After the final buzzer sounded and Wisconsin's demoralizing end to the season was complete, Alando Tucker went into the locker room at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, packed all his stuff and got excited.
|Tucker's 19-point average makes the Badgers the favorite in the Big Ten. (Getty Images)|
After a 19-point loss to Arizona?
After a blowout in the NCAA Tournament opener?
After a late-season collapse featuring four straight defeats?
Seriously, Alando? Excited?
"As soon as it was over, I was just encouraged and excited," said Tucker, the Badgers' star player and reigning Big Ten scoring champion. "I knew we were only losing one guy, and that we were getting some good incoming freshmen. So we have a chance to be really good."
Yes, they do have a chance to be really good. And yes -- here's a prediction -- they will be really good. Big Ten champion good. Final Four candidate good. Better than you think good. Really, really, good.
The proof is in the numbers.
Wisconsin returns a Big Ten-best -- not to mention Florida-like -- 87.1 percent of its minutes, 90.0 percent of its points and 93.1 percent of its rebounds thanks to the bulk of a team that finished 19-12 still hanging around the Kohl Center. By bulk, I mean that 10 of the top 11 Badgers from last season are back, including Tucker and his 19.0 points per game average.
"We lost (departed senior Ray Nixon) and maybe one manager," Tucker said. "But that's it."
Tucker said all this before hopping on a plane Thursday. He was scheduled to, along with his teammates, fly from Madison to Chicago, from Chicago to Rome. That's Rome, as in Rome, Italy. The Badgers are there this weekend and will be traveling the country through Aug. 27.
They'll play five exhibitions before returning.