Final Four showing Wisconsin’s basketball passion

Posted Monday, Mar. 31, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
A
More information

Wisconsin vs. Kentucky

Approx. 7:49 p.m. Saturday

TV: TBS, TNT, truTV

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Wisconsin is best known for football. It’s where Brett Favre became a household name with the Green Bay Packers and its state school, the University of Wisconsin, has gone to nine Rose Bowls and produced two Heisman Trophy winners.

But basketball isn’t far behind. Just ask Bo Ryan, who has spent the past 30 years as a college basketball head coach in the state. Ryan turned Wisconsin-Platteville into a Division III powerhouse and now has Wisconsin headed to its third Final Four.

Wisconsin hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2000 and will face Kentucky in a semifinal game Saturday at AT&T Stadium. Thousands of Wisconsin fans are expected to attend and even more will be tuning in.

“I tell you, the people here in this state are crazy about basketball,” Ryan said. “They realize that they didn’t invent it like some other states believe, but they also have a passion for it because there’s been a lot of success by state schools.

“They love it here, but they’re not so over the edge that they don’t understand. What I like about the Wisconsin fans is they understand these are student-athletes who actually are here for the purpose of an education first and playing ball second. But the love and passion for the game of basketball here in the state of Wisconsin is definitely as high as anywhere else.”

This year’s Badgers team has been easy to root for. They are well-disciplined, play fundamentally sound and are Ryan’s best team in his 13 years at the school.

And they’ve got an entertaining group of players away from the court, beginning with junior forward Frank Kaminsky, who jokingly described the team as “white guys” and dropped other one-liners during West Regional news conferences.

All joking aside, though, the Badgers have proven to be among the best teams in the country. Michigan State and Indiana are known as the basketball schools in the Big Ten, but Wisconsin has finally come out of the shadows by reaching the Final Four.

“Maybe we’ll be known as a football and basketball school now,” Kaminsky said.

Said junior point guard Traevon Jackson: “We have this stigma about Wisconsin as a type of program that plays only one way. This year, we’ve broken a lot of barriers. We’ve won in so many different ways and we played against some really good teams.”

Wisconsin got off to its best start in school history, beginning 16-0. The Badgers’ second win of the season was against Florida, another Final Four team, and they had other notable nonconference wins over tournament teams such as Virginia, the No. 1 seed in the East, and Saint Louis, the No. 5 seed in the Midwest.

Then they opened Big Ten play 3-0, including wins over then-ranked Iowa and Illinois, before losing five of six. But the Badgers got back on track, reached the conference’s tournament championship and carried that momentum into the NCAA Tournament.

Wisconsin opened with an easy win over American, holding it to 13 second-half points, and then overcame a 14-point deficit to beat Oregon and reach the Sweet 16.

Wisconsin had little trouble imposing its will against Baylor to get into the Elite Eight, and won a classic March Madness game in overtime against top-seeded Arizona on Saturday.

The victory to clinch a berth in the Final Four was the Badgers’ 30th of the season, tied for second-most in school history. The record is 31 wins by the 2007-08 team, and the Badgers are looking to break it.

“We want a national championship,” Kaminsky said. “We have made it to the opportunity to get there, so why not get it?”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?





Wednesday, November 26Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Wednesday, November 26Full Scoreboard
Portland «105Final | Box
Charlotte97
Washington87Final | Box
Cleveland «113
Golden State «111Final | Box
Orlando96
Brooklyn «99Final | Box
Philadelphia91
Toronto «126Final | Box
Atlanta115
New York102Final(OT) | Box
Dallas «109
LA Clippers «104Final | Box
Detroit98
Sacramento89Final | Box
Houston «102
Milwaukee «103Final | Box
Minnesota86
Utah82Final | Box
Oklahoma City «97
Indiana100Final | Box
San Antonio «106
Denver112Final | Box
Phoenix «120
Memphis «99Final | Box
LA Lakers93
Full Scoreboard
Week 13Full Scoreboard
Thursday
Chicago 12:30 PM ET
Detroit TV: CBS
Philadelphia 4:30 PM ET
Dallas TV: FOX
Seattle 8:30 PM ET
San Francisco TV: NBC
Sunday
San Diego 1:00 PM ET
Baltimore TV: CBS
Cleveland 1:00 PM ET
Buffalo TV: CBS
Tennessee 1:00 PM ET
Houston TV: CBS
Washington 1:00 PM ET
Indianapolis TV: FOX
NY Giants 1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville TV: FOX
Carolina 1:00 PM ET
Minnesota TV: FOX
New Orleans 1:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: FOX
Oakland 1:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: CBS
Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay TV: CBS
Arizona 4:05 PM ET
Atlanta TV: FOX
New England 4:25 PM ET
Green Bay TV: CBS
Denver 8:30 PM ET
Kansas City TV: NBC
Monday
Miami 8:30 PM ET
NY Jets TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Wednesday, November 26Full Scoreboard
Washington2Final(OT) | Box
NY Islanders «3
Winnipeg «2Final | Box
Buffalo1
Philadelphia2Final | Box
Detroit «5
NY Rangers3Final | Box
Tampa Bay «4
Carolina0Final | Box
Florida «1
Toronto3Final(OT) | Box
Pittsburgh «4
Los Angeles «4Final | Box
Minnesota0
Chicago «3Final | Box
Colorado2
Calgary «2Final | Box
San Jose0
Full Scoreboard