Everybody loves a fairytale ending.
Don’t lie to me guys – you watched Disney growing up. You sat in your one-piece pajamas and watched “The Lion King.” You died a little inside when it didn’t work out between Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries (THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER) and you definitely spent lonely nights eating a full tub of ice cream while listening to Taylor Swift.
Wait, that’s just me? OK, that’s not me (at least the part about Taylor Swift). But, the point is: we as a society enjoy a feel-good story.
The same principle goes for the world of sports. Think of the made-for-Hollywood storylines that helped write such classics like “Rudy,” “Remember the Titans” and “Miracle”? It’s the same principle. We love the underdog, the never-say-never moment in sports where the odds are defined in a moment of triumph.
College basketball is a case-and-point in this argument. The NCAA tournament calls the underdog team that surprises the perennial heavyweights a “Cinderella,” a group trying to ride its dreams of making the championship game as far as its carriage will take them before it turns back to a proverbial pumpkin. The public loves to embrace the upset, the surprise that shakes the balance of the sports landscape.
Junior guard Ben Brust’s last second, game-tying 40-plus foot heave at the buzzer helped propel Wisconsin to its overtime upset of the No. 3 team in the nation this past Saturday. And as you could guess, the nation went insane for the shot.
It was incredible, amazing and something the average sports fan only sees a handful of times in a season, let alone a lifetime. And then, Brust hit the three-pointer in overtime that eventually turned into the game-winner. It was official just seconds after the initial miracle shot of Brust – the nation was watching Wisconsin.
Twitter was going crazy, talking heads in the media were abuzz with head coach Bo Ryan and Wisconsin stealing another win over a ranked team and, above all, people drooled over the tantalizing highlight reel play that Brust had produced.
With the extreme range of emotion a game and shot like that produces, it’s understandable that just days later, with the Badgers sitting a game out of first place in the indisputably best conference in college basketball, its fan base enveloped itself in the hype and momentum train that blew itself through the Kohl Center after the conclusion of Saturday’s win over the Wolverines.
But, let’s sit back and remember a sobering fact.
Wisconsin is still Wisconsin.
This is the same team that almost got blown out at Hawkeye-Carver Arena one game after upsetting the No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers on the road for the biggest win in program history.
This is the same team that’s streakier at shooting than Dick Cheney during a quail hunt. This is the same team that…Well, you get the point.
If there’s anything we’ve learned this season, it’s that this 2013 Bo Ryan team has all the essential basics that has made Wisconsin successful during his now-12 years with the program. The Badgers are tough, gritty and have solid fundamentals.
But they aren’t perfect.
This season, Wisconsin is absolutely lackluster in a category that has been a staple of Ryan-coached teams: free throws.
The Badgers couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat when it comes to shooting freebies from the charity stripe. With a team percentage of 61.9 from the line, Wisconsin ranks as the 332nd free throw shooting group in the nation.
By the way, there are 345 teams in Division 1 hoops. So, technically, the Badgers are the 14th worst free throw shooting team in the country. Just for comparison, the 2011-2012 Sweet 16 Wisconsin team shot nearly 74 percent from the line.
And even though the Badgers have an easier schedule than any team in the top four spots of the conference, it’s still a Big Ten conference where any team can beat the other on any given night.
I know there are plenty of Bo-lievers out there who want to believe that Wisconsin is the team of destiny, the group of rag-tag misfits who surprisingly capture the conference title when nobody thought they could.
But in the most physical and competitive conference in the entire country, a consistent level of high play is necessary to come out on top. And in a season where Wisconsin has been up-and-down, it’s not too bold to say the Badgers won’t end up finishing their fairytale at the end of the Big Ten season.
Nick Korger is a fifth-year senior majoring in history and English. Think Bo Ryan and Wisconsin will find a way to get it done? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org