TREBBY: Wisconsin/MU rivalry hasn’t been pretty

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The Marquette-Wisconsin basketball game isn’t be the most important game on either team’s schedule. But for people like me who have grown up around the rivalry like I have, it’s one of the most painful to lose.

Some Marquette students, especially those not from Wisconsin, may not appreciate the rivalry as much. For each fan base, it takes on multiple meanings, both on and off the court.

For Wisconsin fans, the rivalry is generally not seen as very important. Basketball is their second sport, behind football. With the Badgers playing in the first Big 10 Championship against Michigan State on Saturday night, the game against Marquette at the Kohl Center will take a backseat to Badger football.

That’s not the Marquette state of mind. Basketball is our bread and butter. That makes it tough to swallow when the Badgers leave the match as inter-state-clash victors.

The on-court difference is the two teams’ style of play. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has revolutionized Big 10 basketball, and, if you’re a fan of fast-paced transition basketball (like me), he hasn’t done it for the better.

Prior to the North Carolina game, Bo’s Badgers average 59.7 possessions a game this season, according to Ken Pomeroy, the 342nd greatest of 345 teams in Division I. Marquette averages 73.2 possessions per game, according to Pomeroy (30th most in the country). With a total like that, Wisconsin has to be effective, and the Badgers are. But the offensive results aren’t pretty.

Marquette, on the other hand, has built its style of play around quick, athletic guards who like to get up and down the court, providing fans with an entertaining, high-scoring brand of basketball.

When Marquette loses to Wisconsin, the Badgers make it painful. They rarely create a big double-digit lead. Instead, they keep it close enough that Golden Eagles fans might think they have a shot, but nothing ever comes of it. Like last year, when Marquette had a chance to tie the game, down 67-64 with the ball and seven seconds left.

But during that game, there was never really a feeling that the Golden Eagles would be victorious — and with good reason. Senior guard Dwight Buycks turned it over on the final possession, and Marquette lost 69-64.

Then there are games like the Dec. 9, 2006 defeat. The Badgers were victorious at the Bradley Center, with senior forward Alando Tucker scoring 28 points in a 70-66 victory.

It seemed like Tucker couldn’t miss. It certainly had to be frustrating discovery for Marquette defenders assigned to Tucker. That was another game where although the end margin was only four (70-66), the Badgers were always in control.

Luckily, for Marquette fans, this isn’t a one-sided rivalry — as Marquette demonstrated in 2004 in a game I will never forget.

Senior guard Travis Diener was practically a one-man team that year and played the whole season hurt. He had a sprained ankle for this game but hid it well. His 29-point performance was one of the toughest I’ve ever seen. He willed Marquette to a 63-54 victory, and there are few moments that have made me more proud to be a Marquette Golden Eagle than watching Diener that game.

There were the back-to-back wins over the Badgers in 2007-’08 and 2008-’09. In ’07 Marquette went to the Kohl Center and scored 81 points in a five-point victory, then came back in ’08 and played Wisconsin’s game — a low scoring affair — which Marquette won 61-58 at the Bradley Center.

I’ll be at the Kohl Center Saturday, broadcasting the game on Marquette Radio with fellow columnist Andrei Greska. A Marquette vs. Wisconsin game itself is fun, but to broadcast it will be a joy. It may not be a Big East game, but the atmosphere is one of a kind, and no game will ever replace it.

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