While I will always be a Wolverine and Big Ten fan at heart, I have to admit that I’ve recently had a soft spot for the Wisconsin Badgers.
I attribute much of it to the fact that Wisconsin seems to overachieve every year in comparison to Michigan which underachieves in both major sports.
Any way you look at it, Wisconsin has been a powerhouse in the two major sports of basketball and football for about the past ten years in the Big Ten, yet no one ever mentions them as an elite team in either sport or as a top-notch athletic program.
Whether the Badgers get their deserved amount of credit or not, the results certainly don’t lie. The football team has won multiple Big Ten titles and most importantly 7 of their past 10 bowl games which makes the conference look good. The basketball team has won 103 of their past 109 games at home, with only two of those losses coming to Big Ten opponents. They’ve won 2 Big Ten titles and a Big Ten tournament title in the past under Bo Ryan and they went to the Final Four in 1999.
It seems as if the Badgers don’t get enough credit because they’re seen as a team that will never have enough overall talent to win a national championship in either sport. And in reality that might be valid considering the state of Wisconsin isn’t overflowing with talent in either sport, so unless the next LeBron James resides in Milwaukee right now, it’s not going to happen in basketball. Same with the football team since it will be near impossible to steal recruits from Midwest powers like Michigan, OSU, Notre Dame and Penn State and the Badgers really have to hunt for top players to come to their school.
But while that perception might be reality, don’t let it cloud the fact that Wisconsin is year in and year out a top-tier team in both sports based on their coaching and their toughness.
Bret Bielema’s football team didn’t quite live up to expectations this year but they were ravaged by injuries and should return to the top 10-15 next year behind a punishing running game that returns several key linemen and running backs.
The basketball team is exceeding everyone’s expectations so far this season as they’re on the cusp of the top 10 yet again and are running Ryan’s system to perfection behind smart players like Michael Flowers and Brian Butch.
Both teams remain set up for success now and in the future. In a way, Wisconsin is a microcosm of the Big Ten as a whole in both sports in that they always seem to be consistently good yet people take their performances for granted a lot of times.
So do Wisconsin fans everywhere a favor and keep them in mind when you talk about the NCAA’s best programs from now on, because they truly deserve it. I for one am glad to have them in the Big Ten.