UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Butler not bored by preparing for Badgers

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.

This team is no different.

The players have only Butler on the brain.

As boring as that may sound.