of year-in and year-out consistency that the Badgers have produced since Dick Bennett retired and Bo Ryan took over in 2001?
Their brand has been (and now still is) winning. Not Jump Around. Not "On Wisconsin". Not Bucky the Badger. Not that giant W. Not the Grateful Red (although shouts to you guys). Not the buzzcuts. Not the swing offense. Not even Bo Ryan.
But flat out winning.
In terms of what a win against Notre Dame (a team that is looking to book a return trip to the Elite Eight themselves) will mean, it's quite simple: it could pin them up against an Indiana Hoosiers team they have incredible confidence against or a tempo pushing North Carolina squad that doesn't shoot the ball from outside very well with a trip to the Final Four trip on the line. And for that to be anything more than the wild day dream of some Spotted Cow drinking Badgers fan is means enough.
For this team to do the unthinkable and pick themselves up -- when they just as easily could've closed up shop -- after their early emotional slip-and-slide ride with the "Will he, or won't he" Ryan, being in this position is absolutely astonishing.
In terms of the future means, tucking the Fighting Irish into bed and making them go to sleep also helps constitute Greg Gard (yes, already) as one of the best coaches in not only the Big Ten Conference but college basketball. Seriously. When you look back at the tumultuous season in which Gard took over -- filled with drama and and an inexperienced roster -- just getting a seven seed in the tournament was enough to put him in the Top-10 coaching performances of the season behind dark horses like Chris Mack and Tom Crean and heavyweights like Jay Wright, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and Roy Williams.
That's impressive company.
And in my mind there is little to no doubt that Gard is someone the Badgers can look to build another 16-years around.
Who in their right mind wouldn't want to link up with a coach that instead of folding, or worrying so much about what a loss might mean for his job, he invested his time into fine tuning his niche. To finding his coaching voice. And he worked his ass off to bring HIS version of the Wisconsin Badgers back from the depths of the Big Ten basement.
All the while building upon that brand we talked about earlier:
Those type of moments happened more often than they didn't when Ryan was at the helm.
And they are still happening under Gard.
At the end of the day (as I jealously whimper), doesn't that mean everything?