Wisconsin Basketball: How Far Can Bucky Go?
The Wisconsin Badgers have been given a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament this year, and a first-round matchup against Cal-State Fullerton, who won the Big West conference. Like many others, I think the Badgers could've gotten a #2, but remember, they got upset by UNLV as a #2 last year. So I'm taking this seeding as a blessing in disguise.
These Badgers rolled through the Big Ten, going 16-2....16 wins in the Big Ten!!! If it wasn't for the fact that Purdue came out of nowhere this year, Bo Ryan's Badgers could have been 18-0. This just doesn't happen in Big Ten country. Wisconsin has the ability to play with anybody, just ask the Texas Longhorns, the #2 seed in the South. The Badgers beat the 'Horns, in Austin, without their starting point guard in Trevon Hughes.
So, onto the brackets!
The Badgers face the Cal-State Titans on Thursday, in which I think they have a good-sized advantage. Now if March Madness has taught us anything, it's that nothing is guaranteed. You just don't see too many 3 vs. 14 upsets though. The Titans do have Josh Akognon, who is averaging 20ppg this year, plus two others averaging 15 points or more, but they lack height, (tallest starters are 6'5"). The Titans like to score, but have probably never played a Wisconsin-style defense which allows opponents to score only 55 points a game.
Wisconsin has been underrated all year, so they are out to prove people wrong. They like to win games by playing defense and score off turnovers. The lower the score is, the better for Bo Ryan. But don't get me wrong, if the Badgers need to score points, they have the weapons; they just haven't had to use them because they coax other teams to play their slower style of play instead of vice-versa. I think picking Wisconsin over Cal-St. Fullerton is a safe choice.
So that leads to a Wisconsin vs. USC/Kansas St. second round matchup. Personally, I have Mayo's Trojans over Beasley's Wildcats. So, freshman phenom O.J. Mayo leads his USC squad to play Wisconsin, where I think they hit the wall. Even if the Wildcats pull off an upset of their own, all Kansas State has is Beasley; so again, stop #1 and you win. Wisconsin's defense is just too good to let USC or KSU slip by them. It all starts with Michael Flowers, who should have won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, but had ONE off game vs. the Wolverines. That didn't sit well with Flowers, so look for him to play his best defense in this tourney (and yes, it does get better). Also, he's a senior, along with Steimsma and Butch, and they want to win as many games as they can before it's all over.
Now I hate making predictions, and I feel I jinx 'my' teams whenever I try to, but I think the Badgers can atleast win their first two games, including against whoever they may play in round 2. Trying to look further than that is tough, seeing as how the Midwest bracket holds Kansas, Georgetown, a team to watch in Clemson (provided they survive #12 Villanova in a great first-round match), and Vanderbilt.
Can the Badgers make the Final Four?? The Championship Game?? It may sound cheesy, but "anything can happen." Who thought George Mason would ever make the Final Four? Everybody had 'Phi Slamma Jamma's' Houston over Jimmy V's NC State. Upsets are what make this tournament worth watching; it's what makes sports in general worth watching. Anybody can win at anytime.
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