Where were you on Feb. 19, 2007? If you are a rabid Badger basketball fan, you might remember. Most, however, probably don't.
Feb. 19, 2007 was the day Wisconsin was ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll for the first time in program history. If you remember that day, then you probably remember what followed: back-to-back losses at Michigan State and Ohio State. The effort at MSU was tough to swallow, but the game at Ohio State -- which was ranked No. 1 in the Coaches Poll -- was probably one of the best Big Ten games of the decade. Mike Conley Jr. won the game for the Buckeyes in the final seconds with a runner in the lane.
That was arguably the toughest/most important week for UW basketball, ever, in terms of what was at stake and how good the opposing talent was. That brings us to this week, which is probably the toughest/most important week since 2007. In terms of who the Badgers play, it's at least comparable.
Wednesday night UW heads to Michigan State, which is much better than the '07 MSU team that upset the Badgers and watched its student section storm the court at the Breslin Center. Saturday, Wisconsin hosts Purdue, which is ranked No. 4 in the country and has yet to lose a game.
Here's to better results. Like 2007, UW has a very realistic chance of winning both games, but must do better than 0-2. As the Badgers learned three years ago, back-to-back losses in big games can cost you a Big Ten title.
If Wisconsin wants to play an undefeated Purdue team Saturday (and who wouldn't want to beat an undefeated team on their own court), UW fans should be rooting for the Boilermakers to avoid the upset bug tonight in West Lafayette, Ind. as they host Minnesota. However, fans might want to re-think that philosophy as the Badgers could use every Purdue loss possible if it wants to win the conference.
But if Purdue is undefeated Saturday, where would it rank all-time among UW home games at the Kohl Center? If I had to rank the Top 5 in terms of importance/atmosphere, this is what it would look like:
- 2003 vs. Illinois - Great atmosphere, great game, great finish. UW won the Big Ten title on Devin Harris' free throw in the final second.
- 2005 vs. Illinois - The only reason this game isn't No. 1 is because UW lost, but if you were at the Kohl Center when the undefeated Illini played the team with the longest home winning streak in the nation, you know it was an absolute mad-house all night long.
- 2009 vs. Duke - Arguably the most impressive home victory ever for the Badgers.
- 2007 vs. Ohio State - The Badgers might have lost the No. 1 vs. No. 1 matchup the following month, but they throughly dominated the national runners-up despite a close final score.
- 2006 vs. Pittsburgh - The No. 2 Panthers were very good and Brian Butch made Aaron Gray look like, well the NBA version of Aaron Gray.
Joe Lunardi has Wisconsin as a No. 4 seed in his latest bracketology, playing Pacific (8-5) in the first round.
Even if Wisconsin doesn't win the Big Ten this season, it is important for UW to stay has highly ranked as possible. As Badger fans in Milwaukee are well aware of, the Bradley Center hosts first and second round NCAA games this season and everyone involved would love to host Bo Ryan and Co. there.
Good news for Ohio State fans, bad news for Badger fans. Evan Turner could return as soon as Wednesday. Originally it appeared he would not be back in time for UW's trip to Columbus Jan. 16.