A season that began with Wisconsin picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten and unranked in the AP poll came to end last Thursday in an NCAA tournament loss to Butler in New Orleans.
In between, the Badgers ripped off 25 wins (third-most in school history), beat the No. 1 team in the nation for just the second time ever, finished third in the Big Ten and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008.
All in all it was a memorable and record-breaking season. Consider the numbers:
16 - As in Sweet 16. The Badgers made their fourth Sweet 16 since 2003. Only five schools have been to more Sweet 16s than UW over that span.
13 - The Badgers qualified for their 13th-consecutive NCAA tournament. UW is one of just six schools that can make that claim.
25 - Wisconsin won 25 games in 2010-11, tying as the third-highest win total in school history. Each of UW's top seven single-season win totals have come in the Bo Ryan era.
100 - Total wins for UW's senior class of J.P. Gavinski, Tim Jarmusz, Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil, Wquinton Smith and Brett Valentyn.
2 - Number of All-America and first-team All-Big Ten honors for the Badgers - both are firsts in school history. Jordan Taylor was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten pick and earned second-team All-America accolades from the Associated Press, while Jon Leuer was a first-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches and earned honorable mention All-America honors.
7.58 - The Badgers set an NCAA record by averaging just 7.58 turnovers per game. The previous record was 7.72 set by Temple in 2006. 81.8 - Wisconsin shot a school-record 81.8 percent at the free throw line this season, shattering the previous team record of 75.8 percent which had stood since 1983-84. UW's mark also ranks as the second-best percentage in NCAA history, behind Harvard's 82.2 percent in 1983-84.
1.71 - The Red and White also set a school record for team assist-to-turnover ratio with a mark of 1.71 assists per turnover. That smashed the previous high of 1.43 set a year ago and qualifies as the third-highest mark in NCAA annals.
278 - The Badgers drained 278 3-pointers on the year, which ranks No. 1 in school history ahead of the 250 made triples in 2004-05.
1,376 - Career points for senior Jon Leuer, finishing 12th on the Wisconsin ledger.
621 - Leuer scored 621 points on the year, the third-best season in UW annals. Taylor was right behind Leuer, scoring 617 points, which ranks fourth all-time.
1,001 - Career points for junior Jordan Taylor, who became the 37th member of UW's 1,000-point club. Taylor is the 11th Badger to reach that milestone under Bo Ryan.
3.83 - Taylor led the nation with a 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio, which also qualified as the fourth-best mark in NCAA history.
161 - Taylor finished with 161 assists on the year, the third-highest single-season total in Badgers history and the most under Bo Ryan.
42.0 - Keaton Nankivil finished his career making 42.0 percent of his 3-pointers, the sixth-highest career percentage in Badger history. His mark of 45.7 percent from deep this season qualified as the seventh-best performance at Wisconsin.
30 - Starts for freshman Josh Gasser, the third-most ever by a Wisconsin freshman. Only Devin Harris (2002) and Sam Okey (1996) made more starts in their debut season, both started 32 games.
By Mike Lucas on March 31, 2011 2:22 PM
Leaning on crutches, his fractured left foot in a walking boot, Nick Toon answered some questions from Jared Abbrederis after Tuesday's football practice at the McClain Indoor Facility.
Abbrederis initiated the conversation with Toon, who will be sidelined the entire spring with the injury. "Nick has a lot of experience and I wanted to get some of his wisdom,'' he said.
In particular, Abbrederis had run a corner route on which the pass was intercepted. While it's always easy to point to the quarterback on turnovers, the receiver also has to be accountable.
"We were talking about what I could do better,'' said Abbrederis. "And there was some small stuff about getting off the line on a DB when he's pressing. I just wanted to get some of his thoughts.''
Toon, a fifth-year senior, will be the UW's leading returning pass catcher when he returns. Until then, Abbrederis, who will be going into his redshirt sophomore year, holds that distinction.
In 2010, Abbrederis was one of the more pleasant developments on offense for the Badgers. He played in 13 games and finished with 20 catches for 289 yards (14.4) and three touchdowns.
"The journey has been crazy so far,'' he admitted.
True enough given that Abbrederis was a walk-on from Wautoma High School, where he excelled as a dual-threat quarterback, a defensive back and a two-time state champion in the high hurdles.
People started looking for Wautoma on the map -- it's about 70 miles north of Madison -- after the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Abbrederis kept getting open behind UW's defensive backs last spring.
In some ways, Abbrederis helped put Wautoma on the map as a prep athlete while leading the Hornets to the WIAA Division 4 state title in football and the Division 2 state championship in track.
His competitive instincts were also on display as a high school wrestler; not often associated with a skill position. "It demands the strongest mental toughness,'' he said. "And you learn not to quit.''
Competiting in the 160-pound weight class, Abbrederis won 30 matches during his junior year. He injured his groin near the end of the season and attempted to keep wrestling through the injury.
But he was advised to stop or risk jeopardizing his track season. He did so reluctantly. "The kid I pinned in the conference meet made it all the way to the sectionals,'' he said with a sigh.
His wrestling background has definitely impacted his mentality. "You have to do it yourself,'' he said. "There's no one else who's going to do it for you (on the mat). You put yourself on the line.''
That's what he has done on the Badger football team.
He has put himself in a position to be a contributor.
"Last spring, I wasn't even part of the equation,'' he said. "I had to do something in order to get an opportunity in the fall. Now, I have to keep doing it -- I just have to attack everything.''
Timing can be everything, too. While trying to make an impression last spring, Abbrederis worked almost exclusively with the UW's backup quarterback, who was then Jon Budmayr.
With the departure of Scott Tolzien, a two-year starter, Budmayr has taken over the offense. Now also subtract Lance Kendricks, Isaac Anderson, David Gilreath and Toon -- for now -- from the rotation.
"We have a young receiving corps and that makes it hard on all of our quarterbacks because not every route is perfect,'' Abbrederis said. "We just have to keep getting better.''
This is why he went out of his way to visit with Toon after practice about that corner route. In some respects, the journey is bound to get even crazier because of his inexperience.
"I've gotten a lot better,'' Abbrederis said, "but I've got a long ways to go.''
Now that the 2010-11 Badgers have completed their season,
it's time to check in with the 2009-10 Badgers who either graduated or left
Wisconsin for the professional ranks. The group moved on and has so far
performed admirably at the next level.
2009-10 Hobey Baker Memorial Award top-10 finalist and All-American defenseman
Brendan Smith was named an AHL All-Rookie Team pick. Smith skates for the Grand
Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings top affiliate.
A pair of Badgers - Andy Bohmbach and Ben Street - earned similar
accolades at the ECHL level. Toledo's Andy Bohmbach, who was just returned to
the ECHL from the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL, was named to the all-rookie
squad as the league's top rookie scorer with 68 points. He was also a member of
the all-star team that played in the all-star game mid-winter.
Street, despite playing the last two months for the AHL's
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for former UW assistant coach John Hynes, made
the ECHL rookie team.
Former Badger and former ECHL skater Aaron Bendickson was
named an all-star at midseason, but decided to return to school and passed on
the game and the second half of the season.
While the aforementioned Badgers, as well as a handful of others
play in the minors, three Badgers from last year's team are making
contributions as their respective squads make playoff pushes.
By Matt Lepay on March 30, 2011 11:13 AM
As another very good Wisconsin basketball season was rolling along, many observers feared there would come a time in the postseason when the Badgers' would play an ugly game where the jump shots would be off the mark all night long.
The old saying, "Live by the three, die by the three" was a popular line when talking about the Badgers.
Turns out there is some truth in that, but this past weekend the Badgers were not alone in firing blanks while bowing out of the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile another squad, perhaps the surprise team of the ages, VCU, is living large by the 3-point shot.
At the risk of turning into a stat-freak, let us take a look at how the regional finals unfolded. Out west, UConn's amazing post season run continued as the Huskies held off Arizona, 65-63. For the season, the Wildcats shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range, but on Saturday hit just 4-of-21 (.190).
Florida, a solid, but not great 3-point shooting team at 35 percent, missed 11 of 14 from downtown while losing to Butler. The Bulldogs also struggled from behind the line, but eventually dropped in nine shots in 33 tries. I'll take nine makes over three anytime.
Deep shooting is not a strength for North Carolina, and on Sunday it was no better as Roy Williams' Tar Heels connected on just 3 of 16 shots (.188) while Kentucky, an excellent team from beyond the arc, nailed 12 of 22 (.545).
Finally, there was the Kansas-VCU game. The Jayhawks, a good team from distance for the season, connected on just 2 of 21 attempts (.095). Die by the three.
On the other hand, VCU -- under the direction of former Oregon High School standout Shaka Smart -- splashed 12 of 25 (.480). Live by the three.
That's how the Rams roll. They take 23 long shots a game, one more per game than Wisconsin. The Rams live very large by the three.
In a perfect world, Bo Ryan would have loved to have seen his team develop a more consistent inside scoring presence. The key word is consistent.
At times, Jon Leuer was getting a lot done in or near the paint. Early in last Thursday's game, the Badgers tried to get some down-low scoring, but the shots simply would not fall. And credit Butler's defense, which was very good as well.
Of course the ending was disappointing for the Badgers and their fans. I felt sick for Leuer, who had an outstanding season, one very deserving of his first-team All-Big Ten recognition. He should know he has company in being a star player who struggled in his final college game. He is not the first, nor will he be the last.
When the sting of last Thursday fades, I would hope this group will appreciate the numerous accomplishments -- an unbeaten home season, which included the glorious rally to defeat No. 1 Ohio State. This team led the nation in free throw shooting, and had fewer turnovers than anyone in college basketball. It also won 25 games.
Of all those numbers I have thrown out, I would think the 25 victories is a good six or seven more than most thought possible.
I will give you one more number, 13. That is the number of consecutive NCAA trips the Badgers have earned. In today's college basketball, all a team wants is a chance to get in the Dance. The Badgers danced again, and as long as that continues, there is always a chance to accomplish something special.
Just ask Butler and VCU.
For the returning players and the incoming freshmen, that might be a thought to take with them during the spring and summer workouts.
In this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's tough opening weekend in Big Ten play at Penn State. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.
We lost two heartbreakers on the road at Penn State this weekend to open Big Ten play. I was so proud of how hard the team battled and bought in to our game plan. We managed to get about 27 runners on base in two games against two of the best pitchers in the Big Ten.
Penn State is known for its pitchers. When you play on the road against two pitchers with ERAs under 2.00, you know you're in for a battle. I was so proud of our team's tenacity and grit. We scored five runs on Saturday and two on Sunday, including the go-ahead run in the 8th inning. We didn't even have our leading RBI producer on Sunday, after Mary Massei suffered a facial fracture after an outfield collision on Saturday.
Justin Mozer chronicled all the action in Wisconsin's doubleheader against Northern Iowa and UW-Whitewater on March 26, 2011 at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison, Wis. The Badgers earned a 6-1 win over UNI and shut out the Warhawks, 7-0.
Senior forward Meghan Duggan (Danvers, Mass.) was named the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, accepting the 14th annual award at a brunch ceremony in Erie, Pa., in conjunction with the 2011 NCAA Women's Frozen Four last weekend.
Read what the media had to say about Duggan being named the top player in NCAA Division I women's ice hockey this season.
Last weekend, No. 1 Wisconsin earned its fourth NCAA crown, defeating Boston University, 4-1, to become the 2011 national champions. The Badgers topped Boston College, 3-2, in the semifinals to advance to the title game.
Read what the media said about the Badgers in the 2011 NCAA Women's Frozen Four.
By Brian Lucas on March 24, 2011 10:51 AM
Sophomore Manasseh Garner was one of just four true freshmen to play last season, seeing time on offense (wide receiver), defense (defensive end) and special teams. As the Badgers kick off spring practice, Garner will be on the move once again, sliding over to a tight end/H-back role. We caught up with him after the Badgers' first practice to check on his progress.
What was it like coming in and playing right away as a true freshman? "It was quite an experience because it's your dream to play college football and every freshman plans on coming in and playing. Some guys decided to redshirt but I just wanted that extra experience level and the coaches had faith in me that I was ready to contribute."
How will that experience help you moving forward? "Just having a feel for the game. Getting a sense of the pressure you may feel from all the fans, just being out there with your teammates and being able to share in the victories on the field."
What's the transition like from wide receiver to tight end? "There's more a physical and mental aspect to it. In my opinion it's like a second seat to the quarterback because you have to know the whole offense. You have to know the line, what they do, as well as what the receivers do. On the physical part, you have to go and hit somebody on every play. We have a tough line and have a reputation as being a tough team so you have to embrace it."
After playing both offense and defense, do you feel like you've finally found a home at tight end? "Definitely. It was fun and a blessing to play defense. It's actually helped me out with my reads at tight end, watching the linebackers and how different defenses may work. I always wanted to play offense but defense was a blessing because it helped me become a better offensive player."
What are some things you hope to improve on during spring practice? "Just to learn and to compete. Hopefully get a solid position contributing out on the field."
NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Reaching the Sweet 16 can do many things for a college basketball program. Energize the fan-base, boost recruiting, sell tickets for the following season and of course set up a chance to bring home a trophy.
Reaching the second weekend of the NCAA tournament also means a lot of attention from the national media. The Wisconsin Badgers are realizing that here in New Orleans.
A quick roll call of the national media assembled here in the Crescent City reveals: Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn and Kelly Anderson, ESPN's Andy Katz and Rick Reilly, Fox Sports' Jeff Goodman, Marlen Garcia of USA Today, the New York Times' Pete Thamel and Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, among others.
Between beignets on Bourbon Street and jazz joint sojourns, the media have taken a liking to Bo Ryan and his Badgers. While not all journalists may agree on the beauty of "Wisconsin's style" there is certainly a consensus that "Wisconsin wins."
And winning is beautiful.
Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn has Wisconsin No. 4 on his Sweet 16 Power Rankings and features a great video of Mike Bruesewitz discussing his rust-colored coif.
NEW ORLEANS -- The topic came up last weekend in Tucson after Wisconsin's win over Kansas State. And it was broached again here Wednesday when someone suggested to Butler coach Brad Stevens that when people talk about the Badgers' style it's not always a flattering portrayal.
Stevens didn't hesitate to set the record straight.
"I could sit up here and flatter them all day,'' Stevens said.
What followed was a testimonial to UW hoops, compliments of Stevens.
"Why wouldn't you want to play a way where everybody is unselfish?'' he posed rhetorically.
Why indeed? "Where if they have a good shot,'' Stevens said, "they try to find a better shot for their team - where guys are diving on the floor, taking charges and are physically and mentally tough.''
There's a reason why the Badgers don't lose very often, Stevens said.
Multiple reasons. Or all of the above.
"And there's a reason,'' he said, "why they have had what probably is one of the most under-discussed and more remarkable runs in the last 10 years in college basketball under Bo Ryan.''
Stevens wasn't done flattering Ryan and the Badgers. "They are one of the hardest teams to guard in the country,'' he said, "and they're one of the hardest teams to score on in the country.''
Obviously, he endorsed the winning combination.
So did the UW players who have grown and flourished in the system.
Especially sophomore Mike Bruesewitz.
"I like the versatility (of the offense),'' he said, " the options of being able to go inside and outside, taking people off the dribble, being able to shoot 3s. I guess that's the best way to describe it.''
Is it boring?
"I don't think winning is boring,'' Bruesewitz said.
Keaton Nankivil agreed.
"It's high-quality, efficient basketball,'' he said.
What's the best thing about the system?
"That everyone in our program believes in it so strongly,'' Nankivil emphasized." No matter what an expert or anyone else says, we're going to play our style of basketball and it gets us wins.''
UW associate head coach Greg Gard has heard all the critiques on style of play.
"You watch us play and you watch other teams play,'' he said, "and I see a lot of the same things going on, the same actions with screening - the same shots; people try to get the ball in the same area.''
Gard acknowledged that people have been stereotyping UW basketball for decades.
Yet over the last decade the Badgers have won 76 percent of their games (130-41).
Team chemistry has been one of the reasons for the success this season.
"We just have a good group of guys,'' said senior Brett Valentyn. "The coaches recruit good players but also good people. We enjoy each other's company and we have fun together.''
Maybe no one has benefited more from the system than Valentyn, a walk-on.
"Coach (Ryan) has taught me a ton - I've become a lot better basketball player over the years,'' he said. "One of the main things he has taught me is toughness; to be self-accountable.
"If you want something you have to go and get and to be tough no matter what the circumstances. You have to work hard and be steady and consistent.''
What does he like the most about the system?
"There are opportunities to excel and get better,'' he said. "The coaches are very fair and the chances are out there. You know there are minutes to be had but you have to earn them.''
Berggren is a good example. Last weekend, he contributed some quality minutes.
"We've had good contributions from a number of guys the last couple of games,'' he said. "We feel loose, we feel ready, we feel confident, we feel good. It's always fun to be playing this time of year.''
As it turned out Wednesday, Stevens wasn't done flattering the Badgers. "I think Jordan Taylor's presence on this particular team,'' he said, "makes them a national title contender.''
No one has ever looked beyond "next'' on a Ryan-coached team.
By Saturday night in Tucson, the Badgers' 33-point showing in the Big Ten Tournament loss to Penn State officially became irrelevant. Advancing to the Sweet 16 has a way of blotting out the bad games.
After holding Belmont to a season-low 58 points, it was on to a true basketball slugfest on Saturday night. To this courtside observer, the game with Kansas State was one of the most intense, physical games I have ever witnessed. It also featured one of the best, if not the best performance by a Badger opponent I have ever seen.
Let me just get this out of the way--Jacob Pullen is a stud. He is a special player in every sense. He can shoot. He can drive. He can defend. His 38 points matched his total against Kansas when the Jayhawks were ranked No. 1. The only negative from Wisconsin's 70-65 victory is that Pullen's college career ended. Opponent or not, even a Badger fan should appreciate this young man's talents.
Of course, a storyline leading into the game was the matchup between Pullen and Jordan Taylor. While even Taylor admits that Pullen won the individual matchup, the Badgers' point guard continued to prove why he too is one of the nation's best players. On a night when he missed 14 of his 16 shots, the junior came through with two of the season's biggest defensive plays.
First, with the score tied at 61-61, Taylor gets a steal that leads to a Mike Bruesewitz three. Then, with the Badgers up 68-65 in the closing seconds, Taylor blocks a three-point shot from Pullen to help seal the victory. Those plays, plus his six assists and no turnovers, is simply further evidence of a young player understanding there is more to helping a team than scoring. Just seeing the smile on Taylor's face long after the game, you would never know he was 2-for-16 from the field. You just knew he was happy that his team won and gets to play again.
Of course, the Badgers do not advance to New Orleans without the help of Josh Gasser, Tim Jarmusz and Bruesewitz, who combined for 30 points and 14 rebounds. It had to have been especially gratifying for Bruesewitz. After suffering a sprained knee in the Big Ten Tournament, no one really knew how much the big red-head could play, but after a good practice the day before the Belmont game, his confidence grew, and so did his production.
There will be some pretty good star power in the Big Easy this week. Wisconsin's Taylor and Jon Leuer, as well as Butler's Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, two players who know what it takes to get to the Final Four. Florida's 5'8" guard Ervin Walker played a lot bigger in helping the Gators advance by beating UCLA. Then there's Jimmer Fredette of BYU. All he did was drop 34 on Gonzaga to send his program to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1981.
Yes, the stars will be out in New Orleans, but don't forget about their teammates. For the Badgers last Saturday, it was a team effort in every sense. If they are to keep playing after this weekend, it is likely they will need more of the same.
By Other Contributors on March 22, 2011 1:24 PM
In this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's spring break to California. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.
What a great Spring Break! We arrived in California on Thursday and drove up the coast to Santa Barbara. Friday started with a tough loss to San Diego, but the team bounced back to beat the host team, University of California Santa Barbara. It's always tough to play teams on the road. They already had five wins at home, so it was a great "W" for us. Saturday we were able to beat San Diego, and lost a tough one to UCSB. The tournament ended in dramatic fashion with a big win over UNLV. I'm so proud of this group. They fight and battle, even when facing adversity.
Mandy Hansen and Ben Fromstein chronicled all the action in No. 1 Wisconsin's 4-1 win over No. 3 Boston University in the 2011 NCAA Women's Frozen Four national championship game on March 20, 2011 at Tullio Arena in Erie, Pa. The Badgers earned their fourth national title.
Sunday's national championship game marks the first meeting between Wisconsin and Boston University in the history of the two women's hockey programs.
Although the teams have not met, UW and BU faced four common opponents this season in North Dakota, Boston College, Northeastern and Mercyhurst. The Badgers were 8-0-0, sweeping the four teams, including five victories over the Fighting Sioux. Meanwhile, BU posted an 8-4-1 mark, including series splits against Boston College (2-2-0) and North Dakota (1-1-0).
TUCSON, Ariz. -- There were any number of Vince Gill song titles that would put a suitable punctuation mark on Wisconsin's 72-58 win over the Country Music Hall of Famer's adopted college basketball team - the Belmont Bruins - here Thursday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
"I Still Believe in You.''
How many did after a couple of disappointing losses to Ohio State and Penn State?
"Tis the Season.''
What better time to show what you're made of than the postseason?
"Look at Us.''
The Badgers made 3-pointers and defended them.
"Pocket full of Gold.''
Role players executing their roles.
Where ya been Jared Berggren?
"Wondered the same thing myself sometimes,'' Berggren conceded.
Speaking for his teammates, he added, "When you see the ball go in, it feels good.''
In so many ways this was a feel-good story - starting with Berggren, a sophomore who had not made a 3-point basket since Dec. 23. He was 0-for-7 in Big Ten games. Against Belmont, he made the only two shots that he took from beyond the arc; an unexpected bonus.
Especially since Berggren was inserted into the game for defensive purposes in the first half.
"That was the plan for me to go in there and try to be physical with them,'' he said of the low-post tandem of Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders."Hitting some shots was just some gravy on top.''
Chided teammate Tim Jarmusz, "He's our back-up 5-man and our specialist from deep.''
Berggren helped set the tempo with his aggressiveness on defense. "You can't be passive,'' he said. "If I'm going to step in and get any (playing) time, I have to be aggressive. If I'm out there and I'm passive, I'm not going to make anything happen and I'm going right back to the bench.''
That's the reality for a role player, whether it's Berggren or Ryan Evans or Mike Bruesewitz.
"I know when I get my opportunities, I have to contribute,'' Berggren said.
When it was suggested to Jarmusz, a starter, that he might also qualify as a role player, he didn't hesitate to say, "Oh, definitely. I know Jon (Leuer) and Jordan (Taylor) handle most of the load and Keaton (Nankivil) does, too. But I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team win.''
Jarmusz, a senior, personified the UW's urgency. "I know the last two games we just came out kind of sloppy,'' he said. "I feel like that's partially my fault.
"I took it upon myself to say, 'This is it' and I did everything I could to be aggressive. You want to make sure you have no regrets in the end.''
Everyone got a lift from Mike Bruesewitz's inspired play. "He's a tough kid and a big game type of guy,'' said Keaton Nankivil. "The way he played was incredible.''
"It's a clean slate,'' Nankivil continued. "We're going to try and take the momentum from this game and move forward.''
In the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin advanced to the Sweet 16 by knocking off Kansas State, 72-55. Trevon Hughes had 25 points, Michael Flowers had 15 and Greg Stiemsma had 14 to go along with a solid defensive effort on All-American Michael Beasley.
Vince Gill sang about the "Next big thing.''
Saturday the Badgers will embrace it - drawing K-State once again.
Entering the 2011 postseason, the Badgers owned an 11-2 mark in NCAA tournament games. Meanwhile, the rest of the 2011 NCAA Women's Frozen Four field, made up of Boston College, Boston University and Cornell, combined for a 3-4 record, including a 1-2 record in Frozen Four games.
Wisconsin's Frozen Four record? A blistering 7-1 for a .875 winning percentage.
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Looking for an early indicator on how the Badgers might shoot the ball against Belmont here Thursday? Don't look at the ball. Focus instead on the four players without the ball. "You have to make all five guys on defense play,'' said UW assistant coach Gary Close.
That can be accomplished, Close emphasized, with better screening and more aggressive cuts. If there is little or no movement off the ball, the defense can take more liberties. "Then guys don't have to keep as close of tabs on you so to speak,'' he said. "They can take another step off.''
Offensively against Penn State, the Badgers were frequently playing two-on-five. "We relied on Jordan (Taylor) and Jon (Leuer) too much,'' Close said. "The other guys needed to get open and make some shots. It almost seemed like they deferred to them too soon and too often.''
Taylor and Leuer combined to take 37 shots. The other eight players who saw action in the game took a total of 14. "It doesn't necessarily mean you're going to shoot it,'' Close said. "But you have to be aggressive in trying to get open - or getting somebody else open - to keep the defense more honest.''
Contrast the Josh Gasser who scored 17 points on 10 shots against Ohio State with the Josh Gasser who took only one shot and went scoreless against Penn State. What happened? "I felt like I was active but I wasn't as aggressive offensively,'' he conceded. "I didn't have as many opportunities.''
How did he explain taking just one shot in 33 minutes?
"I didn't really try to create for myself,'' he said.
That goes back to what Close was saying about deferring - in this case a freshman deferring to upperclassmen. "I think we all learned from that game,'' Gasser said. "A lot of us were playing too passive as opposed to aggressive. It showed in the score and the outcome.''
You could say the Badgers have a score to settle in the NCAA tournament. "I'm just ready to get on the court and start playing,'' Gasser agreed. "That's why we came down here. That's kind of what this whole thing is about. It's something I've been dreaming about happening for a while. Now it's here.''
Welcome to March and the madness. "Moments last forever and this is what you play for all year,'' said Gasser, who still has vivid memories of Trevon Hughes knocking down the game-winning shot against Florida State in a first round game two years ago. "As a fan, it's the best time of the year.''
Pausing, he added, "But I think it's a lot more fun being a player.''
In this respect, he feels blessed to have this opportunity coming off the Penn State loss.
"We get to play again - a lot of teams are done,'' he said.
The fact that it's now one-and-done is especially relevant to the seniors.
"I'm not only playing for our team and myself but I'm playing for those six seniors,'' Gasser said. "It goes back to my high school career when I was a freshman playing in the state tournament (for Port Washington). I kind of prided myself on playing for those seniors. That's what I'm going to do here, too.''
Does Gasser still feel like a freshman with the Badgers? "No, not at all,'' he said. "I just feel like a regular player and I wanted to be treated like everyone else on the team. I don't want coach (Bo Ryan) to treat me like a freshman. And I don't want the other players to treat me like a freshman.''
Josh Gasser grows a day older today - on the grandest stage of all.
"I'm just going to go out there and play and give everything I've got,'' he promised.
TUCSON, Ariz. -- In honor of the 2011 NCAA Tournament's 68 teams, @BadgerMBBall will be sending out 68 Tweets with observations and commentary leading up to Thursday's NCAA tournament game between No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 13 Belmont.
Patrick Herb is with the team in Tucson and you can follow along here to get the updates in real time.
If you're not a follower, why not? But here's what you've missed...
68. Asst. Coach Gary Close's 1st coaching job was at Fenster in Tucson in '82. Had to coach on an outdoor court.
67. Airplane seating chart (front to back): upperclassmen, staff, families, freshmen, cheerleaders, band & last row Coach Ryan.
66. Movie of choice is Coming to America. Except for coach Greg Gard, he's plowing his way thru a stack of Belmont game film.
65. Touchdown Tucson! It's a beautiful 82 degrees and windy... But they tell me "it's a dry wind"
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Wisconsin sophomore Mike Bruesewitz participated in full practice Wednesday as the Badgers continued preparation for their second-round NCAA tournament game against Belmont.
Bruesewitz went through Wisconsin's open practice at the McKale Center and also fully participated in the Badgers' one-hour closed practice at a nearby high school.
Bruesewitz remains a game-time decision for Thursday's contest vs. Belmont.
He had this to say Wednesday evening:
"I was a little timid at the start, but I guess that's to be expected," Bruesewitz said. "As practice went on I felt a lot more confident and felt better out there. I basically got the cobwebs out after not playing for a few days."
"I was able to go through possessions with the team and as practice went on I felt like I got back to playing like myself. I got on the floor once diving for a ball, went to the offensive glass and got a few offensive rebounds and knocked a couple people around. Once I realized I was fine, I was back to my normal ways of going 100 miles per hour."
"I've been icing my knee after practice, but it hasn't swollen up and feels good."
"I felt we had a really good practice today and guys seemed excited and ready to get this thing rolling."
While some fans in Badgerville are fretting after last Friday night's brick fest in Indianapolis, keep in mind that Wisconsin will be making its 13th straight trip to the NCAA tournament. Only five other programs have a streak that matches or exceeds the Badgers' current run--Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, Gonzaga and Texas.
That is pretty good company, don't you think?
It also speaks well that the Big Ten has seven teams in the field. Before the season, many spoke about the depth of the conference. We wondered whether there is a great team. Ohio State sure looks the part, and the other six NCAA tourney qualifiers have proven to be capable of playing with anyone in the nation. Wisconsin and Purdue have shown they can beat the best. On the other hand, the Badgers, the Boilers and all the rest also can be vulnerable against almost anyone.
We probably can say that about every team in the field, which is what should make for a very interesting, nerve wracking, throw something at the TV type of month.
For the first time in more than two years, the Badgers will try to snap a two-game losing skid. While it is amazing they have gone this long without dropping consecutive games, the Badgers are testing a long held theory--in order to make a strong run, you need to be on an uptick. They are not.
Friday evening's game bordered on the surreal. The winning team went more than 12 minutes without a field goal. The leading scorer had nine points. The losing team needed seven-and-a-half minutes to get on the board.
Guess what? All that stuff becomes very old news by late Sunday afternoon. This applies even when your team wins the Big Ten Tournament, which the Badgers have done on two occasions, most recently in 2008. Less than an hour after the team cuts down the nets, attention shifts to the first round opponent.
Thursday's matchup in Tucson figures to be fascinating. A Belmont team that averages more than 80 points a game, with terrific scoring balance, and 11 players who play double-digit minutes. The Bruins can also play some 'D', as they force 19 turnovers a game. Forget the seeding; this game should be a good watch.
Maybe more than ever, games that are labeled as upsets may not be so shocking. Some believe fourth-seeded Texas will have its hands full with No. 13 Indiana State. Another third-seed, BYU, just is not the same team without the suspended Brandon Davies. It plays Wofford, a team that gave the Badgers all they wanted last March, and the Terriers return just about everyone who matters.
In a sporting public that lives for the NFL and college football, these next three weeks are still about as good as it gets. We fret about the teams that are snubbed, such as Virginia Tech and Colorado. We try to become instant experts on programs such as Northern Colorado and Long Island.
Most of all, we get caught up in games we never thought we would care about. It is what makes March so special. It also makes it special to see that the Badgers are part of it for the 13th straight year.
Leading up to this weekend's NCAA Women's Frozen Four, Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal caught up with senior Geena Prough. Prough discusses the transition after transferring to Wisconsin from Mercyhurst and battling injury. Read the full story below:
Last weekend, Wisconsin secured its fifth NCAA Women's Frozen Four appearance, earning a 2-1 win over Minnesota Duluth in the NCAA quarterfinal round to keep its season alive.
Meghan Duggan scored her sixth game-winning goal of the season and Hilary Knight led all players with two points. Goaltender Alex Rigsby made 29 saves as she improved to 25-1-2 on the season. After being outshot 12-11 in the first period, the Badgers outshot the Bulldogs 40-30 in the game.
Check out the coverage of the Badgers' NCAA quarterfinal game.
Senior captain Meghan Duggan (Danvers, Mass.) has been honored by the U.S. Olympic Committee for her outstanding performance in the month of February. Duggan finished third in the voting for the USOC's Februaty Female Athlete of the Month.
Last weekend, No. 1 Wisconsin earned its fourth WCHA postseason crown, defeating Minnesota 5-4 in overtime to become the 2011 WCHA Final Face-off champions. The Badgers shut out North Dakota, 3-0, in the semifinals to advance to the title game.
WCHA Final Face-off MVP Brianna Decker led the Badgers with four points in the two games, while Meghan Duggan and Kelly Nash added three points apiece. Alex Rigsby improved to 24-1-2, earning both wins in goal for the Badgers.
Read what the media said about the Badgers in the WCHA Final Face-off.
By Matt Lepay on March 9, 2011 10:29 AM
It is official. Folks in Buckeye Nation really dislike the Badgers.
Maybe not any more than they dislike anything associated with the University of Michigan, but from all appearances last Sunday in Columbus, there is very little difference these days.
As our radio crew arrived at Value City Arena, all was quiet for about 10 minutes. Then the doors opened, the students came streaming into the facility, and the catcalls were underway. "Hey Bruesewitz, you (bleep)! Hey Jordan Taylor, you (bleep) too!"
One of the OSU students came up to us and said "I just want to apologize for what we are going to be saying today. It's not about you guys--it's about THEM!!" as he pointed to the Badger players taking their warm up shots.
Great. Thanks for the heads up. With our broadcast location right by the Wisconsin bench, we figured we were going to be in for a long day, with FCC violations just waiting to happen.
Thankfully, to the best of our knowledge, there were no such issues. The students were wound up, firing verbal volleys at Bo Ryan and his team all day long, but it seemed to be PG-rated stuff. In the end, the Buckeyes had their way with a lopsided victory and a Big Ten title party.
Congrats, but that win for the Badgers in Madison still counts. The season series is 1-1.
No. 1 Wisconsin earned its fourth WCHA postseason crown last weekend at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. UW defeated Minnesota 5-4 in overtime to become the 2011 WCHA Final Face-off champions. The Badgers shut out North Dakota, 3-0, in the semifinals to advance to the title game.
While in Minneapolis last weekend, the Badgers also attended the WCHA awards ceremony, where senior Meghan Duggan was named the WCHA Player of the Year. Check out pictures from the weekend at UWBadgers.com.
Do you remember when the UW's all-time leading scorer Alando Tucker saved a game with his defense - not his offense - against the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus?
In the 2003 Big Ten opener, the Badgers had been victimized by Michigan's Daniel Horton who drove the lane and scored the game-winning basket for the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
That 66-65 loss didn't sit well with Tucker who felt like he could have done more to prevent that shot. Little did he know that he would get a chance at redemption just 10 days later at Ohio State.
Not that it looked like the Badgers would need any late game heroics after they erased a 27-22 halftime deficit by knocking down 11 of 17 shots to forge a 50-39 lead with 5:18 remaining.
But the 'Ghosts of Daniel Horton Past' began to take shape again. In that earlier road loss at Michigan, the Badgers had squandered a 15-point lead which opened the door for Horton's kill shot.
Taking a page from that script, the Buckeyes came roaring back and nosed ahead, 52-51, on a Velimir Radinovic field goal with 37 seconds left. UW coach Bo Ryan called a timeout.
Kirk Penney, a senior, was Ryan's choice to take the shot.
At Michigan, the honors went to sophomore Devin Harris, who had his shot blocked by Horton.
"Devin made it look like it was possibly going to him," Ryan said of his strategy. "It's not that we don't trust Devin. But Kirk was playing with more confidence and we liked the matchup."
Penney was matched against Ohio State guard Sean Connolly.
"If you're a player in that situation, it's something you just relish," said Penney, who scored over Connolly to give the Badgers a 53-52 lead with 7.4 seconds to play. "You love to be in that position."
The Buckeyes inbounded to Brent Darby who pushed the ball up the floor and attacked the rim. Mike Wilkinson was in position to make sure that Darby would not get a good look at the basket.
Lurking in the background was Tucker. Without hesitation, Tucker rotated across the lane and swatted away Darby's shot at the buzzer. And the Badgers escaped with a dramatic victory.
"Once I saw his eyes looking at the rim," Tucker said of Darby, "I was going to try and climb the ladder and go up and get it. I saw the ball floating - it was like it was moving in slow motion."
Tucker and Penney made eye contact and hugged.
"We both sighed," Tucker said. "The horn goes off and you look at the scoreboard and we're up by one. You have to win games like this to be successful in the Big Ten."
When Ryan was asked if his players had to overcome any flashback to their blown lead and crushing loss at Michigan, he said, "They didn't become disbelievers. They just kept believing."
By Other Contributors on March 4, 2011 11:33 PM
In this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about how the team spent its week off after an opening week in Austin, Texas. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.
I think Tom Petty said it best, "The waiting is the hardest part."
It's been two weeks since our last games. Two weeks since our trip to Austin that we've had to break down film, assess our progress, attack our weaknesses and scout our opponents. I know everyone's bodies needed a few days off after winning four of our first six games. The University of Wisconsin is taking midterms right now too, so the team got a few extra days off over the weekend to catch up and get ahead on their studies preparing for mid-semester exams.
As a coach, I'd rather not take extra days off. Practice days are the most enjoyable for me, and game days are even better. A weekend of following scores while others are competing isn't any fun. Yet our staff works hard to maintain a little work-life balance in season, enjoying the moments we can spend with family while we're home.
Seconds after exiting the UW locker room Thursday night, Jordan Taylor was informed that he had just matched his season-low in assists against Indiana. That was brought to his attention by a member of the press corps. It was seemingly intended to get a laugh out of Taylor.
It had the opposite effect. "That's true actually,'' Jordan said with a straight face. "Seriously, there were some guys who made cuts - Keaton (Nankivil)--I think I missed a few times.''
Nothing frames Taylor's selflessness more than that snapshot. While it's true that he had just one assist against the Hoosiers - matching his season-low against Boston College in late November - it's also true that Taylor was terrific in his decision-making and execution on ball screens.
Oh, yeah, he did score a career-high 39 points.
"That was awesome--awesome to be a part of,'' said UW video coordinator Sharif Chambliss, a sharpshooter of some renown during his college days at Penn State and Wisconsin. "That was awesome to watch Jordan put the team on his back tonight and we rode him on out.''
Nankivil used the words "incredible'' and "phenomenal'' to describe Taylor. "When you're playing in the game, you don't really notice,'' he said. "But at the end of the game you look at the box score and you see how much he carried us offensively. He made all the plays he could possibly make.''
Indiana coach Tom Crean called Taylor an "All-American'' and the "real deal'' after he burned his defense for a second time. Taylor had 28 points against the Hoosiers in Madison. In the two games, he made 20-of-34 shots (.588), 10-of-14 from beyond the 3-point arc (.714) and 17-of-17 free throws.
"Some shots that he made were amazing,'' Crean said. "Maybe they've seen them in practice, but I've never seen those made in games. He made some incredibly challenged shots. For a kid like Taylor, the open shot is anything less than your outstretched arm. He made shots over 6-8 and 6-9 guys.''
Whenever the Hoosiers switched on ball screens, it left Taylor to operate on either 6-foot-9, 250-pound Tom Pritchard or 6-8, 230-pound Christian Watford. Neither could contain him.
"Coach (Bo Ryan) preaches that all year round,'' Taylor said. "If they're going to switch a big on you that's a mismatch - a big on a guard - unless it's like Amare Stoudemire or KG (Kevin Garnett).
"So I was just trying to make a play. They were backing off a little bit sometimes. And other times they were kind of pressing up on us. I just tried to make some good decisions with the ball.''
Taylor sighed and added, "I also made some bad decisions with the turnover.''
Another snapshot of his unselfishness.
He had one turnover in 39 minutes.
So what did it feel like being in such a zone?
"Sometimes the basket just gets bigger,'' said Taylor, who once scored 43 in a high school game. "Every basketball player has probably experienced it. My teammates did a great job of spreading the floor and kept moving without the ball and it just made it easier to get better looks at the basket.''
Nankivil was asked about the pressure that Taylor puts on a "big'' to defend. "They say size is a big factor in basketball and it is,'' he said. "But speed is equally hard to match up with when you have that threat of speed going to the basket. He also has the ability to stop and pop and hit the shots.''
Although Taylor insisted that there wasn't a point in the game where he felt like he was on the brink of such a scoring clinic, he conceded that after making a leaning, jumper over Watford at the end of the shot clock in the first half, he thought that "things might be going my way a little bit.''
At Wilkes College, Bo Ryan once scored 43 against Susquehanna.
There was no 3-point line, either.
So what did Ryan think about his point guard Thursday night?
"How do you describe that?'' he posed, answering a question with a question. "He hit tough shots with guys in his face. And then when they crowded him, he attacked and got to the rim or got fouled. That's as good of an individual performance as I've ever seen. I can't put it into words. And you know for a guy from Chester (Pa.) if he can't put it into words, it's probably not describable.''
On making reads off ball screens, Ryan said, "Those decisions were very very helpful because he was able to get separation or he was able to attack off the bounce. I figured they were going to go to him more with maybe a second guy like they were doubling Jon Leuer in the first half. We spread the floor pretty well and Jordan was ready to pass it to somebody but he was the one getting open.''
Taylor has made steady progress as a shooter. Last season, he was under 40 percent.
"He has done a terrific job of working really hard,'' said UW assistant coach Gary Close. "We've changed a few things. I don't know that if there was anything real major. We tried to get him a little more consistent and tried to take some of the movement out of the shot that isn't necessary.
"In a lot of cases that's when inconsistency starts to creep in. We've made him a little tighter, a little more concise and he's worked real hard at it. You can tell guys a lot of things, but if they don't go and work at it - it doesn't make a whole lot of difference. He deserves a whole lot of credit.''
This week, the Madison media looked at what makes senior Meghan Duggan, junior Hilary Knight and sophomore Brianna Decker such a dangerous scoring threat. In case you missed it, check out the three stories here.
It's March Madness time in the college world, but it's also the start of championship season in high school hoops. With that in mind, let's check in on Wisconsin's Class of 2011.
The Badgers will welcome four freshman to campus this summer: Traevon Jackson, Frank Kaminsky, George Marshall and Jared Uthoff.
The common denominator on these four... winners. The combined record of the four schools? 86-9, winning 90.5 percent of their games.
TRAEVON JACKSON (6-2, 200, Guard, Westerville High School, Westerville, Ohio) After starting the season 19-0, Jackson's Westerville team closed the regular season with its only loss of the year, a 66-64 bump to Oletangy Liberty. The team rebounded by opening the playoffs with 46 and 65-point wins over Lancaster and Watkins Memorial, respectively. Jackson has been consistent, averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3.5 steals per game.
FRANK KAMINSKY (6-10, 225, Forward, Benet Academy, Lisle, Ill.) Kaminsky has elevated Benet Academy to a No. 6 national ranking in the USA Today Super 25. Kaminsky's squad enters the postseason with a record of 27-0 and riding the momentum of a 58-54 win over previously No. 1 Chicago Simeon. Kaminsky tallied 19 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 assists in that 1 vs. 2 bout. GEORGE MARSHALL (6-0, 170, Guard, Chicago Brooks College Prep, Chicago, Ill.) Marshall missed six weeks with a broken hand, but returned in early February helping Chicago Brooks (23-3) win the Chicago Public League Championship.
Marshall led Brooks with 22 points and five 3-pointers in a win over Chicago Bogan then hit the game-winning jumper with 0:04 left to knock off Chicago Farragut in the semifinals three nights later. As an encore, Marshall tallied a game-high 23 points in a championship game win over Whitney Young. JARROD UTHOFF (6-8, 195, Forward, Jefferson High School, Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Uthoff's team may not have the most impressive record of the four, but his individual numbers are probably the best. A 1,000-point scorer for Jefferson, Uthoff has been over 20 points in 12 consecutive games. Since mid-January, Uthoff has averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds per game.
As a team, Jefferson (17-5) is moving its way through the Iowa Class 4A bracket and faces No. 2 Des Moines Hoover on March 9.
It has been quite a freshman year for Josh Gasser, at least so far. In January, he recorded the first triple-double in Wisconsin men's basketball history. Last week, he banked home a 3-point shot at the buzzer as the Badgers stunned Michigan, 53-52.
While not the first true buzzer-beater, it has been awhile since a Badger has hit a shot at the horn that turned defeat into victory. How long? Try 20 years.
That's right. The last time a Badger made a shot as time expired -- make it and you win or miss it and you lose -- was on Feb. 16, 1991. On that night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Brian Good nailed a long one to give Steve Yoder's Badgers a 56-55 win against Iowa.
UW assistant coach Gary Close was on the Iowa staff under then-head coach Dr. Tom Davis. Similar to last Wednesday's tussle in Ann Arbor, that '91 game was not exactly a thing of beauty, but the last few seconds turned out to be very pretty.
Three months earlier, the Badgers had a road game at Oregon's old McArthur Court. Late in overtime, the Badgers trailed Terrell Brandon and the Ducks, 70-69. As the final seconds were ticking away, Brandon was checking the Badgers' Jay Peters, who drained a 3-pointer at the horn to give Wisconsin a thrilling 72-70 win.
This is the same Terrell Brandon who ended up as that season's Pac-10 player of the year and then went on to a very good NBA career. In fact, in 1997, Sports Illustrated called him the NBA's best point guard.
For some reason, one of the memories I have of that night was when I saw Jay on the team bus after the game. He was reading the Wall Street Journal. It was at that moment when I figured Jay would be just fine in his post-basketball life. When I introduce him to people, I enjoy mentioning that game and how Jay Peters won it on a game-ending shot.
Yes, there have been some game-winners at the horn beyond those three examples, but in those cases either the game was tied or there was time still left on the clock. Shots that broke ties include Kam Taylor's winner vs. UNC-Wilmington in 2005, and Alando Tucker's put-back to beat Indiana in March of 2005 was followed 11 days later with a banked-in 3 at the horn to knock out Iowa in the Big Ten tournament.
Made shots with time remaining include the 2003 NCAA Tournament, when Freddie Owens splashed a triple with one second left to give Wisconsin a 61-60 victory against Tulsa.
All of those are terrific endings for the Badgers and their fans, but what Gasser did last Wednesday is rare air for Wisconsin basketball. The Badgers were behind and, with the ball in the air, the outcome was in doubt.
Then again, fans might be getting used to seeing the freshman guard doing either the unusual or the unprecedented. The program's first ever triple-double, and the first come-from-behind shot at the horn in 20 years. Not a bad start to someone's college career.
Who knows? For Gasser and his teammates, maybe the best is yet to come.
In this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about how the team has set both team and individual goals for the season. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.
After a great opening weekend in Austin, Texas, winning four games, we're back working hard in Madison. One of my favorite things we did as a staff this weekend was set game goals for the team. As coaches and student-athletes, we often get caught up in the outcome instead of focusing on the process. As new staff here at Wisconsin, we know how important teaching the game is. We've spent a tremendous amount of time meeting with each student-athlete, getting to know our team on a personal level and communicating our philosophy and goals.
Our staff understands that you don't just go out, cross your fingers, wish for good things to happen and win games. Although we are very positive and motivational, there is a lot of theory and method behind our approach. You win games by executing the fundamentals. If your team can focus on the process of getting people on base, moving runners and getting clutch performances from defenders, pitchers, and hitters when it counts, you'll win games.