Holy Manitowoc, ladies and gentlemen, we have a perfect storm.
Two (!!) No. 1 Wisconsin teams. A top-10 clash at Camp Randall Stadium. A 2015 Frozen Four finalist visiting the Kohl Center. Wisconsin sports fans, we have an embarrassment of riches this week; let’s fire up the hype train.
Ranked teams galore come to Madison this week, with huge implications for programs across the Badger sports spectrum. To give you a sense of scale, this week is to Wisconsin athletics as UFC 200 was supposed to be for MMA. For you musical theatre lovers, it’s Hamilton in rep with Les Misérables, Wicked and Avenue Q. From Wednesday through Sunday, the women and men of Wisconsin face Big Ten rivals in critical regular-season games. Mostly at home. Nearly all already sold out.
Crank it up to 11. This is the biggest, most important Wisconsin regular-season week Madison has ever seen.
Let’s break it down. Sousaphone roll, please...
Wednesday, 8 p.m. at the Field House: Volleyball vs. No. 3 Minnesota (SOLD OUT; watch on BTN)
On Monday, the Badgers were named American Volleyball Coaches Association No. 1 for the first time in program history. This thoroughly entertaining and talented team has been steamrolling through the competition this year, knocking off a host of ranked teams this year including current No. 4 Texas, No. 5 San Diego, No. 17 Hawaii and No. 19 Ohio State.
All signs pointed to a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown when the Gophers were voted No. 1 in last week’s poll, but an upset at Penn State last Wednesday dropped Minnesota down to No. 3. Despite the loss, this match has huge postseason implications.
The Gophers, 2015 Big Ten champions and a Final Four team last year, are loaded. Coached by 2015 Big Ten Coach of the Year Hugh McCutcheon, they are led by senior middle blocker Hannah Tapp (2015 AVCA First Team All-American). Senior outside hitter Sarah Wilhite (two-time Big Ten Player of the Week this season), setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson (AVCA Second-Team All-American and last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year) and freshman outside hitter Alexis Hart (three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week in 2016) are all big contributors to a Minnesota team with aspirations for a national championship.
The Border Battle starts a punishing stretch of Big Ten play for the Badgers, as matches at No. 18 Michigan, at No. 2 Nebraska (themselves the consensus No. 1 for most of the year) and home against No. 10 Penn State loom over the next few weeks. It’s important to kick this tough stretch off with a bang.
Bottom line: This may be the biggest home match in program history and critical for a team with its eyes on a title.
Thursday: Rest, hydrate, study, sleep. You’ll need it.
Friday, 2 p.m.: No. 1 women’s hockey at No. 7 Clarkson (stream on Clarkson TV)
This one’s on the road and in the afternoon, so you’ll have to stream while you are gearing up for the rest of the weekend’s action. The No. 1 Badgers are WCHA and title favorites backed by stonewall senior goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens, who just set a Wisconsin record for shutouts and who might be the best Badger goaltender the women’s side has ever seen.
No. 7 Clarkson looks to be down a touch from last year’s Frozen Four team, but is still the real deal and only two years removed from a national title.
In some ways, I’m glad this series is on the road (and early enough to get the lowdown without using multiple screens). If this game was at LaBahn Arena, I suspect that Madison would collapse into an infinitely dense singularity of sports from which nothing would ever escape.
Bottom Line: Yet another top-10 game with a No. 1 Badger team, just in time to get into the weekend. Stream it, baby.
Friday, 7 p.m. at the Kohl Center: Men’s hockey vs. No. 6 Boston College (
Inexplicably tickets available; watch on FS Wisconsin)
For the first time in the Tony Granato era, a ranked team skates in the Kohl Center as Boston College (No. 6 USCHO, No. 9 USA Today Coaches Poll) pays a visit. The Eagles, a Frozen Four participant in the 2015-16 season’s Wisconsin-hosted tournament in Tampa, come to town with big expectations this year.
Back before the basketball team was being hosed out of national championships (ah, god, it still hurts so much), the hockey team was the biggest indoor ticket in town. With the boys Granato and Osiecki leading
five four NHL draft picks, including two first-rounders, this team is poised for a comeback year. This weekend is going to be a huge early test.
If you have not attended a UW hockey game and you are within 350 miles of Madison on Friday, do yourself a favor and hit the Kohl Center. Hockey live is amazing, and this young and talented Badgers team should be an entertaining watch. In years past, this would be a no-brainer Friday-night event. With Uncle Tony calling the shots for Kunin, Besse, Hughes, et. al, I suspect this one’s going to be fun.
Bottom Line: There’s a top-10 opponent at the Kohl Center. ‘nough said.
Saturday, 2 p.m.: No. 1 women’s hockey at No. 7 Clarkson (stream on Clarkson TV)
Clarkson we talked about already above. A tough early-season test for the Badgers (and women’s college hockey has already had a weird few weeks).
Saturday, 6 p.m.: No. 1 volleyball at No. 18 Michigan (Watch on BTN Plus; listen at The Mic 92.1)
For the volleyball team, Michigan is tough (the Big Ten is just hard across the board with nine teams in the AVCA Top 25), particularly following an emotional home matchup with the Gophers earlier in the week. Led by 2015 second-team AVCA All-American Abby Cole, this is a dangerous squad in a hostile environment.
Bottom Line: Your tailgating playlist is set for the weekend with both Nos. 1 conveniently stacked back-to-back leading up to the big game. Why listen to the same tired pre-game chatter when you can listen to top-ranked Badger teams making runs at a title?
Saturday, 7 p.m. at Camp Randall: No. 8 football vs. No. 2 Ohio State (SOLD OUT; Watch on ABC)
A ranked Badgers team vs. a highly-ranked Ohio State team under the lights at Camp Randall. Yeah, I remember this. Much ink will be spilled this week previewing this matchup, so I’ll save the space... but this is going to be crazy.
Oh, and the boys and gals from College Gameday will be camped out on Bascom Hill as well.
Bottom Line: Be safe, drink Wisconsibly and pace yourself. It’s a long day until kick-off.
Sunday, 3 p.m. at the Kohl Center: men’s hockey vs. No. 6 Boston College (
Seriously?!? Tickets available; Watch on ESPNU)
Sleep in. Have a nice brunch. Savor the past few days. Maybe take a nap and then get up and head on down to cap off the week in style.
Bottom Line: Seriously, there’s nothing like the Kohl Center when Badger hockey is rocking. This is a team returning to national relevance—be there on the ground floor.
So there it is: seven games in five days. All with huge implications. All potentially season-changing. I am exhausted just writing about it. This is an epic time to be a Badger fan—take full advantage and enjoy this most amazing, epic week.