Wisconsin sits in fourth-place in the Big Ten standings, but there might not be a team in the conference with a better NCAA tournament resume than the Badgers.
Bo Ryan’s bunch added another impressive win to the list Sunday with a big 75-62 win on the road at Michigan, holding the Big Ten-leading Wolverines to just 19 points in the first half and answering a second-half comeback with a big scoring run.
It was a strong showing, with Frank Kaminsky (25 points, 11 rebounds), Sam Dekker (15 points) and Josh Gasser (13 points) all scoring in double figures.
“We did not try to change anything. We tried to work hard and be better at some of the things we do,” Ryan said after the game. “And I thought, energy-wise, we were really good fighting screens and putting ourselves in position to try to get them to take tough shots. But even when they took some tough shots, they made them. But we know how skilled, offensively, Michigan is, so we just tried to limit them as much as we could. And you saw that that one spurt that they had, we answered it.”
Sunday’s win coupled with the previous weekend’s defeat of Michigan State gives Wisconsin two wins over the Big Ten’s top teams in the last three games. The Badgers have re-established themselves as one of the conference’s best squads after a poor stretch that saw them lose five of six games. Remember, the Badgers started off 16-0 and reached the No. 3 ranking in the country.
The recent four-game winning streak has caught national attention, too, as the Badgers jumped up to the No. 16 team in the AP top 25 on Monday.
And wins over the two Michigan schools are just the latest impressive victories for this year’s Wisconsin group. The RPI rankings have the Badgers at No. 6, thanks mainly to the second strongest schedule in the country and a nation-leading five wins against teams ranked in the RPI top 25. Overall, the Badgers are 13-4 against teams ranked in the RPI top 100.
That list of defeated opponents includes not just ranked conferece-mates like Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa but also non-conference foes like St. Louis, Virginia, Green Bay, West Virginia and Florida, the new No. 2 team in the country.
It all sets the Badgers up with what could be the most impressive tournament resume of any Big Ten team.
Of course, land mines still exist in Wisconsin’s remaining five games. That starts this weekend with a trip to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to take on a very good Iowa team. And even if that game ends in a “W” for Ryan’s team, this year has proven that there are no easy days in the Big Ten.
“There’s still 12 teams the last time I looked,” Ryan said Sunday. “And if you can tell me that there’s teams that aren’t in the first eight spots, if you tell me there’s four teams that are below that — nine, 10, 11, 12 — that they’re not good, that they can’t beat you. I’ve never seen it like this. And that’s eight years as an assistant, too, from ’76 to ’84.
“I’m saying, who knows.”