Wisconsin can help Big Ten cap a championship year

Wisconsin can help Big Ten cap a championship year
Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker (15) celebrates with teammate Josh Gasser after the Badgers defeated Kentucky, 71-64, in the Final Four on Saturday night in Indianapolis. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

A Wisconsin win Monday night would cap a crowning season for the Big Ten Conference, which hasn't won an NCAA basketball title since Michigan State in 2000.

The Big Ten won its first football championship since 2002 this season when Ohio State captured the first College Football Playoff title with a victory against Oregon.


"We've had some really good teams in this league over the years," Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser said. "Kind of surprised there hasn't been a national champion, but that doesn't take anything away from the conference as a whole, I don't think. We're just trying to represent the conference. It's not about the Big Ten; it's about us, what we can do to win a national championship."

The Southeastern Conference, in 2011-12, was the last conference to win titles in both sports when Alabama won in football and Kentucky won in basketball.

In 2006-07, Florida of the SEC won football and basketball national championships in the same season.

The Pac-12, um, has some catching up to do. The league won its last NCAA basketball title in 1997 (Arizona) and last national football championship in 2004 (USC), which has been vacated.

Sorry comments

Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison has apologized for uttering an expletive about Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky after Saturday night's game.

Harrison tweeted at 12:25 a.m. on Sunday morning: "First I want to apologize for my poor choice of words used in jest towards a player I respect and know."

Kaminsky said he received a personal apology from Harrison.

"Yeah, he reached out to me," Kaminsky said Sunday. "We talked about it. Over it. Nothing needs to be made out of it."

Deep thoughts

Kaminsky was asked at Sunday's news conference to talk about the lack of confidence he had as a young player.

Question: "Are you the man now?"

Kaminsky: "I don't know. I wasn't prepared for a question of this magnitude. So do you want like an intellectual answer…?"

For what it's worth, and it might not be much


Duke defeated Wisconsin, 80-70, in a Dec. 3 game at Madison.

"They're a different team now, we're a different team," Duke senior guard Quinn Cook said. "They're a lot better. They're playing as good as anyone."

Duke was different because it was a young team still feeling its way through the opening weeks of the season.

Wisconsin is different because Sam Dekker, who has emerged as one of the stars of the NCAA tournament, was hobbled with an injured ankle. He scored only five points in 24 minutes.

"We won the game," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said, "but I also knew that Wisconsin wasn't their best."

Duke is different because freshman forward Justise Winslow has also emerged since that game, in which he scored only five points in 32 minutes.

"I've kind of matured a lot since that first game, especially on the offensive end," Winslow said.

Duke players, though, said the game provided a confidence boost.

"I think as a team, we realized how good we can be," freshman center Jahlil Okafor said. "We beat a really good team in their gym."

Winslow, on what impresses him about Wisconsin: "They're winners. Whether it's Kaminsky making a big bucket or Dekker taking a charge they just find ways to win… They don't care who is scoring, they just care about winning."

Good on his word

Duke was shocked in last year's NCAA tournament, losing as a No. 3 seed in the first round to No. 14 Mercer.

Guard Tyus Jones, who was in high school and had committed to Duke, recalled Sunday sending a text message to Krzyzewski.

"I just told him that this won't happen again next year," Jones said.

Twitter: @DufresneLATimes