Wisconsin Badgers Basketball: Top Five Teams of All-Time
Despite being one of the most dominant teams in the Big Ten, if not the nation, over the past decade, Wisconsin Badgers basketball has been anything but a storied program.
Under Bo Ryan, Wisconsin has been absolutely phenomenal.
But between their 1941 NCAA Championship and their 1989 NIT appearance, they had one postseason trip. One.
So I guess it's a credit to Dick Bennett and Bo Ryan for building up a program from literally nothing.
The Badgers did have some success in the early 1900's, getting crowned the "Helms National Champions" three times (whatever that is), but for our purposes, I'm starting this list in 1940-41, the year of their one and only national championship.
As you'll see, much of Wisconsin's success is relatively fresh in Badger fans' minds.
No. 5: 2003-04 Badgers
Of all my choices for the top five teams in Wisconsin basketball history, picking the fifth-best was definitely the hardest.
Should I pick the 2002-03 team that won the Big Ten regular-season title outright and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to Kentucky? Should I pick the 2004-05 team that finished just third in the Big Ten, but advanced to the Elite Eight before finally dropping to the eventual champions, North Carolina?
Well, I decided to go with another. The 2003-04 team that fell to Pittsburgh in just the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Now why would I pick them?
Well, for one, that team had the best overall record of the three teams I mentioned (25-7). Secondly, the '03-04 team won the Big Ten tournament, the first time a Wisconsin team accomplished that.
This was also the team that featured Big Ten Player of the Year and Second Team All-American Devin Harris.
And as far as their second round loss to Pitt, not to sound whiny, but Wisconsin definitely received the short end of the stick in terms of seeding in the tournament. Despite winning the Big Ten Tournament, the Badgers received a No. 6 seed. Now, I know the selection committee doesn't have much time to seed the Big Ten Tournament champion because it is the last game of the year, but a No. 6 seed? Come on.
Looking back on it now, if Wisconsin had managed to get just a bit luckier in terms of NCAA seeding, it would definitely have been possible for them to make much longer of a tournament run.
No. 4: 2006-07 Badgers
Despite being probably Wisconsin's most-hyped team in program history, the '06-07 team was also a huge disappointment.
Led by First Team-All American Alando Tucker, arguably the greatest Badger ever, Wisconsin finished with a 30-6 record and a short stint as the No. 1 team in the country.
But it all went down from there.
After rising to the top of the polls, Wisconsin lost two games in a row, to Michigan State and Ohio State, and never truly seemed to be in sync the rest of the year. Part of that could be attributed to the loss of Brian Butch to an elbow injury, but the Badgers never seemed to recover from their close loss to Ohio State in February.
Selected as a No. 2 seed for the tourney, Wisconsin barely squeezed past the first round and subsequently fell to the No. 7 seed UNLV.
No. 3: 1940-41 Badgers
Although the 1940-41 Badgers are the only team to win a national championship for Wisconsin, it's really tough to put them as the No. 1 team in program history.
Basketball simply wasn't the same game as it is today.
Having said that, the '40-41 team was still pretty amazing. Led by tournament MVP John Kotz and All-American Gene Englund, Wisconsin racked up a 20-3 record including a 39-34 win over Washington State in the NCAA Championship Game.
Coincidentally, it was Wisconsin's first-ever invitation to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big Ten earlier that year.
No. 2: 1999-2000 Badgers
Despite finishing just sixth in the Big Ten in the regular season and with only a 22-14 overall record, there's no way you can't include the 1999-2000 team in this list.
Led by point guard Mike Kelley, Wisconsin came into the Big Dance as only a No. 8 seed, having been on the bubble to even make the tournament.
Against all odds, the Dick Bennett-coached Badgers defeated Fresno State in the first round, pulled off a monumental upset against No. 1 seed Arizona in the second round, and then beat LSU and Purdue to advance to the Final Four for the first time in school history.
Although Wisconsin did fall to eventual-champion Michigan State 53-41 in that Final Four game, this team will go down as one of the most revered in school history.
No. 1: 2007-08 Badgers
Probably the most underrated team in school history going into the season, the 2007-08 Badgers are, in my opinion, the greatest.
Led by defensive specialist Michael Flowers, Brian "The Polar Bear" Butch, and the do-it-all Joe Krabbenhoft, the '07-08 team finished the year with the best record in program history (31-5), won both the Big Ten regular season and tournament crowns, and made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Included in their notable wins for the year were two last-second shot victories. The first occurred in December when Flowers hit a three-pointer with a few seconds left to stun Texas in Austin.
I can still remember Matt Lepay's call for that one..."Gives it to Flowers, right of the circle, HE GOT IT!!!" Gives me chills every time I hear it.
The other came when Brian Butch banked a three-pointer in Bloomington to give the Badgers the come-from-behind win over Indiana.
Wisconsin came into the tournament as a No. 3 seed and beat Cal-Fullerton in the first round and then upended the Michael Beasley-led Kansas State Wildcats in the second round. The team finally fell when they met the seemingly unstoppable Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats in the Sweet Sixteen.
Certainly not flashy, the '07-08 Badgers were simply well-coached, had good players, and worked hard. As anyone who follows the Badgers knows, that's pretty much the exact recipe for success at Wisconsin.