Badger Nation's View from the Box

Last year, a specific course of events led Wisconsin to a pair of conference championships. Call is deja vu or fate but those events of 2007 have emerged once again, as the Badgers are following last year's script to the sentence. The next chapter? An upset win over Texas.

MADISON - It's no secret that Bo Ryan doesn't like to compare teams. After 35-plus years in the coaching industry, the Wisconsin head coach has a large sample pool of teams to compare and contrast styles, enough to make the rest of his silver hair fall out.

Before the 2008-09 season began, the only stark similarity between this season and last was the fact that the Badgers start the Big Ten Conference season on the road in Michigan at the end of December.

Eleven games into this season, the comparisons are more than just an Ann Arbor road game.

Last season, Wisconsin lost by double digits on the road to a top five team, was fundamentally flawed in a close loss to Marquette and managed to shock the country by beating a ninth-ranked Texas team to close out its non-conference season.

This season, the Badgers faltered against No.2 Connecticut, lost a three-point decision at Marquette and host a ninth-ranked Texas team to close out the non conference season on Tuesday night, having a chance to add an important character-building, resuming-enhancing win before conference season starts.

Dig deeper into Wisconsin's last four non conference losses have been of a similar nature.

Last year in their first-ever meeting against Duke, an undefeated Wisconsin team shot 2-for-9 (22.2 percent) from the perimeter, got to foul line only six times (making three) and turned the ball over an uncharacteristic nine times in the first half, leading to 14 Duke points in a 24-point loss.

Against Connecticut, a season-high 22 UW turnovers led to 31 UCONN points and the previously unbeaten Badgers were out rebounded 32-28 and confidentially got out scored on second chance points and points in the paint.

Moreover, Wisconsin has struggled against the dynamic backcourts of Duke, Connecticut and Marquette, teams that could push the tempo, had solid perimeter shooting and boasted a starting lineup that could get a double-digit point output from anyone on the floor.

Last season, Wisconsin couldn't handle the fast-paced offensive tempo of the Golden Eagles, shot 4-for-14 from three, committed 18 turnovers (10 in the second half) and were out rebounded by seven, out scored by 14 in the paint and out shot from the free throw line.

This year, UW was out shot from the free throw line (in part to 26 total fouls) and out worked on the glass in the second half. The Badgers held a six-rebound advantage at halftime and scored six second-chance points to Marquette's zero. In the final 20 minutes, Marquette grabbed 21 rebounds to UW's 14 and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds, which led to 10 second chance points.

It's a lot of similar stats and logic to digest, which equals back-to-back non conference seasons with strangely similar results. Last season, Wisconsin went 16-2 in the Big Ten, won the conference's regular season and tournament championship and won a school record 31 games.

What would a Texas win do for this young team this year?

"It would do a lot," senior forward Joe Krabbenhoft said. "Anytime you can compete against one of the best teams in the nation and come away with a win, it builds character and gives you momentum which can be to our benefit."

This isn't the first time that a Ryan-coached team has followed a similar path to success.

Following the 03-04 season, Wisconsin had to replace Big Ten preseason player of the year Devin Harris, had a question mark at point guard, finished the season ranked in the top ten and headed into a season with considerably low expectations after being eliminated in the NCAA tournament's opening weekend.

The Badgers answered those questions with a then school-record 25 wins and came within a couple of possession of knocking off the eventual National Champion North Carolina Tar Heels in the Elite Eight.

Following the 2007 season and the loss of Big Ten preseason player of the year Alando Tucker, expectations were again low, UW had a question mark at point guard, concluded the regular season in the top ten in both national polls and again they were sent home during the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

And we all know the magical events the transpired last year.

"Of course it is similar," Landry said. "We lose to Marquette and a top-five team, same as last year. But the difference is we know what happened last year while this year, we have to make sure we do what we did last year. We want another year like last year, but even better."

Do the Badgers have the recipe for another three-point buzzer beater from the top of the key on Tuesday night? Depends if you are a believer that history has a tendency to repeats itself. So far, history has been kind to Wisconsin.

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