The Wisconsin Badgers gritted out another overtime win on Thursday, defeating Nebraska 70-69 on the road.
It is hard to be mad and unsatisfied with a team that is currently 21-3 overall and holds a Big Ten lead by two games. That is the current state of the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team, and yet, there seems to a be a sense of uneasiness surrounding the ball club right now.
Ranked at No. 7 (AP) and No. 5 (Coaches) in the country, the Badgers are enjoying an eight-game winning streak and find themselves up two games on the chasing Purdue Boilermakers and Maryland Terrapins for first place in the Big Ten.
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Most teams would be happy with an eight-game winning streak and first place mark, but there has been something about the Badgers’ run that has some cause for concern.
During the eight-game window, the Badgers have won three overtime games over unranked teams, two of which are below .500. Ever since the team’s bounce back double-digit win over Ohio State following the loss at Purdue, the Badgers have just two double-digit victories and have won the rest of the games by 4, 2, 7, 5, and 1.
It sounds a bit like Badgers fan are spoiled, and rightfully so. Grinding out close win after close win is a trait that is held by championship-caliber teams, but should it be happening this much and against these types of teams?
Well, for starters- let’s not act like a win at Nebraska is an easy thing to do. The Cornhuskers’ record is deceiving as they played one of the hardest non-conference schedules of any team in the conference. Let’s also remember that this is a team that has knocked off two ranked teams in Big Ten play, including two wins over the two teams chasing the Badgers: Purdue and Maryland. The Badgers’ win over Nebraska gives them an advantage as they were able to do something other contending teams in conference play were not.
Another thing to look at is that the Wisconsin continuing to win, even if it is by the slimmest of margins, means they are not losing. Last week, seven of the top 10 teams in the country lost, while Wisconsin continued to win.
Wisconsin needed OT in win at Rutgers and now in OT with Nebraska. Continually playing down to level of bottom of league. @SethDavisHoops
The overall records look great right now for the Badgers, but we cannot ignore there may be an underlying problem present. The ultimate goal for Wisconsin, and any team, is to win championships and as a team with four senior starters, a national championship is no where out of the question.
If Wisconsin continues to play down to the level of their opponent and let teams hang around, one of these times they are going to be due for a loss- and we do not want that to come in the NCAA Tournament.
In the Badgers’ victory over Nebraska Thursday night, it was evident that Bronson Koenig was bothered by his hamstring and for the first time ever it seemed, Ethan Happ did not know what to do with the double teams.
Wisconsin jumped out to a 21-11 lead, a reoccurring theme this season as they have had a multitude of fast starts, but instead of continuing to attack the rim- they got complacent, being sloppy with the ball and throwing up low-percentage shots. Their defense held its own against a talented Nebraska offense, but the lack of scoring allowed the Huskers to get right back in it.
The same thing happened in their previous win, a home victory over Indiana. The Badgers started up 20-9, but carelessness and poor shot selection allowed the Hoosiers to make a game of it. We have seen glimpses of greatness from this team, but moving forward Greg Gard and company must address these lingering issues.
"We know we have to play better. We're a marked team." – Greg Gard
Wisconsin is now 3-0 in overtime games this season and have won eight in a row in OT overall. Thursday night’s win made it 17 straight seasons with a winning record in Big Ten. The Badgers will return home to face Northwestern on Sunday.