The Wisconsin Badgers basketball team has absolutely no choice but to buck up and put last night’s 77-68 loss, to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, behind them.
This is no time to feel sorry for yourself; it’s Championship Week baby.
Wisconsin’s longest Big Ten winning streak since 1941 (eight games) was washed away by the tidal wave that was the atmosphere inside Pinnacle Bank Arena last night. All credit goes to the ‘Huskers and their raucous crowd. I was incredibly impressed with their crowd, from pre-game to the post-game celebration. The player of the game award for this game goes to Nebraska’s faithful (Honorable mention to Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway, who both dropped 26 points on the Badgers).
Nebraska’s new arena was opened this year, in Lincoln, and this was undoubtably the biggest game in its infant history. But I mean Hell, this was the biggest basketball game played on a Nebraska home court since the 1990s — and they showed up.
At times it seemed like the Badgers didn’t even have a chance. Bucky’s reliable shooters couldn’t hit a free throw to save their lives, while Nebraska’s free throws were taking crazy bounces before finding the bottom of the net. Wisconsin already had the two seed in the Big Ten Tournament on lock and Nebraska was desperately pleading for its first bid to the Big Dance since 1998.
It’s safe to say they are in now.
And they deserve it. They’ve won eight of their last nine Big Ten games (Wow). Watch as their impassioned student section exploded onto the court last night, as decades worth of frustrations were lifted in one night.
And I’ll say it again, desperate teams are dangerous teams. Fortunately, the Badgers will be as desperate as any team in the one-and-done NCAA Tournament. We, at Badger of Honor, knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game.
Wisconsin got up by as much as seven points in the second half and it seemed as though it was headed right for a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Welp, not anymore. The Badgers’ fate in the Big Ten Tournament will decide if they receive a two or three seed in the Big Dance. Fingers crossed.
Speaking of the Big Ten Tournament, I was walking around downtown Indianapolis early this morning and snapped this picture. The Circle City is ready to host the annual tournament and they do it as well as anyone. As a sign of respect, a portion of Meridian Street (the main drag) downtown is named “Badgers Place;” for the time being. Prime real-estate. Not every Big Ten team finds their name so close to the heartbeat of the action in the city. The event planners know that the Badgers are expected to represent well this year on the court, in the crowd and especially in the bars and restaurants.
Lets hope this loss to the ‘Huskers will inspire Wisconsin to come out on fire. I, personally, would trade a one seed in the Big Dance for a Big Ten Tournament Championship (Wisconsin lost to Ohio State in the final last year). Of course, we all wanted both.
Wisconsin will play the winner of Penn State (7) and Minnesota (10) in the second round. If the Badgers win, they will likely play either Michigan State (3) or Iowa (6) in the semi-final. Michigan (1) is expected to come out of the other side of the bracket but I wouldn’t sleep on Nebraska (4)…I mean, with how they’re playing right now they can beat anyone.
The Badgers shouldn’t be discouraged. They must remember that they, too, have won eight of their last nine games; defeating many top opponents. Not to mention, being humbled right before postseason play isn’t the worst thing to happen. Bo Ryan will have Wisconsin focused as a result of this loss, not reeling like how some teams may respond.
One player that needs to step up in the upcoming tournaments is Sam Dekker. Halfway through the year, he was averaging 15 points-per-game but in the last three games, he hasn’t scored more than seven points in any of the contests. That’s troubling, especially for a player that possesses so much talent and passion.
Traevon Jackson had one of his worst games of the year against the ‘Huskers last night — 8 points and 4 turnovers, all which seemed to come at the worst times. But, look for him to bounce back. The kid is clutch and the tournament is all about clutch guard play.
Nebraska used a brand of aggressive perimeter defense against the Badgers, which limited Wisconsin’s three-point opportunities — the lifeblood of the Badgers’ swing offense attack. UW’s best shooters, Ben Brust and Josh Gasser, combined to make only four three-pointers in the game. In March, that doesn’t cut it. Watch for that to be a storyline as a way to “slow down the Badgers,” in the tournament. But coach Ryan will address this issue and adjust accordingly, that’s what makes him one of the greatest coaches in Big Ten history.
Congratulations to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, though. They deserved the victory and the forthcoming bid to the Big Dance. They shot extremely well from the floor and the charity stripe. The Badgers did not.
Wisconsin’s chance at redemption is coming quickly, the Badgers will play in front of a sold-out crowd this Friday in Indy.
Going To The Big Ten Tournament?
If you happen to be going to the Big Ten Tournament, let me suggest you ask a local to point you in the direction of “Mass Ave.” It’s a cultural district within walking distance of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which will undoubtedly satisfy any local eating or drinking needs you may have. If you want to stay within a block or two of the arena but still anticipate getting thirsty, I suggest giving your business to “The Pub,” “Kilroy’s,” or “Coaches Tavern.” Enjoy your visit.
Who else is excited for the Big Ten Tournament?