Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Wisconsin and Purdue in West Lafayette.
Just two weeks ago, Wisconsin sat at 16-0 overall and 3-0 in Big Ten play – climbing all the way up to #3 in the AP Top 25. While several of those 16 victories had come against inferior non-conference competition, the Badgers more than proved their legitimacy with impressive victories over Florida, Saint Louis, Virginia and Marquette. Past Wisconsin teams under Bo Ryan were known for their slow and methodical style of play, but this season’s squad proved early on that it was quite different than its predecessors. Armed with an offensive-minded starting lineup of guards Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson along with forwards Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin raised eyebrows nationally with a drastic contrast in style of play from the norm in Madison.
After an unbeaten run through non-conference play, Wisconsin continued its sizzling play through its first three Big Ten games. In the conference opener, the Badgers unloaded on an inferior Northwestern squad en route to a 76-49 victory. Facing a strong test at home against a very good Iowa team next, Wisconsin rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to earn a 75-71 victory. In the third Big Ten game, a red hot Illinois team invaded the Kohl Center and was thoroughly dismantled by the Badgers in a 15-point Wisconsin victory. At that point, Wisconsin’s ascendance earned the Badgers considerable national attention. For instance, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi placed Bo Ryan’s team as the #1 seed in the Midwest Regional. When the first RPI rankings for the were released on January 10, the Badgers sat atop the list. Everything seemed to be aligning for Wisconsin to be a bona fide contender in both the Big Ten and nationally.