Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Badger Basketball Lists: The First in a Series

Modern University of Wisconsin Basketball is what I consider to start in 1998-1999 when they started their current streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Some could argue that you could start all the way back in the Finley years with Stu Jackson, or to start with Bennett's first year, or even to only start with Bo Ryan's first year. I will go back to the season that started the current streak though as that seems like the best reference point for me. That would have been my freshman year of high school. I weighed under 100 lbs and was probably about 5'6" when this all started, good times. Anyway what I'd like to is try to come up with several top ten (maybe 15) lists of bests and worsts over the last ten years.

I am going to start with ranking the season ending (NCAA Tournament) games from 1-10 with 1 being the worst loss. This has a lot to do with expectations of that particular season. When expectations are higher a loss hurts more. I hate to start with the negative, but it's always easier to remember those because only one team goes home happy a year.
1. 2004 - Pitt 59-55 - 2nd Round

Why?: This is number one because it was Devin Harris' last game. He is what I believe the best player to go to Wisconsin in our generation. He wasn't able to save this game and this was easily one of the better Badger teams over the years.
The Fallout: I really thought that if Devin (right) were to come back for the next year, the Badgers would have had a legit shot at a national title. Maybe losing this heartbreaker helped him make his decision to leave early.

Opponent: Pitt went on to lose the next game to Okla St who made the Final Four.
Where Was I?: At my parent's house on spring break soph year of college. We sent my sister on a Culver's run, for some reason I ordered a pork tenderloin, I haven't eaten one since because first, it wasn't that good and second because of this game. This is the closest I have been to crying from a sporting event since the Packers lost Super Bowl 32. I laid on my bed face down for somewhere between 30 min and an hour after the game.

2. 2007 - UNLV 74-68 - 2nd Round

Why?: Tucker's last game (and Taylor's). What a waste of the best season in team history to that point. Kevin freaking Kruger.
The Fallout: Tucker (left) goes on to be drafted, nobody thinks Wisconsin will be able to do anything the next year without him. That turned out to be false. A team that was once ranked number one in the regular season loses in the second round and is the only high seed to lose early.

Opponent: UNLV went on to lose to Oregon who lost to Nat'l champ Florida in the Elite Eight.

Where Was I?: I honestly can't remember my exact location for this game. I think I was at Pack 'R' Place but I may have been at the old Main St apartment. I remember watching the first round game at PRP for sure this year, but I can't pinpoint this game. They kind of run together actually because they were down for much of the game, made a comeback, but only won the first game. The more I think about it I am pretty sure I was at the bar for this and was highly disappointed but did not cry, drank instead.

3. 2005 - UNC 88-82 - Elite Eight
Why?: This game was won. Sean May stole it from us. Although they weren't expected to be there, they had the best team in the country beat playing their game until the last minute.

The Fallout: The Badgers missed another chance at beating arch-rivals Michigan State and Illinois. MSU would have been their Final Four opponent and Illinois made the finals. Wisconsin had a respectable season but only went 1-4 against those two schools combined losing to Illinois three times. Damn you Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Deron Williams. Yep that's our old friend Sharif Chambliss on the right.

Opponent: North Carolina boasting of Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, Sean May, and Marvin Williams ended up beating Illinois 75-70 for the title.

Where Was I?: Again on spring break for jr year of college and sitting in my parent's living room. I know exactly where I was sitting and where I pouted for an extended period after things didn't work out. Man they had this game (Devin should have been there) but it was a good year. If they had lost to NC State in the Sweet 16 I could have said I was at Tommy, Kyle, and Witt's place on Brooks St lighting newspapers on fire and almost causing a problem. But I wasn't there, so I won't say that.

4. 2000 - Michigan State 53-41 - Final Four

Why?: A lot of people may have this higher, but I can't seem to do it. The Badgers as an 8 seed made the Final Four, I mean we really couldn't be that disappointed. Worst part was the lack of offense and crap play on the national stage. That's when the world decided to hate Wisconsin basketball and not ever realized it has evolved since then.

The Fallout: Wisconsin completes their best season since their National title year in 1941 and they were a number 8 seed. We can't really complain about anything at all. They beat 3 top 25 teams including number 4 and number 1 seed Arizona on the way. Jon Bryant (right).

Opponent: Michigan State beat Wisconsin for the 4th and most heartbreaking time of the year in the Final Four. All four were in less than 2 months and MSU was ranked 6, 6, 5, and 2 during the games. State goes on to beat Florida and Mike Miller for the title.
Where Was I?: At my parent's house in my bedroom where I pretty much quarantined myself for the entire tournament after I started watching all the games in there. Superstition overruled comfort in this tournament. My mom got pretty mad when I refused to come down for supper for the Arizona game in round 2. I had went out and bought the Badgers Final Four shirt in between the weekends of the games. I still wear it as my lucky shirt.

5. 2008 - Davidson 73-56 - Sweet 16

Why?: Let's see it was their best season record wise in school history and could have faced a great Kansas team in the next round. Stephen Curry was so played out, I am still sick of him. We get it, he's good and at a small school. What's that you say? He's Dell Curry's son? Really? I did not know that. No I'm not bitter. Maybe this should be higher.

The Fallout: Wisconsin loses a trio of contributors in Mikey Flowers (right), Polar Bear Butch, and Stiemsma. The team goes on to struggle to find an identity somewhat in 2009. Just a terrible game to be a part of, they really didn't show up to face a team that although very good, I am not convinced was better than Wisconsin (or Georgetown for that matter).

Opponent: Davidson went on to lose to eventual champion Kansas by 2 in the Elite Eight. Maybe Flowers and Co. would have gotten crushed by Kansas, but who knows. Chances are they would not have been able to get past UNC and Memphis both if they did beat Kansas anyway. But Davidson, should have won that one.

Where Was I?: Basement of my current resident on some stadium seating. We had Badger parties for all the big games last year and this was no exception. Everyone was over and enjoying beers then the bad part came: the game. I know there was one night when we were all down there watching basketball where I suddenly became sick and even stayed in instead of going to the bar. This may have been that day. If it wasn't then I probably proceeded to get wrecked.

Those top 5 are all very tough losses that happened in very promising seasons. They were all hard to stomach and get over and it sucks even thinking of them now. Now on to the remaining five.

6. 2003 - Kentucky 63-57 - Sweet 16

Why?: Wisconsin was coming off of a 1-point win against Tulsa and facing number 1 in the nation and tournament favorite Kentucky. I wasn't too confident going into the game, but soon after it started they sucked me in as usual since I am a huge homer. My boy Wilkinson is on the left sporting some nice Wilkies.

The Fallout: Wisconsin uses this game as a springboard for the next season (the Pitt year). It was Tucker's first year with the team and only where he played with Harris. If they ever could have played a full season together beside this one. Well you get the point.

Opponent: Tourney favorite Kentucky went on to lose to Wisconsin's in state rival Marquette featuring Dwyane Wade in his coming out party in the Elite Eight. Marquette then bowed out to tournament runner-up Kansas.

Where Was I?: Spring break freshman year in Swain and Tommy's dorm room in Ogg (now destroyed). Got pretty drunk during the game, puked then some girl gave me her toothbrush and I brushed my teeth in the girls bathroom in another dorm I think then slept in her dorm room. Weird night.

7. 2001 - Georgia State 50-49 - 1st Round

Why?: Ah the first of the first round exits to make the list. Let's see; Vershaw (left) missed some free throws in a one point loss, G-State made a halftime buzzer beater, um it was a ONE point loss! This was their only one-point loss to choose from thankfully. For the record I am a Vershaw backer who doesn't think the game was his fault as so many others did at the time.

The Fallout: The Dick Bennett Era officially ended here as Brad Soderberg was not retained as head coach. Bo Ryan was brought in and the rest is as you remember.

Opponent: The power that Georgia State is went on to get rocked by Maryland in the next round. Yes the same Maryland who made the Final Four and had the famous loss to eventual national champion Duke there. Did you know that Georgia State coach Lefty Driesell was once the coach of Maryland? Yeah me neither.

Where Was I?: Probably the worst of all locations. I watched in a classroom. I don't recall exactly what happened but it was something like watch part of the game, go to lunch come back and watch the rest. I was in the German classroom right next to my locker and wanted to punch people in the face who didn't know what they were talking about. I think I actually had the class and wasn't just in there for the heck of it.

8. 1999 - Southwest Missouri State 43-32 - 1st Round

Why?: This is the game that started it all. The first in the streak of ten (and counting)? It was against a team that I as a 15 year old had not heard of. I didn't know every team back then, I think I did by the start of the next season though. They scored a whopping 32 points, which was downright pathetic.

The Fallout: Wisconsin was exposed as a plodding team that had almost zero offensive talent. Their fine regular season, number 5 seed, and best record in years was quickly forgotten. The team would have to improve greatly for the next season. Mike Kelley was a defensive stud (right).

Opponent: SW Missouri State would go on to clobber 4 seed Tennessee by 30 and then lose to Duke who lost the title to UConn in a thriller. Khalid El-Amin baby.

Where Was I?: At school again. This time I think it was 7th hour and I somehow snuck out of the classroom and found a tv in Mr. Lawrence's room and watched with him and another couple people until the class ended. Then I quickly ran over to the bowling alley for my Friday afternoon league and watched the remainder there. I want to know how I got out of the classroom, I was still the kid who could do no wrong at school at that point.

9. 2002 - Maryland 87-57 - 2nd Round

Why?: It's kind of hard to be too upset when the team was an 8 seed facing the number 4 team in the country in a new coaches first year.

The Fallout: It was Bo Ryan's and Devin Harris' first year and this would be used as a game to build on for the future. After an awful start, the team tied for a Big Ten title, unheard of at the time. Bo's Badgers were born. No hard feelings. Kirk Penney at the left was a star on this team.

Opponent: Future national champion Maryland starring my boy Juan Dixon went on to cruise to that title and win me a jersey in the process. Found a Mountain Dew Maryland cap in the garbage.

Where Was I?: Kevin's basement, pretty much where you could find me or any of us on any weekend day from summer 2000 to summer 2003 before his parent's moved. We were not happy at the time, but it was a complete beat down to a good team after a season that had it's ups and downs.

10. 2006 - Arizona 94-75 - 1st Round

Why?: To be honest, I don't really remember this game at all. It was a Friday morning game on St. Patrick's Day my senior year of college. I didn't have a chance in hell at remembering this game. We started drinking at approx. 5:00AM so even if it was the first game of the day I had 6 hrs of drinking already in at that time. Taylor at the left in his jr year.

The Fallout: For a team that started 14-2 and ended 19-12 this wasn't all that surprising. Landry and Stiemsma both botched it and didn't play the second half of the year. Team gears up and comes back better than ever in 2006-2007.

Opponent: Arizona was beat handily by Villanova which lost to eventual champ Florida with douche bag master Joakim Noah.

Where Was I?: After we spent the morning at the Pub in Whitewater from 6-10 we went back to a party at Noah's place on Janesville Street and that's where I watched the game. I think this was the year that Tommy and I found each other at Noah's at about 9:00 though it was around 2:00AM realized it was only 9:00PM and high-fived and went back to the bar. All in all, I ended up drinking for a solid 23 hrs. 2nd only to my previous best of 23.5 hrs on St. Pat's '05.

So that's it for the first list, more to come and I promise they will be more positive than this one. Let's Go Red

Thanks goes out to uwbadgers.com, wikipedia.com, and Hall and Oates for creating the song "Rich Girl" only the best 2 minutes 26 seconds you can ever have in your life. No I don't think that it's pathetic that it is 2nd on my iTunes in play count either. This was completed in time to watch Mystic River on AMC - great movie, great channel.


Pete said...

Macho, I don't believe you were at Pack 'R' for the UNLV game, because I was there and pretty much remember everybody in there because a)there were about 6 of us, and b)we probably would've cried and/or punched each other in the face with frustration. Kevin freakin' Kruger fo sho.

Jim said...

Ok you are probably right, a lot of crying, punching, and shots would have gone on if I was there. It is my new goal to figure out where I was for that awful game. I hate Kruger.