The part of the year college basketball fans anxiously wait for has finally arrived: March Madness is here! The state of Wisconsin has had some exciting years in previous seasons, including the University of Wisconsin nearly winning the championship with Sam Dekkar and Frank Kaminsky leading the way in 2015, and that same Wisconsin team making the Final Four the season before that. Wisconsin hasn’t been the only team dancing, with Marquette making it to the Elite 8 in 2013 and the Final Four in 2003. Marquette, though, hasn’t been back since 2013 and is on the fringe of returning again this season. Wisconsin was at one point a sure top seed in the tournament, but a recent ugly losing streak has them likely looking at a seed somewhere in the 6 range instead of a 3. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee almost got in on the fun despite a 11-24 record on the season when they made the Horizon Leagues final this week with a guaranteed tournament birth on the line, they lost to Northern Kentucky, though, in a tightly contested game. If UWM had won that game, they would have broken the tournament “record” for most losses in a season by a team that qualified for the tournament.
This years Marquette team has little chance of making a splash in this years tournament. Another year of development and it’s very likely that they could be contending for a top 3 seed, but this year they would be lucky to get a 10 seed in one of the 16 team brackets. Marquette doesn’t have the firepower or defensive prowess to hang with most teams. A Sweet 16 birth is likely the ceiling for this team, though they are more likely to lose in the first round than to make it to the second, let alone the third.
Wisconsin at one point seemed like it was going to be a dark horse in the tournament, a team that was unlikely to win but could go into any game with at least a fighting chance of advancing. A recent losing streak against unranked opponents has dampened the excitement around the Badgers, and they are likely to also have a ceiling of the Sweet 16, depending on the matchups they draw. Nigel Hayes leads the group of accomplished and young Badgers, with Bronson Koenig right alongside him. The question will be whether they can get their games right and minds focused on a one-and-done tournament when they haven’t been able to put away inferior opponents.
This feels like it will be an early ending to March Madness for fans of Wisconsin’s universities, but it should be an entertaining tournament nonetheless. Perhaps this will be the year a smaller powerhouse will be able to win the title game. More likely it will be a familiar face, but the unknown is what this time of year is all about.
Predictions: Wisconsin loses in round of 32, Marquette loses in round of 64.
Bring on the Madness.