Wisconsin roars back to beat Oregon and booms into the Sweet 16
Can Bo Ryan do what so many of his contemporaries have, and in doing so become greats within the game: exceed the hope and make a Final Four?
To have been in Milwaukee on Saturday night.
If you're reading this and by chance were in the Bradley Center, send a note. I'd love to know what it was like.
Just a short drive from Madison, it must've felt like it was Madison for the No. 2 seed Badgers. That crowd, man. No game the past five nights has been more ferociously fun through the vicarious nature of TV watching like Bucky vs. Ducks. It had to have been at least 85 percent Badgers fans in that place. And if it wasn't, the roars were infectious enough to make up for the rest.
That combined with the style of play, juxtaposed against a lot of slow and ugly basketball elsewhere on Saturday, well, it meant Wisconsin and Oregon gave us arguably the best game of the tournament so far. You know we're having a good week when that title is being handed off every few hours, like a hat passing through the pews in mass.
The 28-7 Badgers won 85-77 in a game whose final score doesn't give the outcome justice. One of those. Bo Ryan, he's going back to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in his 13 seasons at UW. He's never missed an NCAA Tournament, but he's only made one Elite Eight, back in 2005.
This team -- this deadly offensive team -- can finally get him back. Some would say he needs to reach that, at least. Others could be thinking it's high time Bo got a Badgers team to a Final Four. A lot of talk about that is to come, as Wisconsin heads out to Anaheim, Calif., to play either Baylor or Creighton in the regional semifinals.
This is the group Ryan deserves to bring him and that program at least one more win, but hopefully two. At worst, Wisconsin was spared an early exit that would have been a cruel ending to the season UW has enjoyed.
Consider the Badgers' 85 points on Saturday night were the second-most for the program in its tournament history. Senior Ben Brust set a school record, nailing his 228th career 3-pointer. The team needed it. Because it was that comeback. Wisconsin was down by 12 at halftime. Oregon's greatest lead was 14.
Brust's 3 with 67 seconds remaining gave Wisconsin the lead for good.
Frank Kaminsky, whose worth another 10 mini-takeout pieces in the next week, had a game-high 19.
Wisconsin's offense has long been efficient. It's not always been fast or easy on the eyes. But the narrative against Wisconsin died a few years back. Now's the time for everyone else to catch on and see this team for what it is: fun, efficient, smooth and boasting one of the best offenses in college hoops.
The Badgers make scoring dynamic. They can play in or out, strong or slick. They've got a future pro in Sam Dekker. Word is finally busting out on Bucky. They've met the minimum for postseason expectations. Can Ryan do what so many of his contemporaries have, and in doing so become greats within the game: exceed the hope and make a Final Four?
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