The Badgers did it again yesterday, using stifling defense to hold the Illini to a season-low 41 points in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. So, the Big Ten tournament worked how it was supposed to; #1 Ohio State and #2 Wisconsin advance to the final, setting up a rubber match for the season series.
Obviously, a ton is at stake here; the winner will almost certainly get a one-seed for the Big Dance (although I think that Ohio State will get a one-seed regardless; people seem very high on them and their resume is strong) and will close out the season with 30 wins before the tournament even begins. The loser will fret for a couple hours, then ultimately hear their seeding, destination, and chump first-round opponent.
The Badgers' play in the tournament thus far has been encouraging. Kammron Taylor got his groove back, Alando Tucker's been a scoring machine (and he's become not only Big Ten Player of the Year, but UW's all-time leading scorer; congrats!), and Stiemsma and Krabbenhoft have filled in admirably for the injured Brian Butch. What you're watching is a team that's ready to make a tournament run. If they can go 13 minutes at a time without turning the ball over like they did against Illinois, the Badgers have a shot at going all the way. They just need to snap out of the offensive cold periods that they've experienced recently and they'll be all set.
It was nice to see the Badgers ready for Michigan State on Friday, too. After the first two games, I know most Wisconsin fans were dreading that matchup. Fortunately, Neitzel came out cold (and was remarkably well-defended by Michael Flowers), they played a sloppy, foul-and-turnover-filled game, and the Badgers didn't stoop to their level. I was once convinced that the Spartans were going to be a great sleeper pick for the NCAA Tourney, but after their struggles with Northwestern and their poor effort against the Badgers, I'm picking them to go one-and-done.
Hopefully this afternoon we'll see the Badgers come out with a fury and smoke the Buckeyes. Then we can look forward to that tense matchup with Central Connecticut State.