Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers lock for big dance come March

Call me crazy, or call me just another part of the hype machine that is sports media, but I’m confident with this declaration: the Wisconsin women’s basketball team is ready to make its return to the NCAA Tournament this March.

Yes, this March.

It’s been almost a full decade since the Badgers’ last appearance in the March tourney, with the pre-Lisa Stone days of 2001-02 being the last season of Wisconsin postseason prominence. That year, UW earned a No. 8 seed, but exited in the first round in a 73-70 loss to No. 9 Arizona State.


This year, Wisconsin stands at 13-4, with a 3-3 record in Big Ten play, which places them sixth in the conference. While those numbers, particularly the conference record, may seem lackluster, the fact is the Badgers currently stand only a half game out of second place.

Penn State, Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue presently sit behind Big Ten leader Ohio State for second place, each with a 3-2 conference record. With 12 games left on the schedule, Wisconsin has at least one more game remaining against each of those teams, and will play Penn State twice.

Now what tells me these Badgers are done with the WNIT, done with finishing in the deep, dark cellar of the Big Ten? A few things.

First, Stone’s squad has seen balanced scoring from its starters and key role players that has resulted in a certain element of consistency in the offense.

While junior guard Alyssa Karel has resumed her role as offensive sparkplug with a team high 14.4 points per game, two of the other four starters have improved their scoring averages from last year as well. Junior forward Lin Zastrow has averaged 7.8 points per game, up from 7.3 a year ago, while senior guard Rae Lin D’Alie has also scored 7.8 per game, compared to 6.6 last year.

I’m not about to champion the Badgers as an offensive powerhouse, as they still rank 10th out of 11 Big Ten teams in scoring offense.

But before you race to write this column off as ridiculous, take note of this — Wisconsin ranks fourth in the conference in scoring margin, putting up an average of 8.5 points per game more than their opponents. Furthermore, UW has converted 44 percent of its field goals and 35.2 percent of its 3-point attempts, each statistic good for third in the Big Ten. When incorporated with the rest of the package, this efficient, balanced attack has made the Badgers a tournament worthy team.

Speaking of the rest of that package, the Wisconsin defense has picked up where it left off last season ? as one of the best in the country. Currently 16th in the nation for scoring defense, the Badgers have been stout all year. While I generally rush to avoid the never-ending list of sports clich?s, defense does win championships.

When March Madness rolls around and the best of the best square off, teams that can prevent their opponents from finding good, open shots are always at a distinct advantage.

Finally, I’d like to present the final piece of the Badger puzzle: Taylor Wurtz. For those unfamiliar with the team or the 6-foot freshman guard so versatile that she has already played each of the one through four spots for UW in her young 17-game career, let me tell you — she can play.

Or, you can just listen to Stone, the head coach of Wisconsin’s women’s hoops squad.

“She’s a tremendous addition,” Stone said of Wurtz. “She’s gifted both offensively and defensively, she’s got great size and ability to play in the Big Ten, and she’s a gym rat. She’s an amazing young woman that works her tail off every day… I trust her completely.”

So far in her freshman season, Wurtz has played in all 17 games and has averaged 7.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Averaging 18 minutes per game in playing time, Wurtz has contributed the most minutes of any reserve.

If any doubters remained before the Jan. 10 Michigan game, however, Wurtz surely stamped them out. In 28 minutes on the floor, the freshman scored 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds. Not surprisingly, that effort garnered her the Big Ten Freshman of the Week Award.

“My teammates found me early and I hit down shots right away, and that just got me in a good rhythm,” Wurtz said.

Again, with 12 games — all Big Ten contests — remaining on the schedule, much can happen. The Feb. 18 showdown with Ohio State will be huge, as will the two Penn State games at the end of January and February. Additionally, the Big Ten Tournament still looms in early March, preceding the Madness later in the month.

However, I remain confident with the proclamation that introduced this column. Wisconsin women’s basketball has spent the last decade listening to the criticisms of inadequate coaching, insufficient talent and a lack of support for the program. I believe the Badgers have grown tired of their cynics, and are ready to begin their return to relevance in the women’s basketball landscape.

A return to the NCAA tournament is the first step, and is surely on the Badger agenda for the remainder of the season.

Mike is a sophomore planning on majoring in journalism. Agree that the Badgers are ready for March Madness? Think the team’s destined for a late-season collapse? Let him know at [email protected]

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