What Was His Name? Wisconsin Edition
North Carolina reached the Sweet 16 and with it comes a date with arguably the second-best team in the country in the Wisconsin Badgers. The men from Madison have been a force in college basketball over the past few years, reaching the Sweet 16 in four of the past five years and narrowly losing to Kentucky in the Final Four last season. However, this success is new for Badger basketball.
Wisconsin won the national title in 1941, a team I can only assume was also coached by Bo Ryan. The Badgers reached the NCAA Tournament again in 1947, advancing to the regional finals. After that season, the program hit a bit of a lull. In fact, Wisconsin would not reach the Big Dance again until 1994. In that span of 47 years, North Carolina won three national titles, 10 men were elected President of the United States, my mother and father were born, I was born, and other less important things happened as well.
One of those less important things was the decision by Michael Finley to attend Wisconsin to play basketball for the Badgers. Finley played for three coaches in his four seasons in Madison, including Stan Van Gundy in his senior year. He left school as the program’s all-time leading scorer, averaging 19 points per game over his four seasons. Finley also shot 7-13 from long range in leading the Badgers to their first NCAA Tournament win in 47 years with a victory over Cincinnati in the 1994 NCAA Tournament.
I am far from a Wisconsin basketball historian, but I’m sure many Badger fans point to Finley as the player with the largest role in the turnaround of Wisconsin basketball. His own successful professional career in which he made two All-Star Games and won the 2007 NBA Championship with the San Antonio Spurs, as well as the likes of Devin Harris and now Frank Kaminsky may overshadow Finley’s accomplishments at Wisconsin, but his legacy is certainly cemented.