Unfortunately for the Wofford Terriers, it seems that tournament magic was first come, first serve. And Thursday there was a run on upsets.
And so it was in Jacksonville this afternoon that good old-fashioned experience won out over fresh-faced excitement and Bo Ryan's seasoned Badgers dispatched the Wofford Terriers 53-49. The Wofford crew was in the tournament for the first time ever -- and although the first half looked rough for the newcomers, coach Mike Young must have really fired them up at halftime as Jamar Diggs led with 13 points and it looked like an entirely different Terriers team in the second half.
I'll cop to being enamored with the Wofford storyline going into this game, but I thought some seeming cockiness from the Terriers' Cameron Rundles (playing to the crowd, gesturing the number one sign and generally looking like he was trying to put together his celebratory Sportscenter reel) kinda soured the event. The more the clock ticked down and the more Wofford closed in on Wisconsin, eventually making it a one-point back-and-forther, the more I felt like Wofford was believing their own upset hype. If they'd been here before, they might realize that you just can't expect the magic to show up, especially against a Wisconsin team that, every year, just quietly puts their heads down and trudges forward until they get stopped or win. As a result, the Badgers' stellar Jon Leuer and Trevon Hughes, netting 20 and 19 points respectively, looked as if to say "Look guys, this was cute, but if you're gonna get snarky about it we're just gonna shut this thing down." A careless Wofford turnover with 4 seconds left sealed the deal, and Bo Ryan and company head on to face the Big Red of Cornell (or is it the Cornell "Hugging Bears," as their logo would suggest?) on Sunday.
Sure would have been trippy to see a Cornell/Wofford matchup, but it would have also felt like we were all living in Bizarro world. And I think we're all too tired and drunk on beer and basketball to be prepared for that kind of mindtrick right now. Thanks, Wisconsin, from bringing this thing back to the real world a bit.
Tonight's game brings more opportunity for some surprises. Let's see if there's any pixie dust left in this tourney. I'm willing to bet there is.