I think the team also demonstrated some tremendous growth. Particularly, Ethan Happ - the redshirt freshman from Illinois who put together a crucial performance on stage of the Big Dance.
For a time in the first half, the team reminded me of a gang who couldn't shoot straight.
Pittsburgh's defense was well played. So, was the Badger's D.
Limited to 16 first half points isn't nearly as serious when your opponent only tallies 22. No parade will be thrown for the inability to put the ball in the basket, but it was one of the best and most consistent defensive efforts I've seen. Vitto Brown, Zac Showalter, Bronson Koenig, Ethan Happ, and Nigel Hayes worked together in and around screens and did a solid job on the glass.
The Badgers advance to the second round and a date with the Musketeers of Xavier at 7:40 tonight on TNT.
However it goes, this season goes down as an unqualified success.
A rough early stretch of the season as players adjusted to the loss of veteran leaders of the back to back Final Four teams and the unexpected retirement of Coach Bo Ryan, Bo's long-time assistant Greg Gard took over and put the team on course for another top 4 finish in the B1G and into the NCAA tournament for the 18th straight year.
Nigel and Bronson were the only two full-time players back from last year, and they've led their compatriots wisely.
The team has a bright future.
It could continue today. I expect these Badgers to perform well and find the bottom of the basket more often than their last game.
Either way, this team of Badgers are winners!
When it comes to the rest of the Madness - my Bracket broke when Baylor lost on day 1 and was reduced to shards when my forecast champion Michigan State Spartans were beat convincingly in their first game of the tourney.
Before that result, I was taken by the great play from the so-called Mid Majors who were unperturbed by their supposed betters. Michigan State and West Virginia fell the farthest to earth. For me some of the charm is pulling for the underdog, as long as it's not your team who is losing their bone to a smaller but mightier animal.
That's what makes it so much fun. Who cares about the bracket!