Crunch Time Ahead

When you write a sports blog, especially one named “Best Sports Blog of the Year” by the tiny republic of Togo (I tried to no avail to get the prime minister to post the ceremony on YouTube) you have to step up your game in the month of March. No more of these weekly postings. You have to spit out blogs like the Octo-Mom spits out kids. So here goes.

You’ll have to DVR Lost Wednesday night as there’s a big game taking place at  Williams Arena. While the Badgers would love to win for many reasons (revenge that gut-wrenching home loss back on January 15, secure first-round bye in Big Ten tournament, ruin the night for Prince, who is rumored to be attending), the truth is the game is much more important for the Gophers.

After starting the season 16-1, the Gophers have dropped seven of their last eleven and at this point are likely out of the NCAA picture. But the Gophers finish with two at home (Badgers, Wolverines); wins in both would give them 22 wins on the season and could reverse their tournament fortunes. The good news for Bucky is that the Badgers are playing much better defense as of late and aren’t likely to let the Gophers shoot 48 percent like they did in January. The bad news for Bucky is that the Gophers have only lost two games at home this season —  to Michigan State and Purdue — and their last four victories at home have been by an average of 20 points.

Bottom line is that Wisconsin, like my father on rib night at Old Country Buffet, will have their hands full on Wednesday. But a loss, unless it’s an unlikely blowout, won’t affect their tourney resume.

While the men’s Big Ten tournament is a week away, the Badger women’s basketball team starts their postseason play Thursday at 11 AM against Northwestern in the first round of the women’s tournament. While it won’t take a miracle to beat No. 10-seeded Northwestern — although the Wildcats can count the Badgers as one of their three Big Ten victories — it will take a miracle for the No. 7-seeded Badgers to survive much longer than that. Lisa Stone may need such a miracle for her to survive as the Badgers’ head coach.

The Badger men’s hockey team has a huge series against North Dakota this weekend. With a lead on Denver (one point) slimmer than Chris Berman after a year on the NutriSystem diet, North Dakota is trying to retain first place in the conference while the Badgers are hoping to bounce back from two straight disappointing series in order to secure home-ice advantage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. But with the Badgers lousy record at the Kohl Center lately, home-ice may not be in the best interest of Mike Eaves’s team.

Oh, and don’t forget about the women’s hockey this weekend. They’re playing in the WCHA semifinals against Minnesota Duluth on Saturday.

There is a lot going on, and I didn’t even get to the great seasons that Lost and 24 are having. March Madness is definitely not just for basketball any more.

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