The end of the Packers season always creates a void in the hearts of Wisconsin sports fans. This has never been truer than this year when the Packers met their demise in a game that needs no further discussion. However, this year’s post-Packers void is not as bad as is usually is. That’s because the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team is having one of the best seasons in school history and the oft-forgotten Milwaukee Bucks are one of the most intriguing young teams in the NBA.
The Badgers basketball team has been remarkably good since Dick Bennett led them to the Final Four in 2000. They’ve made the NCAA Tournament every season since then, with only Kansas, Duke, and Michigan State having longer such streaks. Yet as good as the Badgers have been, they’ve rarely been this good.
It’s not often that a team coming off a Final Four appearance has potential to get better, nor is it often such a team will actually get better, but that’s precisely what’s happened with the Badgers.
Wisconsin improved to 21-2 overall and 9-1 in the Big Ten (good for first place) after beating Northwestern on Saturday. Their offense operates with the ruthless efficiency of an Aaron Rodgers-led passing attack thanks to Frank Kaminsky, a 7-footer who can lead the fast break and hit threes (he’s shooting 41.4% from behind the arc this season). Kaminsky, like Melvin Gordon, is a rare talent that makes the Badgers appointment television.
While the Badgers are an established basketball powerhouse having a great season, about 80 miles east of Madison is a basketball team on the brink of a breakthrough.
The Milwaukee Bucks devolved into an afterthought shortly after the dissolution of the “Big Three” in the early 00’s. After Dwyane Wade kick started Marquette’s resurgence in the ’01-02 season, the Bucks have arguable been the #2 basketball team in Milwaukee. But the arrival of Jason Kidd and emergence of human highlight reel Giannis Antetokounmpo (more easily referred to as “The Greek Freak”) gives Bucks fans genuine reason to be excited about the future.
After winning an NBA-worst 15 games last season, the Bucks are currently 28-23 and occupy the #6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. (And all of this is happening with Jabari Parker out for the season with a torn ACL.) Milwaukee is still a few years away from being a serious title contender, but in the meantime they’ve developed into an exciting team to watch. Though it’s not quite time to fear the deer, the rest of the NBA should at least be concerned.
It’s easy to forget that Wisconsin sports are experiencing something of a golden age. How often is there a college basketball team with legitimate national title aspirations to take your mind off a particularly bad Packers playoff loss? Or an already exciting NBA team with the potential to develop into a championship contender? You know it’s a great time to be a Wisconsin sports fan when you’re too busy cheering for other teams to be sad about the Packers.