The Wisconsin Badgers had done almost everything with coach Bo Ryan until March 29. Before the Badgers' West Regional final against the Arizona Wildcats, the one thing Wisconsin never did in the NCAA tournament with him was reach the Final Four. It took overtime to do it, but the Badgers and Ryan finally got over the hump in a 64-63 overtime thriller.
The Badgers had lost four Sweet 16 games and one regional final in the NCAA tournament during Ryan's regime. However, Wisconsin managed to return to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005. It didn't start well at first, as Arizona was up by eight late in the first half.
The Badgers closed the gap to three at halftime, then jumped ahead to start the second half. Yet the Wildcats made a run of their own to take the lead back, until Frank Kaminsky took over. He powered Wisconsin with 28 points and 11 rebounds, on a night where his teammates couldn't hit many shots.
Regardless, the Wildcats still survived long enough to force overtime. It was Kaminsky who put the Badgers ahead for good, although the Wildcats got to within 64-63 with under a minute left. In the end, Arizona had the ball twice with a chance to win, but the first chance failed when Nick Johnson got called for a debatable push-off on Josh Gasser with three seconds left.
The subsequent Wisconsin inbounds play became a turnover, after the officials took several minutes to review. Yet Arizona couldn't take advantage of the reprieve, as Johnson was unable to even get a shot off before the buzzer.
With that final bit of drama, Ryan clinched his first Final Four berth in his 13'th season with Wisconsin. Between that and winning this game on his late father's 90'th birthday -- a father he attended every Final Four with as a spectator until his death last August -- Ryan became the heartwarming story of this NCAA tournament.
The Badgers and their coach went through several near-misses over the last decade to get this far. The accompanying list details Ryan's worst NCAA tournament defeats to date -- yet the West regional final of 2014 has made it all worth it.
Ryan's first Sweet 16 loss
2003 Sweet 16: Kentucky Wildcats 63, Badgers 57 -- The Badgers faced the No. 1 seeded Wildcats -- their potential Final Four opponent in 2014 -- in their first Sweet 16 under Ryan. Despite coming close to the upset, Kirk Penney and the Badgers couldn't get over the hump, which set the stage for future NCAA tournament near misses ahead.
2005 Badgers just shy of Final Four
2005 Elite Eight: North Carolina Tar Heels 88, Badgers 82 -- The Badgers benefited from several upset losses in their bracket, but the sixth seeds then faced the No. 1 Tar Heels in the regional final. Despite making a second half run, Raymond Felton and the future national champions held the Badgers off -- and it would be nine years before they and Ryan returned to the Elite Eight.
2007 Badgers upset early
2007 Round of 32: UNLV Rebels 74, Badgers 68 -- Ryan had one of his best seasons in 2007, as the Badgers earned 30 wins and a No. 2 seed. However, they were tripped up in the second round by the Cinderella Rebels, in the first of many NCAA tournament upset losses to come.
Badgers cut up by Curry
2008 Sweet 16: Davidson Wildcats 73, Badgers 56 -- The third seeded Badgers seemed to benefit from only facing Davidson in the Sweet 16, but that perception was shattered quickly. Wisconsin easily became the last victim of Stephen Curry's magical run to the brink of the Final Four.
Cornell blows out Wisconsin
2010 Round of 32: Cornell Big Red 87, Badgers 69 -- The fourth seeded Badgers were once again blown out by a buzz saw of a Cinderella team, in this case the Ivy League's Big Red.
Badgers fall to Butler's second Cinderella team
2011 Sweet 16: Butler Bulldogs 61, Badgers 54 -- The Bulldogs made their second straight stunning run to the national title game in 2011, knocking off the fourth seeded Badgers in the middle of it.
Badgers fall short to Orange
2012 Sweet 16: Syracuse Orange 64, Badgers 63 -- Jordan Taylor and the Badgers threw a scare into Dion Waiters and the top seeded Orange right to the buzzer. Nevertheless, it wasn't enough to hold off a fourth Sweet 16 loss under Ryan.