Now that the dust has settled on Wisconsin's run to the national championship game, let's recap what was the 2014-2015 Wisconsin men's basketball season.
Wisconsin was coming off a season in which they had gone 30-6 and made a run to the Final Four. Seven of the top eight players were back (Have fun in Lithuania Ben Brust!), and expectations were through the roof. Here's the thing about expectations. Rarely do high expectations, especially ones higher than anything the program has achieved since WWII (#1941nationalchampions), get met. So how did it work out for the Badgers?
Act I:Non-conference Play
Wisconsin started the season by destroying Northern Kentucky and Chattanooga by 31 and 44 points respectively. That was totally expected. Wisconsin then went to do the same thing to solid squads in Boise State and
Keifer Sykes UW-Green Bay. I personally didn't think Wisconsin would run Green Bay out of the gym, as that game is usually way closer than the typical Horizon-Big Ten matchup. They then headed to the Bahamas for a three day infomercial on my TV called the Battle 4 Atlantis. Once there, they hammerfucked what ended up being a decent UAB team (Hi Iowa State! Thanks for destroying my bracket! If you guys could've even gotten to the Sweet 16 I would've won a lot of pools! But I digress). Unfortunately the Badgers missed the marquee matchups we wanted to see with UNC and Florida, but beating Georgetown and Oklahoma in hard fought battles was a pretty good consolation prize. More on UNC later (spoiler alert). Then came the first Duke game. Fuck Duke. 80-70 was the final, with the Blue Devils incapable of missing in the second half. Whoever drafts Tyus Jones is immediately my least favorite NBA team. The Badgers took care of the rest of nonconference, getting a game from really only Marquette, Cal, and Buffalo, who ended up being pretty good themselves. Buffalo, not Marquette, who was terribad again this year.
Act 2: Conference Play
So far, the Badgers were rolling right along, no shame in losing to Duke, they're a national championship conteOHMYGOD CAN I JUST NOT WRITE DUKE AND NATIONAL CHAMPION IN THE SAME SENTENCE?!? Wisconsin started by picking apart an almost ranked (one could say essentially ranked) Penn State (lol right ranked Penn State basketball) and Northwestern. Then a rapidly improving Purdue team gave them all the could handle in Madison before a weirdly scheduled non-conference game against Rutgers. Oh that's right, Rutgers won a radio call-in among non-Power 5 schools and got invited to join a real conference. That was a joke, kind of like this game, where all the Badgers got hurt and Rutgers scored the biggest accomplishment in their athletic program's history since the 1869 national championship they try to claim in football. If Lincoln wasn't even cold in the ground yet, the national championship definitely doesn't count. Wisconsin righted the ship by beating what was supposed to be a good Nebraska team, then blowing the doors off Iowa by 32. That game was such a joy, nothing brings me more joy than absolutely destroying rivals, especially ones that complain about everything Wisconsin. Wisconsin followed that up by falling asleep at the wheel and almost losing to Michigan in Ann Arbor (the town, not the whore, or are they the same thing?). The next seven games really show you how spoiled Wisconsin basketball fans have been. Sure beating Minnesota and Iowa is fun, but these games were almost boring. Wisconsin wasn't even challenged. FOR HALF THE CONFERENCE SEASON. IN THE BIG TEN. WHAT?!?!?!?! I almost expected them to go into Maryland and lose. They did. I wasn't even mad. Maryland was a great team, College Park was rocking, and you can't win them all. RIGHT KENTUCKY??? Wisconsin bounced back to beat MSU and Minnesota to wrap up the conference title, then as icing on the cake destroyed Ohio State in game they led by 33 at one point.
Act III: Postseason
Wisconsin was the number one seed for the BTT, and as such got the double bye. They ended up playing Michigan, which probably cost Illinois an NCAA tournament bid. Wisconsin got it done in regulation this time. Then came Purdue, who lead by 5 at half before the Badgers woke up and won by 20. The Big Ten championship game is mired in some controversy, but Josh Gasser out of bounds or not, my sources tell me scoring in overtime increases your chances of winning. Also not blowing 11 point leads decreases the chances you need college basketball refs to make the right calls. In the end, the Badgers completed the sweep of the regular and conference tournament titles. Mere hours later, the Badgers locked up the first one seed in program history where they would get the right to face Coastal Carolina. This was another "why are we not blowing them out game?", similar to most the conference slate, but give the Chanticleers credit for playing well, because they did. Same for Oregon, extra bonus points to Oregon for not showing up in the glow in the dark uniforms or something, because the Badgers postseason uniforms were ugly enough for both teams. Like "you're done making our unifroms" ugly. Then came UNC. This game scared me a lot, more than Arizona, although that game scared me too. UNC had top 10 talent and was peaking at the right time. It had upset written all over it. Thankfully the Badgers buckled down in the second half and got the win. So Arizona...
Final Four. Kentucky. 38-0. The rest is history. This game was such a joy to watch despite the 34 heart attacks. If I never watch a Badger game in any sport that makes me as happy as beating Kentucky that's ok. And here's another Sam Dekker youtube video for your enjoyment...
I wrote an entire article on the Duke game here. I'm not nearly enough of a masochist to recap it again.
Let's get something straight (looking at you conference newbies)... Wisconsin does not finish lower than fourth in the Big Ten. Bo Ryan has had teams with half as much talent as the one he has next year win 23 games and get to the Sweet 16. Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig are legitimate studs, and the rest of the pieces will fall in place. Projecting them to finish lower than 5th is pure lunacy. Losing Diamond Stone hurt, but realistically, Wisconsin is in a good place still. Also Bo Ryan got a contract extension through 2020. He'll be 72, which is old, but still 2 years younger than Larry Brown is now. Also get ready for the "Brevin Pritzl just hit another 3" parade. Coming to you as soon as November if he can play D. His highlight tape looks like somebody cloned Ben Brust. As for Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, thanks for the memories, I'll be cheering for you in the league. Duje Dukan, go make some money playing in Europe before you work for the United Nations. Trae Jackson, you frustrated the hell out of me, but these two Final Fours wouldn't have happened without you. I'm sure you'll get a pro contract somewhere. This was the best Wisconsin basketball team ever, and it was a joy to watch them. Now it's back to "how did this team win 24 games?", at least until Bo unearths another Frank Kaminsky. Although I'd settle for another Alando Tucker too.