Brenner: Badgers Should Still Dance

Even though the Badgers let another close win slip away, Wisconsin, as Selection Sunday approaches, should take advantage of facing the conference's worst team in Indiana on Sunday and possibly again on Thursday.

MINNEAPOLIS — Get to know Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers well, Badger fans.

Because there's a great chance that one week from now, Wisconsin will have played two games and both will have been against the Big Ten's lowliest of lowlies.

The Badgers missed a chance to move one step closer to the conference elite when they coughed up a late lead to Lawrence Westbrook and Minnesota (but, mostly, Lawrence Westbrook) at "The Barn" on Wednesday and suffered yet another loss that has the Badgers seeing red.

Well, seeing red – crimson, to be exact – isn't quite half-bad at this stage.

UW finishes out the regular season on Sunday with Senior Day, though the opponent resembles that of a Homecoming patsy. Indiana (1-16 Big Ten) has had its exciting moments this year in Crean's first season at the Hoosier helm, but doesn't stand much of a chance to double its win total at the Kohl Center in three days.

So a Wisconsin victory would move Bo Ryan's team to 10-8 in conference play. This year, that may not be good enough for a top-five finish in the Big Ten standings and with it, a first-round bye.

Obviously, that means more work for a tired team. UW's bench isn't particularly deep this season, so it's hard to believe the Badgers could play four games in less than 72 hours and expect to defend its tournament crown.

But Wisconsin doesn't need to run the table in Indianapolis to go dancing. It just needs to avoid the dreaded "bad" loss at this point of the season. It probably needs just a couple more wins – getting the Badgers to 20 victories – to punch that NCAA ticket.

In this solidly deep conference, where's a pushover opponent when you need one? Ah, Indiana, nice of you to join us.

Not only will Wisconsin get a chance to stomp on the hapless Hoosiers Sunday, but if the likely seedings hold, the Badgers will finish sixth in the conference, which makes for a Thursday play-in date with … the hapless Hoosiers, already locked into the eleventh and final position.

Tom Crean: "You mean I have to coach against Bo Ryan TWICE in a row?!?! This isn't fair!"

Wisconsin certainly didn't do itself any favors with the choke job Wednesday. A victory over the Gophers and a victory on Sunday would have sent UW into postseason play on an 8-1 run, and that six-game losing streak completely erased from memory. There's nothing positive about having all those horrible trends from January flooding back in one despicable collapse, and to your biggest conference rival, no less.

Not to mention, Wisconsin really can't hope for a top-eight seed in the NCAA tournament now, ensuring that a return trip to the Sweet 16 would be nothing short of miraculous, given the matchup with a one- or two-seed and a current lack of confidence brimming in close games.

But maybe two games against those lovable losers from Bloomington are just what the doctor ordered to get Wisconsin back on track. Beat Indiana Sunday, beat ‘em again on Thursday, and they should get a coveted at-large bid. Knocking off, say, Purdue or Illinois in the Big Ten quarterfinals would only make things sweeter.

My advice to Wisconsin's four seniors – Joe Krabbenhoft, Marcus Landry, Kevin Gullikson and Morris Cain – is to really cherish Sunday's game.

Unless they totally blow it against Indiana, it will be their last at the Kohl Center for sure, because there's no way this Badger team is headed to the NIT.

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