In a week when potential No. 1 seeds have taken a hit -- with both Virginia and Duke going down in the ACC Tournament -- it looked like Wisconsin, as one of the contenders to steal that spot, could be in trouble as well. The Badgers struggled with Purdue in the first half of the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, going into the half down, 35-30.
But in the second half it was a Wisconsin clinic -- the kind of clinic that has had me thinking for some time that this might be the second best team in the country. The Badgers outscored the Boilermakers, 41-16, in the second half, en route to a 71-51 victory and a place in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
There's been talk that the selection committee will put Wisconsin in Kentucky's region as a two seed, but that would be a shame for a team that is good enough to play teams worse than it all the way to a second straight Final Four. This is the case for giving the Badgers a one seed.
The offense is incredible
Wisconsin averages 1.236 points per possession, according to KenPom.com, which is good for No. 1 in the nation. However, that number is even more impressive when you consider Wisconsin's conference. During Big Ten play, the Badgers have stayed incredibly efficient, at 1.214 PPP, and nobody else come close. In fact, No. 2 Iowa is closer to No. 10 Maryland than it is to the Badgers.
While the Badgers can be deadly when they get hot from three -- as was the case against Purdue -- they're the best in the conference at two-point percentage, thanks to their athletic frontcourt of Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker. They also rank No. 1 in the conference in effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage.
Wisconsin has been the most exciting offense to watch in the conference while also being the slowest, and the fifth-slowest nationally. There are so many offensive weapons that this team can beat anybody on even mediocre days. Kaminsky, Hayes and Dekker are the stars, but Josh Gasser and Bronson Koenig -- the latter of whom is filling in for the injured Traevon Jackson -- are impressive shooters and among the most efficient players in the nation. Gasser has an offensive rating of 132.9 (fourth nationally in KenPom), with Koenig close behind at 120.2 and still improving.
There is no better offense in college basketball, and if any team can break that monstrous Kentucky defense, it's the Badgers.
The non-conference resume is impressive
Whenever anyone mentions Wisconsin's non-conference resume, the home loss to Duke comes up. But in basketball, there is a lot of random chance, and when two good teams play, the better team is not necessarily going to win. Duke and Wisconsin are evenly matched, and it just so happened that the Blue Devils had the better night.
When determining which teams are the best in college basketball, it's much more important to look at the whole resume, not just one game against an elite team. And overall, the Badgers dominated. They beat a top-15 Oklahoma team by 13 and a good Georgetown team by three, both on a neutral floor. They beat Mountain West champion Boise State by 24 and a Green Bay team that ranks in the top 70 nationally in KenPom by 24.
Wisconsin finished its non-conference slate 12-1, despite playing the 34th toughest non-conference schedule in the country, according to KenPom. That's a more difficult non-conference schedule than any power conference team except for Kansas. No other team being seriously considered for a one seed (Kentucky, Duke, Virginia, Arizona or Villanova) had a non-conference strength of schedule better than 94th. Forget the Duke game ... there's a lot more to this team's resume than that.
They have three of the five best players in the conference
We already touched on this earlier, but despite a lack of depth, Wisconsin has top-flight players on the court all the time. The guards are incredibly efficient shooters, but the forwards are the reason this team is so good. Kaminsky is the favorite to win the national player of the year award, but Hayes and Dekker are also among the best in the conference.
Although neither was voted to the the All-Big Ten first team, due in part to the hesitancy of coaches and media members to include too many players from the same team, Dekker and Hayes are arguably the best forwards in the league. Dekker takes a lot of shots, but he's efficient, ranking 55th nationally with an offensive rating of 122.2 and an eFG% of 57.3 percent. Hayes is just as efficient, with an ORtg of 123 and an eFG% of 56.7 percent, and he's the rare combination of a good rebounder and good three-point shooter.
Moreover, both players can handle the ball like point guards and rarely turn it over. If they wore different uniforms this season, then they would undoubtedly be All-Big Ten picks.
They're so much fun to watch
I hate the "they play the game right" saying, because there is no right way to play basketball. More often than not, this phrase is uttered by old fans who think that basketball and everything else has gone to hell.
However, this is the one instance in which it might actually fit, because Wisconsin is so damn fun to watch. They move the ball so well, spreading it to all of their offensive weapons and providing an awe-inspiring combination of dunks and three-point shots. And most importantly, the ball actually goes in, which is missing from a lot of college basketball games these days.
Defensively, the Badgers are the best in the nation at not fouling and by a significant margin. Their games don't turn into football on hardwood or the whistle-fests that lead to the last five minutes of games taking half an hour.
Wisconsin just makes college basketball a lot of fun to watch. And while that isn't part of the selection committee's seeding criteria, it's just another reason you should root for the Badgers to receive the No. 1 seed they deserve.