As the college basketball regular season draws to a conclusion, Division I teams in Wisconsin both absorbed and delivered some hits to their post-season chances over the course of the last few days.
8th ranked Marquette first lost it’s starting point guard Dominic James, and then back to back games against Big East rivals UConn and Louisville. The injury to James, who is lost for the season, was a serious blow to the Golden Eagles conference and NCAA tournament hopes. Marquette was already challenged by a thin rotation that will only be exacerbated with the absence of James. They now will be forced to turn to reserve Maurice Acker, who did a credible job in both games, and David Cubillan, neither of whom have logged many minutes this season. James was credited with setting the defensive tone for his team, which might have made the difference in the game at Louisville. So far this season, Marquette coach Buzz Williams has been able to rely on his team’s talent and experience. But in tournament play, their lack of depth and size poses the possibility that they will wear down in games on consecutive days.
UW-Green Bay suffered a key injury of their own when 6’5″ swingman Terry Evans dislocated his left elbow. Like James, Evans is viewed as the defensive leader of his team and his absence was felt in the Phoenix rousing game Saturday night at Wright St. UWGB still has plenty of offensive firepower but without Evans the Phoenix gave up a number of easy baskets in the loss to the Raiders. Fortunately for the Phoenix, Evans is expected to return this season. But since UWGB almost certainly needs to win the Horizon League tournament to gain a berth in the NCAAs, they will need Evans at nearly full strength to have a chance.
Meanwhile, back in Madison, the University of Wisconsin’s defensive intensity in the second half allowed them to overcome some shaky possessions and free throw shooting in their defeat of the Michigan Wolverines Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center. The win held a twofold benefit for the Badgers. It positioned them for a first round bye in the Big(11)Ten conference tournament and moved them past Michigan in the standings. A loss to the ‘Wolves would have put the Badgers more firmly on the NCAA bubble, as Michigan has a number of wins against ranked teams that the Badgers lack, and it would have forced the Badgers to win a couple of games in the conference tourney just to be considered. Even so, Wisconsin isn’t out of the woods yet. They still face a tough game Wednesday at Minnesota, which beat them at Madison in January, before coming home to finish the season against Indiana at the Kohl Center.
One team that is already assured of a tournament berth is Division III power UW-Stevens Point, which defeated UW-Platteville in a hard fought game in the WIAC championship at home on Saturday night. The Pointers now await word on where and when they will play in the D-3 tournament. Congrats and good luck to the Pointers in the post-season.