The Voice: Tough-minded Badgers will be tough out in tourney

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgWelcome to the Madness.

As the Big Ten season hits the final few days and more than a dozen other conference tournaments get going, let us just go ahead and welcome all those sports fans whose interest in college basketball picks up -- right about this time of year.

More than one week away from Selection Sunday, and already I have heard what has turned into an annual question. How far will the Badgers advance in the NCAA tournament?

Who knows? Can we at least wait for the tournament pairings?

Boring as it might sound, that is the best answer I can give. However, there are some signs that the Badgers once again could be a tough out in postseason play.

The effort last Sunday at Ohio State certainly gives fans reason to believe. After coming close against highly-ranked teams such as North Carolina, Marquette, Michigan State and the first matchup with the Buckeyes, Wisconsin broke through with a 63-60 victory in Columbus.

In sports, there are some games that you steal. This was not one of them. The Badgers won it. They won it with a big-league effort from Jared Berggren, Jordan Taylor and company. With Taylor, it is the latest chapter in a terrific career, but to see Berggren have success at both ends of the floor against OSU big man Jared Sullinger is encouraging. Yes, it is simply one game, but what a game it was.

How about the recent play of Rob Wilson? The senior can hear the clock ticking on his college basketball career, and he is playing as though he would like it to last several more weeks.

To make a long story short, it appears as though a certain All-America point guard is getting more and more help from players not named Jordan Taylor. In two of the previous three games prior to Tuesday night's 52-45 victory against Minnesota, Wisconsin had four players scoring in double figures. Against Ohio State there were three, with Wilson adding nine critical points off the bench.

It is no secret that opposing teams have tried to do everything possible to contain Taylor. Still, there are times when Taylor proves to be next to impossible to stop. Just ask the Gophers. However, on other nights, Taylor needs the other four on the floor to pick him up.  As the regular season comes to a close, the Badgers are showing they are capable of providing some balance.

"They're gonna have to," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "That is how you can get to keep playing. They are trying to be a more consistent unit, no matter who the five are on the court."

Against the Gophers, it was more a matter of Jordan needing to be Jordan. The senior guard knocked down 3 of 6 shots from 3-point range and then added 11 of 12 from the free throw line. Come tournament time, he may very well need to have a monster game --maybe more than one -- for Wisconsin to advance.

But perhaps the better chance for the Badgers would be if they are able to distribute the scoring.

On Tuesday, the Badgers finished a rather grueling stretch of playing three games in six days in three different cities. They won two of those, which assures the Badgers of a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament for the 12th-straight year.

And they are in line for a 14th-consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

Some of the Badgers' games have been anything but pretty, but this streak of postseason appearances is a thing of beauty.