One of the best parts of having a quick turn-around between games like the Badgers do this week is there is no choice but to forget about the past and concentrate on the future. Wednesday night’s overtime loss at Iowa was tough to swallow, but with only three days between games (and only one of those days in Madison), Wisconsin is almost forced to go right to work on who’s “Next”.
There is no one licking their wounds in the Wisconsin men’s basketball locker room. I can promise you Illinois (UW’s opponent Saturday) won’t feel sorry for the Badgers, so there is no time to dwell on what’s done. Unless you’re me… then you have plenty of time to look back, forward and sideways.
So where does Bucky stand?
Despite three straight losses, the Badgers are still ranked No. 23 in the latest RPI listing on RealTimeRPI.com. Head coach Bo Ryan hates excuses and never allows his team to make them, but it would hard to blame them when you look at the schedule thus far.
Only one team (Georgetown) has played a more difficult schedule than Wisconsin. I repeat, only ONE team. Before Wednesday night’s loss at Iowa, every one of the Badgers losses have been to a ranked team. Eight of Wisconsin’s first 20 games are against ranked opponents. Have you seen what some of those teams are up to lately?
Wisconsin took a bump early in the year against UConn at the Paradise Jam Tournament. All the Huskies have done is gone 17-1 this year and climb to #3 in the AP poll. Bucky lost a pair of tight games at Marquette and vs. Texas in the non-conference schedule. The team down I-94 is undefeated in the daunting Big East (16-2 overall) and ranked No. 11. Texas meanwhile, is 13-4 and ranked 14th in the country.
Maybe the Badgers weren’t good enough to beat those teams early in the year, but now they know what the elite look like. It’s not as important to measure up in the fall, the spring is when it counts most.
What about the teams Wisconsin HAS beaten? People have under-estimated the Badgers win at Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC shoot-out, but don’t sleep on the Hokies. Va-Tech just won at previously undefeated and No. 1 Wake Forest. They’re up to 44th in the RPI and they’ve won their last three ACC games. In fact, they have only lost twice since facing UW (a one-point bump at Georgia and a loss at Duke).
Other Wisconsin victims that are turning heads: Milwaukee and Green Bay are both 7-2 in the Horizon League. Long Beach State is 5-0 in the Big West. San Diego just lost its first game in the WCC, but still sits at 4-1.
All of that is before the wicked Big Ten slate and we’re seeing how tough that is this year. Consider these numbers courtesy of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Blog:
• The Big Ten conference ranks second in the RPI, ahead of the Big East and trailing only the ACC.
• The Big Ten conference is ranked first in the Sagarin ratings.
• The Big Ten has beaten 31 top-50 RPI teams, the most of any conference.
• The Big Ten has also beaten the most top-25 RPI teams (15).
• The Big Ten currently has 10 of 11 teams (91%) ranked in the top 81 of the RPI. No other conference has more than 75% of its teams in that same group.
With all of this said, the Badgers know they just have to win games. Period.
There is a long way to go before any rings or post-season berths are handed out. No one likes to lose back-to-back overtime games, but the hope is that this young team learns from them and grows together throughout February and March.
The season is a journey. Wouldn’t you rather lose those games in January than in March?