INDIANAPOLIS — About 24 hours after the final blow had been delivered in a disappointing regular season for University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team, senior point guard D’Mitrik Trice logged on to Twitter and sent out a simple message to his 8,000-plus followers.
That mantra had been discussed in the locker room at Iowa’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena following a 77-73 loss to the No. 5 Hawkeyes on Sunday, a defeat that dropped the Badgers to 16-11 overall and 10-10 in Big Ten Conference play.
A year ago, UW won its final eight regular-season games to finish in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten. The Badgers were about to enter the Big Ten tournament as the No. 1 seed when the rug got pulled out from under them, with that event and the NCAA tournament getting canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, UW enters the Big Ten tournament as a No. 6 seed. It will play either Penn State or Nebraska on Thursday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
There’s no way to sugar coat the fact the Badgers finished .500 in the Big Ten after returning almost their entire rotation and beginning the season as a title contender ranked No. 7 in the nation. They went 3-7 over the second half of Big Ten play, losing five of their final six games, and finally dropped out of the rankings this week.
That’s a lot for a senior-laden team to digest, but the Badgers would prefer to spit it out and grab a new plate. Hence, the 0-0 theme.
“We know that we’re starting over, we’re starting fresh and I think the guys are super excited to play the game again and be in this position that we didn’t get a chance to (be in) last year,” Trice said. “We’ve mentioned that multiple times that this is what we’ve been working for. We won a regular-season championship last year and we haven’t won one at the Big Ten tournament, so we’re looking forward to that and just continue to go out there and fight.”
There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that the Badgers suddenly can flip a switch and become the team they thought they’d be. They finished 0-8 against the five teams that finished above them in the Big Ten standings and, in order to win the Big Ten tournament, UW likely would have to beat three of those teams on consecutive days.
Registering one signature win against a Big Ten opponent — say, against Iowa in a quarterfinal on Friday if the Badgers reach that point — would be a start.
Optimists might cling to the flashes of quality UW showed over the final week of the regular season, when it lost a pair of games on the road to ranked opponents. The Badgers were neck-and-neck with Purdue the entire way and, five days later, led Iowa by four points late in the game.
“I like where everybody’s head is at,” Trice said. “I think we’re trending in the right direction and the right time and I think the guys are really excited to continue to progress forward.
“We know it’s win-or-go-home, so we’ve got to bring our A-game for 40 minutes each and every game.”
An offense that has struggled showed signs of life last week. The second half against Iowa was UW’s best 20 minutes on that side of the court in Big Ten play, with the Badgers producing a robust 1.52 points per possession.
The ball going through the hoop certainly helped — UW shot 53.3% overall, went 7 of 13 from 3-point range and made all eight of its free throw attempts — but the lead-up to those results was better as well.
UW coach Greg Gard thought his team cut with more authority, set better screens and moved the ball well.
It wasn’t enough. The Badgers played well enough offensively to beat Purdue and Iowa but had too many defensive lapses.
“We just have a few plays here and there that change the outcome of a game. I think we’re right there and the coaches have been saying it and I think the players believe it as well,” Trice said. “If we really start to click at both ends of the floor I think we’re going to be a really dangerous team here in March.”
Gard believes that as well. The thing that encourages him the most is his team has been practicing well of late.
“You’ve still got to do it (in games) and obviously we’ve got to improve results in terms of outcomes,” Gard said. “But the steps they’ve taken over the last 10 days, two weeks, have been very positive and I’m proud of their effort and their focus. They’ve stayed locked in and dialed in and come back every day with the bounce in their step and excited to work and get better.”
Senior guard Brad Davison said last week the Badgers have two options: Dwell on the past, or focus on the future.
They’re choosing the latter — a world in which they’re 0-0, just like everyone else.
“We can’t change the past, we can’t change what we didn’t do this year,” Davison said. “But at the beginning of the year we made multiple goals and most of those goals are still in front of us.”
Badgers fans on Twitter join in criticizing refs after Iowa edges Wisconsin in regular-season finale
Father knows best
I’m sorry but Boroski is an absolute joke! And why not review Bohanon’s elbow against Anderson on the jump ball!— Travis Trice (@trice_travis) March 7, 2021
The list goes on
That call was also Boroski btw— Travis Trice (@trice_travis) March 7, 2021
On a second look ...
The one involving Anderson on the sidelines did get reviewed, if that's what you're referring to.— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) March 7, 2021
Breaking it down
Here are the numbers: 2-8 overall and 0-7 in Big Ten when he was in the crew; 14-3 overall and 7-3 in Big Ten when he wasn't in the crew. But ... six of those losses were to Michigan (2), Illinois (2), Ohio State and Iowa.— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) March 7, 2021
We want answers!
A perfectly captivating end to a terrific college basketball game RUINED by predictably mediocre officiating orchestrated by THE worst @BigTen ref since TV Teddy.— Rob Hernandez (@RobHernandezGLF) March 7, 2021
This is where the game went off the rails and the league needs to explain this nonsense: https://t.co/IqwRnfvY1h
What the boss said
A great Big Ten rivalry game completely ruined by incredibly awful and inconsistent officiating. Ref crew should be embarrassed. Appalling.— Jason Adrians (@adrians_jason) March 7, 2021
Costly second chance
I agree 💯 Jessica. We have to secure that rebound especially with a 56% ft shooter at the line.— Travis Trice (@trice_travis) March 7, 2021
Stolen in plain sight
The "officials" robbed us of letting a good game playing out at the end.— DAM444 (@DieselAndMe) March 7, 2021
Well, he's not wrong
For a basketball school, we've got one hell of a hockey team. Actually, two.— Corey Otis (@CoreyWOtis) March 7, 2021
Look for yourself
Refs screwed them over. Pretty obvious— ethan13 (@ethan_goethel) March 7, 2021
Reputation precedes him
I really don't think he's a dirty player. He's a scrappy player and yes, he used to flop because it worked. Having said that, I think your point is true.— PackFanatic (@PackFanatic1) March 7, 2021
Stealing the limelight
Loved the fight UW showed. Hated the refs. B10 needs to address in the off-season. No one turns in to watch them blow their whistle over-and-over and watch TV. Iowa CLEARLY missed Wieskamp but UW gave a great team a tough game on the road. Kudos.— Mark Wolfgram (@markwwolfgram) March 7, 2021
Take the hint
If Brad Davison was even thinking about coming back next year, the Big Ten officials have sent him a season-long message that he should not.— John Goodell (@JJGoodell) March 7, 2021
Bolstering the opposition
Bo Boroski is the 6th starter for every team WI plays against, he needs to be fired immediately or forced to get eye surgery, this guy took the game away from us, unless you are asking every Iowa fan— Melbs (@DMBFan2) March 7, 2021
I’m in— Travis Trice (@trice_travis) March 7, 2021
More of the same
Great effort by the guys to comeback, make a game of it. Story of the season: a few tough missed opportunities down the stretch( Ford missing the rebound was a killer ) cost them, plus horrific officiating. Deserved a better result.— Paul Bergum (@paul_bergum) March 7, 2021
There must be a reason
Most of the time teams don’t lose because of officials, but 0-8 vs Boroski is impossible to ignore. Did he get denied admission to Wisconsin? Phantom call to DQ Trice and decide the game should be a fire-able offense. LOVE the fact Gard went after them in postgame! #OnWisconsin— Mark Larson (@MLarsonSports) March 7, 2021
I watch college basketball for the players, not the officials. The last 2 or 3 minutes the refs basically were the stars of the show and ruined what could have been an exciting finish if they had allowed the players decide the outcome.— Ryan Wilson (@Thee_SamMalone) March 7, 2021
Credit where credit's due
Best bucky's looked in a while. Frustrating to NOT see the officiating review Trice's last foul, and then go review the next one. It is what it is, and was a great game.— skunky (@discoskunk) March 7, 2021
In need of a closer
Ford has to get that missed free throw rebound. I know there are many other things, but that was crucial. If you leave it up to @bigten officials they’ll screw you every time. @BadgerMBB needed someone to step up and make a game winning play, but it didn’t happen, again— EdotJ (@AlArtPlaBall) March 7, 2021
Hard to resist
I hate blaming the refs but I’m gonna blame the refs 😂— jeremy (@JDGosse) March 7, 2021
Don't give up
And it could change— Travis Trice (@trice_travis) March 7, 2021
A jumping off point?
Best half of basketball they have played in weeks, maybe months. Gotta ride Potter, Davis and Trice the rest of the year. No one can create their own shot. Officiating was abhorrent, and I rarely bemoan the officials.— Matt Selje (@ColoTexFloWisky) March 7, 2021
Worst of the worst
Worst officiated game I’ve seen in a college basketball game. Ruined what was a great college basketball game today. Big Ten officials are an embarrassment. Double Technical?! Terrible call! I don’t put on the game to watch Big 10 officials. I wanted to watch Wisconsin vs Iowa!— Michael Herfel⚓️💙🤍 (@MichaelHerfel7) March 7, 2021
Strong performance by Potter, decent overall effort, one of few 2d half sustained comebacks. Over-officiated. Refs determined the outcome. Did not see what the refs called for Trice’s fifth foul.— Sheri Swokowski (@sswoko) March 7, 2021
Free and clear
Thank you Seniors. Trice was robbed and Bo Borowski needs to fired and arrested— Aaron W Rivard (@awrivard) March 7, 2021
All eyes on Brad
OMG! How in the blue blazes does Brad Davison get a "hook and hold" call while he's going to the basket as an offensive player?— Johnny Winston, Jr. (@johnnywinstonjr) March 7, 2021
Bucky really struggled to overcome the 8-on-5 zone today— Ben Bromley (@ben_bromley) March 7, 2021
It's not over yet!
Strange season but it's not over. Wouldn't be surprised by anything from here on out. Clearly on a losing streak but I'm not counting them out— Drew (@DreHolliday2) March 7, 2021