Wisconsin may have been an afterthought during the regular season, particularly with teams like Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State garnering the lion’s share of Big Ten headlines.
But the Badgers have stolen the spotlight in the NCAA tournament – and with good reason. A team that controls the ball, doesn’t commit many fouls and shoots lights-out from the free-throw line is always a threat in a one-and-done format.
So how did Wisconsin reach the Final Four? Let’s check the numbers:
1: Wisconsin’s ranking nationally in turnovers per game. The Badgers turn the ball over to their opponent just 8.1 times per game, on average.
1: Number of times the Badgers went to overtime this season – including Saturday’s 64-63 victory against Arizona.
4: Number of Elite Eight teams the Badgers have defeated this season (Florida, Michigan, Michigan State and Arizona).
4-1: Wisconsin’s record all-time against Pac-12 teams in NCAA tournament play.
5: Number of players on Wisconsin’s roster with 1,000 minutes or more played this season.
6-1: Wisconsin’s record when junior Frank Kaminsky scores 20 or more points. He had 28 against Arizona.
8: Number of Badgers who have appeared in at least 36 games this season.
15: The number of personal fouls per game given up by Wisconsin as a team. That ranks second in the country, just behind conference rival Michigan.
18-2: Wisconsin’s record when holding opponents to 69 or fewer points.
21-4: Wisconsin’s record when shooting 75 percent or better from the free-throw line.
27: Senior Ben Brust’s national ranking in 3-point field goal attempts and 3-pointers made. Brust has attempted 237 shots from behind the arc and made 93.
30: Times this season Wisconsin had a halftime lead. They went 26-4 in those contests.
47: Number of years between NCAA tournament appearances for the Badgers. They lost to the City College of New York in the 1947 regional semifinals, then defeated Navy in the consolation. Then Wisconsin didn’t return to the tournament until 1994, when they beat Cincinnati and lost to Missouri.
72: Consecutive games started by Brust.
74.1: The percentage Wisconsin is shooting from the free-throw line as a team, ranking them 36th in the nation.
86.8: Junior Josh Gasser’s free-throw shooting percentage, putting him 39th in the country.
92nd: Frank Kaminsky’s national ranking in blocked shots per game. He’s averaging 1.73 per game.
103: Consecutive games started by Gasser.
704: Wins in Bo Ryan’s coaching career, spanning 30 seasons. The 69-year-old Ryan will be making his first trip to the Final Four.
1941: The year of Wisconsin’s last NCAA men’s basketball championship. They defeated Dartmouth and Pittsburgh in Madison, then beat Washington State 39-34 in the championship game played in Kansas City.
2000: The year of Wisconsin’s last trip to the Final Four. They lost to eventual national champion Michigan State in the semifinals 53-41.
Can the Badgers duplicate their 1941 success? A veteran team, with a veteran coach, that doesn’t turn the ball over and makes free throws? That’s a winning combination in anybody’s playbook.