2000 NCAA Final Four Review
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Wisconsin's starting five of (L-R) Jon Bryant, Andy Kowske, Mark Vershaw, Mike Kelley, and Maurice Linton appear with coach Dick Bennett in an early NCAA tournament news conference.
The 1999-2000 Wisconsin men's basketball team was an unlikely participant in the 2000 NCAA Final Four but they made the journey memorable. The Badgers finished sixth in the Big Ten Conference and were .500 in the league with an 8-8 record. Their 19-13 overall record earned them an No. 8 seed in the West Regional.
The Badger coach was Dick Bennett, whose rebuilding of the Badger program took five years and resulted in back-to-back 22-win seasons and this Final Four appearance. Bennett was the first coach in school history to take the Badgers to three NCAA Tournaments.
Wisconsin's leading scorer was Mark Vershaw, who averaged 11.2 ppg. He was the only Badger to average double figures. As a team, the Badgers averaged 59.9 points per game.
Bennett's Badgers were known for their defense and Mike Kelley was a big part of that. He had 19 steals in the NCAA tournament run tying for second most ever. He set the school season mark with 95 takeaways and concluded his career with a school record 275 steals, a mark which still stands.
The eighth-seeded Badgers took care of their first opponent, Fresno State, 66-56, in the first round in Salt Lake City, Utah. That brought up No. 1 seed Arizona, which the Badgers beat 66-59 to head to the regionals in Albuquerque, N.M. There UW dispatched LSU, 61-48, and Purdue, 64-60.
Wisconsin's magical run to the Final Four ended with a 53-41 semifinal loss to season-long nemesis and eventual national champion Michigan State at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. It was the fourth time during the 1999-2000 season that the Spartans defeated the Badgers. MSU defeated Wisconsin twice during the regular season and in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
| 2000 NCAA Tournament - National Semifinal
| (1) Michigan State 53 (8) Wisconsin 41|
Saturday, April 1 | RCA Dome | Indianapolis, Ind.
Wisconsin's magical run to the Final Four ended with a 53-41 semifinal loss to season-long nemesis and eventual national champion Michigan State at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Roy Boone scored 18 points but he was the only Badger to tally more than six points in the game. Morris Peterson paced the Spartans with 20 points. Wisconsin trailed just 19-17 at the half, with both teams struggling offensively. Wisconsin shot 29 percent from the floor and Michigan State made just 25 percent of its shots. The Spartans, however, opened the second half on a 13-2 run to open a 32-19 lead with 13:25 left in the second period. Wisconsin could never cut the deficit to fewer than 10 points. The Badgers forced 14 Spartan turnovers, but were outrebounded 42-20. Wisconsin shot .349 from the field compared to .348 for the Spartans. It was the fourth time during the 1999-2000 season that Michigan State defeated the Badgers.
| 2000 NCAA Tournament - West Regional Finals
| (8) Wisconsin 64 (6) Purdue 60|
Saturday, March 25 | University Arena | Albuquerque, N.M.
Wisconsin advanced to the Final Four for the second time in school history with a hard-fought, 64-60, victory over Big Ten-rival and sixth-seeded Purdue in the West Regional final at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. Jon Bryant made five 3-point field goals and scored a game-high 18 points on his way to West Regional Most Outstanding Player honors. Andy Kowske added 14 points and eight rebounds and was named, along with Mike Kelley, to the West Regional all-tournament team. Brian Cardinal and Carson Cunningham, also named to the all-tournament team, had 13 points apiece for the Boilermakers. Wisconsin battled its way to a 31-28 halftime lead on 57-percent field goal shooting. Bryant scored the Badgers' first nine points on three 3-pointers. The second half was a see-saw battle that resulted in a 52-52 tie with 5:23 remaining to play. Wisconsin, however, then went on an 8-1 run over the next four minutes for a 60-53 lead with 1:08 left. A Cunningham 3-pointer with 11.5 seconds left made it 63-60 Wisconsin. The Badgers added a free throw for the final tally.
| 2000 NCAA Tournament - West Regional Semifinal
| (8) Wisconsin 61, (4) Louisiana State 48|
Thursday, March 23 | University Arena | Albuquerque, N.M.
Wisconsin put on one of its best defensive performances of the Dick Bennett era in a 61-48 victory over fourth-seeded LSU in the West Regional semifinals at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. Jon Bryant paced the Badgers with 16 points, while Stromile Swift and Jabari Smith each had 12 points for the Tigers. Wisconsin's suffocating defense forced 23 LSU turnovers and held the Tigers to .362 field goal shooting. Trailing 14-11 with five minutes left in the first half, the Badgers went on a 25-4 run over the next 12 minutes to gain a commanding 36-18 lead. The Tigers committed 10 turnovers during that stretch. Wisconsin extended its lead to 47-29 before settling for a 13-point win. The Badgers shot only .382 from the field, but committed just nine turnovers and registered 11 steals, including five from Mike Kelley. It was LSU's lowest offensive output of the season.
| 2000 NCAA Tournament - Second Round (West Region)
| (8) Wisconsin 66, (1) Arizona 59
Saturday, March 18 | Huntsman Center | Salt Lake City, Utah
Four Badgers scored in double figures and Wisconsin forced 17 turnovers to upset top-seeded and fourth-ranked Arizona 66-59 in the second round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. Andy Kowske registered 10 points and 12 rebounds and limited Wildcat center Michael Wright to just four field goal attempts in 37 minutes. Mark Vershaw had 15 points for the UW, while Maurice Linton added 14 and Jon Bryant 12. Gilbert Arenas had a game-high 21 points for the Wildcats, who shot just .392 from the field, including .263 from 3-point range. Arizona scored first for a 2-0 lead, but never led after that. The UW put together a 28-23 advantage at the half and steamrolled to a 50-33 edge with 8:07 remaining to play. The Wildcats chipped away but never cut their deficit to fewer than five points. Wisconsin shot .489 from the floor and made 17-20 from the free throw line. UW's Mike Kelley added eight points, four assists, no turnovers and five steals in 26 minutes of play.
| 2000 NCAA Tournament - First Round (West Region)
| (8) Wisconsin 66, (9) Fresno State 56
Thursday, March 16 | Huntsman Center | Salt Lake City, Utah
Guard Jon Bryant connected on a school record-tying seven three-point field goals to lead the Badgers to a 66-56 first-round NCAA tournament win over Fresno State at the West Regional in Salt Lake City, Utah. Andy Kowske added 14 points and 14 rebounds for the UW and Duany Duany contributed 12 points on four three-pointers. Terrance Roberson led the Bulldogs with 19 points. National scoring leader Courtney Alexander was held to just 11 points on 5-for-19 field goal shooting. Coach Jerry Tarkanian's Bulldogs led 34-30 at the half and expanded that margin to seven points (42-35) with 16:23 remaining to play. Wisconsin responded, however, and led 49-44 with 6:12 left. Bryant then went on a tear, hitting four straight 3-pointers to give the Badgers a 61-46 edge that capped a 26-4 run at the 4:32 mark. Wisconsin's bench outscored the Fresno State reserves 33-0.
Front Row L-R: Julian Swartz, Kirk Penney, Duany Duany, Travon Davis, Mike Kelley, Roy Boone, Jon Bryant; Back Row L-R: Managers Otto Puls and Mike Jossie. Maurice Linton, Andy Kowske, Mark Vershaw, Dave Mader, Erik Faust, Charlie Wills, Robert Smith, managers Tom Rhodes and Megan Soderberg
Not pictured: Head Coach Dick Bennett, Asst. Coaches Brad Soderberg, Shawn Hood, Brian Hecker