It’s been over a month since Wisconsin lost to Florida in the Sweet Sixteen, and die hard badger fans are finally coming out of depression hibernation. Those who were beside themselves have had three weeks of badger-less basketball, to remember a great season. Now Wisconsin can move on, and figure out how they’re going to win a National Championship next year. With the loss of four key starters, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter and Vito Brown, at first glance it may seem like a badger appearance in the 2018 tournament is nowhere in sight. However, the badgers have some hidden talent underneath the surface. Newer players like Charlie Thomas and Khalil Iverson will have to step their game, and become key play-makers. The combination of Ethan Happ on the post and Khalil Iverson at forward, will help the badgers sail through the season to give them another go next March. Trayvon Trice will also step in as point guard, just as he did when Koenig got injured. Badger fans everywhere should keep their heads up, because the best is yet to come!
Who remembers Freddie Owens? Once upon a time he was just a kid from Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a dream. A dream of playing college basketball. With the help of his friends and family his dreams came true, and he got the chance to play Division One basketball at the University of Wisconsin, under coach Bo Ryan. When he graduated from Wisconsin he realized his passion was coaching, and he started working with student athletes who had dreams much like himself. He would work with them to make sure they were on the right path. He wanted to work with many of the recruits directly, but he was a high school coach so there were certain NCAA rules that prohibited him from doing that. He has recently started the Milwaukee Coaching Association, a program that helps to better educate those that are working directly with the players. He says the main thing we need to focus on today is the importance of teamwork and unity. Today, to be recruited players must perform through two outlets; the AAU league and high school basketball. There is immense pressure put on young players to perform. Too many young players are only competing to succeed because they’re blinded by the limelight. They’re trying to individually claw their way to the top. What Owens wants to teach is that while being the best of the best will get you noticed, it’s certainly not the only way to get noticed. It’s also not conducive to the success of the team, because as all sports fans know; a team works best with multiple working parts. Owens is trying to instill this idea to the coaches that are working directly with these young players, and he already has a Facebook group with over 300 members in the city of Milwaukee. Way to go Freddie!
The Badgers devastating loss to the Florida Gators hit all of us Wisconsinites pretty hard. Although losing is never fun, there is a bitter sweet ending that comes with the loss, and that sweetness is the amazing careers that the four seniors had. Throughout their time at Wisconsin, Nigel Hayes, Vito Brown, Zac Showalter and Bronson Koenig went on some crazy journeys. They together combined for 115 wins, back-to-back final fours, three NCAA Tournament wins and four NCAA Tournament appearances. That’s crazy. The badgers are the only division one basketball team to have five Sweet Sixteen Appearances in the last 10 years. These seniors put forth an amazing effort in their last game as badgers. I personally think that these four players have been the greatest in showcasing what it means to be a badger. Each one of them has made an impact on their community and they really have their heads on straight. Koenig may be the most recognizable for his participation in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipe Line. He is a native American and he was very outspoken about the negative effects of the pipe line. He also visited the sites where people were protesting the pipe line and played basketball with many of the children there. Nigel Hayes is another recognizable badger because of his work with low income families in Madison. During the 2016-2017 football season, he held up a sign that asked people to donate to a PayPal account that funneled directly to the boys and girls club. He has also visited a the American Family Children’s Hospital a number of times. Zac Showalter and Vito have accompanied him to the hospital, and have made their fair share of appearances for children who are fighting for their lives. These seniors will be missed!
Before I rant about UNC lets talk about how this may have been the worst championship game of all time.
First of all we have two number one seeds in the final….that’s fun. Second, the game almost lasted longer than a football game. Why may you ask? Because the refs figured they couldn’t make a bad call if they just called everything. And by everything I mean EVERYTHING. Lastly whenever UNC, Kentucky or Kansas makes it to the championship it’s just no fun because it’s so expected.
Now on to more important matters, like a few of the many reasons why UNC is the worst. UNC is good at everything, which makes them an automatic target. People hate teams that win all the time, like Duke and Christian Laettner.
Their players automatically get looks just for having “North Carolina” attached to their names. There are tons of equally good players in division one basketball that don’t get the same looks or chances, simply because they’re not flashy.
What kind of basketball team has baby blue and white as there colors? I hate those colors for sports uniforms, they’re the least intimidating colors ever.
Lastly, I hate Roy Williams. He’s a goofy little worm.
I have to first start this post by saying I’m so proud to be a Northwestern fan, and I’m so glad they made it to their first big dance this year. That being said….. THEY GOT SCREWED.
Since when has it been ok to block a shot by reaching up and through the hoop? I cannot believe the refs didn’t make a call on the play, it seriously blows my mind. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Northwestern played Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tournament, and there was an obvious goaltending call that the refs missed. Some say that it wouldn’t have mattered if Northwestern would’ve got the call, but it was actually during a very critical time during the game.
I think it could’ve been a game changer. Northwestern had momentum and they were coming off of a run, cutting their deficit to five points. It should’ve been cut to three points, but instead grew to seven points because Northwestern’s coach ran onto the court complaining and earned a technical. It totally shifted the momentum of the Cats and what could have been a close game was widened to an easy win for Gonzaga.
Chris Collins commented on the no call afterwards, and was able to remain calm, although his season was over. “It would have been a three-point game. We had all the momentum, a guy puts his hand through the rim, it’s a very easy call in my opinion,” Collins said. “But it’s an honest mistake. Referees are human beings, they’re here for a reason because they’re outstanding officials and they made the calls. We have to live with them.”
Now that the tournament is over it’s time to turn to the NBA. A lot of players are being looked at, and getting ready for the upcoming NBA draft. Bronson Koenig has not said yet what he plans on doing next in his basketball career, but following a crazy four year career in Wisconsin, there must be a jersey with his name on it somewhere. I personally think that jersey will be for a team overseas.
Koenig hasn’t really been mentioned in discussion of the upcoming NBA draft, and personally I think he should be getting mentioned more. I think his size makes him an easy player to rule out when just looking at him from an outside view, but I think he has a lot to offer. When he first arrived at Wisconsin not many thought of him as a key player, until they saw him turn his jets on. He is also one of the best pressure shooters I’ve ever seen.
I think the fact that he plays for Wisconsin also makes it hard for him to gain recognition because Madison has a culture that limits flashiness. Very few times has a Wisconsin player had a giant pass that said “look at me”, unlike some of the big name NBA universities such as Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas.
Realistically, Koenig will likely spend next season overseas. He’s sharpshooting point guard will garner a handful of workout invitations and maybe even a spot on a Summer League team, but the NBA doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Not yet at least. However, there is nothing wrong with playing across the pond. The immersion into a different culture can be really cool and entertaining. Plus it gives players and opportunity to continue playing the sport they love, and they get paid for it. I think that’s most likely where he’ll end up.
No one thought we could do it but, nevertheless, we persisted! I was in Florida at the time, watching the game with two of my friends who were both Nova fans. Granted I’d had a view drinks, I’ll admit I went a little over the top when we won. Here’s at recap of the last minutes of the game in case you missed it!
Nigel Hayes scored 19 points, dropping a layup in traffic with 11.4 seconds left, and Bronson Koenig shook off foul trouble and added 17 for the tournament-toughened Badgers. Senior Josh Hart scored 19 to lead the Wildcats, but the guard was bottled up and stripped by Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown on a drive in the final seconds. Brown then split two free throws with 4 seconds left, but Villanova struggled to corral the rebound and then couldn’t get off a final shot.
I feel I’ll remember this game because really no one thought the badgers wer capable of beating the Wildcats. Villanova was expected to go all the way, and were seen as a better team overall. They were the reigning champs, as they’d won the championship the previous year.
Head coach for the badgers, Greg Gard, said “it’s not about seeds, seeds don’t matter”. He then went on to talk about the importance of keeping your head in the game, and focusing in the present moment. “We have to win six games. Let’s start with these two this weekend.”