Wisconsin in transition as successful seniors depart

Wisconsin in transition as successful seniors depart
Wisconsin guard Zak Showalter (3) puts up a 3-point shot against Florida to tie the game with 2.5 seconds left in regulation of an East Regional semifinal game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 25, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Zak Showalter and Ethan Happ walked quietly down the middle of the court, arm in arm, away from Florida’s celebration of a last-second victory.

This NCAA Tournament loss is going to sting for a while for the Wisconsin Badgers.

Decorated four-year careers for Showalter and his fellow seniors ended with an 84-83 loss in overtime to the Gators in the Sweet 16. Happ, a sophomore, will carry the memory with him into next season as the next focal point for the Badgers.

The seniors ”have helped push us forward, this program forward, and it’s in good hands and a good position as they exit,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said early Saturday morning after the loss in New York.

What a run it was for Showalter, Vitto Brown, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig.

The senior class amassed 115 wins, equaling the school’s highest 4-year total. The foursome, along with sophomore big man Happ, formed the starting five since the start of the 2015 season.

Hayes and Koenig, in particular, have played prominent roles since their freshman seasons, when they were important reserves on a team led by Frank Kaminsky that went to the Final Four. They started as sophomores when the Badgers lost to Duke in the national title game. In tight situations, the ball was usually in the hands of either Hayes or Koenig.

Perhaps the outcome might have been different against Florida had Koenig had not been slowed by a…