The postseason is here for college basketball and with it brings the most exciting and competitive time of year in all of college sports.
For No. 10 Wisconsin, while a trip to the NCAA tournament is already assured, the task at hand pits them versus its most familiar foes in a battle for the conference tournament crown.
"We know we'll probably go to the [NCAA] tournament, but we don't look past the Big Ten tournament," junior guard Devin Harris said. "We want to win this thing just as much as the other teams do. So we just have to come out and take it one game at a time."
For the first time in three seasons, the Badgers will not carry the No. 1 seed entering the Big Ten tourney as they will test the conference bracket as the No. 2 this year. Maybe that is a good thing for UW as they still look for that elusive first conference tournament win under head coach Bo Ryan.
"First of all, we'd just like to get a win," Harris said. "I've yet to win a game in the Big Ten tournament, so we'll just start with that. We'll prepare the same way this year for the tournament as we have the past few years. We'll prepare for both teams and just go from there."
Finishing strong during the regular season, the Badgers won their last four contests, two of which were on the road. With the regular season conference title coming down to the wire, the Badger players acknowledge that the final week of competition provided a very postseason-like atmosphere, something similar to what they are likely to face this weekend in Indianapolis.
With the do or die mentality in place for all the teams involved, experience may play a huge factor in garnering a mental edge between teams. Although winless in recent conference tournaments, the Badgers understand the need to step up their game to match that of their opponent and feel their preparation in practice and the final weeks of the season will help them this weekend and beyond.
"Once you get in the tournament, the intensity picks up even more and being through it before, you definitely have a better feel for it," junior forward Mike Wilkinson said. "The intensity is going to pick up through practice in preparation for that first game of the tournament."
While the Big Ten has been described as a very parity-driven conference, the key to success is simple. The Big Ten has shown that a dominating defense that dictates tempo combined with a consistent inside-outside game on offense will clearly be the formula to an impressive tournament run. At times throughout the season, nearly all of the top six teams in the Big Ten have been able to exercise this formula.
"Usually the team that play defense is going to get the ‘W,'" Wilkinson said. "If you can get the ball inside and play defense, you're going to have the advantage."
What: Big Ten Tournament
When: Thursday, March 11 through Sunday, March 14
Site: Conseco Field House, Indianapolis, Ind.
Broadcasts: ESPN, ESPN 2 and ESPN Plus carry first round and quarterfinals (Wisconsin's first game is televised on UPN 14 in Madison) and CBS carries the semifinals and finals.