As the Wisconsin basketball team celebrated earning the first NCAA Tournament 1-seed in program history, unaware of the thrills, laughs and, ultimately, tragedy they would encounter, they were unknowingly cheering another achievement. A far more enduring, and impressive, accomplishment.
When the final buzzer sounded and the Badgers fell just one win short of immortality, basketball fans around the country were distraught. Even as the favorite going into the game, impartial fans were cheering almost exclusively for Wisconsin. But why?
Sadly, Wisconsin is probably not returning to the Top 5 any time soon. Here are the five teams most likely to open next season at the top of the rankings.
With a heavy heart and enough retrospect, we look to the future, to next year’s team. To attempt to put Monday night into some greater context, in my birth year of 1994, the Badgers made their third-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Since 1999, they have not missed the tournament, a remarkable stretch of consistency the likes of which few programs have achieved.
For the first time in the NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin didn’t close the game strong, didn’t shoot well and got into foul trouble and will now leave Indianapolis with broken hearts and without a national championship.
INDIANAPOLIS—No one in the Wisconsin locker room was ready. Not one.
In preparation for Monday night’s basketball game, State Street filled with cardinal-and-white-clad Badger fans waiting outside the campus’ most popular bars as early as 1:30 p.m.
INDIANAPOLIS—If you want to know how tough this game could be, consider what Grantland’s Mark Titus had to say going into the Final Four: that Duke’s best is even better than Kentucky’s best. It’s a decent bet UW will get that best Monday night. Here are all the players you can expect head coach Mike Krzyzewski to use during the game.
INDIANAPOLIS—Wisconsin is loose. They enter a pregame press conference already in a fit of giggles, and eventually pull the rest of the media in with them. It’s at the point where even head coach Bo Ryan is cracking jokes, worrying his guys are “too tense.”
INDIANAPOLIS— Saturday night, the Wisconsin Badgers accomplished what no other team in college basketball had done this season: defeat the Kentucky Wildcats.
INDIANAPOLIS—Saturday night’s Final Four showdown between top seeds Kentucky and Wisconsin has all the ingredients to be an evenly matched contest, as the country’s most efficient offense will take on the nation’s most stout defense. Since Ken Pomeroy started tracking tempo-free statistics back in 2002, no team has posted a higher offensive efficiency rating than this Wisconsin team.
With a trip to the Final Four on the line, Wisconsin and Arizona traded blows as a junior forward’s offensive outburst powered the Badgers to the next round.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the Kentucky roster, it’s worth noting just how deep head coach John Calipari enjoys going into his treasure trove of five-star recruits. If you were to make a list of every player in Saturday’s game and order them by the percentage of minutes played for their team, the Top 5 would be entirely Wisconsin players and spots 6 through 13 would be entirely Kentucky. Wisconsin’s most used lineup is on the court 48.3 percent of the time; Kentucky’s is used just 13.1 percent.
LOS ANGELES—The teams were the same, the round was the same, the region was the same, the next opponent turned out to be the same. Sam Dekker was different.