UW Health Sports Medicine 

"The Voice" with Matt Lepay

Thumbnail image for the_voiceSM.jpgBo Ryan enjoys history. He believes it is a good idea for fans to be aware of Wisconsin basketball history. When the Badgers recently knocked off Marquette, giving the current head coach 200 wins as the UW boss, Ryan quickly mentioned the two men he joins in the UW's "200 Club," Walter Meanwell and Bud Foster.

Assistant Coach Howard Moore also is a believer in studying history. He would love to see the school start a ring of honor, recognizing some of the great players of past years. That is another topic for another day, but for now, coaches Ryan and Moore have worked to bring back as many players as possible from a team that provided a huge chapter in the rise of Wisconsin basketball.  Wednesday night at the Kohl Center, that group will get a long overdue salute.

Going into the 1993-94 basketball season, the Badgers were hoping to end a 47-year NCAA tournament drought. Think about that. The current streak of NCAA tourney appearances stands at eleven. My guess is many just take March Madness for granted.  In the early 90s, there was a generation of Badger fans who knew nothing about watching Wisconsin in the Big Dance. That '93-'94 team stopped the bleeding.

Under Stu Jackson, who in my opinion is one of the most underappreciated coaches in school history, the Badgers bolted to an 11-0 start. Included in that streak were victories against Dick Bennett's Green Bay Phoenix, as well as a tough road game at Texas Tech, and home triumphs against Stanford and Marquette.

Led by Michael Finley, Rashard Griffith and Tracy Webster, the Badgers had their fans believing that an NCAA trip actually could happen. Trouble was the Big Ten was really deep, and as the season hit the stretch drive, Wisconsin was struggling. As it turned out, the Badgers dropped six of their last eight games, leading some to believe the home team would be left out again. Fortunately, the selection committee viewed it differently. The resume' was plenty good enough, as the Badgers earned a trip to Ogden, Utah as the ninth seed in the West Regional.

Even as simply a team broadcaster, I was nervous. To me, witnessing the Badgers in the NCAA tournament was surreal. Going to the structured media sessions, watching the open practice, seeing the NCAA logo and blue carpet everywhere. It's still just basketball, but the tournament is different, and finally the Badgers were a part of it again.

I remember the look of joy on the faces of the players and coaches after Wisconsin beat Cincinnati in the first round. They read and heard the comments from some about how the Badgers were lucky to make the field. Those folks were wrong. They earned the bid, and that night in Utah they proved it.

It will be fun to see that group together again, as many as can make the trip. Obviously not everyone will be able to attend. Finley continues to play for the San Antonio Spurs. Griffith's career continues in Romania. Then assistant coaches Stan Van Gundy and Tim Buckley are rather busy with their teams, but word is there will be an excellent turnout from the team that gave UW fans memories to last a lifetime

Beyond the Finley-Griffith-Webster trio, there were other key components to that squad. Jeff Petersen, who gave up his scholarship to make room for Rashard, averaged eight points a game that season. Andy Kilbride provided defensive toughness and 7.4 points per game. Truth is, everyone played a role, and some, including Howard Moore, Chris Conger and Darnell Hoskins, moved into the coaching profession. Among the attributes each member will always bring to the table is the knowledge of what it takes to do something special, something that perhaps few outside the program viewed as possible.

Congratulations to Bo and Howard for their efforts to bring back that team, and for giving fans another chance to appreciate this vital part of Wisconsin basketball history.