Sunday, February 18, 2007

Two seasons get interesting down the stretch

The men's basketball season is getting out of hand. With their 26-point walloping of Penn State, these Badgers became the first in school history to win 26 games, they've run the all-time record at the Kohl Center under Bo Ryan to a ridiculous 90-5, and with the Gators losing, there's an outside chance that the Badgers' play this week will help them leapfrog Ohio State to get the #1 ranking in the nation. (I suspect, though, that the Buckeyes will trounce Minnesota on national TV this afternoon, and the voters will see that and give them the top spot.) Even if they don't, only the Michigan State Spartans stand in the way of an epic clash between #1 and #2 on February 25. But the Badgers did it with three-point shooting yesterday, connecting on shots that had simply not been there for them most of the season. The last thing they need to do is convince Alando Tucker that free throws are worth sinking, and this team will be ready to go.

Meanwhile, the Spartans bombed Iowa back to the Stone Age, and Michigan stole a victory from Indiana in Ann Arbor. What once looked like a clear-cut postseason picture became muddled in a couple hours' time yesterday. The team with the best conference record outside of Madison and Columbus is Indiana, whose 7-5 stands a hair above Iowa's 7-6 mark. Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue all come in at 6-6. If a couple of those teams ends the season on a tear, we might see very different teams dancing than those whose fates were declared certain a couple weeks ago.

And speaking of interesting conclusions to the season, the hockey Badgers did it again this weekend, using their last home series of the year to take 3 of 4 points from #4 St. Cloud State. Last night's 2-2 tie, coupled with other key league results, put the sixth-place Badgers two points out of a tie for fourth place in the WCHA with Colorado College and North Dakota. The Badgers close out the season with series against teams that are below them in the conference standings -- on the road against Michigan Tech and Minnesota-Duluth. However, given the fight that Minnesota-Duluth put up against North Dakota this weekend, this is very much an uphill battle, though a winnable one.

Here's to watchable endings!