Badger Bits: The pressure is off with Syracuse looming

The Badgers had one of their more complete performances of the season Saturday against Vanderbilt. They play 1-seed Syracuse on Thursday.

The world didn't see us coming. Every good team says that at some point, or at least some version of the "everybody hates us" mantra, but in Wisconsin's case, as Tom Oates points out, it's relevant. The world really didn't see them coming. That, or shrouded their praise with predictable snark about Bo Ryan's slow tempo offense.

To be fair, Wisconsin has struggled to advance past the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in recent history. The Badgers have made a habit out of eventually getting paired with an upstart low-seed and stumbling before they ever really got going. Many thought Montana was that type of team but Wisconsin handled them. Then they faced a Vanderbilt squad that many saw making a deep run after topping Kentucky in the SEC Championship Game.

Instead, a Wisconsin offense that many worried had no consistent scorers outside of Jordan Taylor produced five double-digit point performances in a tight win over the Commodores. Ben Brust gave the Badgers an enormous lift coming off the bench, scoring all 11 of Wisconsin's points during an eight-minute stretch of the second half. Meanwhile, the entire starting five played with confidence. Mike Bruesewitz has suddenly found a shooting stroke, Ryan Evans displayed a nasty streak for 40 minutes, Jared Berggren was excellent defensively in the post, and Taylor proved he is still Wisconsin's most important man on the floor even when his production is down.

How long their momentum will last is tough to say. If this team proved anything during the regular season it is that a good/bad performance one day doesn't necessarily correlate to a good/bad performance the next. The Badgers went on a six-game winning streak after starting the conference season 1-3. They followed up an ugly loss to Iowa with their biggest win of the year over Ohio State. This team doesn't seem to carry over its emotional highs and lows from one game to the next. They play every game in a vacuum, making prognosticating difficult.

That said, it will be nice to play the upstart underdog role for once. The Syracuse Orange looked sloppy and disinterested in a near upset-loss to UNC-Asheville on Thursday. They seemed to pick up their stride against Kansas State, but the point still stands that they have looked plenty beatable recently. There is more pressure on Jim Boeheim's club to make their first Elite Eight since winning the national championship in 2003 than there is on Wisconsin to do anything beyond this point.

Lose and no one's happy, obviously, but no one's surprised either. Win and this season will instantly become among the most memorable of Ryan's career, creating a potentially monumental rubber match with the Buckeyes for a spot in the Final Four. It's all gravy from here, so have fun with it.

Monday's Links

Phil Mitten's full breakdown of the win must be read.

Josh Gasser spent seven hours in his hotel room bathroom with the stomach flu the night before the Vandy game. He ate three crackers the day of the game. He also helped hold the SEC's leading scorer to 3-of-13 shooting.

The Orange looked a lot like the 1-seed they are supposed to be against the Wildcats on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Sean Keeley at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician calls Syracuse "an SEC Football team."

Jordan Taylor says he isn't satisfied, nor should he be.

The full John Chadima investigation has been released.

Audio of Bo Ryan's speech to the team following the win over Vandy.

Jeff Potrykus gave his late-night thoughts following the win.

Hoo boy: Add Jordan Webb from Kansas as yet ANOTHER potential transfer quarterback looking at the Badgers.

Trouble for Erasmus James, who was kicked out of a first offenders programs for skipping anger management classes.

Kyle Wojta on the 2009 season and the foundation it laid for consecutive Rose Bowl runs.

Wrapping up: Wisconsin's rally against the Minnesota Gophers fell short as the women's hockey team lost in the National Championship game, 4-2.

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