There are some that read way too much into the first occurrence of something. Like the hubbub made over the choice of an opening day pitcher, or the superstition that you can tell how a season will go by the first play. We Geeks pride ourselves in believing no such thing. We value large sample sizes over the random outcome of a single event.
On this night, perhaps Wisconsin’s first bucket of the game was a harbinger of things to come.
The Badgers would basically score at will as this game wore on, which perhaps shouldn’t have been all that surprising given Minnesota’s status as the Big Ten’s worst defense in conference games. Even given that fact, this was an impressive display by the Wisconsin offense, as an output north of 1.3 points per trip clearly attests.
Everything was working for the Badgers, but the standout was Ben Brust. The senior guard poured in 29 points on just 15 field goal attempts, and he didn’t commit a single turnover. Wisconsin put three other players in double figures, including freshman Bronson Koenig on a perfect 5-for-5 night.
It wasn’t just the Badgers’ offense that impressed. Throughout this game, Minnesota struggled to score inside the arc, largely due to the presence of Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky, who was our pick for Big Ten player of the year, controlled the defensive glass and helped hold the Gophers to dismal 30 percent shooting on twos, which included bundles of missed layups.
This was just a nightmarish game for Minnesota, and it leaves them quite possibly on the outside looking in as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned.
Of course, the opinions of bracketologists (or Wisconsin students) don’t matter come Selection Sunday – only the decisions of the selection committee do. One thing is for sure – the Gophers passed no “eye test” on Friday night, for those who care about those kinds of things.
For Wisconsin, it’s on to the Big Ten tournament semifinals, facing the winner of Michigan State/Northwestern. There seems to be a growing contingent that feels this is finally the year the Badgers break through and get to a Final Four under Bo Ryan. After a performance like that, it would be hard to argue with that sentiment.