Are you wondering what to expect out of Wisconsin this weekend in the Big Ten Tournament? If the past decade has taught us anything, you should know by Friday night.
If the Badgers win their first game, clear your schedule. Wisconsin has won four times on Friday in the last 10 years and all four times the Badgers have advanced to the championship game. Wisconsin has won it all twice (2004, 2008) and finished second twice (2005, 2007). The Badgers have never played on Thursdays under Bo Ryan and that streak continues with the team's No. 3 seed this season.
Unfortunately, there is also an ugly flip side. Wisconsin has been bounced immediately from the tourney the other six times during the past decade, including Ryan's first two seasons in Madison when UW lost back-to-back years as the top seed (2002-03). That is not totally unusual though, since the No. 1 seed actually lost its first game four of the first six years since the Big Ten Tournament started in 1998.
Wisconsin is 14-11 overall in the conference tournament (10-7 under Ryan), which is the third-best all-time record behind Illinois and Ohio State. However, No. 3 seeds are just 9-12 during since the tournament's inception.
Your next question might very well be, "So what? I really only care about the NCAA Tournament."
After accounting for extenuating circumstances, it seems Wisconsin has fared comparably well in the NCAA Tournament after making a run in the conference tournament over the past 10 years. The Badgers have advanced to the Sweet 16 or beyond only three times under Ryan, twice after appearing in the Big Ten's championship game. The 2005 team made the Elite Eight after making the Big Ten championship game as a No. 3 seed, and the 2008 squad reached the Sweet 16 after sweeping the regular season and tournament championships.
The two other years that UW advanced to the Big Ten's Sunday finale, the Badgers arguably were poised to make their deepest runs in the NCAAs except for some bad luck.
In 2004, Devin Harris led the Badgers to a second place finish in the regular season and won the conference tourney as the No. 2 seed. But the Selection Committee handed UW a 6-seed, which matched them up against an equally undervalued 3-seed, Pittsburgh, in the second round. Wisconsin lost, 59-55, and the Panthers proceeded to lose to second-seeded Oklahoma State. What a mess -- Oklahomas State, Pitt and Wisconsin were fourth, fifth and 11th in the final RPI rankings that season.
Likewise, Brian Butch's elbow injury against Ohio State late in the 2007 season robbed the No. 2 Badgers of a key starter during March Madness. Though the team lost in the Big Ten finals to the "Thad Five" from No. 1 Ohio State, a Butch-less Wisconsin fell to UNLV in NCAA's second round after what originally appeared to be a Final Four-caliber season.
So if you are looking for Wisconsin to advance far in your office pools, you better hope the Badgers don't let Friday's opening round game slip away.
|Year||Record||Conference||Big Ten Tournament||NCAA Tournament Exit|
|2000-01||18-11 (9-7)||5th||0-1 (as #5 seed)||First Round (as #6 seed)|
|2001-02||19-13 (11-5)||1st (tie)||0-1 (#1)||Second Round (#8)|
|2002-03||24-8 (12-4)||1st||0-1 (#1)||Sweet 16 (#5)|
|2003-04||25-7 (12-4)||2nd (tie)||3-0 (#2)||Second Round (#6)|
|2004-05||25-9 (11-5)||3rd||2-1 (#3)||Elite Eight (#6)|
|2005-06||19-12 (9-7)||4th (tie)||0-1 (#4)||First Round (#9)|
|2006-07||30-6 (13-3)||2nd||2-1 (#2)||Second Round (#2)|
|2007-08||31-5 (16-2)||1st||3-0 (#1)||Sweet 16 (#3)|
|2008-09||20-13 (10-8)||4th (tie)||0-1 (#4)||Second Round (#12)|
|2009-10||24-9 (13-5)||4th||0-1 (#4)||Second Round (#4)|