Hard Times for Badger Fans

Remember the good old days? No, not when you could fill up your car for ten bucks or when Rick Moranis was still making movies (“Honey I Shrunk the Kids”? Gold, Jerry, gold!). I’m talking about the good old days of January 2006. Specifically, January 14, 2006. For most Badger fans, things have been pretty bleak since then.

Let’s hop into Mr. Peabody and Sherman’s Wayback Machine to the fourteenth day of the new year to see what a difference a couple of weeks can make: That afternoon, the UW men’s basketball team beat up on Northwestern 68-52 to improve its overall record to 14-2 while simultaneously improving to 4-0 in Big Ten games for the first time since the 1961-62 season. Later that night, the UW men’s hockey team pummeled Colorado College 9-1 to build an eight-point advantage on top of the WCHA standings. Badger fans were happier than George Costanza eating a brick of cheese the size of a car battery.

But in the last two weeks, things for the Badgers have been worse than Andrew Ridgely’s solo career. The men’s hockey team, minus injured goaltender Brian Elliott, has dropped four straight. The men’s basketball team has not only lost Marcus Landy and Greg Stiemsma to academic ineligibility but has lost four out of five, including an embarrassing home loss to North Dakota State University. Now I’ve got no beef with NDSU, their student body, or the fine people of Fargo, North Dakota, the city that NDSU calls home. But the only thing the NDSU Bison should be beating the Wisconsin Badgers in is known cases of rickets disease per team.

So is there hope for Badger faithful? Fortunately, yes. The Badger hockey team, despite its losing streak, is still tied with Denver and Minnesota for first place in the WCHA. Since both the Pioneers and the Gophers are off this week, the Badgers can regain sole possession of first place with a strong showing against the 5-12-3 Minnesota-Duluth, who are tied for the next-to-worst record in the WCHA. Unfortunately for Bucky, the hockey team doesn’t play again at the Kohl Center until March 3-4.

The basketball team is tougher to figure out. What once looked like a dominant team is now looking like a team in crisis control. But if Bo Ryan’s squad can quickly regain their early-season form, a return trip to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is well within the realm of possibility. This Saturday’s game against the 7-12 Purdue Boilermakers seems like a good opportunity to start stringing together some victories.

But if both teams continue their downward spiral, Badger fans may be able to find solace in some perhaps unfamiliar waters — the Badger women’s hockey team. Mark Johnson’s top-ranked squad is a very impressive 23-2-1 and is currently riding a 12-game unbeaten streak. Of course, television coverage of women’s hockey is nonexistent, so fans wanting to check out the women’s team will actually have to come down to the Kohl Center (next chance: February 10-11 against Minnesota), but it is worth the effort. Especially if recent trends continue and they become the only Badger team worth cheering on.

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