By: Chris Terlop
The Wisconsin Badgers started their twelfth season under head coach Bo Ryan with a lot of question marks. Ryan’s teams have never finished lower than fourth in the Big Ten, yet have only made it past the Sweet Sixteen once (2004/05 Elite Eight) and are once again an enigma in the best basketball conference in the country.
A week ago they were able to travel to Assembly Hall in Bloomington and stunned then #2 Indiana 64-59, in a game they were able to take and answer every punch the Hoosiers were able to throw. This came after a blowout over #12 Illinois. This is the same team that lost to Virginia, Marquette and struggled to put away lowly Nebraska and Penn State. After these momentum building wins, they head to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes and lay an egg in the first half and dug a hole too deep to crawl out of, taking the loss 70-66. Badger fans everywhere are asking, “Who are these Badgers, the team that beats Indiana in their home, or the team that can’t beat Iowa and Virginia?”.
Simple answer, neither. The Illinois win was over-rated and the Virginia loss, not really that much of a stretch. Tony Bennett has the Cavaliers playing good basketball, sitting at 12-5 and 2-2 in the ACC and Illinois has sunk like a rock in conference play, posting a 1-4 record. So the Badgers are not that bad, nor that good.
For the Indiana win, you saw the Badgers stamp their style of play on that game. They will not play a better game than that all season long, Cody Zeller tore them apart in the first half, but he was the only one. Take out Zeller’s 9-15 shooting and the rest of the Hoosiers shot 28% from the field. An inspired performance by the Wisconsin defense. I highly doubt that the Badgers will click this perfectly again this season, they are too young, and too inconsistent.
Bottom line, there is no way the Badgers will revert back to squeaking by the likes of UWGB, but they aren’t going to beat a goliath like Indiana either. They will be tough at home, win one of the three against Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State and will drop either the Illinois or Northwestern games on the road. It will not be a conference championship this year, but they will get to the dance with a mid-range seed once again and put a few people asleep along the way. Bo Ryan’s system has worked for years in getting tournament appearances and a few conference championships, but what you need to ask yourself, is that enough?
You can hear Chris on Sportsline Monday though Friday 4-6pm and can follow him on Twitter @Terlop19