Season Review: Wisconsin Basketball

The Wisconsin Badger’s season ended last Thursday night with a heart breaking 64-63 loss at the hands of top seeded Syracuse. The Badgers were only a shot away from one of the greatest winsBBall in school history and a rematch with Ohio State with a Final Four on the line. It was a roller coaster ride all season for Badger fans. Wisconsin finished with a 26-10 record and were 12-6 in the Big Ten. Here we look back at the Badger’s season.

Coming in to the season, expectations weren’t sky high for the Badgers. After losing big men Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil, there were many uncertainties of who whould fill their roles. Jared Berggren had recieved minimal minutes backing up Leuer the previous year and Ryan Evans was still a developing player. Who would have thought that these two players would be the biggest key to Wisconsin’s success? 

There also was a lot of anticipation regarding Jordan Taylor’s senior season. Taylor put up big numbers the previous year in route to being named a All-American. Everyone thought that he had a chance to have one of the greatest seasons in school history. 

Wisconsin started off the season strong by going 6-0 including a win over BYU to win the Chicago Invintational Tournament. On November 30th the Badgers traveled to Chapel Hill to take on the #5 Tarheels in the B1G-ACC challenge. The Badgers showed signs of briliance in the three point loss, but UNC’s talent was just too much. Many Badger fans gained some faith after that game.

That faith didn’t last very long, though. Just four days later state rival Marquette marched in to the Kohl Center and beat the Badgers 61-54. Wisconsin looked uninspired and inspired and lathargic in the loss. They responded with a 6 game winning streak that included a win over UNLV and a win in their Big Ten opener at Nebraska. The Badgers seemed to be on the right track.

It didn’t take very long for them to get off that right track though, as the Badgers returned home to one of the ugliest home loses in the Bo Ryan era. Unranked Iowa came in to the Kohl Center on New Years Eve and outplayed the Badgers 72-65. Three days later, #11 Michigan State came to town and topped the Badgers 63-60, after the refs waved off Ryan Evan’s buzzer beater three. After that, Wisconsin traveled to Ann Arbor and got stomped by #13 Michigan. The 1-3 record in the Big Ten was one of Bo Ryan’s worst conference starts. But then, the team started to get hot.

The Badgers went on another 6 game winning streak that included huge road wins over Purdue and Illinois. The Badgers also defeated #17 Indiana at the Kohl Center. The winning streak lead to lots of hype going in to Wisconsin’s matchup with #3 Ohio State at home. With a win over the Buckeyes, the Badgers would take control of the Big Ten race and add a huge win to their resume. Ohio State proved to be too good though, notching a 58-52 win at the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin went 2-2 over its next four games including another bad loss at the hands of Iowa. It seemed that this team could just not stay consistent. The Badger’s next game was a trip to Columbus to take on #9 Ohio State on their Senior day. No one gave Bucky a chance in hell to win this game. Once again, the Badgers proved theie doubters wrong and fought the Buckeyes fearlessly. Jared Berggren lead the Badgers the whole way including a clutch three in the final minute of the game that gave Wisconsin the lead. The Badgers held on for 63-60 win, no doubt their biggest victory of the season.

The Badgers won their last two regular season games including a emotional 70-56 win on Senior night as the Kohl Center crowd said goodbye to Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson. Wisconsin ended their Big Ten campaign 12-6, just one game behind the three way tie between Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State for 1st place. One win over Iowa and the Badgers would have also got a share of the title.

The Badgers ended their recent struggles in the Big Ten tournament with a tough second round win over #15 Indiana. In the 79-71 win over the Hoosiers, Senior Rob Wilson had a breakout game scoring 30 points and setting a school record for threes made in a game with 7. The Badger’s meeting with #8 Michigan State in the semi-finals was the two teams third meeting of the year. Once again, the Spartans proved to be too good for the Badgers, winning 65-52 and sweeping the season series. 

Wisconsin earned a four seed in the NCAA tournament and faced Montana in their 1st tournament outing. The Badgers looked dominant against the Grizzlies, winning 73-49. Vanderbilt was next up for the Badgers. Though higher seeded, many experts picked Wisconsin to lose to the Comodores. Vandy had looked impressive in the SEC championship game when they beat #1 Kentucky. It was a display of great basketball for both sides, but Wisconsin’s defense and hot shooting night ended Vandy’s season with a 60-57 win. The Badgers were Sweet 16 bound.

Wisconsin and Syracuse met at TD Garden in Boston. It was a battle from the start, but Syracuse took control midway through the game. The Badgers looked to be in trouble when they went on one of the most memrable runs of the season. The team shot and made five straight threes in five possesions and took the lead late in the game. With the Badgers down one with 18 seconds to play, Syracuse’ Kris Joseph missed the front end of a one and one. The Badgers dribbled down the court for the final possesion of the game.

Jordan Taylor dribbled down the clock looking for room, and with around six seconds left he dished it to Rob Wilson. Wilson immediatley passed back to Taylor, who took a step and launched up a long three that was just short. At the same time Mike Bruesewitz was flying in for the offense rebound which he just missed, and the ball bounced out to Josh Gasser in the corner with a second left. Gasser threw up an over the shoulder desperation shot that went too far. Wisconsin fell to Syracuse 64-63 and their season was cut short. You can see in a in-depth look at the team, game highlights and post game reactions from the NCAA here. 

Season MVP: Jordan Taylor 

Though Jordan may not have lived up to all the hype of his senior season, he still was easily the most important player for the Badgers. Jordan finished the season averaging 14.7 points and 4 assists a game, with a 2.5 assist to turnover ratio. He finished his Badger career as the most efficient player in Division I history. Without Jordan, this team would have had a very tough time offensively. He was the play maker and general of the offense. Next years team will have a huge gap to fill. Jordan Taylor will go down as one of the greatest Badger point guards ever.

Most Improved Player: Tie- Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans

The Badgers had two gaping holes in their lineup coming in to the season. Both players stepped up their games big time and really were the key to the success. Berggren established himself as a great post player as well as a lethal three point shooter while Evans showed us his consistent mid-range jumper. It will be great to see these two next season and their progress. Both have legit NBA chances with good senior seasons. They could end up being one of the countrie’s best front courts.

This years Badger team was supposed to be one of Bo Ryan’s least talented teams. Considering that, I’m sure most Badger fans are satisfied with a Sweet 16 loss to a elite team. But many are still yearning for Bo Ryan to break through to a final four or even a national championship. Though Wisconsin may not be at that elite level yet, you can’t complain at the vast improvements this program has made in the last 10 years. Though it is hard to say goodbye to a star like Jordan Taylor, Bo Ryan will find ways to keep his program’s winning ways. This season was a lot of fun and next year has the potential to be even better. As always, On Wisconsin!