Halfway through our countdown we take a look at a familiar rivalry here in Badger land.
No. 50: Wisconsin vs. Marquette (DI Men's Basketball)
The I-94 rivalry between Wisconsin and Marquette is one that has heated up immensely in the past decade. This game's anything but a new rivalry though. The two in-state rivals have played since 1917. The teams have met every year since the 1984-85 season. The Badgers own a 64-54 advantage over Marquette in the series.
Geography is just about the only thing these two teams have in common. The most evident difference between the Badgers and Golden Eagles is their style of play. Bo Ryan's slow, wind down the shot clock swing offense is an absolute opposite to Buzz William's run and gun, fast tempo play.
Having two very successful basketball programs in the same 80 mile radius can lead to a lot of conflict between fans. I've experienced this first hand as a diehard Badger fan living in Milwaukee, attending Marquette University High School. In a environment full of 75% Marquette fans, I've had to defend my Badgers quite a few times. Specifically in the arguments of "which program has better history" and "who will get farther in the NCAA tourney. Believe me, Marquette fans love their team just as much as Badger fans do.
If you think these two teams only battle once a year, you're very wrong. Marquette and Wisconsin often find themselves fighting for in state talent in the recruiting periods. Some big names from the state of Wisconsin very frequently narrow their list to two teams; the Badgers and Golden Eagles. The Badgers have snagged some Milwaukee area talent from Marquette in guys like Devin Harris, Marcus Landry, and Josh Gasser. The Golden Eagles have also stolen a few Badger commits, ala Wesley Matthews and Vander Blue. The positional battle in recruiting only heats up the action on the court.
If you live in Wisconsin, you surely know a both a diehard Badger fan and a Golden Eagle fanatic. While this game is certainly one of the best to win, it's also likely the most painful to lose. The winner's fans receive in state bragging rights for the year as the states top team.
With the close locations and intertwining fanbases, the topic of bandwagoning surely does come up. A big conflict I've had to deal with is this question: is it okay for people to root for Wisconsin and Marquette? This is a reason that this rivalry isn't as deadly as other ones, like Duke-UNC or Kentucky-Louisville. Instead of having two rabid fanbases that are either A or B, the I-94 rivalry is fueled by more fans that are more in between the two than A or B.
In my opinion, the majority of the state of Wisconsin, especially Milwaukee, is a very fair weathered community. Madison on the other hand is 100% Badgers all of the time, win or lose. In between those two fanbases, I feel like the the rest of the state of Wisconsin (mostly southeast), supports both Marquette and Wisconsin. For me as a Badger fan, I do have a problem with that. When Wisconsin is winning and Marquette's not doing well, I don't want Golden Eagle fans jumping on the Wisconsin bandwagon and enjoying the success. Same vise-versa for Badger fans. Here's a story from my personal experience.
While in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game, I watched the 2011 Wisconsin-Marquette game at the festivities. Watching on the same TV was a group of four guys-looking to be in their young twenties-wearing Wisconsin tee-shirts. Throughout the game I noticed that those guys were rooting for Marquette. After every score or big play from the Golden Eagles they clap and get excited. At one point I even heard one of the guys say "F*** Wisconsin!". Believe me, I was disgusted. That kind of hypocriticalness is everything wrong with sports. I'm sure those guys ended up having a great time rooting for the Badgers that night, as they went on to win the inagural Big Ten Championship game.
A simliar question (though off-topic) can be brought up in this topic: As a Badger fan, are you okay with Marquette fans rooting for Wisconsin football, yet rooting against Wisconsin basketball?
Back to the topic at hand, the Marquette - Wisconsin rivalry is one that is only gaining steam. This past season's matchup was the first time in the matchup's history that both teams were ranked in the AP Top 20 teams in the country. With both programs continually making positive strides, the Wisconsin - Marquette rivalry will only get better as the teams countinue to improve as the stakes become higher.