UW Health Sports Medicine 

"The Voice" with Matt Lepay

Admit it Badger fan.  You are really struggling with the fact that Michigan State is going back to the Final Four. I understand. It can be very difficult to appreciate the success of Bucky's big basketball rival. Yet, the Spartans did it again. Now all I can do is stand and applaud.

Six Final Fours in 12 years? I really did not believe they could do it this year, even before losing Kalin Lucas to a ruptured Achilles Tendon. Yet they did, as a couple of talented players who had been having uneven seasons kicked it into high gear at just the right time - namely Raymar Morgan and Durrell Summers. Very few people questioned Michigan State's raw talent, but many, including head coach Tom Izzo, questioned the team's toughness and leadership capabilities. Not anymore. As much as it might hurt you to do it... you gotta tip your cap to Sparty.

I find myself watching these NCAA tournament games with a certain degree of envy. I truly love the tournament. How can you not enjoy watching Butler's ride to the Final Four? At the same time, I wonder whether the Badgers will ever return to college basketball's biggest stage.

In the days following Wisconsin's second round loss to Cornell, many folks, both locally and nationally, have chimed in on what the Badgers must to do reach another Final Four. Play some zone defense. Take more chances on big time recruits who might only stay a year before going pro. On and on it goes.

No doubt Bill Self, Jay Wright, John Calipari, Thad Matta and who knows how many other coaches also are getting free, unsolicited advice from fans and media on how to reach basketball's "Promised Land."
Since so many others are willing to help Bo Ryan and company, here is my advice:  don't change much of anything.

I say that for two reasons.  One, what he is doing is working pretty well. Two, do you really believe he would change much anyway? While this is a sport where a team's success is largely judged in March, you cannot wipe out what happens from November thru February.

Under Ryan, the Badgers regular season success is well documented. Yet fair or unfair, to be considered a true national power, a team must make deep runs in the tournament. To do that, you need a special playmaker or two, favorable matchups and maybe a little luck.

Since it is difficult to control your tournament matchups and who gets lucky on a certain day, I would suggest that most of the components are in place for the Badgers to enjoy more success in March. Far more often than not, they protect the basketball and they play sound defense. Those two traits alone should at least give you a chance. They have a budding star in Jon Leuer, and the makings of a great leader in Jordan Taylor. Perhaps this is a team that is one special player away from making a memorable tournament run. Perhaps that player already is on the roster, or is about to join it.

I get a little nervous when I hear people say the Badgers need to shift their recruiting philosophy. I have seen teams around here try that in the past, and the results have been much the same--hello seventh place! I'm all for the Badgers getting the next college superstar, but I have my doubts whether this program is equipped to deal with very many "one-and-done" players. I would rather not see this program put all its chips on the table in a one-year run for the title, then spend the next five years hoping to get the next NCAA bid.

Back in the mid-1990s, a realistic goal for Wisconsin basketball was to make the NCAA tournament three out of every five years. At the time, the hope was that one of those other two years the Badgers would make the NIT, then probably have one year when the season would end at the Big Ten Tournament.

Now fans expect to see Wisconsin in the NCAA every year.  For the past 12 seasons, the Badgers have delivered. It's only natural for Badger fans to want a little bit more.

I maintain they are on the right track. The Badgers have sustained success at a rate far better than most fans thought possible. How? By sticking to their plan.

As painful as it might be to see an early tournament exit, Wisconsin fans will look forward to next season, knowing there is a good chance this team will be right back in the Big Dance. As a team such as Butler has proven (and George Mason in 2006, and Wisconsin in 2000), as long as you are in the tournament, the possibility of doing something special will always exist.