Wisconsin fans are very, very used to success on the home court on the Kohl Center. That is part of what has made the 2011-2012 basketball season such an odd one for the Badgers and their fans — with the team’s fourth home loss Saturday against Ohio State, the Badgers have equaled their home loss totals for the prior three seasons combined and set Bo Ryan’s record for home losses as Wisconsin’s coach. But lost in that shuffle is just how successful the team has been on the road.
The Badgers head into The Barn in Minneapolis with a 5-2 road record, their best road effort since winning the Big Ten regular season and conference tournament titles in 2008. Including the two easy victories against Bradley and BYU in the Badgers’ romp to the Chicago Invitational Tournament title in December, the Badgers are 7-2 away from the Kohl Center and have largely played excellent basketball in doing so. The Badgers were throttled in a 59-41 loss to Michigan to close out a three-game losing streak in the opening days of conference play, but the other loss, at North Carolina, was close the entire way, including a Badgers’ lead in the second half, ending as a three-point game. Wisconsin has solid victories at Illinois and Purdue and has avoided the typical disappointing road loss to a bad or mediocre team — at Penn State in 2011, at Minnesota in 2010, etc.
Given the quality of these wins and the lack of major blemishes, it should come as little surprise the Badgers rank highly when judged just on their road record. Perhaps it does surprise, however, that they come in at an astronomical fifth place according to the method of TeamRankings.com. That does not include their two neutral court victories, which place them tied atop the neutral court rankings with Creighton.
The Badgers get a moderate test Thursday against Minnesota, which as a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team is likely among the nation’s top 50 squads and well in the mix for a tournament berth. The latter half of February also includes trips to Michigan State and Ohio State, needed victories as Wisconsin clings to the tiniest of hopes at a Big Ten regular season title. Chances are one stretch of nine games away from the Kohl Center aren’t proof the Badgers have all of a sudden conquered any road demons, and a 11-4 home record in one of the Big Ten’s toughest years since its inception probably isn’t proof “Kohl Center magic” has run its course either.
At the least, though, it is a good sign for Wisconsin that in a year in which the shots aren’t falling and the wins aren’t stacking up at home, the Badgers have managed to take care of business away from home. And, of course, we all know none of the comforts of home await teams at the NCAA Tournament.