Other than to say it has been warm and humid here in Mexico this week, I will avoid any further weather details as Bo Ryan's basketball team as it makes its way back home after playing in the Cancun Challenge.
Tropical conditions aside, the competition continues to be serious for the Badgers, with more of the same on the horizon next week. After returning to Madison, the Badgers will hit the road next Wednesday to play Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Three days later, Marquette comes to the Kohl Center.
Not exactly Cupcake City for this group.
I have to say I am eager to get home -- cold weather and all -- as the Badgers football team prepares for its home finale against Penn State.
While there will be no Big Ten championship game for this year's team, there is much at stake this Saturday. The Badgers are vying to go unbeaten at home for the third time in four years. A 10th win would make it four years out of five that Wisconsin has hit double digits in victories. The seniors are looking for a 24th conference win, which would be the most in a four-year span.
Talk about consistency. That defines this senior class. A low-maintenance group that wins and wins the right way. Good students. Leaders on the field. Leaders in the community.
Not a bad way to represent your university.
As always, emotions will run high before, during and after Saturday's game. It is always interesting to talk to players before that last home appearance. They realize the clock is ticking, but you get the impression some of them would love to call a timeout.
"I don't really want to think about it," said linebacker Ethan Armstrong. "I'm still in the denial stage. Maybe I will figure out a way to have one more year."
Like many on this team, it has been a wild ride for Armstrong, who has battled through numerous injuries to carve out an excellent college career. Not that he has taken a ton of time to think about it.
"I'll probably appreciate it when I'm old, fat and retired," Armstrong said with a smile.
Coming off one of the coldest games in Wisconsin football history, there is at least one player who is rooting for Old Man Winter to make another appearance.
"I've been telling guys that I would be happy if it snowed for our last game," said Conor O'Neill of Delray Beach, Fla. Yeah, that is correct -- a Florida native wants snow this Saturday.
"I think it would be fitting for our senior class. We haven't played in a real snow game."
For the record, the last time I can remember a measureable snowfall for UW football was the 1994 spring game. The players started having snowball fights during the game. But let Conor have his dream, OK?
Snow or no snow. Bitter cold or relatively mild, it is another huge game for the Badgers. Senior Day alone makes it big, but with the home team still jockeying for position in the BCS standings, it is one more chance to make an impression on the voters.
Those folks should be impressed with what they have seen the last two months. It is a hungry team that is winning in dominant fashion.
"It starts with the guys in the locker room," said Armstrong. "They expect to be great, and they demand that of themselves and of this team. The coaching staff does as well. Of themselves and of this team."
Quarterback Curt Phillips agrees. He has appeared in just two games this season, but Phillips is as respected as anyone in the program. And he has nothing but respect for what he has seen in the last year.
"Coach Andersen and his staff, and the spark they provided," Phillips said. "Coach Alvarez holding down the fort with everything he did last year to coach us in the Rose Bowl. It is special."
So is this senior class. Winners in every way. I look forward to seeing them play in front of the home crowd one more time.
It was a big weekend for the Badgers with not much
excitement but the games themselves. It was frigid cold in Grand Forks (the wind chill was -27 when we woke up Saturday), and the
cold weather outside helped us stay focused in to the task at hand. We had a
lot of down time with two late night games, but it was good to get extra
recovery time, and also have consistency in our schedule over the weekend with
games being at the same time each night.
Friday night was a good, tough battle, and Alex Rigsby
stood tough for us between the pipes all the way through the end, shutting UND
out not only in the game and overtime, but also during the three player
shootout. Junior forward Blayre Turnbull executed an awesome move as the final
shooter to capture the shootout win and allow us to skate through the first
night winning an extra point. The first game was good, and it was nice to walk
away with an extra point, but after the game we agreed as a team we could come
We rallied together after Friday's game and came out
flying Saturday night. We played as a team, executed well and took advantage of
the chances that came our way. Junior forward Karley Sylvester scored a huge
shorthanded goal to put us ahead, and capitalizing in the third period on a few
power play opportunities allowed for us to end the night on top 3-1. We played
great as a team overall in Grand Forks, and walking away with 5 out of 6 points
on the road, especially in a place like North Dakota is something we are very
happy with as a team.
We enjoyed the victory on the plane, and also celebrated
a bit with the women's volleyball team (who swept over the weekend vs. Michigan
State and Michigan) as we picked them up at the airport after their bus broke down.
It was a
great weekend, and it was nice to spend the off day Sunday relaxing, and also
catching up on the release of the hot new Hunger Games film. Most of the team
made their way over to the theater at some point Sunday to see the movie, and
all were in agreement that it was worth the price of admission. Following the
Hunger Games, a number of us relaxed while doing homework and also watching the
American Music Awards.
The weekend was a success, but the work is not done yet.
The team hits the ice again Monday to go to work in preparation for the
upcoming games in Duluth. It is a tough stretch of games on the road, with each
and every point weighing heavily on our status heading into the holiday break. The team looks forward to preparing this week to take care of business
in Duluth, and we hope to keep the train rolling as we continue on to our
ultimate goal. Until next time, thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!
The Wisconsin men's soccer team has seen its fair share of
dark days since its last postseason berth in 1995.
To put that into perspective, the last time UW appeared in
the NCAA tournament, the 'World Wide Web' was four years young and Bill Clinton
was serving his first term in office.
That 18-year drought ended Monday, as the 19th-ranked
Badgers saw their name appear on the 2013 NCAA bracket.
To make the accomplishment even sweeter, UW was granted a
first-round home match at a venue the team had not lost at in over a year.
"A long waiting period for the guys on the team as well as
the staff," UW head coach John Trask explained. "To get rewarded with our body
of work and be in the NCAA Tournament after 18 years here at the University of
Wisconsin, it's more than exciting."
In its first postseason appearance (aside from Big Ten
tournament) in nearly two decades, the Badgers outdueled in-state rival
Milwaukee to extend the nation's longest current home unbeaten streak to 14 matches.
"It just shapes up for a great game, and it's what the NCAA
Tournament is all about," Trask said. "You've got two very good, very hungry teams that haven't played each other in a long time but w're very aware of the success they've had.
"I think it shapes up for just an excellent
night of soccer."
All of the ingredients are there for UW to make an NCAA tournament
run: leadership from 13 seniors, the highest scoring offense in the Big Ten, a
hunger to make even more history.
Wisconsin has waited nearly two decades for an opportunity
to make another run at a national title, similar to what it did in 1995. And
Trask believes his team's best days are still ahead of them.
"I think there's more in this team," Trask said. "I've said
it consistently to them. I'll say it publicly. I still don't think we've seen
the best soccer out of this group of players."
Time to hit the ice again, as we have arrived in Grand
Forks, N.D., and are ready to go to work this weekend. We left early Thursday
morning, loaded up the bus and headed to the airport, taking a quick charter
flight to Grand Forks. The ground was covered in snow and the bitter cold was a
rude awakening early this morning. Practice went well, and the team had a good
jump despite spending time on the plane and being carted around by various
The highlight of the trip thus far has been the bowling
tournament, although there was a fun crafts show set up in the lobby of the
hotel where a few players bought some goodies. The bowling tournament was
comprised of our team broken up into six smaller teams. It was friendly
competition, and the Johnson family proved to be the best bowlers as Coach
Johnson and Mikayla were unstoppable on the alley.
The tournament was a fun
change of pace, a great team bonding activity, and a good way to keep busying
during the long block of free time. The team will have a pregame skate before
Friday's game to go over systems and get our legs moving. We are looking
forward to the first game as series with North Dakota are always high tempo and intense. These games are of utmost importance regarding to not only
national ranking, but also the battle for the top three spots in the WCHA.
have prepared well all week for the series and are looking forward to working
for a few road wins this weekend. The games begin tomorrow night at 7 p.m. and
hope all those back home can take some time to tune in and watch us battle for
bragging rights. Check back in at the end of the weekend for an overview and
hopefully some positive feedback regarding the games this weekend.
reading, On Wisconsin!
Freshmen don't often make as immediate an impact as CB Sojourn Shelton has for the Badgers this season. The Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., native is the first freshman to start at corner for Wisconsin since former first team All-Big Ten selection Scott Starks did so in 2001. He is tied for the Big Ten lead in interceptions this season with four to go along with 27 tackles. His early success has many believing Shelton can follow in the steps of Wisconsin cornerback legends like Starks and Thorpe Award winner Jamar Fletcher.
Did you expect to start right away as a true freshman?
"I didn't. I saw my role as someone who filled in, but my personal goal was to be starting by mid-season. I didn't see myself as starting the whole season as a true freshman. It's definitely surprising, but it's something that I've been working for since spring. The guys have helped me prepare for this role and I think it has gone pretty well so far."
What was the most difficult part of the transition from high school to college?
"The details of it. In high school there weren't that many details. You could just go out there, get the call and play. In college there are a lot more details. You have to know your role and your assignments in every possible situation. You have to make calls as a corner, as well, which you never do in high school. As a corner, you have to make calls to the defense to alert them that something is up."
Did enrolling early and participating in spring practice help you?
"It helped a lot. The biggest thing that it helped was that it allowed me to gain weight. I knew that I could play once I got around the guys in the secondary and learned from Coach (Ben) Strickland, it was just a matter of if I was going to be able to put on the necessary weight. I think that's the biggest thing that coming in early helped me with. It taught me how to go about things in the weight room, how to eat the right way and put on as much weight as I could."
Which upperclassmen have you learned the most from?
"All of them. So many of these guys took me under their wing. Dez (Southward) did and James White has, too. James has looked out for me so much and been like a big brother to me. We're from the same city (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) and we knew each other before I came here. When we went home for the summer we went together and I felt like a little brother to him in the airport. He was leading the way. A lot of guys have taken me under their wing, but James has been there every step of the way for me. He's been my support system. I know that if anything goes wrong or if I need to talk about something I can give him a call and he'll lead me in the right direction."
You got the chance to talk to Jamar Fletcher earlier this season, what did you take away from that conversation?
"To be able to talk to somebody who won a Thorpe Award, that's a great opportunity. One day, hopefully and God-willing, I can be in that position. Talking to him was great. I got a chance to hear his story and how he played, which was helpful because I resemble him a lot being a small corner. Being around somebody who has done it, who has played at the next level and been successful here at UW, it was a great experience. Hopefully I get the chance to run into him again."
Coming from Florida, what made Wisconsin the right choice for you?
"The family-like environment. We're all a big family and that's the best part. It has made the transition coming from somewhere so far away so easy. The guys all take you under their wings and make sure that you're fine and make sure everything is going OK. It has been a blessing for me to come here and I'm happy with the decision I've made. I wouldn't take it back for anything."
How much did you know about the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry before this season?
"I didn't know a lot, to be honest. I grew up on the Florida State-Miami rivalry. That's the rivalry that I knew the most about. The minute I touched down and walked around this facility, though, I learned about it pretty quick. I saw the emphasis on keeping the Axe here, learned about the great moments in the rivalry and the hatred between the teams, and I'm ready to see the excitement firsthand, especially going on the road. Going to Minnesota, with both of us 8-2, I'm ready to be in that hostile environment and participate in the first of the many games I'll be playing in."
- Ryan Evans
Tuesday evening, Frank Kaminsky entered the Kohl Center boasting a career average of 3.2 points per game and a total of 26 points scored on the season. The UW junior exited the Kohl Center that night with a school record and whole lot of fame.
Thanks to his 43-point outburst in a 103-85 win over North Dakota, Kaminsky set the UW single-game record, a mark that had stood since 1965. He also set off a firestorm of chatter, headlining everything from ESPN's SportsCenter to trending worldwide on Twitter.
A few of Tuesday's tweets:
With each of his six 3-pointers and 16 total baskets, Kaminsky's celebrity status rose, as did his place in history. Let's examine that:
- Kaminsky's 43 points are the most scored by a Division I player this season.
- Kaminsky's 43 points equals the mark set by Illinois' Brandon Paul against Ohio State on 1/20/12 as the most by a Big Ten player since 1996-97. In fact, the Big Ten has produced only four 40-point games in the last 18 seasons.
- Over the last 15 years, Kaminsky and Central Michigan's Chris Kaman are the only 7-footers to score 40 points in a game.
- Kaminsky is one of just four Division I players since 1996-97 to score 43 points and shoot at least 84.0 percent from the field in a game.
- Kaminsky is one of four players to score at least 43 points against a Division 1 opponent in 28 minutes or less since 1996-97. The last player to do it was Davidson's Stephen Curry (43 points in 27 minutes vs. Appalachian State, 2009).
OK, how many of you had Wisconsin holding Indiana to 3 points last Saturday? I would guess very few, if any, expected such a shutdown performance. After all, going into the weekend, the Hoosiers had scored at least 28 points in 10 straight games.
So much for that streak.
Through ten games this season, Wisconsin has held half of its opponents without a touchdown. No matter the era, that is an impressive stat. In this day of spread-you-out, fast football, keeping five opponents out of the end zone is borderline mind-boggling.
As the Badgers get ready to face Minnesota in the annual Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe, they know another big-boy effort is needed in all phases.
On multiple occasions, I have written and talked about the rivalry, and how much fun it is to watch every year. This time around is even better. Why? Because the Gophers are good, and the stakes are high for both programs.
While the Badgers continue a slow climb up the BCS standings (UW is 19th this week), Minnesota checks in at No. 25. Both teams are 8-2, and both teams are rolling. The Gophers have won four straight, while the Badgers have won five in a row.
Rivalry aside, how can you not appreciate what the Gophers are accomplishing as head coach Jerry Kill works to get his health back in order? There can be very little argument that to this point in the season, Minnesota has been the league's most pleasant surprise.
While not such a surprise, the Badgers deserve a ton of credit themselves. They have managed to overcome two tough losses in September. Since then, they have done nothing but win in convincing fashion. The Badgers are playing as well as anyone in the Big Ten, and to date, continue to state a case -- on the field, and not through the media -- why they should be ranked higher than 19th.
By the way, if you are going to TCF Bank Stadium, bundle up. The forecast for this Saturday calls for a game-time temperature of about 20 degrees, which would be in the top five -- or perhaps bottom five -- coldest temps at kickoff in UW football history.
* * * *
Part of what makes watching sports so enjoyable is we never know for sure what is going to happen. In the last week, Badgers football and basketball fans have witnessed history.
First, it was James White's 93-yard touchdown run against Indiana. It is the longest run from scrimmage in program history.
Tuesday night at the Kohl Center, Frank Kaminsky's 43 point effort against North Dakota set a UW single game record. Talk about efficiency -- Kaminsky needed just 19 shots. He made 16, including for 6-for-6 from 3-point range.
North Dakota's Troy Huff wasn't too bad, either. The former Brookfield Central standout dropped in 37 points. Both Huff and Kaminsky did their damage in just 28 minutes of playing time.
It was an entertaining night in what has been a fun start for Bo Ryan's team. An early-season storyline of different players stepping up is continuing. Kaminsky's historic night followed his critical contributions in the three-point victory against the Phoenix, when he scored 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots.
In the last two games, Bronson Koenig 's minutes have picked up, and he is playing well. At Green Bay, Koenig scored seven points and, on Tuesday, added five more.
Yes, this group wants to be better defensively, but the Badgers have faced good teams and some special individual players. So far, so good as Wisconsin's busy stretch of non-conference games continues.
weekend was quite the trip for the Badger squad. We started off Friday morning
with a pregame skate, followed by meal and some down time before the game.
game against Northeastern was a battle, one of the toughest fights we have had yet this season, but
we came together as a group, worked hard until the end and pulled out a victory
over NU, with a congratulations to freshman Jenny Ryan for both the
game winner and her first goal as a Badger.
Friday night was spent in our rooms
for the most part. It was late by the time we got back to the hotel and most
girls ate and then went up to relax and get to bed.
Saturday we woke up and went for a nice team walk through the village to get our legs warmed up, followed by a team stretch before meal and watching at little film to prepare for the game against Boston University. We had some downtime after the meal before loading up the bus and heading to the rink. The game was very different from the night before, and we came out strong. Friday night we were still having difficulty adjusting to the altitude, but Saturday was a whole different story as our high conditioning level played to our advantage in our 5-0 victory over BU.
After the game, we headed back to the hotel and met with our families. The team
and families went out to a small restaurant in Vail to hang out with one
another and enjoy some food before heading back to the hotel and taking
advantage of one last night in the Rockies.
We stayed at a remarkable hotel
that had a beautiful spa consisting of four hot tubs and a heated pool so
naturally we all threw on our hotel robes, and headed down to relax after a
hard fought weekend. We hung out as a group in the hot tub before turning in
for the night.
Sunday morning we got up and had some breakfast (breakfast
sandwiches were amongst the favorite item on the menu) before heading over to
the rink to run a clinic and meet some young, hopeful future Badgers. The team
was tired, but we enjoyed giving back to the crowd that supported us over the weekend,
and the turnout was much more than we had anticipated. After the clinic we hung
around and mingled with the young skaters for a bit, signing autographs and
taking pictures, then loaded up the bus and headed back to the hotel. We packed
up our rooms and fully loaded the bus, as we had to be out of the hotel by
noon, after which we had three hours to kill around town, so most of us went
shopping and saw a little more of the town that we missed out on while
restricted by our game schedule. We gathered up at about 3:30, got on the bus
and are headed to Denver. We are very lucky as we had a charter airplane
waiting for us that took us right back to Madison.
Our games resume this weekend as we head up to
North Dakota to take them on in their home arena. The UND series will be a hard
fought battle, considering they just ended the 62 game unbeaten streak by the
Gophers, but we are looking to put the same game together that we did for BU
and work hard again as a group.
The team returns to the ice today to begin
preparing for UND, continuing on our journey to our ultimate goal. Thanks for
reading, On Wisconsin!
A graphical look at Wisconsin's 51-3 win over Indiana at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday:
In today's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the inspiration of a turnaround and shares inspiring stories of success.
The Turnaround: It's what everyone is looking for in sports. How to go from good to great. How to change the culture of a program. How do you create a winning environment and establish a legacy when there are no All-Americans to set the tone, when there is no College World Series experience on the field. If you don't have the player of the year, pitcher of the year, newcomer of the year or coach of the year on your staff, how do you win conference, especially if it's for the first time in program history?
We all love the turnaround, because it speak to our hearts. Deep down we all want to believe that anything is possible. We want sports to prove that regardless of who you are, where you're from, what your history is, or how things have always been, we all have a shot at greatness. We all have a chance to achieve in life, to overcome adversity, to change the course of history, create a new, successful path where we thrive instead of falter, where we flourish for years of prosperity, instead of repeating the same mistakes our parents and predecessors got trapped in.
I have three stories of turnaround that I've seen, experienced and lived. When you hear stories of turnaround, when you read about them, retell them and soak them in, they change your life. That pessimism that things don't change, those crippling subconscious doubts don't seem so logical anymore. There's a fundamental shift in your beliefs, in your outlook, and in your heart. Suddenly when you see the turnaround, and when you live it at your university, in your teams, and with your kids, you see eyes, hearts, and minds open up to the reality that anything is possible. Life doesn't have to be the same. History doesn't have to repeat itself, and the vicious cycle of loss, failure and negativity can be broken.
We're not there yet with our softball team at Wisconsin. We've shown moments of brightness, and glimpses of success, but we're far from arrived. My gratification at this moment comes from being on the path. The hearts and minds of our athletes, coaches and families are in the right place. The optimism and energy right now outweigh the lack of legacy, and struggles of the past. For me, that's progress and success. Being on the path, training, believing, setting the trajectory and moving in the right direction is a step towards greatness. No matter how small the step is, on a long and arduous journey, at least we're on that yellow brick road, and headed somewhere with a skip in our step.
I'll share those three stories of turnaround with you, and books and readings that supplement those messages. The first turnaround I witness is the most powerful one in my life. I've grown to appreciate it more with age, and after having kids of my own. The book I'd like to recommend is "Inside Out Coaching", by Joe Ehrmann. If you want to be great at what you do, you have to dig deep, understand yourself. "Inside Out Coaching" asks every coach four tough questions: Why do you coach? Why do you coach the way you do? What does it feel like to be coached by you? What's your definition of success?
We have a bible study at UW and we're reading "Inside out Coaching". To answer the questions, "why do you coach", and "wdo you coach the way you do", the FCA bible study challenges coaches to understand themselves and their upbringing. Every person parents and coaches the way they were parented or coached, unless they make a conscious decision to change. This is a tough fact to swallow, especially if there are hurtful things in our past when our parents or coaches failed us.
When I look at my past, I can't help but be amazed by my mom. Her grandparents were all born in Italy and Poland, and didn't speak English. Her parents, Grandma Helen and Grandpa Joe, worked in factories on the Southside of Chicago, and didn't have much more than an eighth grade education. The turnaround for our family, came when my mom chose to be the first one to go to college. She earned a four year RN degree, and eventually her master's degree in nursing, all while raising two girls, supporting our family and battling through a divorce. Her grit, selflessness and character are amazing. She changed the trajectory of our family and our lives. She sacrificed to send my sister and me to a Catholic high school, and always stressed the importance of faith, family, education and hard-work.
I have a high level of respect and appreciation for anyone who overcomes tough odd in their lives, and accomplishes things that have never been done. The trailblazers are the most inspirational traveler. Anyone can walk through a door that's already been opened, and follow a crowd down a path that many have walked. It takes someone special to forge a new path, and go places that have never been seen.
I witnessed turnaround number two as a student-athlete at DePaul University in Chicago. While getting recruited by the Blue Demons, the team made its first two NCAA softball appearances, and was knocked out without a win in both. Our class wanted to make history at DePaul, we went on to earn two sweet sixteen appearances before advancing to the Women's College World series for the first time in program history in 1999, finishing tied for third in the country.
This was a life-changing moment for our team, the student-athletes and families, and the program for years to come. Despite being a cold weather school in a small conference, over the past 15 years, DePaul has advanced to Women's College World Series four times. Clearly history has been changed and a winning legacy has been forged in that program. When I read books like, "How Children Succeed" by Paul Tough, it's no wonder that the education system in the US is making drastic curriculum changes to stop focusing so much on facts, figures and concentrated skills, but rather develop grit, character, and the ability to persevere through adversity to help children succeed in school, their careers and life.
The final turnaround that I've witnessed has taken place here at Wisconsin. I'd like to say that I'm talking about our softball program, but we certainly aren't there yet. Yet one of the biggest reasons my family and I chose to leave Chicago and take a chance on a struggling Big Ten softball team, was the story of coach Alvarez's 1994 Rose Bowl Championship team. After 10 years without a Bowl appearance, new football coach Barry Alvarez turned Wisconsin football and the entire athletics department around with a Big Ten championship, a trip to the Rose Bowl and a momentous win over UCLA.
This was a seminal moment in the success of UW athletics. The 1994 team's ability to win the Rose Bowl filled the stands here at Camp Randall, and started the push, excitement and influx of money that allowed for all of the amazing facilities, gear, budgets, and staff that we enjoy today. The success that Badger football, and the entire Wisconsin athletics department has had over the past twenty years can be traced back to this 1994 Rose Bowl team that over-achieved, made history, and put Wisconsin on the map. Beginning in 1994, Wisconsin has advanced to six Rose Bowl games. That's an amazing winning legacy, created and sustained right in front of our eyes.
One of the former players from the 1994 Rose Bowl team talks about why that team was so special. "I think of the type of guys that made up the lead¬ership of that team and just the character of the team," Saleh said. "I don't think everyone was highly touted coming out of high school. Everyone had to earn it; nothing was really given anyone. We just had a group of guys who really liked football and, in general, we were good people; we had a good work ethic."
Coach Alvarez's book, "Don't Flinch" talks a lot about the turnaround for Wisconsin football, and the rise of a powerful and successful athletics department with a family atmosphere.