UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: A time to look back, and ahead

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgAnd now, a slight break in the action, at least in much of the world of Wisconsin athletics. Not a bad time to pause and reflect on some of what has happened so far, and what may lie ahead.

Early in the football season, I thought the Badgers were pretty good, but not an elite team. As they prepare for the Rose Bowl, they certainly have a chance to become part of the elite. Being a Big Ten champion is a REALLY good step, and if they can take the next step and beat third-ranked TCU in Pasadena, the Badgers certainly would be considered among the elite for the 2010 season.

It is at this time when it might be fun to be a bug on the wall in a team or position group meeting. No doubt for the past couple of weeks the players have been getting numerous pats on the back, with fans telling them how great they are. Given the long layoff between games, it can be an easy trap. This is where coaches play the role of humblers. Actually, they probably have been doing that throughout the season, especially since the Ohio State game, but I would guess at least some of the assistants have been ready to turn it up a notch.

At least one concern a coach generally has is that a team will get a little too full of itself, forgetting there is still a job to be done. I seriously doubt that this will become an issue. This team is as likeable and is as grounded a group as I have ever been around, led by coaches who are ready and willing to make sure they stay that way.

It never hurts to know you are the underdog, which is the case in this game.

The Rose Bowl atmosphere is always special, but I think this one could have a very lively crowd. Badger fans have been known to turn the famous stadium into Camp Randall West, but TCU has sold its allotment of 20,000 tickets and would like to have more. It has been 11 years since Wisconsin's last trip, so there are Badger fans either eager to return, or those who are counting the days before they make their first trip to Southern California.

To make a long story short, sometimes big bowl games can have a bit of a corporate feel. I don't believe that will apply this time.

Meanwhile, Bo Ryan's Badgers are "game free" until Dec. 23, when they close out non-conference play against Coppin State. Last night Wisconsin completed its annual series of games against the state's other Division I opponents with a win against Green Bay, thus becoming the unofficial state champs for 2010.

Fans might still be wondering how this squad will fare in the Big Ten, a conference many believe could be as strong as it has been in years. Bo continues to look at various combinations on the floor, but as league play approaches, it would be dangerous to assume the Badgers won't be in the thick of the fight.

Yes, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota are top 25 teams, while many folks will also be keeping a close eye on Northwestern to see whether the Wildcats can make the NCAA field for the first time in program history.

All that said, there are enough national media types who will admit that when in doubt, figure the Badgers will be a factor in the league race. Who knows whether they can win the race, but many have a hunch the Badgers will at least make a little noise.

It should be fun to watch. Let's face it, with Bo's teams, isn't that usually the case?