There were many highs (the Brewers) and lows (the Packers, the Badgers) in the 2018 calendar year for Wisconsin sports fans, and also a lot of dunks (the Bucks). As we try to encapsulate it all, here’s the Wisconsin sports year in review:
THE BIGGEST STORIES
1. The Brewers have one of their best seasons ever. Winning a tiebreaker game over the Chicago Cubs on Oct. 1, the Brewers matched a franchise record with 96 wins and secured a surprise National League Central championship. Milwaukee went on to beat the Colorado Rockies in the divisional round of the playoffs and took the Los Angeles Dodgers to seven games in the NL Championship Series before a heartbreaking Game 7 defeat, 5-1, at Miller Park.
2. The Bucks’ new arena opens. We learned midway through 2018 that the new home of the Milwaukee Bucks would be called Fiserv Forum, and the venue (erected next door to the BMO Harris Bradley Center) was completed and opened in advance of the 2018-’19 NBA season.
3. The Packers fire just about everyone. In January, general manager Ted Thompson and defensive coordinator Dom Capers were among those asked to vacate their positions, with Thompson reassigned and Capers fired (and replaced by Brian Gutenkunst and Mike Pettine, respectively). In early December, head coach Mike McCarthy – who had held his position since 2006 – was fired following a loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The Packers missed the postseason in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2005-’06 and endured consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1990-’91.
4. Aaron Rodgers signs a new contract. The future Hall of Fame quarterback signed a four-year contract extension with the team that will keep him in Green Bay until he’s 40 years old.
5. Bucks fire Jason Kidd. Looking to be more than just an above-average NBA squad, the Bucks fired coach Jason Kidd midway through the season in January. He was replaced by assistant Joe Prunty, and the Bucks finished the year in the playoffs – falling in seven games to the Boston Celtics in the opening round.
6. Christian Yelich is National League MVP. The story begins Jan. 25, when Brewers general manager David Stearns signed free agent Lorenzo Cain and traded for Christian Yelich to bolster Milwaukee’s outfield. The two were instrumental in the Brewers’ huge year, and Yelich capped it with a torrid September and a near-unanimous selection as the National League MVP.
7. Sterling Brown files lawsuit against City of Milwaukee. Bucks reserve Sterling Brown was at the center of an off-the-court story that began with a late-night trip to Walgreens. Brown was tased when Milwaukee police confronted him for a parking violation, and body-camera footage shows the entire altercation. His lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department and the city claimed wrongful arrest and excessive force.
8. Badger football disappoints. The Sports Illustrated regional cover that showcased Wisconsin’s offensive linemen may live in infamy after the Badgers football team fell well short of expectations in 2018. Expected to compete for a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff, the Badgers instead lost five games and settled for a 35-3 victory over the Miami Hurricanes in the Pinstripe Bowl.
9. Wisconsin hoops shut out of NCAA Tournament. The Badgers basketball team didn’t make the 68-team NCAA field for the first time in 20 years, and Marquette missed out for the fourth time in five years. With UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee also falling well short, it was a strange March without a Wisconsin rooting interest. Both MU and UW are on track to get there in 2019, however.
10. The Bucks hire Mike Budenholzer, and a revolution begins. The hiring of coach Mike Budenholzer gave the Bucks a new look and a torrid start to the 2018-’19 season, with Giannis Antetokounmpo playing like an MVP and Milwaukee showing it can hang with the very best teams in the NBA, including the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors.
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo. He just turned 24 and continues to do otherworldly things for the Milwaukee Bucks, emerging as a transcendent talent who is the odds-on favorite to win the NBA MVP in 2018-’19.
2. Christian Yelich. The prized off-season acquisition had a September for the ages and became the NL MVP, lifting the Brewers on a run to the upper reaches of the playoffs.
3. Jonathan Taylor. The Doak Walker Award winner for the nation’s best running back, Taylor rushed for 2,194 yards, an average of 168.8 per game, with the Badgers as a sophomore. He’s already one of the greatest to carry the ball for UW.
4. Ethan Happ. The Badgers basketball senior big man took his game to another level in the early part of 2018-’19 and will be an All-American candidate.
5. Aaron Rodgers. Battling through injury and bouts of ineffectiveness (by his standards), Rodgers nonetheless remains one of the greatest quarterbacks in the league … and NFL history.
6. Josh Hader. The electric left-handed reliever for the Brewers was one of the key reasons Milwaukee relied so heavily on its bullpen. He struck out a staggering 15.8 batters per nine innings (143 Ks in 81 innings).
7. Davante Adams. The Packers wideout has been one of the saving graces of a struggling Green Bay squad, with 111 catches for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns (through Week 16), netting a selection to the Pro Bowl.
8. Lorenzo Cain. Solidifying Milwaukee’s outfield after signing as a free agent in January, Cain was good at just about every facet of the game, and if not for his teammate, he also may have been a top-notch NL MVP candidate.
9. Khris Middleton. Middleton was the No. 2 to Giannis on a blossoming Bucks team, but he did his best work in the postseason, when he shot 61 percent from three-point range (25 of 41) and 60 percent overall against the Celtics over seven games.
10. Markus Howard. The Marquette sharpshooter has scored 45 points twice already this season — against Kansas State and Buffalo — and averages 25 points per game. In January, he broke the school record for points in a game when he scored 52 against Providence on 17-of-23 shooting, including 11 of 19 on three-pointers.
Don’t forget:Allazia Blockton, Marquette women’s basketball star; Morgan McDonald, University of Wisconsin national cross-country champion; Jhoulys Chacin, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher; Beau Benzschawel, Badgers All-American offensive lineman
GAME OF THE YEAR
1. Game 163. The Brewers headed to Wrigley Field and landed a 3-1 win Oct. 1 in a tiebreaker for the National League Central, meaning the Brewers secured a franchise record-tying 96 wins and a division title. The Cubs subsequently lost in the wild-card game, and the Brewers advanced to Game 7 of the NLCS. In all, Milwaukee won 12 games in a row heading into Game 2 of the NLCS.
2. Packers stun the Bears. Galvanized by Aaron Rodgers, who left the game in the first half with a knee injury but returned in the second half, the Packers scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns and shocked the Chicago Bears in Week 1, 24-23. Randall Cobb’s 75-yard touchdown with 2:13 to go provided the winning points.
3. Game 4 of the NBA playoffs opening round. The Bucks tied their best-of-seven series with the Boston Celtics, 2-2, when Giannis Antetokounmpo tipped in the winning basket with 5 seconds left and lifted Milwaukee to a 104-102 triumph.
4. Marquette edges Wisconsin in OT. It wasn’t the prettiest game of the year, but it certainly helped the rivalry stay warm. Marquette beat the Badgers in the first game of the series at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, landing a 74-69 win in overtime despite 34 points and 11 rebounds by Ethan Happ.
5. Brewers win Game 1 of NLDS on walk-off. Milwaukee lost a late lead, but midseason acquisition Mike Moustakas delivered the walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th as the Brewers won the tone-setting opening game of the NLDS against the Rockies, 3-2.
6. Christian Yelich hits for the cycle. On Aug. 29, the Brewers won a wild game against the Cincinnati Reds, 13-12, in which Yelich hit for the first of his two cycles in the final month-plus of the season. The Brewers also rallied from down, 10-6, to win in extra innings.
7. Kimberly-Fond du Lac (Parts I and II). The nation’s longest high school football winning streak ended in Week 1 of the 2018 season when Fond du Lac’s Jared Scheberl kicked a 26-yard field goal as time expired, lifting his team past powerhouse Kimberly, 31-28. But Kimberly got its revenge in the state semifinals, going for a two-point conversion in overtime for a 22-21 win.
8. Wisconsin shocks Purdue. The Badgers basketball team struggled in 2018, but it landed a major upset when No. 6 Purdue came to the Kohl Center and fell, 57-53, on a February night when the Badgers retired the jersey of Frank Kaminsky.
9. Bucks crush Golden State. It happened while many people were sleeping, but the Bucks went to the home of the reigning NBA champs Nov. 8 and crushed Golden State, 134-111, in a demonstration of what the Bucks are capable of.
10. Whitnall/Pewaukee boys basketball sectional final. In a sold-out New Berlin West gym – with numerous fans turned away at the door – Whitnall’s Tyler Herro played his final high school game in a thriller March 8, scoring 24 points with 16 rebounds. Pewaukee’s Grant Basile, a Wright State recruit, finished with 29 and 23, including the game-winner with 17 seconds left after he badly injured his ankle moments earlier. Herro now plays for Kentucky.
BEST YEAR FOR A SCONNIE
1. Arike Ogunbowale (Milwaukee). The Divine Savior Holy Angels graduate became a national story when she hit not one but two buzzer-beaters in the Final Four, lifting Notre Dame past Connecticut and then to a stunning national championship. She appeared on “Ellen,” heard from hero Kobe Bryant and then appeared on reality television sensation “Dancing With the Stars.” And that was just her junior year.
2. J.J. Watt (Pewaukee). The Houston Texans star was presented with a number of awards for his charity work in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and he was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year by the NFL. He also recovered from a catastrophic leg injury to return to dominance on the field. His 14½ sacks are among the league’s best.
3. Craig Counsell (Whitefish Bay). He managed his hometown Milwaukee Brewers to within one game of the World Series, and he took second in the NL manager of the year vote.
4. Jarred Kelenic (Waukesha). The Waukesha West graduate was taken No. 6 overall in the Major League Baseball draft in June by the New York Mets, becoming the highest Wisconsin product selected out of high school. He was also part of a massive trade that sent him to the Seattle Mariners this off-season.
5. Members of the U.S. women’s hockey team. From Dousman native Brianna Decker and Madison’s Amanda Kessel to Hartland’s Alex Rigsby and University of Wisconsin products Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight, Wisconsin was all over the gold medal performance in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
6. Matt Hamilton (McFarland). Hamilton became a winter sensation when he led the United States men’s curling team to Olympic gold, a stunning “Miracurl on Ice.”
7. Jordan Poole (Milwaukee). He nailed a memorable game-winning shot for Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, and now he’s a key cog for a Wolverines basketball team that is among the best in the nation.
8. Ryan Ramczyk (Stevens Point). Ramczyk has become a fixture on the offensive line of the New Orleans Saints, a team that won 13 of its first 15 games and secured home-field advantage in the upcoming NFC playoffs.
9. T.J. Watt (Pewaukee). The brother of J.J. has made his own name, helping the Pittsburgh Steelers with an impressive sophomore season. With one game to go, he had 12 sacks, 61 tackles and four forced fumbles for a team that clinched a playoff spot in Week 16.
10. Allazia Blockton (Milwaukee). The Whitefish Bay Dominican product became Big East Player of the Year with Marquette University last season and this season surpassed the school’s all-time scoring mark.
Don’t forget: Beau Benzschawel, All-American offensive lineman at UW (Grafton); Joe Schobert, Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl linebacker (Waukesha); Kevon Looney, member of champion Golden State Warriors (Milwaukee); Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers running back (Kenosha); Sam Hauser, Marquette men’s basketball (Stevens Point); Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays catcher (Appleton); Rose Namajunas, UFC fighter (Milwaukee)
1. Brewers fall in Game 7 of the NLCS. After getting so close to their first World Series since 1982, the Brewers were left on the doorstep with a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers in Game 7 of the NLCS at Miller Park.
2. The Packers struggle mightily … even with Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers sustained a knee injury in Week 1 that may have lingered, though the Packers did still have the use of their superstar quarterback. But it wasn’t the same. The Packers still endured a woeful season that featured coach Mike McCarthy getting fired with four games to play and playoff elimination with two to go.
3. Badger football falls to BYU. In an omen of things to come, the sixth-ranked Badgers fell to BYU at Camp Randall Stadium in a upset, 24-21, with a last-second field goal sailing wide. Wisconsin went on to lose four more times in the regular season, falling well short of preseason expectations to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
4. Bucks fall in Game 7. After battling toe-to-toe with the Celtics for seven games, Milwaukee was handled in Game 7 against Boston in the opening round of the NBA playoffs, falling by a 112-96 score. The Bucks haven’t won a playoff series since 2001.
5. No Wisconsin teams make the NCAA Tournament. For the first time since 1998, no Wisconsin-based men’s basketball team reached the NCAA Tournament. For the Badgers, it was the interruption of a 19-year streak of making the Big Dance.
6. Josh Hader’s tweets. The Brewers landed five players in baseball’s All-Star Game, but the experience was marred by the unearthing of offensive tweets from the past of reliever Josh Hader.
7. The Packers lose to Arizona and fire their coach. Even with the Packers struggling, they still might have been a playoff contender if they could have beaten the worst offense in the league, Arizona, at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2. It didn’t happen, with Mason Crosby’s late field goal missing the mark, and the Packers fired coach Mike McCarthy in the aftermath.
8. The Jonathan Schoop trade. One of the Brewers’ midseason acquisitions was Jonathan Schoop, an infielder from Baltimore, with Milwaukee sending Jonathan Villar and two promising minor-leaguers to the Orioles. But Schoop struggled mightily, and rather than pay his $10 million salary for 2019, Milwaukee elected to non-tender Schoop. The Brewers were also unsuccessful trying to land Schoop’s old Orioles teammate, Manny Machado, who became part of the Dodgers team that beat the Brewers in the NLCS.
9. Bucks cut ties with Jabari Parker. The second overall pick in the 2014 draft was beset by injuries and ultimately didn’t fit in with the rest of Milwaukee’s ensemble. In July, after he signed an offer sheet with the Chicago Bulls, the Bucks elected to let him go.
10. Jordy Nelson departs. The Packers said goodbye to one of their staples over the past 10 years when they released Nelson, who eventually signed with the Oakland Raiders.
1.“They know they have a problem tomorrow.” – Brewers first baseman Jesús Aguilar, referring to the Chicago Cubs, after Milwaukee closed the season with a win over Detroit and forced a Game 163 for the NL Central title.
2. “I’ve never been in this spot. I’m not going to act like I know what the hell I’m gonna do tomorrow when we get in here.” – Packers coach Mike McCarthy, after his team suffered a 20-17 setback against lowly Arizona. McCarthy was fired hours later.
3. “I said, ‘If you get one, do you really need to get both?’ His answer, which was immediate, was, ‘Well if I can get one, it just makes me want to get the other one even more.’ ” – Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, recalling conversations with general manager David Stearns as the team got closer to acquiring Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich.
4. “Who? I don’t even know who the (expletive) that is.” – Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe, when asked about his playoff matchup with Boston’s Terry Rozier.
5. “When you have majority Cubs fans in the stands, I don’t know if that’s a rivalry yet. I’ve been in rivalries. They’re not going to like me for the comment, but you can look at the ticket sales.” — Cubs pitcher Cole Hamels, who ignited the passions of Brewers fans by suggesting the Brewers-Cubs matchup doesn’t live up to the standard of a “rivalry.”
6. “Now back it up.” — Paul Chryst, Badgers head football coach, when asked what he thought of his five offensive linemen on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
7. “We were discussing the Canadian dollar and flawed systems in our two governments. He was coming from a different side of it and we were just discussing those kinds of things.” — Brewers catcher Erik Kratz, when asked about an on-field dispute with Reds slugger (and native Canadian) Joey Votto.
8. “Just tried a corndog for the first time…Man God Bless America!” — Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in a June tweet, recreating his 2014 “God Bless America” sentiment after trying his first smoothie.
9. “I am completely shutting down my recruitment.” — Heralded Badgers quarterback recruit Graham Mertz, reaffirming his commitment in June despite heavy interest from other programs
10. “Of course he’s such a laugh-out loud bad fielder he might as well stay in the dugout during defensive innings.” — ESPN pundit Keith Olbermann, tweeting about Brewers first baseman Jesús Aguilar (a tweet that brought many Brewers fans rushing to Aguilar’s defense).
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
1. Christian Yelich. Acquired by the Brewers in January, he went on to become NL MVP.
2. Mike Budenholzer. The new Bucks coach appears to have transformed Milwaukee from a good team with a budding superstar to a league powerhouse.
3. Lorenzo Cain. Acquired the same day as Yelich, he was a spark plug for the 96-win Brewers.
4. Jaire Alexander. The first-round draft pick looks like a star in the making in the Packers secondary.
5. Jhoulys Chacin. The sneaky-huge off-season signing became the Brewers’ ace starter by season’s end.
6. Brook Lopez. The off-season acquisition looks like a big man, but he can light it up from three-point range, and he’s been a huge boost to the Bucks.
7. Freddy Peralta. His Mother’s Day debut was a remarkable feel-good story, and he wound up flashing some serious potential as just a 21-year-old starting pitcher.
8. Corbin Burnes. The top pitching prospect will be a starter in the long term, but he was a major addition to the Brewers bullpen during the club’s playoff run.
9. Joey Hauser. The freshman Marquette University big man is third on the team in scoring already.
10. Jake Ferguson. The redshirt freshman tight end led the Badgers in receptions (34) and receiving touchdowns (4), amassing 441 yards through the air before the bowl game.
Jim Taylor, Packers legend
Red Schoendienst, Milwaukee Braves player, MLB Hall of Famer
Davey Nelson, Brewers coach, TV personality
Rob Picciolo, Brewers player
Ron Curry, Marquette basketball player
Mike Heideman, UW-Green Bay, St. Norbert’s men’s basketball coach
Steve Adlard, Marquette men’s soccer coach
Fred Carr, Packers player
George Andrie, Marquette football player
Ben Agajanian, Packers player
Grant Wittberger, Marquette men’s basketball player
Gene Berce, Marquette men’s basketball player
Jason Johnson, race car driver killed at Beaver Dam raceway
Jim Victor, race car driver killed at Road America
1. Woodruff homers off Kershaw. Game 1 of the NLCS provided a remarkable moment for surprise starter Brandon Woodruff, who took Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw deep for a blast that paid dividends when the Brewers survived, 6-5. At the time, the shocking solo boomer off the future Hall of Famer tied the game, 1-1.
2. Randall Cobb’s 75-yard TD catch. Green Bay’s 24-23 win over the Chicago Bears featured three fourth-quarter touchdowns, with the last a long catch and run by Randall Cobb that gave the Packers an uplifting Week 1 win.
3. Arike’s winners. Divine Savior Holy Angels graduate Arike Ogunbowale pulled off the nearly impossible, finding herself in position to hit game-winning shots in both the national semifinal against powerhouse Connecticut and again in the national final against Mississippi State. The Notre Dame junior hit both.
4. Giannis over Tim Hardaway. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has had a number of impressive dunks in his career, but jumping over 6-foot-6 Tim Hardaway for a slam at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks? It’ll be hard to forget that one.
5. Christian Yelich’s second homer vs. Detroit. Miller Park reached frenzy status at several points during the Brewers’ push for the playoffs, and this moment is perhaps the loudest the stadium got. In a win the Brewers had to have on the penultimate day of the season, his go-ahead blast in the seventh inning gave the Brewers a 6-5 win. Yelich was suddenly in the Triple Crown conversation with one game to play.
6. The Game 4 tip-in from Giannis. The Bucks tied their playoff series with the Boston Celtics at 2-2 when Giannis Antetokounmpo tipped in Malcolm Brogdon’s miss with 5 seconds to play, and Milwaukee prevailed, 104-102.Can someone get this man a taco?
7. Jordan Poole lifts Michigan. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament didn’t have any Wisconsin basketball teams, but it did have Milwaukeean Jordan Poole, whose deep three-point heave as time expired saved Michigan in the second round against Houston. The Wolverines wound up reaching the title game.
8. Aguilar walks it off. The Brewers season was still young and Jesús Aguilar was still crafting his place in franchise lore when he came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth against the Miami Marlins. In an epic at-bat against Junichi Tazawa, Aguilar hit the 13th pitch he saw over the fence in right-center for a walk-off homer and a 6-5 Brewers win. It was his first homer of the season; he hit 34 more.
9. Markus Howard goes off for 52 points. Including some huge baskets in overtime that helped Marquette prevail, 95-90, over Providence on Jan. 3, sophomore Markus Howard set the Marquette single-game scoring record with 52 points.
10. The Hader Eight. Josh Hader had a breakout season, but nothing could top what he accomplished in recording a 2 2/3-inning save against the Reds. He became the first player in MLB history to navigate eight outs and record all via strikeout (with one walk mixed in), helping the Brewers notch a 6-5 win.
HERE ARE FIVE MORE GIANNIS DUNKS FROM 2018. YOU’RE WELCOME
1. Oh hi, Blake Griffin add another if there’s an outrageous one
2. Hammer vs. Nets
3. RIP Aron Baynes (playoff edition)
4. RIP Kosta Koufos
5. Vicious alley-oop