* 2000: #8 Wisconsin vs #1 Arizona (66-59 2nd Rnd)
Wisconsin was awarded an at-large-bid after finishing 8-8 in the Big 10 and winning 5 of their last 6 games despite a mid-season slump. Arizona was in the preseason Top 10 and continued to climb the rankings throughout the season with impressive non-conference wins over Kentucky, Texas and Michigan St and strong conference play finishing 1st place in the Pac-10. The Wildcats were hungry for a deep run after being upset the year before as a #4 seed in the first round. However, Wisconsin’s methodical pace of play and stifling defense was the difference maker as Arizona committed 17 turnovers and failed to score 60 points for the first time all season. The Wildcats’ top scorer Michael Wright was held to only 2 points and as a team shot poorly from behind the arc (5-19). The victory put the Badgers in the Sweet 16 for the first time in almost 60 years. They would continue their winning ways by beating LSU and Purdue to make it to the Final Four before losing to Big Ten rival and eventual national champion Michigan St. The improbable run by Wisconsin set the tone for years to come as they would go on to make the tournament 17 consecutive years with much success.
* 2001: #11 Georgia St vs #6 Wisconsin (50-49 1st Rnd)
Georgia St head coach Lefty Driesell (HOF) was in his 39th year of coaching basketball and had over 700 career wins under his belt. His team had lost only 4 games and was riding a 7 game win streak entering the tournament. The Badgers had an interim head coach, Brad Soderberg, who had taken over after the third game of the season. Wisconsin was headed in the wrong direction having lost 3 of their last 4 games. None the less, the Badgers had the second best defense in the country allowing only 56.8 points a game and an experienced roster who had been to the Final Four the year before. The Panthers’ explosive offense averaged 81 points per game but finding points against this opponent would be a struggle. Wisconsin led 28-12 late in the first half but Georgia St was able to trim it to 30-19 at the half. With a minute left, the Badgers lead was 49-44 but a four-point play, steal and jump shot gave the Panthers their first lead, 50-49, since the opening minutes. Wisconsin’s top scorer Mark Vershaw had a chance to take the lead back but missed two free throws. Driesell and Georgia St had found a way to a miraculous victory and the biggest win in school history. However, it was all bitter sweet as the Panthers would lose their next game to #3 Maryland, the school that fired Driesell 15 years earlier.