It's strong. Outside of the flukish loss to Green Bay? This team really has been quite good. (Sidenote: The loss to Gonzaga created a transitive property loop that if a Badger fan looks at it too long? They will go insane.) How do we know?
Because they beat Purdue.
It's the win that has me psyched. Yeah. Duke's always fun to win against. But the Badgers don't play them near enough to start feeling a streak of losses. Purdue? The Matt Painter era has been a struggle for Wisco.
The Boilermakers were terrible in 2006. And the Badgers gave them one of their few wins. 2008? The Badgers went 14-2 in the regular season. Guess who they lost to? Last season? Another sweep for the Boilermakers. And that was with a limited Robbie Hummel as well.
So this year? I wasn't going to be surprised if the Badgers went 0 for the week. They're a good team, but the expectation was that they would be in the decent tier. Third place would be a good year. (It still would be a good year. But the next paragraphs explain why there's a shot at something real here.)
First of all, there are two point guards who have had spectacular moments in Big Ten play. Trevon Hughes is a little more inconsistent in his play, but there are games where he can just take over. And he is the only one who can generate steals. Jordan Taylor is a supreme distributor. He could use a little work on his shot, but he's so good at protecting the ball, it's worth keeping him on the floor.
Secondly? Jon Leuer. He's a 6'10 guy with three point range who's developing some real post moves. It's not often that an NBA team can get a fun offensive guy off the bench with some sweet shotblock skills. And the fishing puns! Oh the fishing puns!
And finally, the Badgers are all about the second chance. They are in their base getting their rebounds. (Outside of Michigan State). Pomeroy says their rate of offensive rebounds is the best around. As such? They can go far this year. They may not win the Big Ten this year, but there are smart people who say that the Big Ten has three final four contenders and Ohio State who will prove to be a tough out this year.
And the Badgers will be right in the thick of it. (Unless this post jinxes it.)