Badger Bits: Can Wisconsin Basketball Handle Expectation?

Jonathan Daniel

With Wisconsin's NCAA tournament run beginning Friday, the Badgers will have to prove they can handle high expectations coming off a positive Big Ten Tournament run.

The Badgers are entering the NCAA Tournament with a fair amount of hype, which happens when you beat Michigan and Indiana in consecutive days. The No. 5 seed could be considered a slight, but the draw looks reasonable. The case can be made for Wisconsin going far in this year's tournament, and indeed many have. Out of CBS' panel of heads, four out of seven have Wisconsin making at least the Sweet 16, with Gary Parrish taking the Badgers all the way to the Final Four.

Whether you put much stock in what the hive thinks depends on your faith that the Badgers can maintain whatever positive momentum they have. We've drawn comparisons to Charlie Day and suggested that perhaps this team is stuck between universes, but those are just silly ways of saying that they're wildly inconsistent. Every triumph has been met with a corresponding fall, and vice versa. Wisconsin won seven straight, culminating in a road win against Indiana, after an awful non-conference start with losses to Florida, Creighton, Virginia and Marquette. After beating the Hoosiers, the Badgers promptly lost to Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State. Arguably the worst loss of the season, on Senior Day against Purdue, came off three straight victories by 22 points or more.

Two of those CBS experts have Ole Miss and Marshall Henderson pulling off the first-round upset. It's easy to see the reasoning behind that pick, too. The history of the NCAA tournament and the history of the plucky underdog are one and the same, and few players have ever been pluckier than Henderson. But perhaps Gregg Doyel and Matt Norlander see what we've been bitching about all season, the propensity of this team to go freezing cold.

Of course, we've seen this team make shots, play lights-out defense and beat the best in the country, too. It's just the fall after the rise, perhaps the only consistent occurrence of anything this season for the Badgers, that has me worried beyond normal levels of Tourney Angst. Whatever the Badgers do in the coming days and (hopefully) weeks will solidify the uneven feelings I have had about this team throughout the season, good or bad. Hopefully good, but I've given up expecting anything at this point.

LINKS

Ohio State game recap courtesy of Jeff Potrykus.

Bo Ryan is cool with the No. 5 seed.

Nate Silver pegs Wisconsin with a 9 percent chance of making it out of the West Region.

We are SOOOOO going to hate Marshall Henderson.

Dick Vitale flubs live television, though Rece admittedly did everything he could to throw Vitale off his game.

Could be worse: James Madison's leading scorer and rebounder was arrested on Selection Sunday.

Charles Barkely still pretty awesome, still doesn't know very much about college hoops.

David Roth rains prose on the MAAC Tournament.

Curt Phillips shined during red zone drills on Saturday.

Jeff Genyk is very happy to be back in Big Ten country.

Wrapping up: Taylor Martinez gets bored and makes smartphone games in his spare time.

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