Wisconsin Basketball: From 9-9 to the Sweet 16

The Wisconsin basketball team has made an incredible transformation this season.

Just a little over two months ago, the Wisconsin basketball team was 9-9 and looking destined for the NIT or worse. Now the Badgers are about to play in the Sweet 16, an epic turnaround after a dismal start to the season.

The Badgers are on the verge of playing in their fifth Sweet 16 in the past six years with a matchup against Notre Dame on Friday.

Getting to this point has certainly not been easy, especially after the Badgers got off to by far their worst start in recent memory.

Wisconsin’s season began on a sour note with a home loss to Western Illinois. The Badgers then suffered tough losses to Georgetown and Oklahoma, and hit a low point in the season with back-to-back losses to Milwaukee and Marquette.

The Bo Ryan retired mid-season, paving the way for Greg Gard to take over a Badgers team with a 7-5 record. Things didn’t immediately get better, and the Badgers lost three out of their first five games with Gard at the helm.

At that point in the season, with a 9-9 record overall and a 1-4 start to conference play, the Badgers looked dead in the water. It seemed destined Wisconsin was heading for a rough finish, with the best possible outcome a chance for the team to find some stability down the line and get some of their young players ready for year two.

Even the eternal optimist in me was ready to write the season off.

But then things changed.

Wisconsin whipped together seven straight wins, starting with a huge victory over Michigan State at the Kohl Center, and after a loss to Michigan State on the road, strung together four more victories before losing the season finale to Purdue.

They finished the season with a 20-11 overall record and kept alive numerous streaks, including finishing fourth place or better in the conference for the 15th straight season and making the NCAA Tournament for the 18th consecutive year.

Along the way Wisconsin learned how to turn close losses into wins, and built the confidence they needed to take them on a tournament run.

That brought us to the tournament, where Wisconsin’s mettle was again tested.

First, the Badgers endured one of their worst shooting performances of the season, holding off Pittsburgh in the opening round on the way to a 47-43 victory, shooting just 32.1 percent from the field.

The the Badgers rode the late-game heroics of Bronson Koenig to a 66-63 victory over the Xavier Musketeers in round two, earning a spot in the Sweet 16 on corner three buzzer-beater.

Just like the Badgers did in the second half of the season, they endured tough stretches and came out on top.

The Badgers have a chance to extend their 2016 NCAA Tournament run even farther than the Sweet 16, but to even get there is an impressive accomplishment considering the way this season began.