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Badger Bits: Barry Davis resigns; NCAA (still) hates Wisconsin; men’s hockey flounders

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Playing catch-up on the last few days of UW headlines.

According to uwbadgers.com, Wisconsin wrestling coach Barry Davis resigned on Monday and will coach the Badgers through the NCAA championships March 15–17.

Davis coached Wisconsin for 25 years and achieved a long string of accolades, including being named the 2010 National Coach of the Year and coaching eight Big Ten champions and three NCAA champions. However, he did not win a team national championship.

In our fan survey a few months ago, many Badger fans took the opportunity to share their disappointment in Davis. They saw a program that was stagnating but should be a national title contender.

Perhaps the most salient fan quote from the survey:

“It’s easy for non-wrestling fans to look at Barry Davis and the Wisconsin program and say ‘top 15 team every year, nice job’. But every year we lose top in-state recruits to schools like Oklahoma St, Missouri, Purdue, Iowa, etc. If Davis can just “build a wall” around Wisconsin like Barry Alvarez did with in-state kids, Wisconsin would be a top-5 program that competes for national championships every year.”

Wisconsin wrestling will have an opportunity to turn a new leaf heading into next year.

NCAA does (Wisconsin) women’s hockey wrong

Consider this the 17th reason why the NCAA hates Wisconsin. Eight teams make the D-I NCAA tournament in women’s hockey and Wisconsin earned the No. 2 seed, just barely missing out on the top slot in the Pairwise rankings. Instead of playing No. 7 seed Northeastern, the Badgers have to play No. 5 Minnesota for the sixth time this season.

Let’s be clear—Wisconsin would not have an easy time against Northeastern, as UW lost to NE earlier in the year. Then, Minnesota would be on the road to play a team like Colgate or Boston College. These inter-conference quarterfinal games would be dynamic and interesting. Instead, we get another Border Battle in the wrong tournament game.

In every other NCAA sport, “bracket integrity” is a critical goal of match-up selection. Most of them also work hard to avoid first-round games that feature teams from the same conference.

However, the NCAA instead uses flight-minimization as its top priority in determining the women’s hockey first-round match-ups. Mark Johnson was asked after Sunday’s WCHA championship game if there is any progress toward making the NCAA tournament a truly national quarterfinal.

“You’re going to have to discuss that with the NCAA,” he said. “It’s all about budgets, and it’s all about flights. So unless they’re willing to listen and make changes, we are what we are.”

Most anticipated that Wisconsin would rematch Minnesota hours before the NCAA made it official. When asked if the Badgers would play Minnesota next weekend, Johnson said, “We shouldn’t.”

“Usually a one or a two seed gets protected. ... Minnesota beating us today would get bonus points out of that and will move them up to a position where we wouldn’t anticipate playing them again. But stranger things have happened.”

This isn’t just a Wisconsin problem. It’s a Minnesota problem, a WCHA problem, and a women’s hockey problem. Without prioritizing bracket integrity, the NCAA is disrespecting the women’s game at best and actively undermining it at worst. I’m sure the solution isn’t as easy as it seems at first glance, but the NCAA is able to figure this out for other sports. I’m sure if its members put their minds to it, and maybe a few bucks as well, they could fix NCAA D-I women’s hockey.

Men’s hockey falters late in season, misses NCAA again

This last weekend, Michigan swept the Wisconsin men’s hockey team (14–19–3) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, marking the official end of the Badgers’ season. Wisconsin exceeded expectations in 2016–17, but took a huge step back in 2017–18.

This season started with a lot of optimism, as Wisconsin was ranked as high as No. 5 in the country in October. However, a combination of poor defense, grad transfer Kyle Hayton under-performing, and discontinuity with head coach Tony Granato coaching the U.S. Olympic team all seemed to hurt Wisconsin’s consistency down the stretch.

This chart shows the trend line of goal differential over the year:

If Wisconsin doesn’t make the NCAA tournament next year, expect the Granato hype to turn around.