To get to the national championship game, Wisconsin had to eliminate Coastal [South] Carolina, Oregon, North Carolina, Arizona, and pre-tournament champion presumptive Kentucky.

It's rare, apparently, for the top seed in a regional to have to face the highest remaining opponent at each round (the nine-seed presumably has the best chance in expected value terms against the eight, and I have to wonder if there isn't some secret formula for getting Cinderellas out of that twelve-five matchup in order to have at least one twelve beating four to face one in the round of sixteen.)  There's also, apparently, something close enough to parity among the teams that seeding strongest according to strongest going in against weakest going in makes it rare for all one-seeds to get through, or for a one-seed that faces the highest-remaining opponent in each round of the regional to get another one-seed in the round of four.

And thus, there's enough madness in March Madness without pairing teams using the Swiss tournament system of chess.

The challenge, though, is when a team eliminates the champion presumptive in the round of four, it still has to play another game for the title.
UW women’s hockey coach Mark Johnson was the leading scorer on the American team that won Olympic hockey gold in 1980. Many people forget that Team USA didn’t win the gold medal by beating the mighty Soviet Union in one of the greatest upsets in sports history, it had to come back two days later to beat Finland.

“I’ve been reminded on a few text messages that Finland is Duke,” Ryan said. “They’re both really good teams. ... We know we’ve got some work to do.”

With a roster full of athletic McDonald’s All-Americans, Duke actually is more like Kentucky than Finland.

But if the Badgers fail to make history tonight, it won’t be because they partied too hard after beating Kentucky.
And Duke had played Wisconsin as part of the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast early-season games, prevailing by ten in Madison.  Both teams recognized that this time it would be different.  This time, though, it was Duke that weathered the Wisconsin charge, and rallied to take the lead under five minutes, and hang on for the win.
"Close game and we didn't execute down the stretch like we normally do," sophomore guard Bronson Koenig said. "They did."
But what lesson will the basketball pundits draw from yet another year in which a Big Ten team gets to the title game and comes up empty.  Duke had to eliminate Michigan State in the first game of the round of four.  Here's Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
“Plus, I think it’d be important for our league. But I also think a lot of people are looking at it like, maybe guys that weren’t McDonald’s All-Americans can come in and work their butt off and accomplish something special.”
Yes, the joke around Wisconsin on Sunday was that a team of George Webb all-staters took out the McDonald's all-Americans.  Then came another team from McDonald's ...

and thus, the question: is it better to be a regular participant in the tournament, as Wisconsin and Michigan State have been since the late 1990s, or to build a team to get to the Final Four sometimes, and on occasion win it?  Note Duke: excused by Mercer last year, won it all this year, now facing the draft-declaration press conferences.  Note Kentucky: won it four tournaments ago, then didn't get back, then lost the title game to Connecticut last year, then excused by Wisconsin this year.  Note Connecticut: won it all last year, failed to qualify this year.

The philosophy at Wisconsin appears to be to recruit, red-shirt, and develop.
"I watched [coach Bo Ryan's] practice and they started out doing basic dribbling drills," [Wisconsin athletic director Barry] Alvarez said. "I love his consistency. There's no compromise. He's a teacher, and he's going to teach the fundamentals."

That's it, really. Ryan is a teacher first and an X's and O's guy second. The court, baseline to baseline, is his classroom. The 101 lessons are "Basics of Offensive Efficiency," "Fundamentals of Foul Avoidance," "Art of Sharing the Ball" and "Science of End-Game Principles: Why Making Free Throws Matters."

"There's no magic wand or pixie dust we sprinkle over guys," said Badgers associate head coach Greg Gard. "We show them the process and what the plan is and here's how we do things day by day, year by year — how we practice, how we prepare, how we work in the off-season, what we do in the weight room, how we handle our preseason conditioning.

"It's the culture and the philosophy and the understanding of the program."
There is much about such an approach to recommend it. Thus it is now up to the sophomores and juniors to take an education from what has happened and fill in.
Gard calls Wisconsin "one of the best developmental programs in the nation," and that's probably being modest. Hardly anyone heard of Frank Kaminsky two years ago and now he's the college player of the year.

"If they buy in and they're willing to listen and work hard with their teammates, then you have a chance to have good things happen," Gard said. "As Bo always says, if you have more questions than answers, we can show you the way."

If there's a down side to Ryan's system, it's that his teams have sometimes been criticized for being too methodical, for sticking to a grinding halfcourt offense in an era of blow-up-the-scoreboard. They've been called, ahem, disciplined, a code word for a team that lacks athleticism.
Yes, although a lot of those Wisconsin tournament wins have come by getting some of the less-disciplined athletes frustrated.  So I repeat: what's more draining for a fan: a favorite team that's regularly in the tournament, or one that could either win it all or crash and burn?

In Wisconsin, residents have to get used to the slow-and-steady approach, as the Green Bay Packers similarly follow a draft-and-develop formula, with lots of division titles in the past twenty years, but two rings in that span.

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