Badgers Number One

A big thank you to the voters of the Associated Press Top 25 Men’s Basketball Poll.

By anointing our Wisconsin Badgers the Number One team in America on Monday, you saved me from having to write about two “sporting events” that occurred over the weekend that I just simply don’t care about — the Daytona 500 or the NBA All-Star Game.

[I realize that NASCAR is popular. But so is Ghost Whisperer. I don’t get the appeal of either. Nor do I get the appeal of a regulation-length basketball game that ends with a combined total of 285 points. But at least the NBA doesn’t pretend the All-Star game is anything it’s not — this year’s edition, played in Las Vegas, was referenced more often as a “show,” rather than a “game,” complete with showgirls and Elvis impersonators. And like most shows in Vegas, it was all style, no substance.]

While I’m surprised that the Associated Press poll didn’t concur with the coaches’ poll and pick Ohio State as the top team, I’m understandably pleased. Not only because I live and work in Wisconsin and have a degree from the UW-Madison (in what I don’t recall), but because the Badgers deserve it. The Badgers have more wins — 26– than any other team in Division I basketball. The Badgers are tied with Nevada for the fewest losses — 2 — in Division I basketball. But Nevada plays in the weak Western Athletic Conference against a bunch of teams that would probably get swept by the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Hell, The Golden Girls could probably finish .500 in that conference. (For the Record, Nevada is ranked #11 in the latest AP poll.) The Badgers also have some guy named Alando Tucker who has scored twenty points in seven consecutive games and who should be named National Player of the Year. Oh, and there’s the minor point that the Badgers beat Ohio State in their only meeting.

So why is it surprising that Ohio State didn’t get the nod? Pretty good reasons: Ohio State has won eleven consecutive games, not losing since their game at the Kohl Center on January 9. Ohio State was ranked ahead of Wisconsin last week and neither team lost, so it seemed logical that with Florida’s loss to Vanderbilt, the Gators would tumble and the Buckeyes, Badgers, and maybe even UCLA would ascend in that order. (UCLA remained fourth, behind Florida, in both polls.) And in the RPI rankings, which measures winning percentages, opponents’ winning percentages, and something called opponents’ opponents’ winning percentages (which I think has to do teams’ records against schools who have won the Women’s NIT since 1977), Ohio State (#3) ranks higher than the Badgers (#5). (UCLA, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh are #1, #2, and #4, respectively.)

But give the AP voters credit — they stuck to common sense and awarded Wisconsin first place based on wins and losses. And in doing so, they set up the game of the year on Sunday, February 25, between No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 2 Ohio State. (Provided Wisconsin can get past Michigan State in East Lansing — not easy — and Ohio State can get past Penn State in Columbus — much easier.) Will the Badgers still be ranked at the top next Monday? If they can hand Ohio State their first home loss of the year, they will be. And if they can’t, the Buckeyes will be the unanimous Number One next week. But let’s not go there now — for the first time in school history, your Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team is Number One.

(The Badgers and Buckeyes play Sunday, February 25, at 3 PM, on WISC-TV. Do I need to remind you to watch? Didn’t think so.)

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