It's been an incredible week for local hoop heads. The Badger men's basketball team defied the pundits and imposed its style of play on Belmont and Kansas State to reach the NCAA tournament's "Sweet Sixteen." Madison Memorial won its third state championship in seven years in a triple-overtime thriller against De Pere at the Kohl Center. And Madison East's Nimrod Hilliard IV was named the state's Mr. Basketball, a well-deserved honor for the city's most electric player.
Missing from the hubbub, however, has been the UW women's team, which quietly lost to Illinois State in the second round of the WNIT in front of just 1,321 fans on Sunday night. The next day, coach Lisa Stone was fired. Average attendance for the Badgers was 4,664 this season, the lowest in Stone's eight-year tenure in Madison.
Stone, who grew up just down the road in Oregon, Wis., is well liked in the community, and her teams were always competitive. But the standard in her profession is making the NCAA tournament, an achievement she saw just once in eight seasons. Meanwhile, Matt Bollant, the name mentioned most often this week as Stone's replacement, has led UW-Green Bay to three straight NCAA tournament appearances in his four-year stint there.
With nine in-state players on the roster (Wisconsin has three), Bollant's Phoenix have given up 52.1 points per game this season, seventh in the country, compared to 58.2 for Wisconsin. They're 34-1 after beating Big Ten champs Michigan State in the NCAA tournament Tuesday night. Let's hope Barry Alvarez has his number.