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B1G All-Decade Grades: Wisconsin

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A roundtable discussion about the best, smartest and handsomest team in the B1G.

Wisconsin v Duke Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

While 2020 has come out the gates in relatively crummy fashion, the decade leading up to it were some of the Big Ten’s best. Huge TV deals, and overall success highlighted the 10 year span in the conference.

In an attempt to reflect upon the good times — the period of time from 2010 to 2019 — we at B5Q have set out to grade each football and basketball program over that time span.

Saving the best for last, here are the Wisconsin Badgers grades for the past decade.

Best Wisconsin football win from 2010-2019?

Owen: I’d probably say the Ohio State one in 2010. It kind of set the table for the decade by beating the No. 1 team in the country at home and the David Gilreath kickoff return touchdown. It set up a run of three straight Rose Bowl appearances and four overall in the decade. Not too shabby.

Belz: I think Owen’s pick against OSU was by far my favorite win of the time, but I will go with the Orange Bowl win over Miami. That bowl victory showed that the Badgers could win a big bowl game against a top flight program, and also helped them secure their most wins (13) in a single season.

Tyler: I would have to agree with Matt and say the Orange Bowl win over Miami. To me that season really took Wisconsin football to the next level, and I think we’re seeing what that season and bowl win did for recruiting right now. If you’re breaking school records and winning bowl games that makes a huge difference. That team could have easily crumbled after that heartbreaker to OSU and been fine with an 11-2 season, but they didn’t, and that was huge for this program’s direction overall.

Capital One Orange Bowl - Miami v Wisconsin Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Drew: The 2016 season opener against LSU at Lambeau Field is a game I’ll forever regret not going to. The combination of winning at most Badgers fans favorite NFL stadium against a premier SEC opponent is too good to pass up for “best win of the decade.” The 2016 season is a great case for a post on “what might’ve been” since all three losses on the year were to top-10 teams by a touchdown. Sigh...

Best Wisconsin basketball win from 2010-2019 (non-2015 Kentucky edition)?

Owen: I’ll go with the Villanova win in the 2017-18 season. The final run for the Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown senior class, the Badgers enter the NCAA tournament as an 8-seed and take down the No. 1 overall seed in the whole thing along with Nigel’s career defining bucket.

Belz: Obviously the Kentucky win was huge in 2015, but the 2014 game against Arizona was tremendous as well. Arizona only lost four games that entire season heading in, and was chock full of future NBA picks like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson. The matchup was a nail-biter throughout, and the Badgers ended up only winning by one in overtime.

Tyler: Any of the games between Oregon and Arizona we’re huge games as they were thrilling and nerve racking all at the same time. I think the 2014 Arizona game was the best one because I had never been more hyped up and thrilled for a win then in that game. Of course the Kentucky win was the greatest, but there are a lot of close seconds when you think of the games this program has had.

Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Drew: The win over Oregon in the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Bradley Center was the best win of the last decade not only because it was a great game by itself, but because it set up the back-to-back Final Four runs imho. The team that year was undeniably good, but lost a number of head-scratching games. Coming back from down 12 at halftime with a fired up crowd behind them it is the game, outside of the 2015 Kentucky game, that I remember most fondly. It turned that group from a team with the potential to be great into a team that knew it was great and wasn’t going to be afraid of any situation.

Best Wisconsin football player from 2010-2019?

Owen: I’ll go with Melvin Gordon for the sake of being different, but I don’t think you can go wrong with Jonathan Taylor or even Monteé Ball. It was an incredible decade for Wisconsin putting up running statistics - not to leave out James White, John Clay and Corey Clement. Not bad.

Belz: I think you could pick any number of outstanding Wisconsin running backs and I wouldn’t bat an eye, but I will go with Russell Wilson. He only was on campus for one season, but he brought an entirely different energy and mojo to the Badger offense than any other quarterback before or after him. He had a historically great season, and he has shown just how great he is at the next level as well.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio - Wisconsin v Oregon

Tyler: It’s Jonathan Taylor. I’ve loved a lot of players over the last decade, but nobody was better than Jonathan Taylor from the day he stepped on campus to the day he jumped off. Each season was better than the next, which is saying something because they we’re all so damn good. We’ll see just how big of an impact he had when the Badgers have to take the field without him this fall.

Drew: I tried not to overthink this one and that led me to select Jonathan Taylor. He had a historic three year run at one of the finest running schools in the country and somehow improved every year. We could have a whole other post on this, but I think that Wilson was the most important player of the past decade and having him on the team for that one year directly led to the increase in recruiting we’re seeing today.

Best Wisconsin basketball player from 2010-2019?

Owen: Again, for the sake of variety, I’ll say Ethan Happ. I’ve never seen a kid have so much success that in all honesty didn’t even fit the offense he was playing in. A 6’10” kid who can’t shoot being the defender and passer he was - it was a joy to watch.

Belz: Frank Kaminsky. His ability to play inside and out, and move so well at 7-feet was impressive. Frank may have been an early exit in our Bucky’s Fan Favorite Tournament, but he was such a difference maker on both ends of the court. He was part of back-to-back Final Fours, and won the Naismith College Player of the Year Award for a reason.

Tyler: If you look at overall career and numbers it’s probably Ethan Happ, but Frank the Tank was the best. I mean he won the Naismith, so that in itself kind of answers the question. His ability to play from all spots on the floor was incredible, and the wins that he was a part of made him really special. I miss watching those teams so much.

Drew: Not to be boring, and I do appreciate Owen’s answer for the sake of variety, but Kaminsky is the best player of the decade. National players of the year don’t exactly grow on trees in Madison after all.

What is Wisconsin’s football grade from 2010-2019 and why?

Owen: B+. They’re close, really close, but until they win another Big Ten Championship - to me they can’t be an A or even an A-. Recruiting is improving and they’ve been extremely consistent. If QB play continues to improve, watch out.

Belz: I am with Owen. B+. The losses in the big games such as Big Ten Championships to Ohio State and Penn State when you are in the thick of it, and head scratching defeats in Rose Bowls leave a lot of meat on the bone in my eyes.

Tyler: I am going with a B+ as well. I think they have won a lot of great games and been a model of consistency as a football program, but we gotta start winning the big ones before you get into that range. West Division Titles are great, but in order to be in that discussion they need to win Big Ten Titles, Rose Bowl games and maybe make a playoff to get into any sort of A discussion. Those wins take you from a good program to a great one.

Drew: Does Wisconsin still do grades strangely and give out ABs? Because AB is the grade I think Wisconsin gets for the past decade of football. Did they lose every Rose Bowl (which was four) they played in? Yes. But! They made four Rose Bowls and also won the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl, going 5-5 in bowls for the decade. Did they continually lose to Ohio State in the B1G Championship game? Yes. But! They’ve made it to the B1G Championship game six times in the last decade, winning twice. Did they have four (!) coaches over the past decade with two of them leaving abruptly for worse jobs? Yes. But! They now have Coach Dad who is guiding the team to even greater heights, hopefully. There is room for improvement, yes, but there is also much to celebrate about the last 10 years of Wisconsin football.

What is Wisconsin’s basketball grade from 2010-2019 and why?

Owen: A. They went to two Final Fours, a National Championship game, and overall had more success in the last ten years than in any decade in program history. It’s been a blast to watch these guys over the last decade.

Wisconsin v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Belz: Outside of getting a few plays (and calls) against Duke in 2015, there isn’t much you would need to change from the past 10 years. Wisconsin has proven to be a relevant contender to look out for year in and year out in college basketball, and the past decade was the best period in program history as Owen noted. For that, I think it has to be an A.

Tyler: Has to be an A. They’ve had too many big wins and moments. Back to back Final Fours, Player of the Year in Frank, and even in the seasons that weren’t quite that they were still a very strong model of consistency. Excited to see what Greg Gard can do in this next decade.

Drew: Can’t give the men’s hoops team anything other than an A for the past decade. Won 20 games or more every year except one. Made the NCAA Tournament every year except one. Won the conference twice and the conference tournament once. Went to two (!!) Final Fours. This has easily been the best decade in program history.

Why should Minnesota have received an “F” for both of their grades?

Owen: Because they’re:

Belz: I shouldn’t need to spell this one out for anyone...

Tyler: Imagine what P.J. Fleck would do if he found he got an F? He’d come to all our living rooms to give us a speech on why he deserved better. RTB! FOH.

Drew: Because fuck ‘em, that’s why.