February 08, 2010
The Bracket Big Board takes into consideration past returns, current performance and expected future gains in determining who should be included among the field of 65 (31 automatic and 34 at-large bids). Essentially, the Bracket Big Board is a cheat sheet designed for amateur bracketologists if they were filling out a Tourney Pick ‘Em '10 entry today. The Bracket Big Board is updated every Monday until the dance card is officially unveiled March 14.
At the beginning of the season, Wisconsin was viewed by most pundits and publications as a potential, but nowhere near a slam dunk, tournament team. Barely receiving votes in preseason polls, the Badgers, which lost several instrumental pieces - namely Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry - from last year's 20-win team were destined to burrow themselves in the Big Ten's middle ground.
However, as they do almost every season, the well-coached Cheeseheads have once again greatly exceeded expectation - a true testament to Bo Ryan's brilliance.
Although a rodent in candy-stripe doesn't necessarily conjure frightful thoughts, future tourney opponents should fear Bucky.
Wisconsin's chance of reaching the Final Four isn't some outrageous big fish story. Led by senior point guard Trevon Hughes, the Big Ten contender, which also boasts the mobster law firm of Nankivil, Jarmusz and Bruesewitz, has quietly sprinted out to an 18-5 overall record and 8-3 mark in league play. Their bar-brawling approach certainly is the antithesis of high-flying, fast-paced darlings Villanova and Kentucky. In conference play, they've cracked the 70-point mark just twice. But for onlookers who relish beautifully executed basketball, Ryan's basketball brand is pure bliss.
Slow, methodical and smart on both sides of the court, the Badgers wouldn't win a track meet, ranking 339 out of 347 in adjusted tempo - a pace which will inevitably frustrate high-octane teams. But they'll certainly emerge victorious in most street fights. Wisky ranks fifth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, limiting foes to just 0.85 points per possession. It's not too shabby shooting the rock either checking in at No. 16 in O-efficiency.
The Badgers' toughness and tenacity, the hallmark of Ryan teams, was on display last week against the best the Wolverine State had to offer. In consecutive contests, they bullied Michigan State (67-49) and Michigan (62-44) from horn-to-horn.
According to KenPom.com Wisconsin's Velveeta train of Ws will likely keep chugging along. Of its seven remaining games, road clashes with Minnesota and Illinois are the most daunting, albeit very winnable:
What's more remarkable about the Badgers' recent string of success: they've hammered opponents without premiere interior force Jon Leuer. The bruising 6'10" junior has missed seven games with a broken left wrist. Though team officials have remained mum about his recovery, many insiders believe he will return for the Big Ten Tournament in early March. If Leuer can shake off the cobwebs in time to dance, Wisconsin, which is quite possibly the most dangerous squad in the Midwest, will be an extremely difficult out.
With a deep tourney run, maybe then Wisconsin, and more importantly the unfairly overlooked Ryan, will finally receive the national recognition it/he unquestionably deserves.
Here are the movers and shakers in this week's Triple-B:
On the Bubble: Marquette (15-8), South Florida (15-8), Notre Dame (17-7), Virginia Tech (18-4), Tulsa (18-5), Washington (16-7), Minnesota (14-8), Cincinnati (14-9), Wichita St. (20-5), Oklahoma (13-9), San Diego St. (16-7)
Dropped Out: UConn, North Carolina, Cincinnati, LA Tech, Akron, Maine, Jacksonville
Conference Breakdown: American East (1), ACC (6), Atlantic Sun (1), Atlantic 10 (6), Big 12 (7), Big East (6), Big Sky (1), Big South (1), Big Ten (5), Big West (1), Colonial (1), Conference USA (2), Horizon (1), Ivy (1), Metro (1), Mid-American (1), Mid-Eastern (1), Missouri Valley (1), Mountain West (3), Northeast (1), Ohio Valley (1), Pac-10 (1), Patriot (1), SEC (5), Southern (1), SWAC (1), Summit (1), Sun Belt (1), West Coast (2), WAC (1)
Image courtesy of Getty