Wisconsin took an early lead, stretched it to nine, and were reeled back in by their pesky Irish twins.
These teams were more alike than different. Similar records and virtually the same seeding in the NCAA tourney plus good defense and a spotty offensive touch.
When the Badgers took an early lead, the idea of a third trip to the Final Four seemed realistic. But when the last ten minutes of the second half rolled around so did momentum at the other end of the court.
Most of the game was played "clean," meaning the refs weren't calling many fouls on either team. Except, when there was less than 10 to play, unwhistled plays were getting calls. Badger shots continued to have trouble finding the mark. Notre Dame started to get a feel for their shot.
Just when it seemed like the Badgers were done, they pulled back into the lead, and were up 3 with a little more than a minute to play. For fans of the plucky Badgers who won at the wire in their last game out, it seemed like an encore performance was in the works.
It was not to be.
So this fan wants to thank Coach Ryan (for many great years and firmly putting Wisconsin on the national basketball map), Coach Gard (for a steady hand and a wonderful preview of coming attractions with the Badger team), and the players (Nigel, Badger Bronson, Ethan, Vitto, Zak (an amazing final game!), Jordan, Kahlil, Charles, and Aaron) for an a surprising and fantastic year which will be remembered right with the back - to - back Final Fours.
In mid-January, getting an invitation to play postseason basketball seemed like a long shot; which is when this group came together to earn another 4th place or better finish in the Big Ten and an 18th trip to the Big Dance.
Only one team and their fans are truly happy at the end of the Madness... including those of us wearing Badger colors... but at the same time, I think every Wisconsin hoops fan is already excited about next year.