Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wisconsin's Other Dynasty

If I asked you to name the most successful college basketball program in Wisconsin over the last 20 years, which team would you choose?  Would you guess the Wisconsin Badgers under Bo Ryan and Dick Bennett?  Would you pick the Marquette Warriors/Golden Eagles with Buzz Schneider and Tom Crean?  Nice picks, but the most successful college basketball program in Wisconsin over the last 20 years has the been the UWGB Lady Phoenix.

Twelve consecutive 20-win seasons, 12 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, 13 straight Horizon League Regular Season Championships, a 34-win season, a Sweet Sixteen appearance and now--for the first time in program history--a Top Ten ranking.  The Lady Phoenix have enjoyed this run of success under three head coaches--starting with Carol Hammerle (who built the program up from its Division II roots back in the early 80's to its first NCAA Tournament bid)--to Kevin Borseth (who got the program its first Tournament victory)--to current Heach Coach Matt Bollant (who got the Phoenix to their first Sweet Sixteen--pushing Number One Seed Baylor to the limit last year).

And now, the Lady Phoenix are enjoying their best season ever.  Undefeated at 19-0--just one of two teams without a loss in Division 1 as we head into February.  And it looks like they won't have to play their early NCAA Tournament games on some other team's home court (a policy that continues to hurt the competitive balance of the Women's Tourney).

All of this success has been built with ladies coming from right here in Wisconsin--usually from just Northeast Wisconsin.  In how many other states are a Big Ten and a Big East program also-rans when it comes to getting some of the top girl's basketball recruits every year?  By the way, it's been a few years since either the Badgers or the Golden Eagles have beaten GB in their annual matchups.

Despite all of the success, the Lady Phoenix still play fourth or fifth fiddle in local sportscasts--buried behind the Packers, the Badgers, the NFL Draft, Boys High School hoops and fishing or hunting--but their time to get top billing is finally here.  Their games are carried live on our sister station 107.5 FM The Fan--and the Horizon League also streams most of its games live on its website.  There won't be any dunks or many fancy passes.  But what you will see or hear is some of the best basketball in the state.

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