Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Resspect comes in the post-season

The Wisconsin Badgers just won their second consecutive Big Ten title and are prime candidates for making a run in the NCAA tournament, but forgive them for not being too thrilled about it right now.

Two days after Bo Ryan garnered Conference Coach of the Year honors for the second consecutive season, and the team’s star player, Kirk Penney, was unanimously voted to the First-Team All-Big Ten team, Wisconsin is still waiting with open arms for the college basketball world to embrace them.

Don’t be fooled by their ascension to No. 18 in the top 25 polls, no one on the national level is ready to pencil the Badgers into their Sweet Sixteen predictions just yet.


It was just that they simply couldn’t be ignored after knocking off Illinois last Wednesday night for outright ownership of the Big Ten title.

Critics of the Badgers can state their case ? they could probably justify a pretty strong argument as to why Wisconsin is as unappreciated as they are now.

Other than the win over Illinois last week, who have the Badgers really beaten this year? And even that win was decided late in the game by a one-point free throw that followed a questionable foul.

People glance at UW’s losses ? Wake Forest, Marquette, Michigan, Illinois, Purdue and Penn State ? and ask if they’ve beaten a quality opponent yet.

To many critics, they’ve simply won 22 games they were supposed to win.

And if there were this many games in which they were supposed to win, then UW’s schedule must have been as easy as that basketball class taught by Jim Harrick, Jr. down in Georgia.

What other explanation could suffice for a team with only one senior and an array of underclassmen climbing to the top of the Big Ten.

You could point out that Wisconsin didn’t travel to Michigan State and Indiana this season, and argue that those would be two sure losses in the conference record. But then again, the Badgers traveled to those hostile environments last year, when both the Spartans and Hoosiers were better than they are now, and came away with a pair of victories.

And then critics can simply say that the Big Ten has had a down year and that winning the title is insignificant.

Which is probably the most frustrating perception Wisconsin has had to swallow all season.

Just because Sir Tom Izzo and the Spartans didn’t pan out like they have in the past, and Indiana didn’t live up to preseason expectations, there’s a nation-wide perception that the conference just isn’t that good this year.

But isn’t this what those dopes from the Pac-10, ACC and other top-heavy conferences say every year?

Funny, though, how a team from the Big Ten has appeared in the Final Four in each of the last four seasons, and five out of the last six.

And if all of this lack of respect from the college basketball world isn’t enough right now, they just lost junior Dave Mader for the season.

And while Mader didn’t bring NBA center-like skills to the line-up, he did provide a big body in the paint to an undersized Badger roster and could be counted on for a few baskets throughout the game, as well a defensive presence on the opposition’s big men.

Now, Wisconsin only has two players in the line-up taller than 6-foot-8, and no one above the 6-foot-10 mark. To say they’re undersized heading into tournament is an understatement.

And even though they’ve played bigger than their stature all season, running into a tall team early could spell another quick exit for a Wisconsin team with expectations as high as they’ve been in years.

And on top of all this, they head into the Big Ten tournament as the No. 1 seed, with the entire conference gunning for them and the history of the top seed working against them.

Coaches and players throughout the Big Ten are sick of Wisconsin and their recent success. They’ve used all the excuses mentioned above to underscore their achievements and want nothing more than to knock of the top seed and prove to everyone the Badgers don’t deserve the national respect they’ve been craving all year.

Sir Izzo has declared war on the Badgers and sworn revenge on the team that humiliated his Spartans in the final seconds of a nationally televised game.

Indiana head coach Mike Davis and Illinois coach Bill Self have also politely noted Wisconsin’s “easy” schedule had something to do with their conference title.

And the Badgers are aware of all that’s going on around them. They’re not that naíve. Ryan knows that, despite back-to-back titles in one of the toughest conferences to win, Wisconsin still has something to prove.

And this is why no one is satisfied yet or ready to call the season a success. Like it or not, the bar has been raised, probably even a little unfairly.

So, again, forgive the Badgers for not basking in the jubilation of another top-notch regular season.

They’re fully aware respect still has to be earned. And they know that respect is something earned in the post-season.

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