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4 Wisconsin teams are on their way to March Madness

The Marquette and Wisconsin Badgers men's and Marquette and UW-Green Bay women's teams have made it to the first round

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The NCAA March Madness logo is seen on a bench chairs
The NCAA March Madness logo is seen on a bench chairs during a First Four game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament between Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Texas Southern, Tuesday, March 15, 2022, in Dayton, Ohio. Texas Southern won 76-67. Aaron Doster/AP Photo

Get your brackets ready. Four Wisconsin teams are headed to college basketball’s ultimate arena, the NCAA Tournament.

The Marquette and Wisconsin Badgers men’s teams and the Marquette and UW-Green Bay women’s teams are each vying to win it all.

“Morning Edition” host Alex Crowe chatted with JR Radcliffe, a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who is covering the tournament.

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This interview has been edited for clarity.

Alex Crowe: Let’s start with the team that probably has the best chance to raise a championship banner this year, the Marquette men’s team. However, they have had a lot of injuries as of late. What is it this team needs to do to make a deep run in the tournament this year?

JR Radcliffe: I mean, I think you said it with the injury. It’s whether or not Tyler Kolek is fully healthy. Pretty serious oblique injury that’s held him out since late February. He hasn’t played at all in the month of March. They were extra cautious, and now it’s just a matter of seeing how strong he’s going to be.

If he’s healthy, they have as good a chance as anybody. I mean, a No. 2 seed is pretty highly regarded. I think Marquette has a good chance to get to the second weekend at the very least and maybe beyond that.

Marquette's Tyler Kolek celebrates with his teammates.
Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, center, the tournament’s most outstanding player, celebrates with his teammates after winning an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier for the championship of the Big East men’s tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2023, in New York. John Minchillo/AP Photo

AC: Let’s talk about a team that if you asked me a few months ago, I would have said they definitely could be competing for a title. Maybe one month ago, I would have said absolutely not. Then after the Big Ten tournament, who knows what’s going on with the Badger’s men’s team right now? They got a tough draw against James Madison. How do they match up against them? What are the Badgers have to do to keep this momentum going?

JRR: Yeah, total roller coaster. James Madison isn’t a huge team. They don’t have a ton of size. They’re not a team that has a very difficult schedule. Their record is exceptional — they’re one of the rare teams with 30 wins. You know, getting into the NCAA Tournament, that’s pretty eye popping.

And a lot of people are picking that as an upset pick. I would say that outside of a game against Michigan State really early in the season — and this isn’t James Madison’s fault — but they haven’t played anybody to the level that Wisconsin has played.

Wisconsin has truly tested over the course of the season. And James Madison upset Michigan State. So I think Wisconsin looks at that and has to still think of themselves as the better team. They’re proven — they’ve beaten a ton of great teams this season.

I am not as worried, I guess as other people seem to be thinking, that this is such a popular upset pick. I do think Wisconsin has turned a corner and I do think they’re going to show pretty well in this first round game.

The Kohl Center, home of the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team,
The Kohl Center, home of the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team, before an NCAA college game between Wisconsin and Purdue Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Madison, Wis. Andy Manis/AP Photo

AC: Let’s hope so. Let’s move on to the women’s tournament. Marquette ended up getting a 10 seed, but they’ve got a tough draw. They have to play Ole Miss. What has Marquette done well to get to the tournament and what do they need to do to get past Ole Mass?

JRR: They’ve been a solid tournament level team most of the season. They have a player named Liza Karlen, who took a massive step forward this year to become a first-team All-Big East performer. She’s averaging more than 17 points per game. But they’re definitely the underdog here.

Ole Miss has beat the No. 1 seed last year and they’re in the tournament. They’re certainly a competent team, and they’re going to be favored to win, but you never know. This is the time of year when these sorts of things happen.

And Marquette can play knowing that there aren’t any expectations here. Just go out, play and maybe pull an upset.

AC: Another team from Wisconsin who got a tough draw in the women’s tournament would be UW-Green Bay. That get to play Tennessee. How do they match up against Green Bay? How does UW-Green Bay get out of this thing alive?

JRR: UW-Green Bay is what it always is. It’s a ton of kids from the state of Wisconsin. Nobody has scored more than, like, 13 points a game. Great defense, great all around team. They consistently figure a way to make this work for them.

This is their first tournament since 2018. They built a little bit of a mini empire over the years in Wisconsin, and they have some history of getting into the second round. It would be a surprise if they beat Tennessee, but I don’t know if it would be as shocking to me even though they have a lower seed than Marquette.

I think UW-GB has this in them. And they had a tremendous showing in their Horizon League Final beating a high seeded Cleveland State team. So they’re playing some pretty good basketball right now.

They’re led by Natalie McNeal, who played at Germantown High School. I’m feeling OK about UW-GB and it would certainly open people’s eyes if Tennessee lost in the first round.

AC: Which of these four teams have a chance to make the Sweet 16, maybe a little bit more of a run?

JRR: The easy answer, of course, is the Marquette men. They have, I think, a favorable draw. They are hungry. They’re loaded with talent. If everybody’s healthy, this is a deeply talented team.

I haven’t even said the name Kameron Jones. He’s a leading scorer, he’s excellent. A potential NBA player down the line as well. They’ve got three bonafide NBA-caliber players on this team. You can’t say that about a lot of Marquette teams. That’s a pretty high-level talent.

There’s so much chaos, though, in the men’s tournament there. I mean we’ve had seven seeds, eight seeds, nine seeds getting through to the final stages. It’s very difficult to predict, but I would certainly put my money on Marquette if I’m putting money on anyone.

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