CHICAGO — Frank Kaminsky and his Wisconsin Badgers are not the sort of team you want to bestow extra time upon. Michigan State learned this on Sunday, allowing Wisconsin to erase a late 11-point deficit to force an overtime in which the Spartans did not score a single point.
CBS then fell victim to the same mistake about an hour later, despite broadcasting the wild 80-69 victory that gave 31-3 Wisconsin a Big Ten conference tournament title to bookend their regular season title.
"They rush us off the court and then we sit there for 40 minutes," Kaminsky later said with a grin, a loop of net still tied to his snapback championship hat. "We had a lot of time to think."
The Badgers also had plenty of time to rehearse what they'd do when the network turned on the cameras in the United Center restaurant to show Wisconsin's reaction to earning the first No. 1 seed in school history. Kaminsky, who was named the tourney's most outstanding player, said he and his teammates practiced what he called "a gentleman's celebration" three or four times.
As the Badgers were revealed atop the West Regional of the NCAA tournament, the team stood in unison, clapped once and then sat back down. The national player of the year favorite then rubbed the ball atop the Big Ten tournament trophy in alluring fashion, earning Kaminsky's sketch more than a few retweets on the ol' interwebs.
"We have a few goofballs on this team," teammate Sam Dekker allowed in his review of the scene.
Certainly none bigger than Kaminsky, who was eager to take credit for the choreography ("That was all me"). The Wisconsin senior also did his postgame partying with a GoPro camera strapped to his chest and said he'll use the personal footage to put together a movie so he can remember his college days.
Kaminsky made the decision to return to Madison for his senior year precisely for these memories and his Wisconsin team is now in a position to add more. The Badgers will start out by playing No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina in Omaha on Friday and will presumably advance to face a familiar-looking regional. Wisconsin downed Oregon, Baylor and Arizona in the West en route to last year's Final Four appearance and all four teams are again in the same regional.
Wisconsin would play eighth-seeded Oregon if the Ducks beat Oklahoma State on Friday and could possibly face second-seeded Arizona or third-seeded Baylor in the Elite Eight. That's assuming, of course, Wisconsin doesn't fall to an uptempo team like fourth-seeded North Carolina or fifth-seeded Arkansas in the Sweet 16.
"It looks like we're going to have a similar road as last year if we want to get back to the Final Four," Dekker said. "But it shouldn’t matter who’s in your bracket, you just have to be ready to play."
Notably absent from Wisconsin's possible list of regional opponents is No. 1-ranked Kentucky, which beat the Badgers on a last-second heartbreaker at last year's Final Four and loomed as a possible regional mate when it appeared Wisconsin would be getting a No. 2 seed.
That changed when losses by Virginia and Duke in the ACC semfinals opened a door for Wisconsin — are you sensing a theme here? — and moved the Badgers to the top line with Kentucky, Villanova and Duke. Now any possible rematch with John Calipari and his undefeated crew won't come until Saturday night at the Final Four in Indianapolis.
Though selection committee chair Scott Barnes later said the result of Sunday's title game with Michigan State had no bearing on Wisconsin being selected as a one seed, the Badgers mounted a comeback against the Spartans that suggested they thought the seeding was hanging in the balance.
Indeed, the Badgers wanted to "set it in stone," Dekker said.
A dunk by Branden Dawson with 7:45 remaining gave Michigan State an 11-point lead and the Badgers a tie for their biggest deficit of the season. A timeout by Badgers coach Bo Ryan, however, reset things and Wisconsin started chipping away at the Spartans' lead in an atmosphere that Ryan said felt like "a high-level NCAA tournament game" in many respects.
An 8-0 run by the Badgers turned the final few minutes into a back-and-forth contest that made for a great lead-in to the CBS selection show and allowed Kaminsky one sequence in particular to display why he's a leading candidate for the national player of the year honor. The seven-footer tied the score at 64 with a quick spin move for a layup in the paint with 2:26 remaining, then drained a three on the next position to give Wisconsin the lead.
A hustle play by Josh Gasser and a little bit of luck (replays showed he was out of bounds as the guard flung the ball back into play) later allowed Bronson Koenig the opportunity to hit two game-tying free throws with 15 seconds left. The game went into overtime when Dawson missed a last-second jumper from the baseline.
From there, it was all Badgers, who outscored the Spartans 11-0 in the extra time and then partied as multi-colored confetti fell in the House That Jordan Built. It was the Badgers' first Big Ten tourney title since 2008.
"It was great for us to have to come back from the deficits that we had and to play with that pressure on us to get us ready for the tournament," said Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes, who led all scorers with 25 points, including seven in OT. "Those type of games happen plenty during the NCAA tournament."
If the Badgers realized the enormity of the task at hand the next few weeks, they certainly weren't showing it as they waited for their turn on the selection show. The team cut down the nets, munched on pizza while taking selfies and practiced the "gentleman's celebration" that got them a few laughs (and maybe a few new fans) in the process.
It's all part of what makes this team so dangerous and a true contender for the national championship. While the sleepy-eyed Kaminsky might come off as the reigning clown prince of basketball off the court, he's the complete opposite on the court. Same goes for his teammates. If Hayes and Koenig continue coming up big in crunch time like they did this weekend in Chicago? If Dekker can be consistent play like he did against Purdue?
Well, then Wisconsin will be looking at another deep run in March and maybe into April.
Extra time that will have been earned with Kaminsky and his teammates attempting to wring every last laugh and memory along the way.
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