I've been quiet about Wisconsin's road to the Final Four outside of little more than three words. A part of this is that I had so many thoughts about how to write this.
I'm not calling it writer's block, because let's face it: I'm terrific. But a part of this was that I wanted to watch this team without having to think about an angle for it for every game.
But now that the Badgers are on the doorstep of immortality, it feels right to discuss the journey thus far. I've got five things I've learned from the run the Badgers are currently on.
And no, none of them are about how I have superpowers, maybe.
1. We've come a long way in 25 years.
Twenty-five years ago, the Badgers came off a miracle run to an 18-12 record and a trip to the NIT. Hell, Steve Yoder's bunch actually won a postseason game (for you kids out there, the NIT was about as culturally relevant as it is today). The Badgers did not have another winning season until Stu Jackson's 1993-94 campaign. They did not become consistent winners until year four of the Dick Bennett brand of slow pace and tight defense.
This led to a decade-plus with a Final Four berth, an Elite Eight appearance and lots of March heartbreak -- until last season. Sure, that led to some April heartbreak, but last year was the first when the Badgers didn't really live or die by the three.
2. The Badgers' defense got them past Kentucky.
There's been a lot of talk about how this Wisconsin offense is the most efficient in history, and averaging 26.75 points in the final 10 minutes of their NCAA tournament games entering Saturday shows just how quality the performance has been. That said, averaging 24.5 points allowed during that same stretch shows that the final few minutes have been track meets the less "they got this" among us might have received agita from.
And let's be honest, Kentucky's defense was clutch for the final 10 minutes Saturday. They held the Badgers to three field goals and 15 points down the stretch.
The thing of it is, Wisconsin's defense knows what to do in a rockfight. The Badgers held the nation's 11th-best offense and a team with seven players that have pro potential to 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting down the stretch. Heck, it might have been worse if The Wildcats didn't have that stretch where they couldn't get a shot off.
3. Monday looks like it might be the end of Sam Dekker's college run.
Sam Dekker's one major bugaboo in any potential NBA draft talk was his shooting. He has trouble with a jumper off the dribble, people said, and he put work into this season to get consistency.
Perhaps the way he's shooting in this tournament won't lead to a consistent judge of his ability at the professional level, but Dekker is someone scoring 20.6 points per game on 61 percent field goal shooting and a sparkling 15-of-30 from beyond the arc. Long story short: while everyone from Abbotsford to Wisconsin Dells would be thrilled for a return to UW, the iron might never be hotter for Dekker's draft stock.
4. You can't completely throw out Wisconsin's previous matchup against Duke, but with that said...
Duke's not going to shoot 65 percent from the field again. It isn't going to hit 58 percent from beyond the arc. Yes, the Blue Devils have two talents expected to be lottery picks in Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, but the sledding is definitely going to be tougher going into this game than it was way back in December.
5. Wisconsin doesn't have to beat Duke to be remembered fondly.
Upsetting a team that won 38 straight games to win more tournament games than ever before will tend to give people warm feelings even if the finale isn't going to be happy. This is a team that had the highest expectations in modern Badgers history and outside of one game where the injury bug hit, it never really disappointed. This just might be the greatest Wisconsin team you will see in your lifetimes, and I can say that without hyperbole.
The Badgers don't need the title to be remembered fondly after Monday, but you know what?
They got this.