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Badgers bust brackets and expectations

March 29, 2007

A 74-68 loss to University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament made the Wisconsin Badgers the highest-seeded team to exit before the Elite Eight.

It was also a major blow to the brackets of many Facebook users who had chosen them to make a good run in the tournament.

About 1.5 million users on Facebook filled out brackets in hopes of taking home the $25,000 grand prize, according to the New York Times.

This is the second year in a row the social networking site has offered NCAA Division I men’s basketball pools to its users.

The pools work a lot like Facebook groups, allowing users to choose from numerous pools or create their own and send out invitations for friends to join. It allows users to compete directly with their friends and to be in the running for a national grand prize at the same time.

Paul Broz, a UW-River Falls graduate, submitted brackets on Facebook in a pool with friends and fellow graduates of River Falls. He submits his bracket to just about any tournament he can this time of year. Broz said he has really been impressed with some of the features the Facebook challenge offers to its users.

“I like the messaging feature,” Broz said. “The conversations in our pool have gotten pretty heated this year, especially after the Badgers dropped the ball early.”

Broz said about half the people in his pool had the Badgers going to the Final Four.

Another feature that has gotten good reviews at UWRF is the ability to look at your opponents brackets.

Broz was one of the few to get the Badgers loss in the second round correct on his bracket. He is a Georgetown Hoyas fan who said he had an early inkling that the Badgers wouldn’t advance past the second round.

“It’s been fun to look at the brackets of some of the people in my pool and see how bad the Wisconsin loss hurt their bracket hopes,” Broz said. “You have to roll with the hot teams this time of the year and Wisconsin clearly wasn’t that.”

Broz currently sits in first in his pool and his predicted champion, Georgetown, is still alive heading into this weekend’s Final Four.

This year’s tournament was clearly one of the big dogs beating up on the underdogs, Wisconsin was one of the few exceptions to that theme. Seven of the final eight teams were seeded first or second; the second-seeded Badgers were the lone team that couldn’t make it that far.

The early exit left a sour taste in the mouths of both the team and its fans after what appeared to be a very promising season for the Badgers. At one point Wisconsin was 26-2 and holding a number one ranking, but down the stretch the team managed just a 4-4 record, capped by the loss to the seventh-seeded UNLV.

The Badgers received a scare in their first-round game, falling behind by 18 to 15th-seeded Texas A & M-Corpus Christi before recovering in the second half to escape with a 76-63 victory.

Although the Badgers were a favorite to stay alive deep into the tournament, Wisconsin wasn’t a favorite to be crowned the champs. Many Facebook users had the Badgers going to the Elite Eight, some had the team making it to the Final Four, but very few had them winning it all.

Molly O’Brien, a senior majoring in education at UWRF, is a huge Badgers fan who had them picked to go to the Elite Eight before losing.

“They should have beat UNLV,” O’Brien said.  “I think a lot of the loss had to do with [Brian] Butch’s injury.”

Wisconsin’s Butch dislocated his elbow in game against Ohio State on Feb. 25, ending his season. He was the team’s leading rebounder and third-leading scorer. His absence was a major factor in the team’s failure to live up to expectations at the close of the season.

Despite the Badgers loss, O’Brien still sits in fourth place in her pool and is really looking forward to this weekend’s Final Four. She has swallowed her Badgers pride and has decided to root for Georgetown from here on out.

“I really think they have a good chance and they played awesome against the Tar Heels,” O’Brien said.

The Badgers, on the other hand, will look to rebuild for next season. Losing star point guard Kammron Taylor and Big Ten Player of the Year Alando Tucker to graduation this off-season proves to be a major hurdle for the Badgers going into next season.