Wisconsin Basketball: Badgers in Unprecedented 5th Sweet 16 in 6 Years

The Wisconsin basketball team is becoming a staple in the Sweet 16

Over the past six seasons, the Wisconsin basketball team has accomplished one impressive feat more times than any other team in all of college basketball: make it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

The Badgers are five for six since the 2011 NCAA Tournament as far as making it to the regional semifinals is concerned, earning their fifth trip in the last six years and their third straight trip this Friday after defeating Xavier in the Round of 32 Sunday night on an incredible buzzer-beater from junior Bronson Koenig.

This Badgers group, which features just two returning starters and two more returning rotation players from last year’s National Championship run, is in good company with Badgers teams over the last half decade.

The streak stared in the 2010-2011 season when Bo Ryan, in his ninth year as the head coach of the Badgers, led Wisconsin to the school’s fifth Sweet 16 appearance and first since the 2007-2008 season.

That season saw Jon Leuer lead the Badgers to the Sweet 16 during his senior season, playing alongside junior Jordan Taylor, fellow senior Keaton Nankivil, sophomore Mike Bruesewitz and freshman Josh Gasser.

The four-seed Badgers defeated 13-seed Belmont 72-58 in the opening round before holding off Jacob Pullen and five-seed Kansas State 70-65 to earn a spot in the Sweet 16.

There Wisconsin’s tournament ended at the hands of eight-seed Butler in a 61-54 loss. Butler went all the way to the National Championship, where they fell to UConn.

In 2011-2012, Wisconsin again made a run to the Sweet 16, led by Taylor in his senior season and juniors Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans, with Gasser, Bruesewitz and Ben Brust getting plenty of run along the way.

Wisconsin, again a four-seed, took down Montana 73-49 in the first round before cruising by five-seed Vanderbilt in the Round of 32 by a score of 70-57 to earn their second straight trip to the Sweet 16. There they ran into top-seeded Syracuse, and fell in a nail-biter, 64-63.

A return trip to the Sweet 16 wasn’t in the books in 2012-2013, as five-seed Wisconsin ran into 12-seed Ole Miss in the first round and gave up 19 points to Marshall Henderson in a 57-46 loss. That was the season the Badgers played without Gasser as he was sidelined by an ACL injury.

The Badgers bounced back in a big way, and in the 2013-2014 season not only made it back to the Sweet 16, but rode the starting five of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson, Brust and Gasser to a Final Four appearance. That team featured a pair of exciting Wisconsin freshmen in Nigel Hayes and Koenig, with Duje Dukan rounding out the rotation.

Those Badgers, the two-seed, cruised past American 75-35 in the opening round then took down seven-seed Oregon 85-77, earning a spot in the Sweet 16 against six-seed Baylor. Wisconsin kept rolling in a 69-52 victory.

They went on to take down Arizona in the Elite Eight 64-63 in overtime before falling to Kentucky in the Final Four 74-73.

2014-2015 saw possibly the best Badgers squad in school history earn a one-seed and storm all the way to the National Championship.

The team only lost Brust from the roster that made it to the Final Four a season prior, and with Koenig and Hayes a year older, had depth as well as experience.

Wisconsin took down Coastal Carolina 86–72 in the opening round and earned a trip to their fourth Sweet 16 in five years with a 72-65 win over eight-seed Oregon. in the Sweet 16, Wisconsin held off four-seed North Carolina 79–72 to make it back to the Elite Eight for the second straight season.

From there, Wisconsin knocked off Arizona 85-78 then took down Kentucky 71-64 in the Final Four before their magical run came to an end in the National Championship game against Duke.

The 2015-2016 Badgers win over Xavier Sunday puts Wisconsin back into the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in six seasons, where a matchup with Notre Dame awaits.

Wisconsin is looking to make its third Elite Eight appearance in as many seasons, and will be doing so for the first time without Gasser in their lineup, as “Captain America” played a role in each of the Badgers trips to the Sweet 16 since 2011.

Gasser wasn’t the only constant, head coach Greg Gard was there, too, albeit as an assistant. The new Wisconsin head coach will be looking to begin his coaching career at Madison with a trip to the Elite Eight.