- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2000

They apparently let anyone into the Final Four.

The basketball team that represents Wisconsin confirms that.

The Badgers play at the minimum speed. They are an all-natural cure to insomnia. They don't play to please. They play to survive.

The Badgers lack speed and quickness, so they bump and grind, clutch and hold. They have some WWF Raw in them. They would crack you over the head with a chair if it met the basketball definition of good defense. Absent a shot clock, they would try to pitch a shutout. They defend, rebound and shoot the ball only as a last resort.

The Badgers figured they would be celebrating the first thaw by now. They were 13-12 going into late February, seemingly negotiating the terms of their surrender.

"I never thought we could get to the Final Four, to be honest," senior guard Jon Bryant says.

That makes it unanimous. Wisconsin and basketball rarely go together unless you count the Bucks in the early '70s.

Even the Bucks released Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on parole after one NBA championship and five seasons in Milwaukee. In case you missed it and you probably did Sidney Moncrief fashioned an All-Star career in Milwaukee in the '80s.

Wisconsin is a nice place to go curling. Wisconsin provides the ice. You provide the stone and broom.

The Badgers reflect the hardiness of the people. You have to be tough to live in Wisconsin. The toughest are the shirtless souls who flirt with hypothermia to cheer the Packers between hiccups.

Wisconsin believes a liver is an awful thing to waste. Wisconsin drinks to that as well.

If Wisconsin is Cinderella, more drinks are in order. Ugly only can pass for beautiful with the proper blood-alcohol level.

Most coaches from the major conferences recruit the blue-chip prospects listed in Parade magazine and Street & Smith's. Dick Bennett, the coach of the Badgers, rescued Bryant from St. Cloud (Minn.) State, a Division II school.

That would be taken as a sign of desperation at most programs. At Wisconsin, that was considered neighborly. Minnesota is next door.

Wisconsin and Michigan State have worked awfully hard and traveled hither and yon just to play one another again in Indianapolis Saturday. Michigan State won the three previous meetings with Wisconsin this season, which means one of two things.

Either Michigan State has a better basketball team than Wisconsin or Wisconsin is destined to win Saturday, considering it is next to impossible for one team to beat another team four times in one season.

At least that is how Michigan State coach Tom Izzo sees it.

He says beating a team three times in one season is incredibly difficult. Four times is almost unthinkable.

So the Badgers have psychology on their side, plus a high number of floor burns. Mike Kelley sticks his nose in your navel and dares you to find an opening. Bryant is knocking down 3-pointers.

Then there is Duany Duany. The only thing more confusing than being named Duany Duany is being named Duany Duany Duany.

Duany, a fifth-year shooting guard from Sudan, is a member of a family that leads two nations in producing Division I basketball players. Duany is at Wisconsin, Kueth at Syracuse, Nyagon at Bradley and Nok at Georgetown.

If you're keeping score at home, that comes out to two brothers and two sisters and a clean tuition bill. As if to demonstrate it is no fluke, another Duany, Bil, a freshman in high school, is on the way.

With their last four victories, Bennett and the Badgers have been excused for their back-to-the-future ball. You take what you can get when you have a 59-year break from the Final Four. At this pace, the Badgers won't come this way again until 2059, when the NCAA suits are investigating Erick Barkley's great-grandchildren.

Despite claims to the contrary, no team looks unbeatable, not even Michigan State with a healthy Mateen Cleaves.

The last four teams in the tournament have a combined 40 losses.

Even with 13 losses, the Badgers shouldn't feel too out of place.

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