Games like the one the Wisconsin Badgers played Saturday night in the third round of West Regional of the NCAA tournament show why the Badgers are a legitimate contender for the national championship. You can argue that any team that reaches the Sweet 16 is a contender, but Wisconsin means business and the Oregon Ducks were on the receiving end of the display as the Badgers eliminated the Ducks 85-77 in Milwaukee.
The second-seeded Badgers would have had a lot of questions asked about them at halftime, given their 49-37 deficit. That’s right, Wisconsin gave up 49 points in 20 minutes. The game was being at the higher tempo Oregon preferred and the Badgers appeared like they were going to be left behind. But keyed by some clutch shooting in the second half from Frank Kaminsky (team-high 19 points) and four three-pointers by Ben Brust (12 points), Wisconsin outscored Oregon 48-28 in the second half to win the game.
That’s right, Wisconsin scored 48 points in 20 minutes. The Badgers took the Ducks’ best punch and won anyway. Need the Badgers to play defense? They held Oregon to just 28 points in the second half. Need the Badgers to play offense? They scored 85 points Saturday and are in the top 100 in the country in scoring at 73.5 points per game. Wisconsin (28-7) have the kind of scoring balance that can make them a champion too. All five Badgers starters scored in double figures Saturday. Wisconsin will play either Baylor or Creighton in the Sweet 16.
Arizona, Gonzaga or San Diego State would await the Badgers in a regional final if they get that far. While few, if anyone predicted before the NCAA tournament that Wisconsin would be a championship contender, Badgers head coach Bo Ryan has his team doing all the right things that could let them reach the national summit. If he does, everyone should look back on this win over Oregon as the game where the Badgers showed the country it has the goods at both ends of the floor to get the job done.