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Wisconsin basketball: NCAA tournament resume watch is shivering

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Hopefully the second installment of this column won't be the last. Wisconsin has gone cold, literally and figuratively, and keeps coming up short of winning a statement game.

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Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Hear me out.

I know Wisconsin shot itself in the foot on Tuesday by playing just good enough to lose at Indiana, a game that the wounded Hoosiers really tried to give to Greg Gard and the Badgers. Despite Indiana being unranked and without James Blackmon Jr., a win in Bloomington could have been a nice boost to morale and may have brightened future expectations.

Instead, this might be the last time I get to even consider an NCAA tournament berth for Bucky. Opportunities for season-changing wins are plentiful in the Big Ten luckily, but until the Badgers prove they can close out a game against lofty competition, they are trending downward.

Wisconsin's non-conference strength of schedule has not improved in the last month -- it fell to 163rd nationally according to KenPom.com. But let's not jump the gun. Some of UW's opponents have been doing some good things of late. Prairie View A&M even got it's first win of the year on Monday!

Western Illinois (7-6) arrowdown_red

The Leathernecks are in a real rut, going winless since we last checked in on them. One silver lining is that all four losses came away from home on a four-game road trip. Another bright spot from a Badger perspective is that Western Illinois' hot shooting at the Kohl Center was no fluke. The Leathernecks are still shooting 40.9 percent on three-pointers, which ranks 18th in the whole country.

Georgetown (9-6)

Georgetown has forged a 2-1 start against a light conference schedule before it gears up to hit Big East heavyweights Xavier, Villanova, Providence and Butler twice apiece down the stretch. That doesn't bode well for the Hoyas or the Badgers. Seven-footer Bradley Hayes has cooled off significantly these days. Even in his 11-point, 18-rebound game last month, Georgetown was upset by UNC-Asheville.

VCU (10-5) arrowup_green

With a 69-63 loss to Cincinnati on Dec. 19, VCU missed out on it's best shot for a high quality win until the end of the season. Playing in a slightly down Atlantic-10 will do that. But VCU does have a nice five-game winning streak going for it. Key upcoming road dates with Richmond and Davidson will help determine how big of a threat the Rams will pose to Dayton and Rhode Island in the conference race.

Syracuse (10-6) arrowdown_red

It's been a tough road for the Orange lately. After cobbling together three straight lower echelon wins, Syracuse has started the ACC slate with three straight losses. The most recent setback was an overtime home loss to Clemson. Jim Boeheim returns this weekend, but Syracuse faces No. 6 North Carolina. Congrats!

No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) arrowup_green

Yes, Oklahoma finally lost a game, but so what. It was an incredible 109-106, triple overtime road loss to No. 1 Kansas, hailed by some as the game of the year. Despite a scare at Hawaii, Oklahoma opened Big 12 play with a solid win against Iowa State. So, the Sooners are for real and doing great, led by senior Buddy Hield.

Temple (7-6) arrowup_green

What a bizarre month for Temple. The computer ratings were displeased when the Owls got blown out at home by Houston to start the new year (good luck trying to figure out Houston, but the Cougars are 13-2 under Kelvin Sampson). However, Temple bookended that loss with two quality road wins at Cincinnati and at Connecticut. So even though Pomeroy doesn't like Temple right now, I'd say it's been a good couple of weeks.

Milwaukee (11-5)

Milwaukee followed up it's big win over Wisconsin by trouncing NAIA Judson and suffering a letdown against South Dakota at home in double overtime. But let me tell you, the referees absolutely cost Milwaukee that game due to a terrible inadvertent whistle that erased the game-winning basket. Oh well. The Panthers rebounded to go undefeated in Big Ten play, toppling Minnesota at Williams Arena, which made me very happy. Rob Jeter's boys fell to Wright State, dropping UWM to 0-3 in overtime games this season, but are still 2-1 in the Horizon League so far.

Marquette (11-4) arrowup_green

Two understandable losses to begin the Big East schedule snapped Marquette's nine-game winning streak. The Golden Eagles responded in grand fashion, upsetting No. 8 Providence on Tuesday. That win puts Marquette on a good path toward being the state's lone NCAA tourney representative this spring. Gulp.

No. 20 Purdue (14-2)

Even on a night honoring Purdue legend Rick Mount, the Boilermakers fell victim to red-hot Iowa inside Mackey last weekend. Purdue has shown some weakness on the perimeter so far, however Rapheal Davis showed up big Thursday night. The Boilers now sit at 2-1 in the Big Ten after running away from Michigan last night in A.J. Hammons' first start of the year.

Indiana (13-3) arrowup_green

The Hoosiers have not lost a home game yet and will play of three of their next four at Assembly Hall as well. After some rockiness in the non-conference, Indiana has won eight straight and is set up to make some noise in the Big Ten. A rematch with Wisconsin comes Jan. 26, which would be a good win if UW can get it.