MADISON -Ten years ago when the University of Wisconsin was fortunate to open the NCAA tournament 80 miles away at the Bradley Center, the Badgers – fresh off a Big Ten tournament championship – weren't able to escape the opening weekend.
Despite not having the champion label, No.12 Wisconsin is hoping for much better odds this time around.
Continuing its program-record of 16 straight NCAA Tournament appearances (tied for the fourth longest current streak in the nation), Wisconsin (26-7) was rewarded for its superb resume and difficult strength of schedule with a No.2 seed in the West Region, opening play Thursday against 15th-seed American in Milwaukee.
Oregon and No.10 BYU with that winner going to the Sweet 16 in Anaheim, California. Times for all the opening round games will be released tonight.
Florida (South), Wichita State (Midwest), Arizona (West) and Virginia (East) were named the four number one seeds, with the Gators named the tournament's overall top seed after an undefeated run through the SEC regular season and tournament.
Florida enters the tournament with 32 wins and two losses, one of which came at UW, 59-53, in November. Wisconsin also beat Virginia, 48-38, in December in Charlottesville.
Finishing in the top 10 in the RPI, with the nation's third-toughest schedule, Wisconsin went 6-2 against AP Top 25 teams and set a program record for wins away from the Kohl Center, going 12-4 overall, (8-3 on the road, 4-1 in neutral sites).
Playing in Milwaukee seemed like a pipe dream roughly eight weeks ago when the Badgers were in the midst of losing five of six games, but UW recovered to win eight of its last nine to finish the regular season in a tie for second place in the Big Ten, the 13th time in 13 seasons that the Badgers finished in fourth place or better in the Big Ten under UW coach Bo Ryan.
This will be the first meeting between UW and American (20-12, 13-5 Patriot), which earned an automatic bid to the tournament with a 55-36 win over Boston University in the Patriot League championship game on March 12.
Wisconsin is 5-0 against the Patriot League. UW joins five other Big Ten teams (No.2 Michigan, No.4 Michigan State, No.6 Ohio State, No.11 Iowa and No.11 Nebraska) in the 68-team field.
The Badgers are 25-18 in 19 previous appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the Badgers earned a five seed, but were upset by SEC tournament champion Ole Miss, 57-46, in the opening round in Kansas City, Mo., last season. It was the first time that UW lost in the opening round since 2006.
Wisconsin opened the 2004 NCAA tournament at the Bradley Center as in comeback fashion, erasing a 13-point second-half deficit, to beat No.11-seed Richmond, 74-62, but fell to third-seeded Pittsburgh two nights later, 59-55.
"It's good to be close to home but we got to show up when the ball is tipped," said senior Ben Brust. "Everyone is going to bring it in March, so we have to prepare the same way we always have."