The road to the Final Four
The men's basketball team's road to the NCAA Final Four will be a lot like the streets of Madison are this time of year - treacherous, and full of potential potholes.
While second-seeded UW was placed in the demanding Midwest Regional - a region that is headlined by No. 1 overall seed and defending national champion Florida and includes several other big-time programs in third-seeded Oregon, fourth-seeded Maryland, sixth-seeded Notre Dame and eighth-seeded Arizona - the Badgers' road to Atlanta will go through Chicago and St. Louis, two drive-able destinations.
UW (29-5) opens Friday against Southland Conference-champion Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (26-6) at the United Center, where the Badgers lost the Big Ten conference tournament title game to Ohio State on Sunday.
The nice part is, we're in Chicago," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "(We don't have to) fly anywhere. We'll see what happens after that."
The good news for UW is that 20 of the tournament's 28 champions since 1979 have been seeded No. 1 or 2 in their respective regions. The bad news? The lower seeds in the region are quite capable of knocking off the Gators and Badgers, who have been at or near the top of the national rankings most of the year.
Third-seeded Oregon (26-7) blew out Southern California, 81-57, on Saturday to win the Pacific-10 Conference tournament title, and the Ducks are flying right again with six straight wins after a stretch in late January and early February that saw them lose six of eight.
Fourth-seeded Maryland (24-8) is one of the hottest teams in the tournament, as the Terrapins had won seven straight games before losing to Miami ( Fla.) in their first ACC tournament game last week.
Fifth-seeded Butler (27-6) lost to Wright State in the Horizon League championship game but is one of the premier mid-major teams and was ranked in the top 10 earlier this season.
Sixth-seeded Notre Dame (24-7) finished fourth in the ultra-challenging Big East in the regular season and lost to Georgetown in the conference semifinals.
"There's no easy way to the Final Four," Bilas said, "no easy way to win a national championship."