Fans can’t forget life before Curry

first_imgMaybe they were out all night playing craps in the casinos.Or maybe they each had five midterms last week and couldn’t practice at all.Perhaps they all had man-crushes on Davidson’s Stephen Curry, or maybe theywere afraid of possibly facing Kansas.All these crazy ideas were circling in my head as I walkedaround downtown Detroit Friday night in utter disbelief, looking for thenearest blackjack table at which I could feed my newfound depression.I just couldn’t figure it out. How did that just happen? Howdid the Badgers just get embarrassed by a team from the Southern Conference? Idrove eight hours for that?The matchup seemed perfect. Michael Flowers — the bestshutdown defender I’ve ever witnessed in person — was going to frustrate Curry,much like he did with Michigan State sharpshooter Drew Neitzel, and the Badgerswere going to coast into the Elite 8. I was sure of it.As I continued my meander through Motown, it finally hit me:The better team won Friday night. Davidson was no lucky Cinderella team,either. I’m convinced the Wildcats would beat the Badgers eight times out of 10.And the way they played Friday night, they would have beaten any team in thecountry.Yup, I said it: Any. Team. UNC, UCLA and Memphis included.Oh, and Neitzel doesn’t even belong in the same sentence asCurry. The hype is real; the kid can flat-out play. It’s a joke that zero ACCschools offered him a scholarship out of high school. He has yet to shave, buthe still played like His Airness himself Friday night. Babyface was simplyunstoppable.I’m not sure if the Badgers didn’t believe Curry was as goodas advertised or what, but they looked completely unprepared to at leastattempt to slow him down (let alone play any sort of organized offense in thesecond half, but that’s a completely separate issue). Curry ran off double andtriple screens, no one hedged to remotely help Flowers recover, and the son offormer NBA guard Dell dropped 33, while the second-half score read: Curry 22,Wisconsin 20.When the fat lady finally sang, Davidson head coach BobMcKillop subbed Curry out of the game, to which he received a well-deservedstanding ovation from the Wildcat faithful.The two-inch Badger fan standing on my left shoulder waspouting and crying, but his counterpart on my right — the objective basketballfan — was standing and clapping along with the fans who made the free trip fromNorth Carolina. It was the most dominant basketball performance I’ve ever seenlive. I just stood there, arms folded, in complete awe.There’s no way around it. Friday night sucked. The Badgersplayed with no heart, they were humiliated on national television, and now allthe chants of “overrated” still ringing in my head seem justified.The final chapter of a storybook season ended on a noteBadger Nation can only hope to one day forget. But let’s not forget one thing: Itwas still that, a storybook season.Last fall, the expectations surrounding Bo’s bunch weremediocre at best. They lost Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker to graduation. The2007-08 season could never measure up to the ’06-07 squad, right?Wrong. It did. And then some.Prior to Friday, a supposed team made up of a disappointingformer McDonald’s All-American, a kid from South Dakota who can’t jump orshoot, an undersized power forward, another near-seven-footer who can barelyget out of his own way, an inexperienced point guard, a kid from Iowa who cando nothing but shoot 3-pointers and a defensive specialist with a below-averagejump shot proved the naysayers wrong.They gelled, they improved, they matured, they improvedagain, and they began to believe in both themselves and in Bo Ryan’s winningways.And then, all of a sudden, they were outright Big TenChamps. And then they won the conference tournament. And then they were in theSweet 16, a feat even the No. 1 nationally ranked Badgers of ’06-07 couldn’taccomplish.In October, had someone told you that come March, all threeof those things would be on this Badger team’s r?sum?, wouldn’t you havelaughed?Me too.All four of their losses were against tournament teams; theylost to one Big Ten team (Purdue) all season, and they beat Texas on the road.All year they were too slow and not talented enough. Fridaynight it finally came back to bite them.But since their Jan. 2 upset over the Longhorns, this Badgerteam played with heart and found ways to win. It wasn’t always pretty (i.e.,Brian Butch’s bank three in Bloomington), but they kept miraculously gettingthe job done somehow.On paper, this team was probably a tournament bubble team atbest. But Ryan transformed a roster full of nice ball players into top 10winners, something most coaches could never dream of doing.Yeah, the word “Davidson” will always leave a sour taste inall Badger fans’ mouths. Had the Badgers played well, maybe it would have been OK.Had Curry hit a miracle buzzer-beater in a well-played game, then we would beleft to shake our heads and applaud.But that didn’t happen. Wisconsin looked like a JV teamFriday. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.Nonetheless, they did the unthinkable this season. They willforever be 2007-08 Big Ten Champs. And no one can ever take that from them.?Derek is a sophomore majoring in economics. Was theBadgers’ season a bust? Send him your thoughts at

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