Badgers: Should They Or Shouldn’t They?

Despite the Badgers early ouster in the Big Ten Tournament and a disappointing season overall, the smart money is that Wisconsin will be in the NCAA tournament for a remarkable eleventh straight season.

But is another invitation a lock? You could argue either way. Let’s look at five reasons why and five reasons why not.

If Wisconsin is invited to the tournament, it will be because:

1. Strength of schedule. Wisconsin played the 14th toughest schedule in the nation and still came out of it with a winning record. That’s huge.

2. Momentum. The Badgers went 7-2 following their six-game skid. They are playing winning basketball at the right time.

3. History. Wisconsin has proven that it can not only get invited to the tourney, but it can do some damage once in: They have a 19-13 all-time record in the big dance, and made a Sweet Sixteen run just last year.

4. Pedigree. Did I mention they’ve made gone to ten straight tournaments? Wisconsin has become an elite basketball program over the last several years, and elite programs often get the benefit of the doubt.

5. Close losses. Viewers of Badger games were reminded ad nauseum about how close the majority of Wisconsin’s losses were this season. But just because the message got beaten to death doesn’t make it any less true: The Badgers rarely get embarrassed. The committee wants close, entertaining games, which Wisconsin provides.

If Wisconsin is NOT invited to the tournament, it will be because:

1. Where are the quality wins? OK, this is a year in which almost any win in the Big Ten should be considered a quality win. But the Badgers lack that immediately recognizable impressive victory; the closest they came was a road win at Michigan in their first Big Ten game and a 13-point home victory over Illinois in February. Neither win exactly leaps off the page.

2. Too close for comfort. The Badgers’ tendency to play good teams close? Sometimes that bleeds over to how they play bad teams as well. Anyone remember a two-point victory over Iona? Or a two-point victory over Idaho State? Wisconsin has to hope that the selection committee doesn’t.

3. Long droughts. When broadcasting a Wisconsin game, producers have to make sure they have the “No Field Goals In The Last ___” graphic ready. Their six-minute drought against Ohio State on Friday was only the latest in a long line of scoring droughts this season. That kind of scoring inepitude can’t be too attractive to the committee.

4. No stars. Eight of the eleven Big Ten teams have a player or even two players that score more points than Wisconsin’s leading scorer, Marcus Landry. Yes, college basketball is more of a team game than the NBA. But individual players are still easier to market and promote than entire rotations.

5. What have you done for me lately? The selection committee may be tired of pundits complaining that the conference tournaments don’t mean anything. They could decide to send a message to some teams that were hoping for an at-large bid that blew it over the final weekend.

Again, I believe Wisconsin is in. (I also believe five other Big Ten teams will join them, although it appears that Minnesota and Michigan seem to have crawled onto the right side of the bubble, so I may be underestimating that number.) But there are enough rational reasons to keep them out that should stop anyone from thinking Wisconsin’s selection to the tournament is a slam dunk.

As I write this, it’s about fifteen hours to the selection show on CBS. Those hours can’t pass quickly enough.

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