March Madness has officially busted out all over. The Wisconsin men's basketball team opens the NCAA tournament today in Milwaukee, the UW men's hockey team is in St. Paul trying to nail down a high seed for its own NCAA opener next weekend, and the women's hockey team is in Connecticut after earning a seventh Frozen Four in nine years. It could be a cool weekend for Badgers fans.
Bo Ryan and the guys don't seem to be getting a tremendous amount of love from the national basketball press this week, although a few pundits have picked the Badgers for the Final Four. At Sports Illustrated, Pete Thamel said that Arizona couldn't have drawn up an easier regional for itself and that the West bracket has arguably the weakest number-two seed in the tournament. That seed would be Wisconsin.
Nate Silver, who's rarely wrong about anything, gives Arizona a 42% chance of making the Final Four and the UW only a 16% chance of same. Given Ryan's disregard for the press, though, I doubt he'd have it any other way.
The men's hockey team ended its regular season on a run of 11-4-1, including a home sweep of top-ranked Minnesota, and most likely is looking at a number-two seed in the NCAA tournament, which begins next weekend. First, however, comes the inaugural Big 10 hockey tournament; the Badgers play Friday afternoon, March 21, against the winner of the Michigan-Penn State game.
Meanwhile, a capacity crowd of 2,300 turned out at LaBahn Arena Saturday to see the women's hockey team advance to the Frozen Four with a 2-1 victory over Harvard. That's the good news; the bad news is that the Badgers face Minnesota on March 21. The Gophers are looking for their third consecutive national championship, they're ranked No. 1 and 37-1-1 on the year, and they've already beaten Wisconsin four times this season by a combined score of 11-3.