The Voice: To repeat feat vs. No. 1, Badgers need it loud

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgHere we go again. On Saturday afternoon the Badgers will host top-ranked and unbeaten Ohio State. Sound familiar? Could the basketball team work the same magic that occurred in Camp Randall Stadium on October 16?

Yeah, I know, first things first, such as a very challenging road assignment Wednesday night against an improving Iowa squad.

That is hardly coach speak. First-year coach Fran McCaffery has his team playing well, winning three of its last five games. Included in that stretch is a 20-point whipping of Michigan State, a beatdown very similar to what the Badgers accomplished on Sunday afternoon.

Junior Matt Gatens has been very solid, averaging 14 points a game in conference play, while a couple of newcomers have been instant contributors. Freshman Melsahn Basabe has given the Hawks a good inside presence, while junior college transfer Bryce Cartwright dishes out 5.5 assists a game. At Indiana on Saturday, he knocked down the game winning shot, and against Michigan State Cartwright scored 12 points and added 10 assists.

So, yes, the Badgers will have their work cut out for them on Wednesday. I also know fans who have tickets for Saturday's game against OSU can't wait for tipoff. Can you blame them?

When the football team beat the Buckeyes on that beautiful fall evening, it was the first time in 13 years that the No. 1 team in the nation came to town.

For basketball, it has been six years. Illinois rolled into Madison in January of 2005, and while the game was entertaining, the Illini left town with a 75-65 victory. The setback stopped Wisconsin's best-ever home winning streak at 38 games.

For the record, the Badgers' only victory against a top-ranked team was against ... Ohio State. 

It happened on March 3, 1962, when Wisconsin thumped the Buckeyes 86-67. Since then, they have had 15 shots against college basketball's top dog, five of those under Bo Ryan (vs. Kentucky in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, three times against the Illini in 2005 and once vs. OSU in 2007).

Those who know the current Badgers coach are aware of the drill. He will treat this as the next game on the schedule, nothing more and nothing less. It only makes sense. However, I am hopeful the crowd will bring the type of big game energy that can make college basketball special.

On that note, the fans who braved last Tuesday's blizzard and made it to the Purdue game deserve a standing ovation. Not only were there a surprisingly low number of empty seats, it seemed the building was pretty loud as the Badgers made a late run to beat the Boilermakers.

There are certain games when the Kohl Center can be simply electric. The 2003 game against Illinois, when a Devin Harris free throw gave Wisconsin the Big Ten title. The 2006 game against second-ranked Pittsburgh, when Alando Tucker's 32-point performance had Dick Vitale going nuts.

The 2007 game against Michigan State when Kam Taylor buried a 3-point shot in the closing seconds. Then, of course, there was the 2009 classic against Duke.  

Yes, college basketball truly becomes mass appeal in March, but why wait? Saturday's matchup with Ohio State has the promise of some more great theatre. For a Badger fan, if it is anything like what happened last October, you can be sure it will appeal to the masses in Wisconsin.
ON WISCONSIN