Was Bo Ryan celebrating his team's 26-point win, or the Packers' Super Bowl win?
The Green Bay Packers played about as well as any team in recent NFL postseason memory—winning three games on the road, in convincing fashion, before defeating the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
However, there was another team from Wisconsin who seemed to mirror the Packers’ success through much of the NFL playoffs.
The Wisconsin Badgers just happened to play basketball on the same day as each of the Packers’ last three playoff games—Atlanta in the NFC Divisional Round, Chicago in the NFC Championship, and, of course, this Sunday in the Super Bowl.
Several hours prior to kickoff Sunday, Wisconsin went out and manhandled a reeling Michigan State team—who did beat the Badgers in East Lansing a few weeks back—by a score of 82-56.
It was barely even that close.
Like the Packers later in the day, Wisconsin got off to a hot start in their game Sunday. The Badgers built a 13-point lead in the first 12 minutes en route to a comfortable victory. Unlike the Packers, the Badgers never even gave Michigan State a whiff at a comeback. They shot 59 percent for the game and led by over 30 points at one point.
It was the perfect afternoon appetizer for Badger fans, who were out in full force at the Kohl Center despite it being Super Bowl Sunday.
You wouldn’t expect anything less from them.
Back on January 15, Wisconsin improved to 3-2 in the Big Ten with a ten point win over Illinois at the Kohl Center. The Badgers held the Illini to just 30 percent shooting—their worst percentage this season.
Later that night, the Packers went into the Georgia Dome and made the Falcons look as bad as they had been all season. After falling behind 7-0, Green Bay went on to score 42 points between the second and third quarters, stunning the Atlanta crowd. The final was 48-21, and the Packers looked to be on an unstoppable train to Dallas.
Two weeks later, while the Packers were warming up at Soldier Field for the NFC Championship against the Bears, Wisconsin happened to also be playing in the Chicago area—just to the north in Evanston, against Northwestern. The game seemed to be a bit dangerous for Bo Ryan’s team going in.
It turned out to be anything but.
The Badgers came out and shot 55 percent, while making 12 3-pointers, in a 32 point suffocation of the Wildcats.
Again, that was in Evanston.
A road win of that margin is extremely rare in the Big Ten.
The Packers, of course, came out later that afternoon and jumped out to an early 14-0 lead on the Bears, eventually winning 21-14 and cementing their place in the Super Bowl.
Then, there was the incredible double-header yesterday.
Wisconsin blew out their biggest Big Ten rival over the past decade. The Badgers were determined to avenge their January loss to Michigan State, a game they uncharacteristically let slip away late.
The Packers then held up their end of the win-win partnership. Of course, their win meant just a little bit more to most sports fans in the state.
Now, the Packers can celebrate their Lombardi Trophy, while Wisconsin has to begin preparation for their biggest game of the regular season. The Badgers are set to take on No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday, in Madison. Before that, Ryan’s team has to take care of business at Iowa.
Maybe Ryan can somehow convince Mike McCarthy and the Packers to play a scrimmage. On the days of the Packers’ last three playoff wins, the Badgers won their three games by an average margin of 23 points.
However, given the way the Badgers have dominated at home this season, it may not matter what the Packers are doing on Saturday.