Hi, there, America.
You forgot about Wisconsin. Well, you forgot about NCAA Tournament Wisconsin. It’s OK. I did, too. I watched the Regular-Season Badgers play a couple times down the stretch. I watched them lose by 10 points at Ohio State. I watched them lose at home to Iowa. Heck, I watched highlights of the games where they needed overtime to beat Rutgers and Nebraska.
I mean, Rutgers. They almost lost to Rutgers, a team that won only three Big Ten games all year.
So, yeah, it’s OK that you looked at your bracket, saw the Badgers were a No. 8 seed and thought, “These guys aren’t beating a No. 1 seed. Especially the defending national champs.”
I did, too.
And, let’s be clear, the purpose of this column isn’t to trash the selection committee for making the Badgers a No. 8 seed. It was a little low, sure, and the contrast between Minnesota asa 5 seed and Wisconsin asan 8 seed was stark. But look back at the pre-Selection Sunday predictions, and almost nobody had the Badgers higher than a No. 6 seed. Most had them in the 6-7 range.
To be a seed line or two lower isn’t THAT big of a deal.
Anyway, that’s all kind of irrelevant now after Wisconsin dethroned the champs 65-62.
We should have known better than to write off the Badgers in the NCAA Tournament. Look at the history of the leaders on that team. As freshmen, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were important pieces on a team that made the Final Four before falling to Kentucky by a single point.
As sophomores, they were starters on a team that made the title game. As juniors, they made the Sweet 16 as a No. 7 seed (knocking off 2-seed Xavier along the way).
Some things are more important than seeds. Having guys like Koenig and Hayes is way up on that “really important factors in picking your bracket” list.
And not just those two, but seniors like Vitto Brown and Zac Showalter, and All-America candidate Ethan Happ, a sophomore.
The NCAA Tournament selection committee promises to select at-large teams and seed its bracket based solely on results of the current season. That’s how it should be.
Wisconsin's resume was lacking; the Badgers didn’t have a signature win all season, Marquette (an eventual 10 seed) was their best non-conference victory, and they went 0-3 vs. Purdue, Northwestern and Michigan State during the regular season (though they beat Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament). They just didn’t have a resume worthy of a top-five seed, which is why I have a hard time slamming the committee for giving the Badgers a No. 8 seed.
My bigger issue was the gap between Minnesota and the Badgers. I didn’t see that.
But that’s getting off-point. The thing is, the selection committee had to look only at the 2016-17 season when putting together its bracket. It could not consider past NCAA Tournament successes (or failures).
We didn’t have such restrictions when filling out our brackets, though.
We’ve watched Nigel Hayes etch his name into Wisconsin lore during his stellar career with the Badgers. We'vewatched Koenig drill huge 3-pointer after huge 3-pointer in key NCAA Tournament moments. Heck, I was there in St. Louis when Koenig’s triple crushed Xavier last year.
And we we let a questionable seed and a so-so showing from the Regular-Season Badgers influence our decision-making. Somehow, we forgot about NCAA Tournament Wisconsin.
Shame on us.