On a (finally) seasonally cold Dec. night, Wisconsin Basketball may have finally shown itself to be one of the big boys. With their win over perennial powerhouse Duke on Wednesday night, Bucky showed the college basketball world that a Bo Ryan team can never truly be considered over-matched.
As I watched the nail-biting final minutes of the game, I wondered to myself (in between cussing and yelling in excitement) what a wire to wire win over Duke could mean for the Wisconsin Basketball program. By the time the Grateful Red stormed the floor, it was already obvious to me.
I know it's only December, but this is a Wisconsin team that could really cement the program as a true winner. As we all know, they were picked to finish between 7th and 9th, due to the fact they lost two big men in Marcus Landry and Joe Krabenhoft. But what the outsiders, until maybe Wednesday, seem to forget, is Ryan's teams don't require blue chippers to contend, and in fact they probably would hinder his team oriented coaching style.
With wins like the ones over not only Duke, but also perennial tourney team Arizona, and #22 Maryland, Bucky is already putting together a great non-conference resume' for the tournament selection committee. And as we all know, Ryan's teams always play hard in conference, giving me freedom to say comfortably that Wisconsin's tourney streak is far from over.
Now, I'm sure many are saying yea, it's a big win, but Duke might be down this year.
This is Duke we are talking about. They ARE college basketball. This is the same team from N.C. that rarely loses, anywhere, let alone to an unranked team outside of their conference. And the Badgers not only won, they controlled the game from buzzer to buzzer, never giving up the lead. We witnessed great execution of a simple (if not boring in some's eyes) game plan. The team did exactly what they were supposed to, play like a team, and that is the magic of this system that has brought us to this point.
Now we all know that one win doesn't make a team a powerhouse, but a win against the premier school, when the Badgers were dogged as being in a rebuilding year, shows the tenacity of a program that knows they can win any time they take the court. If this win can't prove to the country that Wisconsin is a true contender, I don't know what will.
Again, I know it is a long time until March, but with the sports world starting to take notice, a good run to the tournament with maybe even another upset or two could put Bucky on the basketball map permanently.
And to the folks who think we already are an elite team, I appreciate your fondness for Cardinal colored glasses, but remember, we didn't even make the tourney for 50 years, have only been ranked #1 once, which was literally lost the next night, and have been to the Final Four once, during Mr. Bennett's magical run in 2000... So we are not there yet, but Wednesday's night win may just be the stepping stone to that status.