The Voice: Resilient Badgers' toughest test comes Saturday

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgIn the last couple of weeks, the Badger men's basketball team has given fans a few more examples of how times continue to change, and for the better.

Last Sunday, Bo Ryan's team beat Illinois in Champaign. Ten days earlier the Badgers held off Purdue in West Lafayette.  It marked the first time since 1918 that a Wisconsin team won in those two cities in the same season. For any team, winning at Purdue and at Illinois is difficult. The Badgers' miseries, especially in West Lafayette, are well documented.

Consider this year's success as another in a line of negative streak-busters accomplished by Ryan's Badgers.

Last Thursday, the Badgers defeated Indiana 57-50. It is the ninth-consecutive victory, and the 15th in the last 18 meetings for Wisconsin against Indiana. In addition, it is the 11th-straight home court win for the Badgers against IU.

You do not need to be in the "over 40" crowd to remember when the Badgers were on the other end of such a streak. From 1980 until 1997, Bob Knight's Indiana teams ran off 31 straight victories at Wisconsin's expense. Included in the domination was a 22-game home court winning streak against the Badgers -- until Ryan's first Wisconsin team ended the madness in February of 2002.

Knowing about that long, rough stretch of years might make it easier to appreciate what this current group of Badgers is doing against a storied basketball program.

Which brings us to another current streak that Wisconsin would love to extend. On Saturday, third-ranked Ohio State comes to town. No doubt there will be plenty of excitement. Perhaps not quite as much as last year, when an unbeaten and top-rated Buckeyes team visited the Kohl Center, but I would like to believe there will be no shortage of noise in the building.

Without a doubt Coach Thad Matta has put together one of nation's premier programs. OSU has had excellent role players as well as major star power. That trend continues this season.

The Kohl Center also happens to be the one building where Matta's Buckeyes have yet to win. They are 0-6 under the current boss, and OSU has dropped nine straight overall in Madison.

Perhaps to some, winning can be taken for granted. These streaks should not be viewed in such a manner. Like the bad streaks, the good ones will end sometime. The Badgers and their fans just hope this good stretch won't stop anytime soon.

Extending it another game will be a tall order. Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Aaron Craft make for a tremendous trio. There are those who believe Craft is the nation's best on-ball defender, which should make for another big time matchup with Jordan Taylor. When we last saw Taylor at home against Ohio State, the All-America guard was putting on a show for the ages, leading Wisconsin from a 15-point second-half deficit to give OSU its first loss of the season.

After starting Big Ten play 1-3, it might have been tempting to give up on this team. Instead, the Badgers have fought their way back into the conference race with six straight wins.

Sometimes they shoot it well. Other times they seem to get it done by sheer will.

Whatever the formula, they have found the right mix to turn negatives into positives. On Saturday, the home team would like nothing more than to keep streaking against a national power.
ON WISCONSIN