The Badgers beat Penn State at the Kohl Center on Sunday 76-66 in a game that was more important to not lose than to actually win. The Badgers are now sitting at #12 in the country in the USA Today/ESPN poll and up to a three seed in the latest Bracketology.
This was a game the Badgers could not afford to lose if they are to be taken seriously come tournament time. It was not the most exciting watch of the season as both the players and crowd did not seem nearly as into it as the past few games. This can be understandable when the two of the previous games involved Ohio State and Purdue. It is usually games like this that result in the home team getting upset. The game was never really in doubt in the second half and the Badgers held on for the double-digit win.
I really feel this is one of those games where you gain nothing if you win but if Wisconsin had lost than come tournament selection time all the national pundits would point to “Wisconsin lost at home to Penn State, top seeds cannot do that” as a reason why they fell out of a top four seed. I can just picture Jay Bilas lecturing the viewers as to why Wisconsin, the third place team in arguably the second best conference, received a seven or eight seed. That was all avoided with this win.
In the latest USA Today/ESPN rankings the Badgers fell from 10 to 12. The rankings do not mean much but it was nice to see the Badgers only fall a couple of spots after the tough loss at Purdue. It could be argued that Wisconsin should have not fallen at all since I cannot picture 11 teams in the country that could go into Purdue and win a game. Well I could picture one, Purdue, who is one of the teams ahead of them. Purdue is very good, Purdue is very tough at home. Not a bad loss by any means and this very minimal drop in the rankings demonstrates this.
One of my worthless fan vices is paying attention to the ever changing Bracketology brackets that Joe Lunardi comes up with daily. It is very similar to NFL Mock drafts that come out before any of the workouts or combine but still just as fun to look at. In the latest the Badgers are a three seed in the West. Within this region is St Johns as the six seed, BYU as the two and Texas is the one. Sign me up for this bracket right now. I do not think we could ask for a better bracket. Lets assume seeds would hold form so from the second round on the Badgers would play St Johns, then BYU, then Texas in the Elite Eight. These are not bad match-ups for Wisconsin.
St Johns depends on turnovers and may not respect the (lack of) athletic ability of the Badgers. This is a game a lot where a lot of people would pick St Johns but this is not a good matchup for them. Without turnovers St Johns would struggle.
BYU would be an interesting watch. I highly doubt Jimmer Fredette has played many or any point guards that are as physical as Jordan Taylor. If the refs let Taylor play Jimmer physically, I think he could be kept in relative control. On the other end is where the advantage really goes to Wisconsin. Jimmer plays no defense and is often hidden in zones by BYU. With the way this Wisconsin team shoots the ball that would be very bad for BYU. This would be a very offensive driven, entertaining game that could go to either team.
If the Badgers were to make it to the Elite Eight and matchup with Texas I think we would have to be happy to face this one seed over the others. Texas wins by wearing down its opponents with great defense and depth. Depth is minimized in the tournament because of the longer tv timeouts. Depth is additionally minimized by Wisconsin because of the pace. Texas is a great defense but an average offense. If Wisconsin could withstand the onslaught of pressure that Texas will throw at them from the beginning and eventually grab a lead the Badgers would be in good shape. The Badgers do not give up transition layups and hit their free throws. This combination makes it very difficult to come back on.
So there you go, the Badgers are in the Final Four!