Three Schools, Three Deep NCAA Runs?
All three Wisconsin universities that will compete in the NCAA tournament had great seasons on the court. But which school, Wisconsin men, Marquette men or Green Bay women, will have the best shot at a deep run in their respective tournament?
My pick is Marquette.
The Golden Eagles (25-7) could make their first Final Four trip since Dwyane Wade was running the show in 2003. That year, the Final Four was held in New Orleans. This year, the Final Four is coincidentally in the Big Easy.
Marquette received a pretty good draw for this March Madness, earning the No. 3 seed in the West region. The Golden Eagles will get No. 14 seed BYU -- which came back from 25 points down to beat Iona in the first round -- in the second round on Thursday afternoon. If Marquette advances, they will play the winner of No. 6-seeded Murray St. and No. 11 Colorado State. That could be an interesting matchup vs. one-loss Murray St., if it happens. The Racers like to, well, race up and down the court. It could be a real track meet with the Golden Eagles.
If Marquette is fortunate enough to get to the Sweet 16, it will most likely face No. 2 Missouri, the Big 12 champs. Mizzou is a popular choice to get to the Final Four among the millions of people who fill out brackets. However, top-seeded Michigan State could be Marquette’s biggest road block in getting to New Orleans if they square off in the Elite Eight.
Come the end of the month, Marquette players could be partying like it is Mardi Gras.
The other men’s school in Wisconsin could be one-and-done in the tourney with a tough second-round game against mid-major Montana. The Badgers -- after placing fourth in the Big 10 -- were seeded 4th in the East region. I think Wisconsin can slow down the Grizzlies and advance to the third round. Then it will be another solid team, most likely against No. 5 Vanderbilt. The Commodores are on a roll after winning the SEC tournament. I foresee an early exit for Wisconsin.
In the women’s bracket, Green Bay enters the NCAA tournament with a 30-1 record, winning both the regular season and Horizon League tournament championships. After a nearly flawless season, the Phoenix was awarded a No. 7 seed by the NCAA selection committee.
A No. 7? That’s a joke.
Another mid-major team, Delaware, has an identical 30-1 record and earned a No. 3 seed. What gives?
After winning its conference tournament title, Green Bay ranked 22nd in the RPI, a measure of where the committee may place a team for the NCAA tournament. Last season, the Phoenix entered the NCAA tournament with an RPI of 22 and had one loss. Green Bay, however, was awarded a No. 5 seed a year ago.
When I spoke with Green Bay coach Matt Bollant two weeks, he fully expected if his team ran the table in the Horizon tournament, which it did, the team would receive a No. 5 seed again.
What might be even worse is that Green Bay’s first-round opponent will be No. 10-seed Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. For those who don’t know, Iowa State’s campus is in Ames. The Phoenix will have to play the Cyclones on their home court. One positive: Green Bay is 15-0 the road this season. The Phoenix should also have a little extra motivation after being slighted by the selection committee.
If Green Bay can advance past the first round for the third consecutive season, second-seeded Kentucky will most likely await. It’s going to be a tough task for the Phoenix to make back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances. However, I like its chances with the senior leadership of Julie Wojta and a great supporting cast.
In case you missed it
The Little Chute boys’ basketball could be the first team in state history to lose two playoff games in one season. Yes, you read that correctly. Little Chute lost twice.
The Mustangs were beaten 50-47 by Appleton Xavier on March 3 in a Division 3 regional final, but a few days later, the WIAA ruled Xavier was disqualified after a player competed in a non-high school basketball game prior to the Little Chute game.
Little Chute then went on to beat Fox Valley Lutheran in a sectional semifinal before losing to Brillion on March 10 for a shot in the state tournament. Just imagine all the whispering around Madison if Little Chute had advanced to state.
Columnist Greg Bates is a freelance writer who recently moved to Green Bay. He isn’t unfamiliar with the town, however; he’s covered a number of Packers games over the years for media outlets such as WJFW Newswatch 12 in Rhinelander and the Shawano Leader. Greg can be reached at email@example.com.