Listen to Dick Bennett’s one-on-one conversation with host Jay Sorgi about his team which surprised the basketball world, a Wisconsin Badgers team which started the 2000 NCAA Tournament as an eight seed and ended it in the Final Four after three upset victories.
Transcription services provided by eCourt Reporters
JAY SORGI: The road that you took to get to the Final Four, and it was a road that under the first, as you said, two-thirds of the season, it was just over 500 for this Badgers team, Early in February, you lose to Ohio State, ranked No. 5 in the country. For those of us on the outside looking in and back at that season, it looked like — if you look at the schedule — a road game win at Minnesota became a turning point, later in that month a win against Iowa became a major turning point where it just seemed like the light turned on, snap, and all of a sudden, this team gets on fire.
COACH BENNETT: Well, I’ve said before, if you had — certain teams — I haven’t had — I didn’t have very many in my — all of my years, even at the high school and Stevens Point, Green Bay, Wisconsin, that a group somehow without — without any inspirational messages, without a system that was superb, without anything but their own coming together. I don’t think I had much to do with it, but they were such good people. If ever the — the maturing of a good group of people who had learned from their losses, it was this group. They — they synthesized — whatever the full meaning of that word is — but the synergy that came kind of — it was kind of translated into great defensive effort. A lot of grit, a lot of hustle, a lot of intelligence on defense. And they just simply willed their way in every game they played, pretty much. And it would take an opponent who had that same kind of grit with perhaps a little more talent to beat us. And if they didn’t have that kind of will, then I thought we might have a chance to win that game. And we did win one of them against Purdue. And then, of course, Michigan State was the one who, I’ve said before a number of times, probably the best Final Four team I have seen in my coaching time.
JAY SORGI: What was that moment like for you when you finally realized, “Okay, we’re there. We are actually doing this. We’re actually going to the Final Four”? What thoughts and what words were going through your mind? What did your face look like as — in terms of the beaming smile or whatever it may have happened to have been when you realized this is real, this is happening?
COACH BENNETT: You know what, that’s the one time you don’t think very clearly. You’ll even — you’re only going with your feeling and it is that euphoria that is kind of unmatched and you don’t have words for it.
I experienced it last year when Virginia won the whole thing. And, in fact, it was Andy Katz, a Wisconsin grad, asked me, “What — what do you have to say about this?” I said, “I don’t have words that could match what I’m feeling.” And that is exactly what happens when you experience it, you say, “Is this real?”
Sometimes you have a really bad experience and you — you kind of come to an awareness, and say, “Is this real?” Well, the same thing happens sometimes when it’s a great experience. And, truly, that’s what happened. You go through the motions. They say, “Well, Coach, it’s your turn to go up and cut a snip of the net,” and you sort of do it and everybody is smiling and hugging and kissing and jumping around. And
it’s — it’s just — it will always be a treasured memory even if you can’t capture that same feeling again.
Listen for much more of Bennett 2000 Final Four run experience with Jay Sorgi above.