Wisconsin Athletics / David Stluka
Ben Brust will be one of the team's few losses.
Basketball is a cruel game. Shit happens. The big shots fall your way one weekend; the next week they don't.
Feel free to ladle on your own consoling clichés. Once the sting has passed from Saturday's loss to Kentucky in the national semifinals, the point will remain that the UW men's basketball team had maybe its best season in program history, and next year could be better yet.
Assuming that forwards Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker don't unexpectedly declare for the NBA draft — and both were emphatic about remaining in Madison after the Kentucky game — Wisconsin is easily Top 10 material again come November. After all, the Badgers lose only shooting guard Ben Brust from their rotation. He was a valuable contributor who started for two years, but Bo Ryan has several options for replacing Brust's minutes and scoring.
In the meantime, it's worthwhile to reflect one last time on the season just completed. The Badgers defeated three of four number-one seeds from the NCAA tournament, as well as a fellow two-seed (Michigan) and a Michigan State squad that looked as dangerous as any when the tournament started. Oh, and they played the most talented team in the country off its feet Saturday night.
Can we therefore stop referring to the Badgers as merely "gritty" or "plucky"? Or "pesky and tough," as described in the game wrap last Sunday on ESPN's website? Sure, they have those qualities, but in basketball such adjectives are pretty well understood to mean "overmatched white guys."
The Badgers are a damned good team, period. Anyone could see back in December that they had Final Four potential. Kaminsky is a matchup nightmare, and if the opposition applies double-teams to deny his offense, as Kentucky did, the team has plenty of other resources. Dekker in particular should become a full-fledged star next year. Nigel Hayes will only get better. Another Final Four run is easy to imagine.