What did you see out of Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament that you liked and didn't like?
Phil Mitten (@hoopsmarinara): First of all, you have to love the fact that Wisconsin got pushed to its limit and responded in three straight games. Though they look dog tired, you have to assume the Badgers are fully dialed-in now. The bench came alive a bit in Chicago, from Zak Showalter's energy to Duje Dukan's shooting touch, and that bodes well. Oh, and Bronson Koenig looks like a killer.
As mentioned, fatigue is a real issue in my opinion and Wisconsin's rebounding effort against Michigan State was concerning.
Neal Olson (@olewr7): Have to echo Phil's sentiments here. Particularly against Purdue and Michigan State, the Badgers had the look of a team running out of gas and on the verge of defeat. Credit the collective will to win in pulling out the Big Ten Tournament title. In what will be a driving theme in the next few weeks, Josh Gasser's diving out of bounds play emphasized just how seriously they take their status as top dog in the Big Ten Conference and now the NCAA tournament.
Also as Bo touched on in his post game comments, I worry if they will have enough left to make another Final Four run. Getting Traevon Jackson back should hopefully allow some time for more rested legs.
Luke Mueller (@Luke_Mueller24): To keep harping on the fatigue issue, I don't think it's necessarily the team as a whole but rather Kaminsky. He looked out of it all tournament. He seemed to run the floor slower and was getting out-worked at times on defense. His offense struggled because of it. The whole team played great, but needs something to lift them. Hopefully getting Traevon Jackson back can help spark the bench.
Getting to know Coastal Carolina
As the West regional's No. 1 seed, the Badgers begin their Final Four run against No. 16 Coastal Carolina on Friday.
Speaking of the bench, what I liked was Duje Dukan stepping up and contributing to the offense like he did last year and at the beginning of this year. This team again faced a difficult situation where they faced adversity and passed the test. They had so many blowout games this season that I believe they needed something like the game against Michigan State to prove to themselves that they can win close games. Looking back at the tournament last year, they had a lot of close games, but were able to pull out the win. Games like Michigan and Michigan State will hopefully be in the backs of the Badgers mind when they have to faced a close game again.
Zach Sinykin (@ZachSinykin): The Badger's bench finally showed up in the Big Ten Tournament, and it seems like Duje Dukan is regaining his shooting stroke from deep and has shown to be a force on the interior as well. The only thing I didn't like was that during each of the three games, the Badgers went on at least one brutal cold stretch on offense, and they need to avoid those as much as possible in the coming weeks to be successful.
What is your initial reaction to Wisconsin's NCAA tournament seeding and bracket?
Phil: Glad Wisconsin got the No. 1 seed as another reward for a great season thus far. Another first in program history. With that said, what is this, 2014? The committee must have really enjoyed the Badgers' run last year by putting Oregon, Arizona and Baylor back in the same region with them. Needless to say, the top teams out West are not going to be intimidated by Wisconsin's size, so the guard play of Koenig and Josh Gasser will be key. Traevon Jackson can't get back soon enough. A rematch with Arizona could be epic.
Neal: Happy the Badgers got the No. 1 seed obviously, well deserved for a fantastic season and another reminder of just how special this team has been. That being said, I guess geography isn't as important as the NCAA committee would have us believe, eh? Sending the Badgers out West with the potential of a 2014 Elite Eight rematch with Arizona would be a ratings boone.
Luke: I couldn't believe Wisconsin actually got a No. 1 seed. It seems like any time they are close it just doesn't come to fruition, but this year's team played like a one. I actually think they deserve a No. 2 seed because of their week schedule and the strength of Arizona's, but I'm sure Badger fans won't mind. At the beginning of the season (season preview article I wrote), I said while I thought the team would be a really good team I saw them getting to the Sweet 16 and exiting. It's really hard to get to the pinnacle of the sport again.
While I think the Badgers can cruise through their first two matchups, I think North Carolina poses a huge threat. They have played really well as of late and have outstanding length, which is typically Wisconsin's advantage. If they can get passed a Roy Williams-coached squad, they will then have to handle Arizona potentially who will want to rain on the Badgers' parade like UW did to them. There also may not be a hotter team not named Kentucky than Arizona. The Badgers have the ability to head back to the Final Four, but they will need to be on their "A" game in order to do some. This bracket is tough!
Zach: I was so excited that the Badgers grabbed a No. 1 seed, very well-deserved for a team that had a spectacular regular season and conference tournament. With Jackson coming back, the Badgers now possess a nine-deep lineup that can limit the fatigue exhibited recently by the team. Initial reaction of some of the teams in our region -- Arizona is definitely one to look out for, as Brandon Ashley, their dynamic power forward, couldn't play with an injury in last season's epic Elite Eight game with Wisconsin.
Which teams provide the biggest challenge to Wisconsin's hopes for a repeat Final Four run?
Phil: Obviously North Carolina and Arizona jump out at you. Both have plenty of size and good athletes. Would love to see that Sweet 16 matchup with the Tar Heels especially, if only for the Sam Dekker vs. J.P. Tokoto head-to-head.
T.J. McConnell has been impressive running the show for Arizona and Brandon Ashley, back from injury, is a guy the Badgers didn't see in their run last year. In Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the ‘Cats have the athletes to match up with Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker. I fully expect Arizona to be waiting there if Wisconsin returns to the Elite Eight.
Neal: As much as I want to pick someone else, it has to be Arizona. Much like Wisconsin, Arizona returns a bulk of the key players from last year's team. The Wildcats can match the Badgers athletically at pretty much every position, a rarity for most teams when facing Wisconsin this year.
Oregon and Baylor will also be looking for a shot at redemption after being eliminated by last year by the Badgers. Oregon in particular is still probably convinced they were the better team last year. Needless to say, none of these teams will be intimidated. The Badgers have gotten used to taking every team's best shot this year, and that will continue tenfold as the No.1 seed in the tournament.
Luke: I think it is North Carolina. They are really unlike any team the Badgers have played this season. I can't think of a more athletic team with as much length, although Duke is similar just not as long. Wisconsin could have played the Tar Heels earlier in the year had they not faltered in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but that team that lost in Atlantis to Butler is not the same team that beat Virginia and played for the ACC championship. Look for the Tar Heels to give the Badgers a difficult challenge. If Wisconsin can get by North Carolina, I think they will be more prepared for Arizona and won't struggle as much as if the two teams were to play today.
Zach: Arizona presents the toughest challenge to the Badgers, as they can match up with them rather nicely with almost every position on the floor. You take away stud players like Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, who both caused the Badgers trouble last season; yet, they add stud freshman wing Stanley Johnson to the fold. If these two squads meet again, expect an exciting game.
In terms of other teams, I could definitely see Joseph Young pose match-up problems for Wisconsin, as the Badgers have had trouble controlling speedy, versatile guards. Baylor, the No. 3 seed in the West region, is a powerful, strong group of athletes whose biggest strength is on the glass, so the Badgers' bigs would have to be on their top game against the Bears to successfully out-muscle them on the boards.