By Drew Olson Special to Published Feb 25, 2008 at 5:05 AM

Based on the record number of tickets sold Saturday, along with the less scientific indicators of "buzz" -- water cooler talk, barber shop banter, newspaper and TV coverage, sports talk radio attention -- Wisconsin sports fans are pretty excited about the Brewers' upcoming season.

That's understandable.

The Brewers have a young, up-and-coming group of players who missed the playoffs by two games last year. The fan base, which hasn't celebrated a playoff run in a quarter-century, is eager for the Boys of Summer to come north.

That's fine.

But, what about the boys of winter?

The first portion of the college basketball season in Wisconsin was overshadowed by the Packers' surprising run to the NFC Championship Game. While the Brewers are garnering attention from 2,000 miles away, basketball junkies are thoroughly enjoying the exploits of Marquette, Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee.

No. 24 Marquette, which pounded Rutgers Saturday at the Bradley Center, faces a tough nationally-televised game tonight at Villanova and a highly-anticipated home matchup Saturday against Georgetown.

With 20 victories in the bank, the Golden Eagles have virtually assured their trip to the NCAA tournament. With two victories this week, they could be heading toward a No. 4 seeding in the tournament.

Experts always say that guard play is pivotal during March Madness and MU coach Tom Crean has more depth at the position than just about anybody in the nation.

Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, David Cubillan and Maurice Acker have speed to burn and can give other teams fits when they make their outside shots. McNeal, who seemed adrift at times a few weeks ago, was spectacular against Rutgers and is the tone-setter on the floor for the Golden Eagles, who are getting a late-season boost from freshman Trevor Mbakwe.

Crean talked about how his veteran players are showing accountability and "taking ownership" in the program. That has translated into the coaches saying less at practice and players talking more on the defensive end.

Wisconsin, which squeaked past Ohio State on Sunday, is ranked 11th in the nation and will play rival Michigan State this week. The Badgers have gotten contributions from all corners of the starting lineup in recent weeks, but Brian Butch and Joe Krabbenhoft will be in the spotlight down the stretch.

The Panthers, who have overcome five years' worth of turmoil since November, square off against Valparaiso tonight at the U.S. Cellular Arena. Marcus Skinner, whose rise from obscurity to fan favorite is one of the more surprising developments of the season, is the kind of high energy, max-effort player that gives opposing teams fits.

At this time of year, cabin fever is running rampant and it's perfectly OK to look forward to baseball. Just don't wait until the brackets come out to start paying attention to college basketball.

There is too much fun to be had in the next few weeks.

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.