The Badgers are giving fans something to worry about after they suffered their second consecutive loss to Michigan, Michigan executed well and did what they needed to do to get the job done. While Michigan extended their winning steak, the badgers record is suddenly dwindling. The Wolverines (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten) have won three straight to boost their chances at making the NCAA Tournament, giving them the opportunity of possibly improving their seeding and chances of advancing.
The Badgers (21-5, 10-3) have lost consecutive games for the first time this season, dropping them into a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings with No. 16 Purdue and No. 23 Maryland with five games remaining in the regular season. Although we were without our senior point guard, Bronson Keonig, the badgers still should have been able to pull off a win. Koenig is currently out with a calf injury in his left leg, forcing us to break our consistent starting line up of 25 games.
The badgers apparently need Koenig to get healthy soon, because they suffered a major loss without him. D’Mitrik Trice took his place but wasn’t enough to get the job done because he made a couple of big freshman mistakes throughout the game, specifically in the second half.
Happ was a shining star per usual but he couldn’t carry the whole team on his back. To me this game was perhaps a dooming foreshow of what may come in the NCAA tournament if the badgers have and off game. It exemplified that if they’re not all connected, whether it’s due to injuries of mental issues, the could fall apart with the flip of a switch.
Wisconsin fell to the Northwestern Wildcats 66 to 59 on Sunday night, sending the Wildcats to their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. It was a bitter sweet victory for me personally, because I also a Northwestern fan. I was more upset that the badgers lost, but a part of me is happy that Northwestern gets to go to the tournament.
Bryant McIntosh scored 25 points, and to defeat a defensive minded Wisconsin Team. Dererk Pardon added 11 for the Wildcats (19-6, 8-4), and they also doubled up on big man Ethan Happ to get the job done. Nigel Hayes scored nine of his 13 points in the second half for the Badgers (21-4, 10-2), who had their eight-game winning streak snapped.
The Badgers didn’t go down easily though, making an impressive comeback within five points with one minute left in the game. Zac Showalter is largely responsible for this surge of adrenalin, hitting two foul shots in the last 50 seconds.
But McIntosh followed with two free throws with 42 seconds left, and Wisconsin ran out of time. McIntosh hit the big shots late, including a drive and basket with 1:58 left to give Northwestern an eight-point lead after Hayes’ back-bending layup attempt on the other end rolled off the rim.
Wisconsin is still at the top of the pack in the Big Ten Conference however and they are expected to stay that way until the regular season plays out. Although this was a surprising loss for the badgers, it won’t affect them too drastically in the long run. As long as they win their last few conference games they should be solid; up next the badgers face the blue and yellow boys as they’ll travel to Michigan.
Ethan Happ is becoming a well known name in the households of badger fans across Wisconsin. Happ originally started out as a redshirt freshman on the scout team, and no one could’ve predicted the things he’d be able to do in just a few short years. His freshman year he was forced to learn the ins and outs of being a power forward, as he quickly realized he was one of the few guys tall enough to go against Frank Kaminski.
Kaminski showed him the ropes, although Happ has said it was a frustrating process because he was just no match for Kaminski’s raw talent. He would be singled out in practice to help Kaminski improve his game, to help the team reach their highest potential. Although it was a tough journey, it’s now starting to pay off for Happ.
Happ is now. what many would argue, the most valuable player on the team. Some say he has even surpassed Nigel Hayes, who was seriously considering entering the NBA draft last year. He is a starter, and he is their key post player taking on the big guys from competitors.
One area he down need to improve however is his free throws. He hinders below the rest of the team, shooting just 52 percent from the line. If he wants to become an unstoppable well-rounded player, he needs to crank that stat way up. Other than that though, Happ is helping to pave the way for another great season for the badgers.
Last year Bo Ryan, former head coach of the badgers, announced 12 games into the season that he would be stepping down. After 15 seasons as head coach badger fans were heart broken and many thought their season would go down the drain. They already had a rough start losing 4 starters that helped them make it to the National Championship game in 2014-2015, Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminski, Trevon Jackson, and Josh Gasser.
It was announced that assistant coach Greg Gard would take over as head coach, and many started to realize Ryan had resigned when he did on purpose, to ensure that Gard would get the position for the rest of the season. Many thought that Gard couldn’t handle the role of head coach but he proved them wrong, leading the badgers all the way to the sweet sixteen in the NCAA tournament.
Many thought it was all over after an upsetting loss to Nebraska, but then they received an at-large-bid to the National tournament. Gard helped them defeat Pittsburg and Xavier, and they came very close to upsetting Notre Dame, but eventually took the fall in the sweet sixteen.
Now, in his second year as head coach, Gard has “rebuilt” this new team in just one short year, training players like Ethan Happ to be key game changers. The badgers have an overall record of 22-5 with a conference record of 11-3, and they are expected to make their 14th appearance at the NCAA tournament this year.
I think Gard was the perfect guy for the job, and he’s a genuinely good guy too. He already knew the players and the team structure from having previously been the assistant coach, which is the major reason he was such a good fit. The players trusted him and respected him already and they didn’t need to take extra time to get comfortable with him. Keep up the good work Greg, we’re counting on you!