Badger Bits: Wisconsin hoops back in Big Ten contention

Wisconsin basketball started the Big Ten conference season 1-3, highlighted by two conference losses at the normally impenetrable Kohl Center. With a trip to Purdue on tap next, things really could have fallen apart for the Badgers, but they were able to start fast and hold on for a rare Mackey Arena victory. Then the Badgers eked out an ugly victory over Nebraska in a matchup of stylistically similar teams. It wasn't the prettiest two-game winning streak the Wisconsin Badgers basketball squad has ever put together, but it was one that was desperately needed.

Fortunately for the Badgers, recent losses by top Big Ten teams ensure that Wisconsin is still in the hunt. Usually, the Big Ten conference regular season winner ends up with anywhere from around 1 to 4 losses. This year is looking more and more like a 4-loss champion year as the conference has up to ten teams capable of making life miserable for their opponents. The Badgers would enjoy more of Iowa beating Michigan and Northwestern beating Michigan State.

B1G basketball blog Big Ten Powerhouse has Wisconsin ranked sixth in their latest power rankings. While it seems out of reach for the Badgers to win the conference this year, especially with trips to Columbus and East Lansing still on the horizon, there's still a great shot at continuing the "fourth place or better" conference finish Bo Ryan's teams have made such a habit of in recent years- a lot of winnable games are left on the schedule, and this team seemingly hasn't yet reached its full potential. With Packers fever dying down and the students about to return from winter break, one can only hope that we're due for six games of the Kohl Center atmosphere and dominance that has been lacking lately.

Tuesday Links:

At least one coaching vacancy has been filled. If you didn't see it yesterday, here's John's story on the Zach Azzanni hire. And Mike Lucas also talks about how Azzanni and Bielema first met in Florida a decade ago.

Big Ten Hockey Playoffs are threatening to push out WIAA state championships normally held in Madison. The tournaments might be moved to Green Bay. Tom Oates decries Barry Alvarez's weak offer to hold the championships during the week.

NSFW, but this Off Tackle Empire post about the Penn State coaching hire makes me feel a whole lot better about Wisconsin's coaching situation. Bret Bielema makes an appearance at the very end.

Here's an outline of the upcoming week in Wisconsin Badger sports. The highlight is UW men's basketball hosting Northwestern tomorrow at 8 PM CT in the Kohl Center. That game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.

Wisconsin commit and star recruit Bronson Koenig is out for the remainder of his junior season with a thumb injury. Get well soon Bronson!

Montee Ball gets some love from the Touchdown Club of Columbus as the most outstanding player in the country in 2011. Not a Heisman, but still cool nonetheless.

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For more Wisconsin Badgers news and tidbits, follow me on Twitter (@AdamTheVictor).

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