April Madness

63-99 Edition

63-99 Edition

Well, last year at this time sports fans across Wisconsin were nervously awaiting an inconceivable NCAA basketball title showdown with Duke. The Badgers had made a back-to-back runs to the Final Four a reality, and were poised to capture their National Championship in men’s basketball in the modern era. March Madness had become April Madness.

Fast forward a year later, after the Badgers gagged in the last 13 minutes against a depleted crew led by Coach K, and the rest, as they say, is history. No one in their right minds expected Bucky to return again to the Final Four in 2016, especially after Kaminsky, Jackson, Gasser, Dukan and Dekker all turned to some form of professional basketball.

Furthermore, after Bo Ryan called it quits in mid-December and assistant coach Greg Gard assumed the helm, the Badgers were left for dead by many, including me, after a 1-4 start and a 9-9 overall record was in play.

Never say never though, and after being permanently installed as the Badgers new head coach, and rightfully so, Gard led the Badgers to a Sweet Sixteen appearance and then fell just 17 turnovers shy of reaching the Elite Eight after an embarrassing loss to Notre Dame in Philly.

So all is well with the Badger men’s basketball program for now, and regardless (no pun intended) of whether Nigel Hayes decides to turn European or not, the team should be very competitive again in 2016-17.

Other “on the bright side” moments so far this year include the hiring of a new set of hockey coaches for the suddenly beleaguered men’s hockey program at the UW. Tony Granato has decided to take over after 13 years of Mike Eaves, and he brings along a set of assistants that would make any hockey program drool. Too bad these guys can’t skate though, because until the Badgers get back to the Frozen Four, the memories of 12 wins over the last two years will have a hard time being forgotten.

The Godfather, Barry Alvarez, also decided to jettison the women’s basketball coach, Bobbie Kelsey, and replace her with a male coach (name escapes me). Not that the women’s basketball program will ever be relied upon to generate any serious revenue is a moot point, but hiring someone that might actually be able to recruit, coach and win more than 10 games a year is a step in the right direction.

This April Madness in 2016 leads us ultimately to everybody’s favorite doormat in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers, now under the guidance of 31 year old General manger David Stearns, are proud owners of the lowest payroll in baseball. Their 2016 roster includes a handful of carry overs from the team that went 69-94 in 2015, including a 5-17 start in April.

Some fans will remember names like Lucroy, Braun, Maldonado, Garza, Gennett, Nelson and Peralta, but for the most part the remaining players filling out this 25 man discount roster will be foreigners to most Wisconsinites. Nevertheless, I’m sure the lemmings that seek to play bags and washers in the parking lot as they tailgate their lives away could care less what happens on the field. As long as the retractable roof is over their heads they can count on witnessing at least one major league team play if they ever make it into Miller Park this year. Lowest payroll be damned, I’ll say the finish this year 63-99, one game ahead of the Reds.

Yes, Wisconsin sports fans are pleasantly spoiled, in all facets of their seasons, lest not we forget Paul Chryst’s Badgers and the Green Bay Packers, led by Aaron Rodgers.

So, you see, it really doesn’t matter what month it is, it’s always madness when it comes to sports in Wisconsin. For now, that means we’re stuck with April Madness, and your Milwaukee Brewers.

And For What

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