WASHINGTON – Plenty of school greeted its school's name being announced by the N.C.A.A. tournament selection committee with down faces and gyms full of screaming fans. For the University of Wisconsin, it came nowhere close.
A combination of falling a part in the second half of the Big Ten tournament finals with a lower-than-expected eighth seed meant the Badgers (25-9) have a quick turnaround before playing Thursday against ninth-seed Virginia Tech in Buffalo, N.Y.
"It is what it is," senior Nigel Hayes said. "It's my fourth time here (in the tournament), I guess I'm spoiled ... We are where we are. We have to play who we have to play. Nothing you can do it about. We just have to worry about ourselves."
The winner will play the winner of No.1 Villanova and the play-in winner of No.16 Mount St. Mary’s and New Orleans. That winner going to the Sweet 16 in New York. Times for all the opening round games will be released tonight.
Badgers won the only meeting against Virginia Tech, 74-72, in the 2008 Big Ten-ACC Challenge. The Hokies (22-10) are coached by former Marquette coach Buzz Williams, and senior Zak Showalter associates that with good guard play.
"They get up and down the court and play some fast basketball from what I remember," Showalter said.
It marks the 19th straight N.C.A.A. tournament appearance for Wisconsin, tied for the fourth-longest current streak in the country and fifth-longest all time, although this one seems a little bittersweet.
Despite the 25 wins, Wisconsin’s profile was limited with quality victories and a nonconference schedule ranked 303rd. The Badgers went 2-2 against RPI top 25 teams and 5-7 against RPI top 50 teams. UW’s best nonconference victory was winning at Marquette (RPI 59) in early December.
"We're just going to get ready to play and accept it for what it is," Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said.
The lack of punch cost Wisconsin a chance to play in Milwaukee, likely a preseason goal to play only 75 miles from campus. The Badgers won two games on their 2014 Final Four journey, including a come-from-behind victory over eighth-seeded Oregon in the round of 32. One of the teams playing in Milwaukee is Minnesota as a No.5 seed. One of seven Big Ten teams in the field, the Gophers were swept by the Badgers during the regular season, as well as finished a game behind them in the regular season and the conference tournament.
"A lot of stuff I don't understand," Showalter said. "Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me right now."
The Badgers are 36-21 in 22 previous appearances in the N.C.A.A. tournament, including 11-3 the last three seasons.
"We know we can be good when we play the way we're supposed to play," Hayes said. "We really should just focus on us because we just gave away our second championship this year. Now it's literally now or never. We're only guaranteed one game."