Badgers at the End and the Sweet Sixteen

Four days after the end of the second round in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, a local eatery is still displaying this sign on Mineral Point Road on Madison’s west side: “Watch March Madness here. Go Badgers!” Ya think someone should let them know that the Badgers are no longer in the tournament?

Well, I guess they could be talking about the women Badgers, who as of this writing are still alive in postseason play. But something tells me that when Brent Musberger coined the phrase, “March Madness,” he wasn’t talking about the WNIT. I think he was talking about the annual St. Patrick’s Day party at Irv Cross’s house.

Now that the men’s basketball Badgers are done for the year, you inevitably hear a lot of people, both within the team and outside the team, summing up the season. Being from Minnesota, I’ll sum up their season in a language that folks from the Land of 10,000 Lakes can understand: The 1998 Minnesota Vikings. Fans of that team don’t care that that team went 15-1. Fans of that team don’t care that that team set a then-record for points scored in an NFL season. Fans of that team don’t remember that they stopped the Packers’ win streak at Lambeau Field with a beatdown on Monday Night Football. (OK, maybe they remember that.) Fans of that team only remember that it seemed like a given that they were going to go to the Super Bowl and they blew it. And, unfortunately, it’s the same way with fans of this year’s Badger team. As fun as the ride to 30 wins was, we are all left disappointed. As unfair as it is to overlook everything that Bo Ryan’s team accomplished this year, when a team is ranked number one in the country and is then bounced in the second round of the NCAA tournament, it has fallen far short of its goals.

So we are down to 16 teams in the men’s tournament. Here’s how I rank them, based on how likely each is to win it all:

1. Florida. The team to beat is still the team to beat.
2. North Carolina. Looks as good as anybody and team is out for revenge against USC.
3. Kansas. Maybe playing better than anyone, but for how long? Everyone expects them to blow it.
4. UCLA. Gets to play the next round in San Jose after playing first round in Sacramento. Oh, and they’re pretty good.
5. Texas A&M. Again, gets to play in Texas this weekend. And some guy named Acie Law IV is pretty good.
6. Georgetown. Should beat Vanderbilt easily. Then again, they haven’t been as dominant as pundits expected.
7. Ohio State. Youth and inexperience usually kills this time of year. Should have lost to Xavier.
8. Tennessee. Looking to surprise Ohio State. Can score enough to do it.
9. Pittsburgh. Only if they can get past UCLA, which is looking tougher and tougher.
10. Oregon. Easier first game against UNLV, then it’s hello Florida and goodbye tournament.
11. Memphis. Conference USA? Aren’t those high school teams?
12. Vanderbilt. I had ’em losing in the first round. They’re better than I thought, but they’re not that good.
13. USC. They surprised Texas. They won’t surprise North Carolina.
14. UNLV. They should have been higher than a 7 seed. But they shouldn’t be around much longer.
15. Southern Illinois. Could beat Kansas. And Bea Arthur might make Maxim’s Hot 100.
16. Butler. They play Florida in the next round. ‘Nuff said.

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