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Are the Badgers a New Blue Blood?

If we limit the scope to only include the past 20 years does Wisconsin move into the top tier of men’s hoops?

Arizona v Wisconsin Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

There are many different ways to define what a “blue blood” is in men’s college basketball, but much like Justice Potter Stewart’s views on obscenity, I know it when I see it. Historically there are five, maybe six, teams that get this distinction:

North Carolina
Indiana (sometimes)

These are all teams that immediately elicit a response from any college basketball fan, whether it be positive or negative, and have won a ton of games over multiple decades. They have legendary players and coaches counted among their alumni, been involved in memorable games and won championships.

However, times change and it is highly doubtful that any current basketball recruit from outside of Indiana cares about the Hoosiers and considers them a better program than Villanova, Michigan State, Virginia or Oregon.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I then started to wonder if Wisconsin could be considered a New Blue Blood, due to their success since 2000. Next I disappeared down a research rabbit hole on this and here we are with this post. My initial gut reaction was that “yes, of course the Badgers are awesome because they are my favorite team and therefore they’re definitely a New Blue Blood,” but upon further review I don’t think the case is so cut and dry.

To be one of the New Blue Bloods there are several categories I think your team should excel in: All-Americans, National Players of the Year, conference titles, Final Fours, national titles and winning a butt-load of games. After an extensive amount of counting these things, I think that there are nine teams that could potentially be a New Blue Blood and they are:

Michigan State


NCAA Basketball: Duke at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Duke: 21
Florida: 3
Kansas: 21
Kentucky: 14
Michigan State: 5
UNC: 13
UConn: 5
Villanova: 6
Wisconsin: 6

The Blue Devils and Jayhawks smoked the rest of the field, each having 21 All-Americans over the past two decades. The Badgers, while far behind the leaders, fared pretty well with six former players making an All-American team (Jordan Taylor, Frank Kaminsky, Ethan Happ x2, Alando Tucker and Devin Harris) tying them with Villanova.

National Players of the Year

Arizona v Wisconsin Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Duke: 4 (Shane Battier, J.J. Redick, Jason Williams, Zion Williamson)
Florida: 0
Kansas: 1 (Frank Mason)
Kentucky: 1 (Anthony Davis)
Michigan State: 0
UNC: 1 (Tyler Hansbrough)
UConn: 0
Villanova: 1 (Jalen Brunson)
Wisconsin: 1 (Frank Kaminsky)

Again, Duke laps the field in this category as well. They were they only team to have more than one player win this award, while Florida, UConn and Michigan State didn’t have anybody win it.

Conference Titles

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 12 Big 12 Championship - West Virginia v Kansas Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Conference Titles

Team Regular season Conference tournament
Team Regular season Conference tournament
Duke 10 11
Florida 6 4
Kansas 17 8
Kentucky 10 9
Michigan State 8 5
UNC 3 3
UConn 4 4 (1 in AAC)
Villanova 7 4
Wisconsin 5 3

The Jayhawks pretty much make it a tradition of winning the Big XII, having done it 17 of the past 20 years. They also added eight conference tournament titles too, just for fun. Duke won the ACC Tournament 11 times, which was the most conference tournament title of any team on our list, with Kentucky coming in second at nine SEC Tournament titles.

Final Fours

Texas Tech v Michigan State Photo by Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Duke: 4
Florida: 4
Kansas: 5
Kentucky: 4
Michigan State: 7
UNC: 6
UConn: 4
Villanova: 3
Wisconsin: 3

With this being a blog associated with a school in the B1G, I’m sure you already know that the Spartans go to the Final Four regularly, but have often struggled to bring home the hardware. The Tar Heels were right on MSU’s, uh, heels with six Final Four bids of their own.

National Titles

NCAA Men’s Championship Game - Butler v UConn Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Duke: 3
Florida: 2
Kansas: 1
Kentucky: 1
Michigan State: 1
UNC: 3
UConn: 3
Villanova: 2
Wisconsin: 0

And here is where the decision was ultimately made that Wisconsin wasn’t quite at the New Blue Blood level. How can you be considered one of the best teams of the past 20 years if you were never the best team in one of those seasons? Quick answer: you can’t. Duke and UConn went an impressive three for four in their respective Final Four trips, which solidifies Duke as a New Blue Blood and probably pushes the Huskies into the top spot of the next tier.

Winning a butt-load of games

State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kansas Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Wins, is it a butt-load?

Team Overall wins Overall losses Win % Conference wins Conference losses Conference win %
Team Overall wins Overall losses Win % Conference wins Conference losses Conference win %
Duke 586 131 0.817 252 86 0.746
Florida 497 202 0.711 221 115 0.658
Kansas 590 128 0.822 279 59 0.825
Kentucky 547 164 0.769 254 82 0.756
Michigan State 508 193 0.722 243 107 0.692
UNC 520 195 0.727 225 113 0.666
UConn 460 222 0.669 203 143 0.59
Villanova 490 195 0.715 225 121 0.65
Wisconsin 483 198 0.709 240 110 0.686

The Blue Devils and Jayhawks each have a winning percentage over 81% and Kansas’ conference winning percentage is even higher. The Badgers have the fifth best conference winning percentage, proving that they often play some of the best ball against B1G teams later in the season, but their overall winning percentage is only ahead of UConn’s, who have had three losing seasons in their past four.

So...who are the New Blue Bloods?

Michigan St. v. North Carolina Photo by Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Well, the list kinda looks like the Old Blue Bloods to be honest. You’ve got:

Michigan State

Villanova and UConn are knocking on the door with Florida, Wisconsin, Louisville, Syracuse and Virginia right behind them. Further down the list you’ll find UCLA, Maryland, Ohio State and Michigan. I don’t know where Gonzaga or Butler slots in due to their mid-major conference play but I’d think you’d want to include them with that last grouping of teams just to be sage.

There you have it, folks, Wisconsin is not a New Blue Blood but they are pretty close. A few calls against Duke go the other way and we’re having a different conversation.