The first weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is in the books and it is impossible to imagine a more exciting slate of games. Of course, it also helps that the Wisconsin Badgers went 2-0 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in thrilling fashion. With that in mind, here are some Wisconsin-centric thoughts about the NCAA Tournament so far:
-It’s been a good year for last-second magic in Wisconsin. Bronson Koenig’s game winner against the Xavier Musketeers is now the greatest shot in Wisconsin Basketball history. Though Ben Brust and Freddie Owens might disagree, a buzzer beater to defeat a #2 seed and send the Badgers to the Sweet Sixteen is hard to top. Expect to see that shot in the ‘One Shining Moment’ montage.
-Speaking of Koening, for all of his strengths he also has the tendency to take shots with his foot on the three point line. Not that it influenced the outcome, but his game-winning three pointer involved Ray Allen-esque footwork.
-One of the pleasures of being a sports fan is re-living these moments. Wisconsin fans have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to re-living this one. Not only did Matt Lepay call the shot, but Milwaukee Brewers announcer Brian Anderson made the television call for TNT and Green Bay Packers announcer Wayne Larrivee made the radio call for Westwood One. As you might expect, they were all excellent.
-Koening’s shot was made possible thanks to the Badgers beating the Pittsburgh Panthers in a 47-43 rock fight on Friday. The Badgers have seen some significant changes this season, but it’s comforting that their tradition of winning some incredibly ugly games is still alive.
-The key to winning a championship is to make the post-season.* Everything else is pretty much trivial. I was one of the millions of people who saw their bracket go down in flames when #15 seed Middle Tennessee State shocked the mighty Michigan State Spartans. Meanwhile the Badgers – a team that was not even NIT worthy in January – is two victories away from the Final Four. Anything can happen when you make the field.
*The NBA is the exception to this rule.
-The University of Northern Iowa meltdown versus Texas A&M is the most spectacular collapse I have ever seen. UNI led 69-57 with 38 second to play in regulation. Both teams would have inserted their walk-on bench warmers if this was a regular season game. Yet Texas A&M miraculously forced overtime and eventually won in double overtime. Now, I do not believe in sports karma, but the fact that UNI advanced to this round thanks to a half-court buzzer beater is not lost on me. Spectacular finishes go both ways and tend to even out; it’s just cruel when they even out this quickly.
-Next up for the Wisconsin Badgers are the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish pulled a Houdini on Sunday against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, winning on a go-ahead tip-in with 1.5 second left. The winner of this game will play either North Carolina or Indiana. Buckle up!