Wisconsin Badgers' Tangle with Illinois Key to Deciphering Tourney Hopes

Carl StineCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2010

The next week will tell us all we need to know about the Wisconsin Badgers tournament prospects.

The Badgers have not faced a conference team with a winning record since the last time the faced Illinois, February 9. Will face at least two in a row, and only teams with a winning record from here on out.

A four seed is the worst the Badgers can get in the Big Ten tournament and three seed is a possibility with a win against Illinois on Sunday and a Michigan State loss. A far cry from the seventh to ninth place finish in the conference predicted for the Badgers at the beginning of the season.

But there is more at stake this Sunday at Assembly Hall in Champaign.

You see, the Badgers entered the season without a Top 25 ranking. After victories over Michigan State, Duke, Maryland, Ohio State and Purdue, they have climbed up the rankings and are looking at anywhere from a three to a five seed in the NCAA tournament.

But even with the entire season under their belts, there are still questions about these Badgers.

Can they play on the road? What about at a neutral site? The Badgers can lay these questions to rest with a victory at Illinois Sunday.

The last time these two teams met, the Badgers fell hard to the unranked Illini, but that was without forward Jon Leuer. Since his return, Leuer has steadily improved in every game. In his most recent game, against Iowa, Leuer was 8-9 from the field and scored 18 points.

Wisconsin will need Leuer to step up against Illini big man Mike Tisdale in order to have a shot at winning in Champaign.

Should the Badgers win this game, they will have the monkey off their collective back of not being able to win on the road, and even more important, they will continue the momentum they have after a three game winning streak.


Season Finale - The Badgers have won three straight regular-season finales and are 7-1 in the regular season’s final game under Bo Ryan.

Making History - With a win at Illinois, UW would reach 13 Big Ten wins for just the third time in school history, having also won 13 in 2007 and claiming 16 conference wins in 2008.

Double-Double Trouble - Against Iowa, Jason Bohannon missed his first double-double of the season by one rebound, but finished the game with a season-high nine and 11 points. Bohannon has scored in double figures in eight straight games.