With the break this week, we figured, why not look back to last year at this point in the season and see how it matches up with this year. Obviously last year there wasn’t the hype there was this year, but that team also was undefeated heading into the finals break.
We’ll start with the overall schedule. I’ll break it down into categories instead of just going win by win.
Home Court Blowouts
As with every power conference team, there are going to be a few home games scheduled against horribly under-matched teams.
Last Year – North Dakota (103-85 W); Bowling Green (88-64 W); Eastern Kentucky (86-61 W).
This Year – Northern Kentucky (62-31 W); Chattanooga (89-45 W); Nichols State (86-43 W).
Thoughts – When looking at these games, the important thing is that they aren’t close. I’d say last year’s schedule is a little tougher, but in both years, the team did what it was supposed to do.
Advantage – Even.
Home Court Meh Games
These are the home games against teams that you should definitely win, but a bad game could spell disaster. These help with RPI later in the year.
Last Year – Oral Roberts (76-67 W).
This Year – Boise State (78-54 W).
Thoughts – Last year this was a game where it looked like the Badgers were sleepwalking. They still won, but it wasn’t the performance this year’s game was against Boise State.
Advantage – This year, but it doesn’t mean much.
Last Year – at Green Bay (69-66 W); Marquette (70-64 W); Milwaukee (78-52 W).
This Year – Green Bay (84-60 W); at Marquette (49-38 W); at Milwaukee (93-54).
Thoughts – Last year, after the Green Bay win, we assumed that there would be two Wisconsin schools in the tournament. We were right, but interestingly, it was Milwaukee that made the tournament along with the Badgers. The win last year at Green Bay was the biggest of all three, but winning back-to-back road games this year helps both the RPI and washed the stale taste out of our mouths following Duke.
Advantage – This year, but only slightly.
Last Year – at Virginia (48-38 W).
This Year – Duke (80-70 L).
Thoughts – Last year, this was the first real true road test. It was against a tough team that had knocked the Badgers off the year before in the Kohl Center. They went into Virginia and controlled an ugly-paced game pretty much from wire to wire and came out with a victory. This year, Duke was the biggest challenge on the schedule. It was the game to show America that the Badgers were back and legitimate title contenders. As we know, they were unable to knock off the Blue Devils, but they weren’t humiliated.
Advantage – Last year. Even though the Duke game was bigger, winning on the road in a tough environment helped the team keep up a daunting pace last year. The Duke loss, while not season-altering, was the performance of a top ten team, not a number one team.
This is where the comparison gets a little murky, as last year’s team had an extra game. For reference’s sake, I would put next week’s road game at California somewhere between the St. John’s neutral site win and the Florida home win.
Last Year – St. John’s (86-75 W); Florida (59-53 W); St. Louis (63-57 W); West Virginia (70-63 W).
This Year – UAB (72-43 W); Georgetown (68-65 W); Oklahoma (69-56 W).
Thoughts – Both years, the Badgers did what they could in these games. The big difference is last year, they were performing above expectations whereas this year they were doing what they were supposed to do. It was these games that made me consider this post. Comparatively, I would say the Georgetown and Oklahoma wins are only slightly better than the St. Louis and West Virginia wins. The St. John’s and Florida wins are light years ahead of the UAB wins.
Advantage – Last year.
Overall, when purely looking at the results, I give the advantage to last year’s team. There were more tough match-ups and the Badgers didn’t misstep a single time. While this year’s team came in hyped higher, the difficulty of schedule wasn’t quite the same. Winning against Duke may have been enough to sway me the other way, but this year’s team didn’t get the same type of challenges as last year.
The nice thing about this, is that we are even able to split hairs about this. Both teams headed into the finals week in the top five with a solid roster heading forward. I am worried about the perceived lack of competition in the B1G this year, though, as last year’s team was able to rack up a lot of big wins during conference play. The big wins are still there, this year, but with less teams ranked (and those teams not ranked as high as last year) the national perception could hurt the Badgers somewhat. What does help, though is that the Badgers already have the reputation as being a great basketball team this year. They don’t need any “prove you are legit” wins, they just need to win.
Either way you look at it, Badger basketball fans have definitely been spoiled these past two years.