It's Monday afternoon in the bowels of the Kohl Center, and Wisconsin women's basketball coach Lisa Stone is previewing the Big Ten tournament at her weekly press conference. Either she's a relentlessly positive person or else she thinks fans who read or watch her comments are incapable of critical thought.
"I like the fact that we're playing the first game on the first day," says Stone. "I like that a lot, and I like the bracket."
For those unfamiliar with how the Big Ten tournament operates, playing on the first day means your team is in the bottom half of the standings. The top five teams get the first day off to scout their opponents, generally the preferred situation to be in.
The Badgers, seeded seventh, will play 10th-seeded Northwestern at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 5, in Indianapolis. If they get past the Wildcats, who won the only regular-season meeting between the teams on Jan. 4 in Evanston, they'll play second-seeded Michigan State on Friday at 10:30 a.m. The Badgers split the regular-season series with the Spartans, beating them by three points at home on Feb. 22.
But Wisconsin hasn't been able to put two wins together since New Year's Day. The Badgers (16-13, 6-12 in the Big Ten) entered conference play on Dec. 22 with a 10-1 record and hopes of qualifying for their first NCAA tournament in six seasons under Stone.
Ten weeks later, the Badgers have won only six more games. If they are unable to win the conference tournament, they will have to settle for an invitation to the Women's NIT for the third straight year. Stone, no doubt, will try to put a positive spin on that news as well.