Thanks to their dramatic comeback win Saturday over Oregon, the Wisconsin Badgers are headed to Anaheim, Calif., to take on the Baylor Bears in the Sweet 16.
Against the Fighting Ducks, UW erased a 12-point halftime deficit to win one of the most exciting games of the NCAA Tournament.
Next up for Wisconsin is a Baylor team that routed Creighton by 30 points in the round of 32.
“You don’t beat Creighton by 30, but it happened,” said head coach Bo Ryan.
Six of UW’s seven Sweet 16 appearances have come during Ryan’s tenure, including three in the last four years, but Ryan has just one Elite Eight appearance and has never made it to the Final Four.
Despite the opportunity to secure their spot in Wisconsin basketball history, the Badgers are trying to make sure they don’t look too far ahead.
“I think any time you start looking ahead, you get yourself in trouble,” said senior guard Ben Brust. “If you take care of business, the rest of the stuff just comes with it.”
Ryan wouldn’t compare this year’s team to others he’s coached in the past, instead stressing the importance of staying in the moment.
“Our guys are trying to live in the moment. They respect the past, but this is their time,” Ryan said. “I’m just thankful they’re taking me with them.”
Though the players and coaches aren’t interested in talking about their legacy, this run to the Sweet 16 has already cemented this team’s place in program history.
The Daily Cardinal looks back at the other six Wisconsin teams that have made it to the Sweet 16:
The 1999-’00 team was the first Badger team to ever reach the Sweet 16, and the first to win multiple games in the tournament since the 1941 national championship season.
The Badgers received a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament and made one of the most surprising runs in tournament history, going all the way to the Final Four. The team featured no real stars, with no first team all-conference players and no one even getting a single honorable mention vote.
One key in the 2000 Sweet Sixteen matchup against Louisiana State came from the bench, with sophomore guard Jon Bryant leading the Badgers with 16 points. Kirk Penney, a freshman starter on the squad, was the only player who went on to play basketball professionally, making a few NBA appearances but playing mostly in Europe.
2002-’03 was Ryan’s second season as head coach, and he led the Badgers to their first outright Big Ten regular season title in 56 years.
The team was led by Penney, then a senior, breakout star sophomore guard Devin Harris and freshman guard Alando Tucker, one of the few freshmen to start regularly under Ryan. The fifth-seeded Badgers ultimately came up short, losing to No. 1-seeded Kentucky 63-57 in the Sweet 16, but many members of that team continued their success.
Harris went on to become a top-five pick in the 2004 NBA draft, while Tucker became the leader of a Badger team that went to the Elite Eight and later became a first round draft pick in 2007.
The Badgers made a run to the Big Ten Tournament finals in the 2004-’05 season, and entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed. After sitting out the year before, Tucker led the way, scoring 22 points against No. 10 seed North Carolina State in the Sweet 16.
Despite being down by nine at halftime, the Badgers came back, shooting 50 percent in the game to advance to their first Elite Eight since the 2000 Final Four run. Wisconsin ultimately lost to the eventual champion North Carolina in 2005. Many of the players on the team went on to be among Ryan’s best players, including Michael Flowers, Brian Butch and current NBA player Greg Stiemsma.
Behind a slew of solid players, including Butch, Flowers, Trevon Hughes, Marcus Landry, Joe Krabbenhoft and Jason Bohannon, the Badgers won both the Big Ten regular season and conference tournament titles for the first time in school history.
Wisconsin, a No. 3 seed, cruised past Cal State Fullerton and Kansas State in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament to advance to the Sweet 16. However, UW was upset by Stephen Curry and the No. 11-seeded Davidson Wildcats and finished the season with a 31-5 record.
Butch, a consensus selection to the All-Big Ten first team, never played in the NBA. However, he played overseas for several years before returning to America and playing in the NBA Development League. He currently plays for the Meralco Bolts of the Philippine Basketball Association. Landry, the Big Ten tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, also had stints in both the NBA D-League and overseas, and currently plays in Spain.
The 2010-’11 Wisconsin squad, highlighted by Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, finished third in the Big Ten standings with a 13-5 conference record, including a memorable comeback victory over undefeated, No. 1-ranked Ohio State at the Kohl Center.
After being demoralized by Penn State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals, the No. 4-seeded Badgers dispatched the Belmont Bruins in their NCAA tournament opener. Following a 70-65 victory over Kansas State, Wisconsin was knocked out in the Sweet 16 by No. 8-seeded Butler, who made it to the national championship game. The Badgers finished the season 25-9.
Leuer was named to the All-Big Ten first team by the league’s coaches, and Taylor was a consensus second team All-American. Both averaged over 18 points per game and were on the list of 20 Wooden Award finalists. This was Leuer’s final season at UW; he was drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks and currently plays for the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Badgers got back to the Sweet 16 in 2012, marking the first back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in program history. Taylor again led the way for Wisconsin, with help from a supporting cast that included Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Josh Gasser and Ben Brust. Wisconsin received a No. 4 seed for the NCAA tournament, easily beating Montana and winning a nail-biter against Vanderbilt to reach the Sweet 16. However, they were once again denied a trip to the Elite Eight, losing a 64-63 heartbreaker to No. 1-seeded Syracuse to finish the season 26-10.
Taylor was named to the All-Big Ten first team by the coaches and was a consensus Associated Press All-American honorable mention. Evans and Berggren were both consensus All-Big Ten honorable mentions as well. Taylor was not taken in the NBA Draft and traveled to Italy to play for Pallacanestro Virtus Roma. He parted ways with the club this past February.