1. NCAA Tournament – April 4, 2015: No. 1 Wisconsin 71, No. 1 Kentucky 64
There was so much meaning behind the 2015 meeting between the Badgers and the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats that made that win probably the greatest ever in Wisconsin program history.
Wisconsin had not made a national championship since the 1940s, while Kentucky had been to five in the last 20 years. The Badgers were made up of a range of two and three start recruits, while the Wildcats started all five-star talent. All indications pointed to Kentucky as the best team in college basketball history, and although they may have been more talented and skilled than the Badgers- you could tell Wisconsin wanted that game more than ever.
One year earlier, Kentucky broke the hearts of Badgers fans when Aaron Harrison hit a game winning three over Josh Gasser to knock off Wisconsin in the Final Four. The eight-seeded Wildcats stormed the court right in front of their eyes and celebrated the win, and from there the narrative began throughout the entire next year: “Wisconsin wants another shot at Kentucky.”
Two games away from history, the Wildcats knew they would have their hands full against the veteran Badgers, and the beginning of the game had no dispute of that as both teams came out locked and loaded, scoring 36 points a piece to end the first half. With 20 minutes remaining, Badgers fans feared that the inevitable Kentucky run would occur in the second half and their depth, athleticism, and talent would be too much for the Badgers to keep pace with.
While we all know the result, this was true at some points in the second half as Kentucky ran their lead up to four points after trailing for majority of the first half of the second frame. It was starting to look like the Badgers were out of gas as Kentucky was grabbing every loose board and ball it seemed.
Despite the small deficit, the Badgers turned to old reliables Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, who combined for over half the team’s points and provided big shots and rebounding and the Badgers started getting hustle plays to fall their way down the stretch.
After a Bronson Koenig free throw to put the team up four with just over ten seconds left, an Aaron Harrison missed three-pointer fell into the hands of the Badgers and sent Koenig back to the line. That was the moment every one knew what was happening and reality started settling in for the Wildcats.
It was quite the difference in feelings for both teams than it was the year prior, as Badgers players stormed mid-court while Wildcats sulked and tugged at their jerseys.
Although Wisconsin still had one more game to play, at that very moment they were on top of the world.