Four weeks ago the Wisconsin Badgers were 1-4 in Big Ten Conference play, 9-9 overall, nowhere near the NCAA Tournament, and pretty much left for dead. That was four weeks ago. Since then the Badgers have rattled off five solid wins in row. Is this the "turn around" for Wisconsin? We think so.
The first one was the big eye opener, when they stunned Michigan State in the final seconds to upset the highly ranked Spartans 77-76. Junior guard Bronson Koenig had 27 points and four assists. Junior forward Nigel Hayes had 25 points and seven rebounds. Four days later the Badgers traveled to Penn State and defeated a very improved Nittany Lions team 66-60. This time the star was freshman forward Ethan Happ, who finished the game with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The following Tuesday the Badgers once again stunned the nation when they defeated 19th ranked Indiana 82-79 in overtime despite 30 points and 7 rebounds from Indiana's superstar guard Yogi Ferrell. Nigel Hayes answered Ferrell's 30 with 31 points of his own. Ethan Happ had another strong performance, this time with 25 points and 8 rebounds. The following Sunday, the Badgers traveled to Illinois and had another solid defensive performance, holding the Illini to just 55 points. For the Badgers, Hayes had 17 points and Koenig had 11 in a 63-55 victory. Last Thursday, the Badgers put together another strong performance, this time at home against Ohio State, winning 79-68. Four starters reached double figures in scoring, led by Nigel Hayes with 21 points.
Despite the five game winning streak, the Badgers haven't done nearly enough. They need to do more. Fortunately for them, they will have a chance to do more. Following their home game on Wednesday against Nebraska, in which the tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and the Big Ten Network has the broadcast, the Badgers have crucial back to back games on the road against fourth ranked Maryland and 10th ranked Michigan State. The Saturday game against Maryland is set for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off and ESPN has the broadcast. The game the following Thursday against Michigan State is set for an 8 p.m. tip-off and once again, ESPN has the broadcast. Following that Thursday match-up against the Spartans, the Badgers come home to take on Illinois. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. Three days later the Badgers travel to Iowa to take on the 5th ranked Hawkeyes and Wooden Award candidate Jarrod Uthoff. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. Following the game against Iowa, the Badgers have a home game on February 28th against Michigan. The Badgers then finish the regular season on Sunday, March 2nd, at home against Minnesota. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
As I put my analyzing cap on now, in my opinion, the Badgers need to, not it would help, need to, as MUST win one of those three road games against ranked opponents if they want to make the NCAA Tournament as an at large without needing to run the table in the Big Ten Conference Tournament. They also can't afford to slip against the other three opponents either. Their best shot would be against Iowa.