March Madness is officially here! Tuesday night was possibly the biggest game in Kohl Center history. I think back to the 2014 matchup against Duke as the last major matchup in Madison. Number 8 Purdue rolled into town for a top-10 matchup against number 10 Wisconsin. With a win, the Badgers would secure at least a share of the Big Ten regular season championship. In 2020, Wisconsin went on that late season run that earned them a share. However, COVID-19 shut down the Big Ten tournament and NCAA tournament. Tonight, the Badgers once again are at the top, with a 70-67 win over Purdue. It is the program’s 20th time winning the regular season Big Ten title.
Chucky Hepburn has really come on late in the season. When it comes to March, an elite point guard is critical to a long run. You can look at 2009 Stephen Curry, 2011 Kemba Walker, and Shabazz Napier in 2014. A guard who can score the ball late in the shot clock is crucial. Even those great Badger teams of 2014 and 2015 had Traevon Jackson and Bronson Koenig.
🗣 THE BANK IS OPEN!!!
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 2, 2022
Chucky is that guy for this Wisconsin team. I understand Johnny Davis has been one of the best clutch time players this season. But, when the Badgers run into a lull in their offense, often times Chucky has the ball in his hands looking to make a play. Chucky was outstanding tonight, 17 points and 0 turnovers. Oh, and did I forget to mention a bank 3 for the win? If Chucky can continue this offensive output and confidence, the Badgers will be a hard matchup for anyone in March.
I have been very critical of the bench and their production this season. Tonight was their best effort and what better time than the biggest game of the season. Chris Vogt was once again fantastic off the bench dealing with both Edey and Williams. In just the first half alone, Vogt had 4 rebounds, 1 block, and 2 assists. Then in the second half he made his only attempted shot. Another guy who brought great energy off the bench in the first half was Ben Carlson. Carlson had a couple of really tough rebounds and even got a bucket himself.
Chris Vogt has been a monster tonight.
Four rebounds, three offensive boards, two assists, and a block in 8 minutes.#Badgers
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) March 2, 2022
Jahcobi Neath had his best game of the season. Only averaging 8.5 minutes a game this year, Jahcobi played 16 tonight due to some foul trouble from Wisconsin’s guards and the absence of Lorne Bowman. Neath even took on the Jaden Ivey matchup when Johnny Davis was on the bench. Jahcobi chipped in 4 rebounds, and knocked down a 3. Against a team like Purdue, everyone needs to be hitting the glass and Jahcobi did that. He is another guy that Gard can put in that will not make a mistake and will give maximum effort.
Bank Is Open
It would be unfair of me to not include the two biggest shots of the game for Wisconsin. Up by just 1 point, Johnny Davis banked in a ridiculous jumper from the top of the key to give Wisconsin a three point lead. After an impressive three from Jaden Ivey to tie the game, Chucky Hepburn — in the biggest moment of his life — banked in a step back three. It’s safe to say the bank was open at the Kohl Center tonight.
— Mr Matthew CFB 🇺🇦 (@MrMatthewCFB) March 2, 2022
Speaking of the Kohl Center, they finally showed up when it mattered most. All my life of watching Wisconsin basketball I have never heard a crowd like that. Kudos to the students and even the alumni.
There isn’t much else to say about this group. Picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten this year they have overcome so much adversity on and off the court. Starting with Coach Gard and the summer drama, to losing friends, and even hometowns being destroyed. Even in my wildest dreams and biased outlook did I not see this coming. Watching guys grow up right in front of our eyes. This team has no quit, and it makes me so happy to see them succeed. Give credit to Coach Gard, too who has received a lot of criticism. This is his 2nd regular-season title in just 6 years.
There’s still a lot of season left. If Wisconsin takes down Nebraska they will be outright Big Ten champs. Then comes the Big Ten tournament and the big dance. I have no idea what this team’s ceiling is, but I’m going to enjoy the ride.
A couple fun stats from tonight: Wisconsin went 11/12 from the free throw line while Purdue went 11/20. A team being able to knock down free throws in March is very important. Also, this win makes Wisconsin 15-1 in games decided by 6 points or less.
The Wisconsin Badgers,
BIG! TEN! CHAMPIONS! 🥳 pic.twitter.com/RW95k72efy
— Big Ten Champs 🏆 (@BadgerMBB) March 2, 2022
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