UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Whatever the recipe, Badgers keep winning

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgWhile it is unlikely anyone associated with the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team will say it out loud, the Badgers appear to be in pretty decent shape for a 14th-consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

Only Kansas, Duke and Michigan State have longer streaks. Meanwhile Texas, which like the Badgers has gone dancing for the last 13 years, would seem to have some work to do.

To be sure, the Longhorns could still make it, but they begin the week with a 7-8 conference record, and a ratings percentage index (RPI) of 59, according to CollegeRPI.com.

A couple of other traditional powers will need to win their conference tournaments to make the field. Pittsburgh is last in the Big East with a 4-11 record, while its RPI is 93. UCLA is 8-6 in the Pac-12, but has an RPI of 136.

In other words, dropping games to the Panthers and the Bruins, especially the latter, would be considered a bad loss. Imagine that.

The RPI is just one of several tools for the NCAA tournament selection committee, but clearly those numbers help demonstrate that Texas, Pitt and UCLA have had their struggles.

Meanwhile, the Badgers simply continue to win. On Sunday, Bo Ryan's bunch won its 20th game of year. That is six straight seasons of at least 20 victories, and the ninth in 11 years under Ryan. In the history of the program, the UW has 13 such seasons.

Perhaps even more telling is the fact that the Badgers can still finish in the top four of the Big Ten standings.

They would like to believe they can end up even higher, but for now, Wisconsin is a game-and-a-half ahead of fifth-place Indiana. If the Badgers hold on to that position, it would be the 11th-straight season of a fourth-place or better finish in the league.

Now that is impressive.  

Perhaps even more so this season. Yes, this team really struggles to score, but far more often than not, they defend. They protect the basketball. And they make free throws, especially late in games.

To this point of the season, that combination has helped the Badgers to the Big Ten's best road record.

With trips coming up to Iowa City and Columbus, that combo needs to be in play again.

Much has been made of Wisconsin's home record under Ryan, and much has been made of the Badgers' four Kohl Center losses this season. Understandable, but what many folks have missed is the success away from home.

Since Ryan became the head coach in Madison, no team in the Big Ten has been better outside of its own gym than the Badgers.

During that period, Wisconsin's 47 conference road wins is tied with Ohio State for the most in the league. Michigan State is next in line with 43.

The Badgers are not picky. They win here. They win there (stolen from Charlie Sheen).

Without a doubt, the Badgers would love to average more than the 60 points per game they manage in league play. But, if they score 52 and the opponent has 51, they will take it.

Especially at this stage of the season, when absolutely nothing is easy.

Against Penn State, the shots started to fall more frequently. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come.

However, if the offense starts scuffling again, the Badgers still can have a fighting chance, as long as the defense remains solid, they secure the basketball and they knock down pressure free throws.

That might end up being Wisconsin's winning recipe.