INDIANAPOLIS – With six minutes remaining in their quarterfinal against Ohio State, the Wisconsin Badgers felt good about their chances of victory—and their chances of ensuring an NCAA tournament invitation.
But it was all downhill from there.
The Badgers squandered a seven-point lead, didn’t make a shot from the floor down the stretch, and ended up on the wrong side of a 61-57 score that may just keep them out of the Big Dance when the pairings are announced Sunday night.
Joe Krabbenhoft didn’t even want to think about the possibility.
“It’s not anything that we can talk about,” the visibly disappointed senior said afterwards when asked about the Badgers’ NCAA hopes. “We’re not in control of that anymore”.
In the other locker room, the mood was much more jubilant. And the Buckeyes were willing to make the case for their conference counterpart as well.
“Seven or eight” teams should be in, Buckeye guard Jon Diebler told me. Diebler had done his part to destroy the Badgers’ hopes with a huge three-pointer late in the game—now he seemed intent on rescuing them with his words.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan thought the inclusion of his club was a no-brainer.
“We earned our way to the quarterfinals, winning seven of our last nine games. If you look at the teams we played, we played a tough schedule. Of course, at this point, there’s nothing I can say that will do anything. It’ll be what it’ll be.”
Meanwhile, Ohio State finally seems to be a lock for the NCAA tournament, due in large part to a monster game from star Evan Turner. Turner finished with 19 points and a team-high four assists, making all the plays down the stretch to help the Buckeyes prevail.
"He's that good", Ryan said later. "He proved why he's easily, I would say, the best player in the league--because he gets things done. He makes his team successful."
Ohio State finished a surprising 50% from the field, which is especially notable considering Wisconsin’s reputation for stifling defense.
Instead, the defense came from the fifth-seeded Buckeyes, especially at crunch time, and it was enough to knock out the defending Big Ten tournament champions.
The Bucks held Wisconsin to 36% shooting from the floor for the game, a fact Ryan attributed to his team’s inability to finish great shot attempts.
“If you’re in a shooting drill and you have that shot and the person throws the ball back to you…you’d probably hit the next two,” Ryan lamented. “Some of those looks from three, you just wish you had them back.”
On Selection Sunday, there’s a good possibility the Badgers will really wish they had those last six minutes back.