Snubbed Badgers should thank committee—for putting a #B1G chip on their shoulder

Ordinarily, I have this rule for teams who don’t like their seed or their ranking, or any of that other subjective stuff:

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Shut up and play.

It’s going to be difficult for me not to break that rule on behalf of the outrageously snubbed Wisconsin Badgers. (Full disclosure: my undergraduate alma mater.)

I am happy for my grad-school alma mater, Northwestern, which will make its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance this year.

It’s fitting that the Wildcats will play Vanderbilt in a matchup of two fine academic institutions—the Northwestern of the South vs. the Vandy of the North. It’s also fitting that the Wildcats will play in Salt Lake City, which had arcane liquor laws when I cared about that sort of thing, just like Evanston, home to the Northwestern campus and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

But now, this forward-looking message: It’s going to be really interesting to see how the Big Ten fares in the NCAA bracket next year.

In Chapter Two of Delany’s March to the Sea—Chapter One being the recently completed conquest of Washington, D.C.—the Big Ten will play its conference tournament a week early in 2018, so that it can play in Madison Square Garden—and spread the gospel of Big Ten commandments to the Eastern heathen.

And that will give the NCAA Selection Committee actual, you know, time to seed the Big Ten teams properly.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

For years, I have thought that playing the last conference championship game before the Selection Show has produced head-scratching results for Big Ten teams.

When I Tweeted this the other day, ``Gonna be some surprisingly weird #B1G seeds in @marchmadness. Difficult to bunch one league's teams in middle of bracket & keep them apart,’’ I had no idea that the Badgers would be the biggest loser in the Big Ten’s jumbled seeding package.

How the Badgers ended up with a No. 8 seed shall remain. . . one of life’s mysteries. And don’t throw a bunch of stupid numbers at me.

Check out these smart numbers. . . The Badgers finished second in the Big Ten, regular-season and conference-tournament divisions. They lost exactly two games (Iowa and Ohio State) to teams that are not in the NCAA tournament. They played a reasonable nonconference schedule that included Creighton, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgetown, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Marquette, with their only losses at Creighton and vs. UNC.

Yes, they lost five of six before winning their regular-season finale, against a No. 5 seed, Minnesota. Their only win in that 1-5 stretch was over a No. 6 seed, Maryland.

One of the committee’s key principles this year: Lose to the Badgers and receive a higher seed.

Speaking of the Turtles, Jerry Palm had Maryland as a No. 7 seed and Wisconsin as a No. 5, in his final bracket projection. Joe Lunardi gave the Badgers a 6, and Maryland a 7.

I guess that loss to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament championship game was really a bad one.

To recap: the Badgers, who were tracking for a nice NCAA start in Milwaukee, or least Indianapolis, instead have been sent to Buffalo, where they will play a difficult No. 9, Virginia Tech, coached by Buzz Williams, who knows the Badgers from his Marquette days.

I will say this about Buzz Williams: If I had to choose from the last three Marquette coaches—Tom Crean, Williams and Steve Wojciechowski—It would be difficult not to pick Buzz. But then, I’m partial to tough, smart, no-frills guys.

And the winner of Badgers-Hokies undoubtedly will see Villanova, the NCAA defending champion and No. 1 seed overall.

Asked about the illogic of all of this—I don’t like to use the word ``fair,’’ because we all know life isn’t fair—Wisconsin coach Greg Gard chose his words carefully.

``I might get in trouble if I answer that,’’ Gard said. ``I don’t know exactly what goes on in those meetings. How do they evaluate schedule? They said they’re not looking at trends during the year, they’re just looking at the top teams. I don’t know exactly the logic or reasoning behind that, so for me to try and throw out an opinion probably wouldn’t [be smart]. We just need to get ready to play on Thursday, accept it for what it is and get ready for Virginia Tech.”

But now, let’s go back to Rule No. 1.

Shut up and play.

I haven’t done my full bracket yet. But I am going to begin by picking Wisconsin to beat Virginia Tech and Villanova. Because the Badgers ought to be playing with a chip on their shoulder. A big, big chip.

And if Ethan Happ can be kept off the free-throw line, and if Nigel Hayes decides to show up, Wisconsin is very, very capable.

I know Bronson Koenig will show up. If he hadn't had that calf injury, the Badgers would be a No. 4 in Milwaukee. And keep an eye on Zak Showalter—Wisconsin's fourth-best player, and MVP.

That said, since I’m going way out on a limb, picking something no one else will do (except for my friend David in Madison), you ought to be encouraged to join our bracket contest.

I always pick too much junk. So you'll have no problem beating me.

Our contest will be fun, and it’s free. Details here. . .

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