Two of my favorite things to do are rub salt in wounds and beat dead horses, and I’m certainly not going to pass up an opportunity as golden as this to do those things. So I as a Wisconsin fan got to watch my team (pre NCAA tournament) this year finish second in the Big Ten, win two games in the Big Ten tournament, and generally have a solid 25 win season that included a sweep of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Now for some unfathomable reason, despite these things, every Gopher fan on the planet felt the need to chime in about A-the Gophers obviously deserving a higher seed than Wisconsin and B-lol Wisconsin got an 8 seed. Now I could point out that even if Wisconsin flamed out in the first round this year Wisconsin has had two very recent Final Four runs and hasn’t missed the tournament since right after you vacated a Final Four, but I’m not a Michigan fan. No, enjoy your 5 seed Minnesota, because I know a lot of you deep down felt really terrible about playing Middle Tennessee and would have gladly traded for Virginia Tech. Those fears were gloriously confirmed and Wisconsin beating the Hokies in something of a second half track meet was icing on the first round cake. Now here’s the great part about being a Wisconsin fan... If that was all, Gopher fans could come back with something like Wisconsin still underachieved this season or whatever, but no. Wisconsin fans live a blessed life so of course the Badgers were going to take down the number one overall seed so I can read endless articles about how the selection committee screwed not Wisconsin, but ultimately the defending national champs by putting a team so much obviously better than its seed in their pod the first weekend.
And what a weird game it was. Now I for one will never blame officiating on the outcome of a basketball game. There’s too many possessions and its too high variance for a call here or there to be the sole determining factor of game. Go read my Wisconsin-Duke national championship recap, sure Winslow touched it last, but the refs didn’t stop playing offense with eight minutes to go. That said, the refs in this game were atrocious, and I thought Showalter was going to have to give whoever was guarding him his lunch money he was getting mugged so badly every time he touched the ball. The game started well enough, and you can analyze this team to death, but if the Badgers are going to continue to win games Vitto Brown has to keep hitting open shots early and often. We can talk about Bronson Koenig shooting like 85% in the last five minutes of games, but it doesn’t matter if Brown is a waste of floor space. I’m not going to go back through the game logs, but I know he had a zero point effort in twenty-nine minutes in one of the late season losses. Might’ve been Ohio State, I can’t remember for sure. He doesn’t need to score 20 (or even 10), but he has to be enough of a threat to keep the inside open for Hayes and Happ. Throughout the first half, everytime Villanova threw a punch Wisconsin got a basket, which you would expect a preseason top 10 team to do when it needs to. The second half predictably turned into a heart stopper. Wisconsin went on a patented “we can’t hit a shot, let’s throw a shot clock violation in there just for fun” scoring drought, and when DiVitalianosomething hit a three to make it 57-50 I thought it was over. Of course, this is the NCAA Tournament and Bronson Koenig needs a forklift for his balls so I really should’ve known Wisconsin had them right where they wanted them. Related- Is there a Big East team that doesn’t hate Koenig? That’s two straight years he’s crushed a Big East team’s hopes and dreams in the NCAA Tournament and he’s always killed Marquette. Also if I’m Florida and it’s the second half and Koenig touches the ball in the corner I’m tackling him. Literally shoulders to chest putting him in the 3rd row. You’d think by now teams would know better, but here we are. Yet it wasn’t Koenig, but everyone’s favorite terrible unclutch underachieving worst going to be a Badger basketball legend Nigel Hayes who hit the game winner on a reverse lay up. It was a great move, and thank God Villanova didn’t just hack him because between Hayes and Happ Wisconsin has to have the worst free throw shooting front court in college basketball. All’s well that ends well I suppose, shooting under 50% from the free throw line is fine if you win by three instead of lose by three.