With its final regular season game remaining, Wisconsin (12-5 Big Ten, 20-10 overall) has to feel pretty good about the situation they are currently in. After throttling Minnesota Wednesday, the Badgers clinched at least a fourth place finish in the Big Ten for the 15th consecutive year and secured a seventh consecutive season with at least 12 Big Ten conference wins.
Minnesota’s 2016 senior night will be not be one Gopher fans will want to remember. Earlier Wednesday, Minnesota head coach Rick Pitino suspended teammates Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer and Kevin Dorsey after an alleged sex video scandal that appeared on Dorsey’s social media account.
With its final home game Sunday, Wisconsin (10-5 Big Ten, 18-10 overall) will look to all but seal up an NCAA Tournament bid against the Michigan Wolverines (10-6, 20-9). Winning nine games out of its last 10, the Badgers have been one of the most impressive squads in the entire nation over the past month and a half, owning wins over Michigan State, Indiana, Maryland and Iowa. Getting a victory Sunday will essentially clinch an NCAA Tournament spot for UW and will serve as another résumé booster.
Ever since the sudden retirement of Bo Ryan in late-December, interim head coach Greg Gard has utilized his bench more and more and has seen noticeable results. Freshmen bench players Khalil Iverson, Charlie Thomas and redshirt sophomore Jordan Hill proved this with their combined 23 points and crucial win over No. 8 Iowa (11-4 Big Ten, 20-7 Overall) 67-59 Wednesday night in Iowa City.
Thursday’s lackluster performance in a loss to No. 8 Michigan State may have brought significant concern for players and fans, but the reality of the matter is that Wisconsin had an uncharismatic game and was defeated by arguably one of the nation’s top teams.
In one month, Michigan State altered the Badgers’ season in two very distinct ways. 31 days ago, Wisconsin defeated the Spartans at the Kohl Center, the beginning of a seven-game win streak that enabled them to get back into the NCAA Tournament picture.
Led by a season-high 13 3-pointers, Wisconsin (6-4 Big Ten, 14-9 overall) extended its win streak to five by defeating a stingy Ohio State team (6-5, 14-10) 79-68 at the Kohl Center Thursday night. With the Buckeyes locking down on defense in the post, the Badgers took full advantage of the open looks they got beyond the arc within the first minutes of the game.
Riding a three-game win streak, Wisconsin (4-4 Big Ten, 12-9 overall) looks to increase its NCAA tournament hopes with a matchup in Urbana-Champaign against Illinois (2-6, 10-11) Sunday. After beating No. 5 Michigan State, Penn State and No. 19 Indiana, the Badgers have looked promising as of late and will enter an easier stretch of conference games beginning with the Fighting Illini.