When Chris Chiozza's buzzer-beating heave gave Florida a win over Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen last March, there was a period of initial shock. As Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter left the court for the final time, the shock almost immediately turned to, "When will Wisconsin be back here?"
Wisconsin hasn't missed an NCAA Tournament since 1998. They haven't finished outside the top four in the final Big Ten regular-season standings since 2000-01, won fewer than than 19 games since 1997-98 or failed to break the AP top 25 at any point during the season since 2001-02.
The Badgers will be lucky to keep any of those streaks alive this season, let alone all of them.
Even with the return of All-American Ethan Happ, promising freshman D'Mitrik Trice and a bunch of next-man-up guys that have been the staple Bo Ryan and Greg Gard's program for the last two decades, this season was always expected to be a rebuilding year. But no one expected this.
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Following Saturday's loss to Marquette — already their third at home — Wisconsin is 4-7, or two shy of the average loss total from the last 15 season. And while the calendar hasn't flipped to January yet, the Badgers are in real trouble. They stumbled through a tough early-season schedule, losing three straight to Xavier, Baylor and UCLA by a combined 17 points and scoring 95 total points in back-to-back losses vs. Virginia and Ohio State. Four days later they went scoreless over the final four minutes in a 59-55 loss to Temple.
Then came Saturday. Minutes before tipping off at the Kohl Center, Wisconsin announced that guards D'Mitrik Trice (knee) and Kobe King (foot) were out indefinitely with injuries. Trice is having surgery on Monday and won't even begin rehabbing until late December or early January. There is no timetable for King's return.
Wisconsin was 4-6 before losing two key players. They were well outside the tournament bubble, in danger of not winning 19 games or finishing in the Big Ten's top four before losing Trice and King.
Now the Badgers — who entered Saturday ranked 312th nationally in scoring (66.4 points per game), 201st in shooting (44.4 percent), 278th in assists (12.3), 231st in rebounding margin (minus-0.5) and in the bottom third of the country in more than a dozen other areas — are preparing to enter the meat of conference play with a depleted backcourt, just two reliable scorers (Happ and Brad Davison) and in danger of snapping a slew of college basketball's most impressive streaks.