After a double-overtime loss to Indiana and then a big comeback win against Penn State last week, the Badgers are hoping to gain some momentum going into March Madness. The Badgers are projected to end up somewhere in the 4-6 seed range in the Midwest bracket in the tournament. Even though the Badgers dropped to #21 in the AP poll rankings, their tournament hopes are still strong.
Wisconsin had three wins against top 25 teams this season, including a riveting win against #2 Michigan earlier in January. Wisconsin has also won games against tournament hopefuls including Cincinnati, the Golden Gophers, Oklahoma, and North Carolina State. Not to mention Wisconsin was ranked 11th in strength of schedule. Wisconsin has shown flashes of playing at a high level when everything is clicking. The consistency of Ethan Happ and their supporting cast will be essential in the tournament where anything is possible.
Wisconsin Badgers VS Iowa Hawkeyes Thursday, March 7th
First up the Badgers (20-9 overall, 12-6 in Big Ten) host the Iowa Hawkeyes (21-8 overall, 10-8 in Big Ten) at the Kohl Center on ESPN. The Badgers are currently 11-3 at home and are hoping to end the home season with a win on Senior Night. Ethan Happ, Khalil Iverson and the rest of the seniors will be honored at halftime, so look for Happ and Iverson to have big games in their last home stand.
Wisconsin previously beat Iowa at the end of November when the Hawkeyes were sitting at 14th in the polls. Iowa will look to snap a 2-game losing streak without their head coach who is currently serving a suspension. Iowa has been an offensive powerhouse as of late, so the Badgers will need to continue playing solid defense and make sure their role players such as Iverson, King, and Pretzl are holding their own.
Wisconsin Badgers @ Ohio State Buckeyes Sunday, March 10th
The Badgers then face off against the Ohio State Buckeyes (18-11 overall, 8-10 in Big Ten) in Columbus on Sunday. The Buckeyes will need a win to secure a spot in the tournament, and if they do not get it against Northwestern, this game could have serious tournament implications. The Buckeyes are projected to end up with the 11th seed, but their tournament stock has fallen significantly in the last couple of weeks.
It is not known whether Ohio State’s star sophomore Kaleb Wesson will return for the game, which will slow down the Buckeyes’ offense and give the Badgers an edge on both ends of the floor.
Looking Towards The Tournament
The Badgers lost a handful of close games against projected top-seeded teams in the tournament like Virginia, Purdue, Michigan State, and Marquette. These games show that this group has the ability to play with the best of the best. The NCAA tournament is great for teams like the Badgers who can play great any given night. If things are clicking in all facets of the game, the Badgers have a chance to make a run in the tournament.
The Badgers have scratched and clawed their way through this season, and control their destiny in securing a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament and a higher seed come selection Sunday.
Barring a loss in both games, the Badgers have all but secured a high to mid-level seed in their bracket. Winning these two games can give the Badgers the momentum they need to make some noise in the tournament.