It’s that time of year. Pools are being created. Championship games are being played, and the tournament is nearly underway. So while you may be needing some advice in the coming weeks on how to fill out your winning ticket, your bracket that will pay off 200 large on a $5 fee, I’m taking my bracketology to the next level. You see, in order to get to the Final Four or even Sweet 16, you need a team with the right mix. Sure, you need the superstar player — the go-to guy — who will carry you through to live another day. But more than that, you need a great team. Individuals may get you to the tournament, but the role players, the no-namers, along with intangibles, will take you to the top. At Wisconsin, the superstar is the men’s basketball team. Football plays that role in the fall. They get the most publicity, draw the most fans and rake in the dough, rightfully so. The gridiron Badgers rose to the occasion last fall, completing one of their most successful seasons ever, and finished No. 7 in the country. On the hardwood, Wisconsin is in the thick of nabbing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and is currently ranked No. 4. However, the real reason the university is a champion, of course, is the other programs behind these two stars.Defensive StopperNobody grips its opponents quite like the wrestling team. Never has Wisconsin won the Big Ten Championships, and while it didn’t happen this year, capturing the penultimate position behind No. 1 Minnesota, the cardinal and white grapplers are still having their best season in 15 years — the last time they finished second in the Big Ten. Redshirt freshman Kyle Ruschell upset No. 1 Manuel Rivera at 141 lbs. and earned a second-place finish. Of the 10 Wisconsin starters, nine made it to day two of the championships, and eight qualified for the NCAA’s March 15. For the season, the No. 8 Badgers have outscored their opponents 648-220 in 22 duals. To put that in perspective — three points are earned for a decision — UW wrestlers ceded just three matches per dual meet in the most competitive conference in the nation. This team’s tenacity and ability to stop the point of attack will almost certainly keep the oppositions’ star in check. Winning attitudeThe women’s hockey team is good. Real good. Capturing the WCHA Championship for the second straight season with a 3-1 win over Minnesota, the No. 1 Badgers are riding high. Led by head coach Mark Johnson who scored two goals in the Miracle on Ice, UW hockey has the winning mentality necessary to spark a deep tournament run. Including this weekend, Wisconsin has now gone 51-1-4 (.946) in its past 56 games.Spark off the benchBehind the genius of head coach Ed Nuttycombe and the mix of talent young and old, the men’s track team is No. 2 in the country heading into the national indoor championships next weekend. Instant offense by Big Ten Athlete of the Year Demi Omole, who holds the Big Ten indoor record in the 60 meter, blurs the transition between starters and bench players, keeping the offense moving and the team clicking. Do-it-all scrappy vet Joe Detmer (decathlete and heptathlete) comes in and takes on any challenge, big or small, preventing the opposition from exposing a matchup problem. And freshman of the year Craig Miller and Mr. Consistent himself, the seasoned Chris Solinsky, can run with the best of them, assuring Wisconsin that it won’t tire down the stretch.Coming up clutchAlthough not on the national radar, the softball team all season long has come up big when the pressure is on, something needed in the single-elimination tournament. To start the season, Wisconsin went 3-0 against NCAA Tournament teams — Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State and No. 17 Florida. UW scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning to upset CSU 4-2, and it came back from extra-inning deficits a couple of times to defeat UF 4-3. This past weekend, Wisconsin trailed Georgia State 3-1 entering the top half of the seventh. With two outs and the bases loaded, 1B Alexis Garcia slapped one back up the middle to tie the game. In the eighth, the cardinal and white scored twice more en route to victory. Junior Katie Hnatyk is a major reason why the team has had so much success. Excluding Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Winthrop, she has seven homers in seven games to go with a .613 average (19-for-31) and 19 RBI. Overall, five of Wisconsin’s 10 wins this season have been of the come-from-behind variety. And the Badgers are a combined 5-2 in one and two-run games.Mental ToughnessStaring down history in the making with the biggest distraction of the year looming large, the men’s tennis team still served up an ace. Playing in Miami the day after Super Bowl XLI, the Badgers upended the No. 10 Hurricanes 4-3 in what head coach Greg Van Emburgh called “one of the biggest wins in program history.” Knotted at three apiece entering the final matchup of the day, No. 2 singles, the outcome of the fray was in junior Nolan Polley’s court. Staving off match point and 21 mph winds, Polley was able to come back from a set down to win in a tiebreaker — 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 — propelling the Badgers to the W. More recently, the team defeated No. 56 Western Michigan and No. 51 Penn State. Losses to No. 11 Notre Dame and No. 45 Northwestern don’t negate the fact that Polley and company have what it takes to win against any odds. In fact, this is the best men’s tennis team in 30 years, indicated by its No. 35 ranking. Without the contributions of these other sports, the University of Wisconsin just wouldn’t be the same. These aren’t the only teams that are playing well either. Representing this school and being a Badger has never felt this good. Nearly every sport is having a career-year or historic season, and the prospects are only getting better. So as you prepare to fill out your bracket next week, know that even if the men’s basketball team doesn’t win it all, the school you’re attending is still a champion. Kevin is a junior majoring in journalism and economics. Share your sentiments on what it means for you to be a Badger by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Wednesday, 21-year old Bryan Barnes, one of two men charged with the murder of two USC graduate students from China, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. According to the Los Angeles Times, Barnes will serve two consecutive life terms and will not be granted parole.On April 11, 2012, Ming Qu and Ying Wu were fatally shot by Barnes, 20 years old at the time, while parked outside in a neighborhood near campus.According to the L.A. Times, Wu’s black iPhone, which was stolen from the scene of the crime, linked Los Angeles police detectives to Barnes and his presumed accomplice, then 19-year old Javier Bolden. Bolden’s trial has yet to be held.Prosecutors said during preliminary hearings that the GPS in Wu’s phone lead police to a warehouse and evidence implicated Barnes.By court order, investigators were allowed to wiretap Barnes’ telephone conversations. According to the L.A. Times, in one call with Bolden, Barnes mentions how they “ran up on them little Asian people,” implying that he had shot them.Additionally, a former girlfriend of Barnes testified that Barnes had admitted to stealing the cell phone, and told her that someone may have been shot during the robbery.Judge Stephen A. Marcus, who presided over the trial, declared there was “more than enough evidence” in connecting Barnes and Bolden to the murders of Qu and Wu.According to the L.A. Times, investigators also suspect Barnes and Bolden in another shooting in which a victim was hit eight times. Bolden is also being investigated in conjunction with a shooting that injured two people.