Brenner: Hey, it could be worse

With Badger fans down in the dumps over the Wisconsin football team's loss to Michigan, Aaron Brenner remembers moments that were just as bad over the past 10 months.

MADISON - I've covered Wisconsin sports for four years, and there's been a heck of a lot of good – if there's another Division I university that has more wins, titles and overall success than UW since 2005, I'd love to see it – and not too much bad.

At one point late in 2006, eight different Wisconsin teams were ranked in the top ten at one time. You read that correctly: eight different Wisconsin teams in the top ten. At once!

But if you want to be a card-carrying, no-bandwagon-here sports fan, you gotta take the good with the bad, along with the ugly.

Well, Wisconsin just sustained an ugly loss. Michigan fans forever have an end-the-conversation piece of trash talk over Wisconsin fans, by uttering the score "27-25".

I took a glance at the message boards on after Saturday's debacle, and I couldn't believe how quickly people were declaring the death of UW's football season. You know, the one that was supposed to end in Pasadena? The one that had such high hopes, like, 20 minutes ago?

Relax, Bucky fans. I could feed you all the BS you want about how UW head coach Bret Bielema will absolutely rally the troops, that impending home games against top-15 teams Ohio State and Penn State are in the bag, that UW is still very much alive in the conference race.

I'm going to take a different approach: it could be worse. In fact, it has, and all in the past ten months.

Wisconsin teams have taken hard hits all over the place; six of them, in fact, since you last pigged out on turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving.

Hard to believe? Take a gander at the top five (okay, six) worst Wisconsin-related losses of the past year:

Honorable Mention: UW women's hockey loses NCAA championship game to Minnesota-Duluth, 4-0 – Mar. 22, 2008 at Duluth, Minn.

Coach Mark Johnson and his veteran players were looking for their third consecutive NCAA championship. The Badgers had just knocked off top seed Harvard in the Frozen Four semifinals. Only one challenge remained: beating Minnesota-Duluth in their own building. Things didn't turn out so good.

The first goal was controversial; Johnson said later he believed the whistle had blown the play dead before the puck went in. The Bulldogs rolled from there, putting four pucks past UW goaltender Jessie Vetter, who had never lost an NCAA playoff game.

Nothing wrong with making a national championship game; but you just know the Badgers wish they could have capitalized on back-to-back-to-back titles.

No. 5: UW men's basketball loses to Marquette, 81-76 – Dec. 8, 2007 at the Kohl Center

As far as early-season losses go, this one was pretty harsh.

All Wisconsin teams have much better records at home than on the road; but coach Bo Ryan's success on the Kohl Center floor reaches unthinkable heights. Can I interest you in a 102-7 record in that building? Yep, the Badgers have won 94 percent of their home games under the tutelage of the man from Chester.

But of those seven, arguably the toughest loss to swallow came against in-state rival Marquette in the ‘Battle of I-94'. The 11th-ranked Golden Eagles dared the Badgers to beat them without star players Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor, who had just graduated, and Marquette backed up that talk with a stunning five-point victory at the Kohl Center.

Nobody's crying for the UW men's basketball team, which went on to win both the Big Ten season and tournament championships. But one's left to wonder: might a win over a hated rival been the difference between a No. 3 seed (which the Badgers received) and, say, a No. 2 or No. 1?

No. 4: UW football loses to Michigan, 27-25 – Sept. 27, 2008 at Ann Arbor, Mich.

I'll let UW linebacker Jaevery McFadden sum this one up:

"There were seven bad plays that basically defined the game," McFadden said Wednesday. "I think we had 67 plays, 60 of them were good and seven were bad plays."

What McFadden's trying to say, is take any one of seven, maybe even nine or ten, plays from this game and turn it around, and UW's probably still a top ten team right now.

What made this loss so much more painful – regardless of how this season turns out – was this was a chance for Wisconsin to finally go into Michigan Stadium, the 110,000-seat Big House, and take a game from the Wolverines. UW is now 6-27 in Ann Arbor; that's a lot of verses from that repetitive, obnoxious "Hail to the Victors" tune.

Odds are, Michigan is not a threat to win the conference this year; matter of fact, they might not get four Big Ten wins. Don't expect Michigan to stay down for long, though.

It could be a long, long time before Wisconsin sniffs the sweet scent of victory in Michigan Stadium again.

No. 3: UW men's basketball loses NCAA Sweet 16 to Davidson, 73-56 – Mar. 28, 2008 at Detroit, Mich.

Now we get into the really painful section; where a crushing loss meant the end of a season.

We start in the Motor City, where Badger fans witnessed the next great thing in college basketball. Stephen Curry carried little-known Davidson on a giant-killing path, almost all the way to the Final Four if not for a missed last-second three that allowed eventual champion Kansas to advance.

Curry's last victim was Wisconsin, which had entered the Sweet 16 with swagger after a convincing win over Michael Beasley's Kansas State Wildcats.

Hughes was injured (though some mused he could have tried harder to get in the game), the big men didn't take advantage of the tiny Davidson forwards, and Michael Flowers is still hustling around Ford Field's makeshift hardwood trying to guard Curry, who went off for 33 points.

Another disappointing result left fans (and scattered media) to wonder if Ryan's team is built for successful non-conference play. No comment from this writer on the matter; but the Badgers can definitely do better than Sweet 16 trips.

No. 2: UW volleyball loses NCAA second-round to Iowa State, 3-0 – Dec. 1, 2007 at the Field House

This one hurt. A lot and I still feel for UW volleyball coach Pete Waite.

I covered the volleyball team in 2005, when Wisconsin lost in the Elite Eight to Washington, who would go on to win the championship. That whole year, Waite talked about how badly he wanted the NCAA to host a postseason regional in Madison, because the Field House is, hands down, one of the best places in the country to watch a college volleyball match.

Waite finally got his wish for the 2007 season. Everything had fallen into place. Wisconsin, seeded No. 8 in the postseason, would not need to leave their home court en route to the NCAA semifinals.

But a heavy underdog, led by an old friend, threw a giant wrench into UW's big plans.

In an upset for the ages, Iowa State – coached by longtime Waite assistant Christy Johnson – shook off the raucous Block Party crowd and calmly, systematically dismantled UW, sweeping the stunned Badgers right out of their own building.

The postmatch press conference was easily the most painful one I've ever attended. Taylor Reineke, Jackie Simpson and Jocelyn Wack were all extremely accomplished players who just saw their careers end, and could barely utter a word of explanation as to what just happened.

Talk about throwing a huge party … and not even getting invited yourself. Ouch.

No. 1: UW men's hockey loses NCAA quarterfinal to North Dakota, 3-2 (OT) – Mar. 30, 2008 at the Kohl Center

Well, at least the volleyball team's crushing loss was a quick and painless one. This wouldn't be the case, nearly four months later, for UW's perennial national contender.

The men's hockey team sneaked into the NCAA tournament (don't ask me how; there were, like, five different things that had to happen to the sub-.500 Badgers, and they all did). Luckily, they too were hosting an NCAA regional, and despite their lowly No. 4 seed, got to play at home.

UW instantly took advantage, knocking off Denver (the Pioneers' second loss in 15 games at the Kohl Center) in the first round. The Badgers then battled top seed North Dakota, and took a 2-0 lead into the third period. 20 minutes separated UW from its second Frozen Four in three years.

For the faint of heart, now might be a good time to stop reading.

North Dakota stormed back, tied the game on two quick goals in the final period, and needed just 1:47 in overtime to dispose of the Badgers, head to its fourth consecutive Frozen Four, and leave the previously-rocking Crease Creatures speechless.

As much success as Wisconsin athletics have enjoyed in the past five or ten years, there's definitely been a few setbacks, mainly in the past year.

But Badger teams have always bounced back. Fans can only hope the football team does that quickly. Like, real quickly. ‘Cause, uh, have you seen who's coming to town?

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