Relax, Madison: the men's basketball team is back and going to the NCAA tournament.
Here is why: Kevin Gullikson.
With lengthy 6-foot-11 Brian Butch out with yet another injury, Gullikson shined in his place in Wednesday's 18-point spanking over Indiana.
The walk-on, who claims he never misses an episode of “Laguna Beach,” took charge Wednesday and helped catapult the Badgers' victory with seven points and seven rebounds.
He was everywhere. Guarding Indiana's big man Marco Killingsworth, check; running the post, check; getting up on the glass, check; grabbing rebounds, check; drawing the final two fouls on Killingsworth, double check.
It was one of the best performances by a reserve to date and when he strutted off the court, he received a gratuitous cheer from Badger faithful and his fellow teammates.
"He played extremely well," head coach Bo Ryan said of Gullikson after the game. "If I gave out game balls, they would go to Kevin and Tanner [Bronson], but I told Tanner I wouldn't give it to him because he missed a couple of free throws. That was the best reaction I got from the players in the locker room in about five or six games. They kind of booed me, but Kevin just did everything."
Gullikson will continue to do as much as possible to make a name for himself and his team. He is only a freshman and he is hungry. After appearing in only half of the games last semester, it was obvious then that the forward from Minnesota was eager for more.
With three players removed from the lineup, Gullikson started to see more playing time over winter break and even notched his first pair of career points against Louisiana Tech.
However, with the Badgers on a rare losing streak prior to the Hoosier defeat, Gullikson was sporting an unusual look of frustration on his face during games and practices.
It was only fitting that he would release it against Indiana.
"I really like the way he's developing," Ryan said. "He's very attentive, an attentive basketball student. I always like those kind of guys."
Along with Gullikson, fellow freshman teammate Joe Krabbenhoft will also help lift the Badgers to the NCAA tournament.
Although Krabbenhoft's game has been cold as of late, he has still been an important contributor on the court, with UW the beneficiary.
Both Gullikson and Krabbenhoft appropriately compliment each other, similar to the dynamic between point guards Kammron Taylor and Michael Flowers.
With the end of the season fast approaching, Gullikson and Krabbenhoft are the two that will make the difference in whether UW goes NIT or NCAA.
Ideally, the Badgers are going to need 20 wins to comfortably qualify for the NCAA tournament. With six games remaining (four away, two home) and then the Big Ten tournament, it's not going to be easy for the team.
The last two games of the season are at Iowa and Michigan State, not easy places to play, especially since both schools are undefeated at home.
The Badgers can't always rely on Taylor or Alando Tucker, but with a little help from Gullikson and Krabbenhoft, expect UW to make another appearance at the NCAA tournament this year.