Before Greg Gard took over as the head coach in the middle of the 2015-16 season, it was unheard of for the Badgers to miss the NCAA tournament. They made the tourney in the three years before Bo Ryan took over, all 14 years under Ryan and the first two years under Gard. However, that 19-year streak was snapped in 2018 when Wisconsin had their first losing season in two decades.
Wisconsin is in danger of repeating history and missing the tournament for the second time in Gard’s tenure.
Wisconsin Basketball must win at least three games in the Big Ten Tournament to cement their spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Badgers got off to a hot start to the season, winning 11 of their first 13 games and climbing all the way to 14th in the country. That shocked the nation and was a surprising feat in what was supposed to be a down season for Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, reality struck in the conference play and the Badgers have struggled for the last two months. Wisconsin has lost eleven of their last 17 games, finished conference play with a 9-11 mark, and tied for 11th.
That means they failed to secure even a single-round bye and must play the Ohio State Buckeyes on Wednesday night. If the Badgers win that contest (they won their only matchup of the season by five points at Ohio State), they’ll play the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday. The winner of that game will play Michigan State on Friday, their first game of the tournament.
Wisconsin is right on the bubble entering Big Ten play and will need at least three victories to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has them as one of the last four teams in entering the conference tournament. That’s not a prediction they want to test.
If they lose Wednesday to Ohio State, they will likely fail to make the NCAA tournament. Their prospects are probably slim even if they beat the Buckeyes, but fall to Iowa in the second round. Who knows what will happen with other bubble teams around the country.
The best way for the Badgers to control their own destiny is to win. Three victories–against Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan State–will guarantee them a spot in the NCAA tournament. They just beat Iowa by double digits two weeks ago and lost their only game against Michigan State in January.
It will be terrific if they win their first three conference games and lock up a spot in the tournament. However, they shouldn’t stop there and should just win the whole dang thing–something they have never done under Gard.