June 2011 Archives

Gilreath runs away with fan vote

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After a week of voting, Badgers fans have spoken with their pick for the top play of the 2010-11 season. In reality, the contest was probably over before it started.

The play that got the football Badgers' thrilling 31-18 win over No. 1-ranked Ohio State "underway with ... a ... bang" ran away with nearly half the votes.

David Gilreath's 97-yard return for touchdown on the game's opening kickoff claimed 48.7 percent of the vote to take the title in the UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year poll.

Runner-up honors -- with 27.2 percent of the fan vote -- went to women's hockey's Kelly Nash, who tallied the game-winner in overtime to secure the WCHA Final Face-off crown over Minnesota.

Josh Gasser's buzzer-beating 3-pointer garnered 9.5 percent of the vote to finish third, and Landon Peacock's last-gasp pass for the Big Ten cross country title was fourth with 5.3 percent. Justin Schultz's overtime game-winner for the Badger men rounded out the top five with 4.3 percent.

Here's a look at the complete poll results:
48.7%  David Gilreath - Football - Opening kickoff return for TD vs. Ohio State (Oct. 16)
27.2%  Kelly Nash - Women's Hockey- OT game-winner in WCHA Final Face-Off (March 5)
9.5%   Josh Gasser - Men's Basketball - Buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Michigan (Feb. 23)
5.3%   Landon Peacock - Men's Cross Country - Late pass to win Big Ten title (Oct. 31)
4.3%   Justin Schultz - Men's Hockey - OT game-winning goal vs. Canisius (Jan. 8)
3.5%   Brad Nortman - Football - Fake punt to keep drive alive vs. Iowa (Oct. 23)
1.4%   Lin Zastrow - Women's Basketball - Game-tying tip-in at buzzer vs. Wyoming (Dec. 15)

And, in case you want to see it again, the top play in UW sports for 2010-11:


Rankings begin to roll in for Badgers

FB_110629_Henry_Aaron.jpgThe annual flood of preseason football rankings has begun with a trickle, as both Blue Ribbon Yearbook and Sporting News have released their early rundowns.

Both think highly of the defending Big Ten champion Badgers.

Sporting News' version, penned by Matt Hayes, delves deep by ranking the entire Football Bowl Subdivision, from No. 1 all the way to No. 120.

Badgers fans don't have to read that far down, however. Hayes has the Badgers pegged at No. 10 and quotes head coach Bret Bielema as, "Excited to be in the top 10! It's a great recognition of what we've accomplished in the past and what our team expects and is working to achieve in the future."

UW ranks second-highest among Big Ten teams, with new member Nebraska one spot ahead at No. 9. Sporting News also has the teams that shared the league's crown with Wisconsin in 2010 -- Michigan State and Ohio State -- among its top 20. The Spartans check in at No. 14, with the Buckeyes slotted 17th.

With Penn State at No. 24, the Big Ten owns one-fifth of the Sporting News' top 25.

LSU is the magazine's preseason favorite, ahead of No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Alabama. Stanford and Oregon round out the top five.

Blue Ribbon Yearbook goes a different way with its top pick, seating the Sooners at No. 1. Alabama checks in at No. 2, with LSU, Stanford and Oregon completing the top five.

More importantly, Blue Ribbon pegs the Badgers at No. 13. That's four spots back of the top Big Ten team in its rankings, No. 9 Nebraska.

Also representing the league are Michigan State at No. 15 at Ohio State at No. 18.

Sporting News College Football Top 120

Top 25 (Complete Listing)
  1. LSU
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Alabama
  4. Stanford
  5. Oregon
  6. Boise State
  7. Florida State
  8. Oklahoma State
  9. Nebraska
10. Wisconsin
11. Arkansas
12. Texas A&M
13. Virginia Tech
14. Michigan State
15. Notre Dame
16. South Carolina
17. Ohio State
18. Auburn
19. TCU
20. Mississippi State
21. Utah
22. West Virginia
23. Arizona State
24. Penn State
25. USC

Blue Ribbon Yearbook Preseason Top 25

  1. Oklahoma
  2. Alabama
  3. LSU
  4. Stanford
  5. Oregon
  6. Boise State
  7. Florida State
  8. Texas A&M
  9. Nebraska
10. South Carolina
11. Virginia Tech
12. Oklahoma State
13. Wisconsin
14. Arkansas
15. Michigan State
16. Georgia
17. TCU
18. Ohio State
19. Notre Dame
20. Arizona State
21. Mississippi State
22. USC
23. West Virginia
24. Missouri
25. Southern Miss

Badgers sharpening skills with summer soccer

There are just 33 days left until the Wisconsin women's soccer team reports for preseason training camp, but many members have kept busy playing in leagues all over North America this summer. At roughly the halfway point of the season, UWBadgers.com takes a look at the summer league teams and performances.
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Several players have been competing both with and against each other in the Women's Premier Soccer League. This highly-competitive league consists of both current and former collegiate players, as well as former professional players.

Three Badgers have stayed local and are playing with the Madison 56ers. Lauren Cochlin, Michele Dalton and Derya Kelter train regularly with the team, which is currently sitting in second place in the Midwest-North division with seven points and a 2-2-1 record.

Cochlin is tied for second on the team with two goals and four points, while Dalton has appeared in all five games and Kelter has played in four.

The FC Milwaukee Nationals, which sit six points ahead of the second place 56ers with a 4-1-1 record, feature four current Badgers: Joana Bielefeld, Lindsey Hamann, Lindsey Johnson and Laurie Nosbusch. Last summer, the Nationals won their division and advanced to reach the Final Four.

Nosbusch boasts a team-leading four goals and eight points while playing in all six games, while Bielefeld is tied for the team lead with one assist in five games. Johnson has seen action in five games and Hamann has appeared in three contests.

Also playing in the Midwest-North Division, fellow Badger Ali Heller trains with Eclipse Select in Chicago. The team currently sits in sixth place with four points at 1-1-1 but has played fewer games than most other teams. Heller, a defender, has appeared in all three games.

Monica Lam-Feist finds herself back in British Columbia for the summer, playing for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Western Conference of the W-League. The Whitecaps are well situated in first place in their division with 23 points and a 7-1-2 record. Lam-Feist has played in six of the team's 10 games, registering three shots.

Badgers Erin Jacobsen and Alev Kelter are also sharing the field together on the Naperville Soccer Association U-23 team in the Chicago area. Nicole La Petina isn't too far away, as she trains at home with Ela Elite in northern Illinois.

Catie Sessions is also spending the summer at home in Minnesota playing for the Woodbury Inferno, which has advanced to the U-19 regional championship game in Appleton, Wis. Sessions also spent a week in Chula Vista, Calif., training with the U-20 National Team.
 
The women's soccer team returns to Madison on Aug. 2 in preparation for its regular season opener against defending national champion Notre Dame on Aug. 19 in South Bend, Ind.

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UW coach Bret Bielema had to deal with an old cliché and time-honored debate -- perception versus reality -- during the recruitment of former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Badgers have always been fair game for stereotyping.

Call it a "rush'' to judgment.

"I had to battle that because that's all he (Wilson) kept throwing in my face,'' Bielema said. "I think other schools (recruiting Wilson) were using that against us.''

"That" being what?

"We're a run-oriented school,'' Bielema said.

Well, yeah.

"Well, we're an offense-oriented school,'' Bielema countered.

That, too.

"I understand it -- I get it -- we've got good running backs,'' he continued. "But there's not a lot of people in college football over the last couple of years who have been as balanced as we are.''

That's the reality.

In 2009, the Badgers were one of only six teams in college football to average over 200 yards rushing (203.9) and passing (213.1). Florida, TCU, Stanford, Fresno State and Auburn were the others.

In 2010, the Badgers averaged 245.6 on the ground and 199.4 through the air.

It's hard to argue against that type of balance. Wilson obviously agreed.

"That's the part I think we ultimately ended up selling to him,'' Bielema said.

But there was much more to Bielema's recruiting pitch to Wilson. "You've got a chance to come in here,'' he informed him, "and you're not going to do it on your own.''

That touched all the bases, the right ones, at least; home run.

Not that Bielema would ever use a baseball metaphor.

"I was the last kid picked in baseball every time in gym class,'' he said, laughing.

Let's just say his pitch -- the one to Wilson -- was a strike.

"I believe some other people who were recruiting him,'' Bielema said, "were selling him on, 'Hey, come here. You're the man, you're going to win the Heisman and the national championship ...''

Blah, blah, blah.

Bielema picked it up from there, adding "Whereas my plan was, 'This is what we are. If you want to fit into this, I think you can be tremendously successful.'''

He also told Wilson, "If you come here and become a part of what we're doing, and buy into what we do as coaches, you're going to be rewarded for the rest of your life.''

On the other hand, if Wilson expected special privileges, if he was looking for a program where he would be bigger than the team, Bielema suggested to him, "This isn't the place for you.''

Bielema knew what he was getting, though; especially after meeting Wilson, especially after a North Carolina State coach also confirmed, "Russell is a '9' as a player and a '29' as a person.''

Near the end of the recruiting process, Wilson sent an email to Bielema.

"Coach, I want to come in and work every day,'' it read in part. "I want to take one game at a time. I want to try and do everything I can to help this football team in any way that I can.''

The fact that Wilson would choose Wisconsin over Auburn, the defending national champions, was gratifying to Bielema and his football program.

"It has been a good awakening for me to realize on a national level that we can compete with anybody,'' he said. But he cautioned, "I don't want to replace the image of Wisconsin.''

Wilson was attracted to the UW because of its family image, among other selling points.

"I'm excited to be a part of the Wisconsin family,'' he said Monday.

Bielema limited his initial comments on Wilson to a prepared statement in a press release. That was by design to give Wilson some space and his own forum to explain his decision to become a Badger.

On Tuesday, Bielema was on two local radio shows, one nationally-syndicated show and ESPN's College Football Live. He was spreading the word on how happy the Badgers were to land Wilson.

Bielema also answered questions from the local and the state media corps for 20 minutes in the lobby of the UW football offices on the eighth floor of Camp Randall Stadium.

While he was noting how Wilson is "very on-task with everything he does'' Wilson and his fiancée, Ashley, were in Raleigh packing for the move. Wilson is expected to be in Madison this weekend.

Once he's here, and clears his physical, Wilson will join the UW's summer conditioning workouts. He's also planning on enrolling in some summer school courses.

"Once he gets on campus,'' Bielema said, "our players will be the best coaches.''

That's out of necessity. The NCAA limits off-season contact between players and coaches.

Wilson has already been introduced to the skill-position players and his offensive line.

That took place on his recruiting trip to Madison.

"He had made the comment that he was really looking forward to playing behind an offensive line of our stature,'' Bielema said. "So we let him sit down and visit with the linemen.''

With a smirk, Bielema added, "I think that was a moment when he realized, 'This is a different game here' with the guys that we had walking into that room.''

Given that Jon Budmayr was the UW's starting quarterback coming out of spring practice -- replacing two-year starter Scott Tolzien -- what was his reaction to Wilson's recruitment?

"I loved Jon's reaction,'' said Bielema. "He goes, 'Coach, whatever happens, it's not going to change the way I prepare for this upcoming season.' I really think that's the way he's going to handle it.''

Wilson said Monday that he felt comfortable in Bielema's presence.

How did Bielema handle that end of the process?

"I was just me,'' he said. "The same guy I am if I'm recruiting Peter Konz out of Neenah or Lance Kendricks out of Milwaukee or Aaron Henry out of Immokalee, Florida.

"I tell them all the same thing, 'I'm going to put you in a position to win.'

"One thing I was guarded against with Russell, I didn't anoint him king of Madison. I didn't tell him that he was going to come in here and change the world.''

He just emphasized the Badgers were a great fit for his needs. Wilson agreed.

"I wouldn't have gone down this path,'' Bielema said of the entire recruiting process, "if it wasn't someone I really respected as a person that I thought could handle this situation.''

Bielema recounted how he had left the scholarship papers at home over the weekend, which resulted in an unscheduled delay early Monday morning.

The papers had to be faxed to Wilson and signed by him before it all became official.

"Left them on my kitchen counter and I had to go back and get them,'' Bielema said.

What was Wilson's reaction?

"He said, 'Coach, you've got to be better prepared than that.'

"That's how he is.''

Play of the Year Nominee: David Gilreath

Vote: UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year

Our look back on the top plays of 2010-11 concludes Tuesday as we look back on the play that set the stage for Wisconsin's thrilling win over No. 1-ranked Ohio State under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium.

Is it your choice for the best of 2010-11? Feel free to vote once per day for your favorite play, and we will announce the winner Wednesday.


David Gilreath - Football
Opening kickoff return for TD vs. Ohio State (Oct. 16)

The buildup to No. 16 Wisconsin's clash with No. 1-ranked Ohio State seemed almost unending, but it took just seconds for David Gilreath to show how the Badgers would respond to one of the most hyped games in their history. The senior took the opening kickoff and sprinted around and through the Buckeyes' coverage unit as part of a 97-yard return for touchdown, a score that paved the way for a 31-18 victory.

UW's first win over the nation's top-ranked team in 29 years set off one of the biggest celebrations in Camp Randall Stadium history -- and set the stage for a run to the Big Ten title.

Lucas at Large: Visit sold Wilson on UW ... and vice versa

110628_FB_Wilson.jpgAfter huddling with Russell Wilson during his campus visit, UW athletic director Barry Alvarez felt like the former North Carolina State quarterback would be a good catch because of his character.

Alvarez sensed Wilson was more interested in joining a program that had a chance to win a Big Ten championship (UW) than a defending national champion (Auburn) that offered more glitz.

The Ol' Ball Coach emerged in Alvarez when he quizzed Wilson on why he wanted to come to Madison. He heard what he wanted to hear, too, from someone who's mature beyond his years.

Russell Wilson, who will be 23 in November, had an undeniable presence, Alvarez noted, not unlike another elite UW athlete. "He reminded me of Jordan Taylor," Alvarez said.

Taylor, who will be 22 in September, quarterbacks the Badgers -- Bo Ryan's basketball Badgers. One of his teammates, Mike Bruesewitz, believes that Taylor will run for governor one day.

Compare that to what North Carolina State football coach Tom O'Brien once said of Wilson: "I think he certainly could be mayor. Maybe governor. Maybe president.''

In high school, Collegiate School in Richmond, Va., Wilson was the president of his junior and senior class. That speaks volumes for his leadership qualities; a staple of winning quarterback play.

It also helps to have a receiver in the family.

Wilson's older brother, Harry (short for Harrison), led the University of Richmond football team in receiving in 2004. Against Maine, he had 13 catches for 146 yards.

How competitive are the Wilsons? Very. That goes for their mom, Tammy, and little sister, Anna.

During his Monday teleconference, Russell Wilson stressed that he plans on competing for the UW's starting job like he has always competed. "Since I was 2 years old,'' he said.

That type of answer went over well with Alvarez. In this context, was there anything Wilson wanted to hear during his recruiting trip here? "There wasn't anything in particular,'' he said.

No preconceived notions, Wilson added.

"I think more than anything I wanted to understand the atmosphere and what Madison, Wisconsin, was about and what Coach Bielema was about from both a moral and coaching aspect.''

At one point, Wilson sounded like an Alvarez/Bielema hybrid when he talked about "taking care of his business,'' which is consistent with the program's mission statement, on and off the field.

"They have a great tradition here,'' Wilson said.

And now he's hoping to add to it when he makes his UW debut at Camp Randall Stadium.

"It's going to be a rockin' stadium,'' said Wilson, who wore No. 16 at NC State -- the same number that Scott Tolzien wore the last two seasons as Wisconsin's starting quarterback.

Small world, huh? And finally it stopped spinning for Wilson after weeks of deliberation.

"I'm at peace about it,'' he said. "It's the right decision for me.''

Lucas at Large: Leuer among NBA draft's fortunate few

110627_MBB_Leuer.jpgTo a small degree, Jon Leuer may have been disappointed -- disappointed because he wasn't among the top 30 players selected in the first round of the NBA draft.

To a large degree, Jon Leuer may have been delighted -- delighted because he was among the top 30 players selected in the second round of the NBA draft.

Leuer went No. 40 to the Milwaukee Bucks. Only 60 players were drafted. You do the math -- on how many very good college basketball players will have to make an NBA roster as a free agent.

Only one Big Ten player was taken in the first round: Purdue's JaJuan Johnson went to the Boston Celtics (via trade from New Jersey) with the 27th selection overall.

Johnson is the first Boilermaker to go in the first round since the Bucks took Big Dog (Glenn Robinson) in 1994. He will be joined in Boston by teammate E'Twaun Moore, a second-round pick.

Moore, who went No. 55, was one of four Big Ten players picked in the second. The others were Leuer; Michigan's Darius Morris (No. 41, Lakers) and Ohio State's Jon Diebler (No. 51, Trail Blazers).

All in all, you can see why Leuer might be disappointed that he didn't go higher in the draft -- he's a competitor after all. But you can also see why he might be delighted by his draft number.

Especially considering the quality players who went undrafted. That would include Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough, the Big East's Player of the Year; and Butler's Matt Howard, a real bulldog.

Howard, who's expected to play in Belgium or Italy, watched Butler teammate Shelvin Mack go in the second round, No. 34, to the Washington Wizards.

It was duly noted that Howard took part in 117 victories at Butler, while the top seven picks in the 2011 draft, including four Europeans, played in a combined 116 college basketball games.

Virginia Commonwealth's Jamie Skeen was one of the catalysts in his team's exciting NCAA run. But he wasn't drafted. Neither was Kansas State's Jacob Pullen, nor Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney.

Tennessee's Scott Hopson, Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn and Georgetown's Austin Freeman will have to be NBA free agents, too. Such are the vagaries of a two-round draft.

You could assemble an All-Big Ten team of undrafted players.

Penn State's Talor Battle, Illinois's Demetri McCamey and Michigan State's Kalin Lucas would be in the backcourt. Ohio State's David Lighty and Illinois' Jereme Richmond would round out the starters.

Michigan State's Durrell Summers would be the sixth man.

Lighty ranks as a surprise because of his versatility and ability to guard a variety of positions. Via his Twitter account, Lighty posted, "U will see me in the NBA I promise u that.''

There's no reason to doubt him. Since 1989, when the NBA reduced its draft to two rounds, there have been a number of free agents who wrote their own happy ending in the league.

That list would include undrafted players like Brad Miller -- a former Purdue Boilermaker -- Ben Wallace, Bruce Bowen, David Wesley and Raja Bell.

Over the years, there have been many other notable free agents, including John Starks, Avery Johnson and Udonis Haslem. More recently, there was Marquette's Wesley Matthews.

After one season in Utah, Matthews signed a five-year, $34 million contract with Portland.

Recruiting, obviously, is not the only inexact science.

Play of the Year Nominee: Kelly Nash

Vote: UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year

Our look back on the top plays of 2010-11 continues Saturday as we look back on the play that finished off the Badgers' sweep of the WCHA regular-season and tournament titles with a dramatic overtime win over Border Battle rival Minnesota.

Is it your choice for the best of 2010-11? Feel free to vote once per day for your favorite play, and we will announce the winner Wednesday, June 29.


Kelly Nash - Women's Hockey
OT game-winner to win WCHA Final Face-Off (March 5)

With the WCHA Final Face-Off crown on the line in a rivalry matchup against Minnesota, the Badgers needed a lift in overtime. Their first lead of the game came with just 49 seconds to go in the extra period as senior Kelly Nash took a pass from fellow senior Geena Prough and wristed the game-winner past Gophers goaltender Noora Raty. The goal gave UW its fourth WCHA tournament title and kept the Badgers' unbeaten streak alive at 24 straight games.

Play of the Year Nominee: Lin Zastrow

Vote: UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year

Our look back on the top plays of 2010-11 continues Saturday as we look back on the play that kept the Badgers alive for an overtime period that allowed them to finish the non-conference slate with a big road win.

Is it your choice for the best of 2010-11? Feel free to vote once per day for your favorite play, and we will announce the winner Wednesday, June 29.


Lin Zastrow - Women's Basketball
Game-tying tip-in at buzzer vs. Wyoming (Dec. 15)

The Badgers grabbed a key road win at Wyoming in their non-conference finale, but the 63-59 victory wouldn't have been if not for a clutch play from their senior leader. The Badgers had their chance for the final shot of regulation, but Alyssa Karel's jumper with 12 seconds remaining rimmed out. Fellow senior Lin Zastrow played hero, however, tipping in the rebound to push the contest to overtime.

Lucas at Large: With draft complete, Leuer looks ahead

MBB_110629_Leuer_Jon_NBA.jpgDuring his pre-draft workout with the Detroit Pistons, Jon Leuer got some valuable advice from Joe Dumars, the team's president of basketball operations, that has served as a source of motivation.

He just told me, 'It's a helluva lot more important what you do after the draft than what you do before it,'" recounted Leuer, a second-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Bucks.

"That kind of stuck with me and put things into perspective."

Following Friday's press conference at the Bradley Center -- his new home -- Leuer was scheduled to travel back to his parent's home in Minnesota to decompress from his NBA odyssey, 17 workouts.

"But not for too long," he said. "I'll probably come back to Milwaukee for a few workouts Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then after that, we'll see what happens."

All signs are pointing to a July 1 work stoppage; a lockout when the CBA expires. "I'll keep training and keep working my butt off," Leuer said. "Obviously, it's a different situation."

That would also describe Thursday night at the Leuer household. While his dad handled the grilling, his mom served as a hostess for family and friends who had gathered to watch the draft.

That included three of Leuer's former Wisconsin teammates: Tim Jarmusz, Brett Valentyn and J.P. Gavinski. They drove up Wednesday and "hung out" for a couple of days with Leuer.

"I was glad that they came up because it helped take my mind off things," Leuer said. "I was kind of nervous (Thursday); stressed out a little bit. Just hanging out with the guys put my mind at ease."

Nobody actually saw the formal announcement that the Bucks had taken Leuer in the second round of the draft with the 40th selection overall. That's because ESPN was in a commercial break.

"I talked to my agent about two or three picks before that,'' Leuer said, "and he was the one who told me, 'You're going to the Bucks.' But I didn't tell anybody else in the room.

"I had a big smile on my face, so I think people knew that I had a good feeling."

Why did he feel so good about the Bucks? "I knew Milwaukee was a good situation," he said. "They have good people in their organization."

Was he disappointed that he didn't get drafted earlier? "To be honest, I thought I would go a little earlier," he said. "And obviously it would have been great to go in the first round."

First round money is guaranteed. "But it's still about finding the right fit," said Leuer, reiterating Dumars' inspiration. "It's more important what you do after the draft than what you do before it."

Leuer kind of likes the idea of playing close to "home" - the UW campus in Madison.

"I don't see it adding more pressure at all," he said. "Regardless of where I am, or who I am playing for, I'm just going to continue to try and be the best player that I can be.

"That's always my goal: do what I can to help my team, whatever that is. Thankfully, I get to stay in Wisconsin and the fans - who cheered me on for the last four years - can be a part of this."

When asked if he sees himself as a "stretch-4" -- a popular new term -- Leuer said, "That's a role I can fill, definitely, as a 4-man who can stretch the floor and knock down shots."

But he doesn't want to be stereotyped.

"I don't feel like I'm a spot-up shooter by any means," he added. "I feel like I can put the ball on the floor and make plays for the guys. I can do a lot more than just catch and shoot."

The thought of playing with point guard Brandon Jennings is intriguing to Leuer. "He's a point guard who really understands the game," he said. "He sees the floor and he has a little bit of flash."

Leuer plans on wearing jersey No. 30 with the Bucks; the same number that he wore with so much distinction for the Badgers. The first person he called after getting drafted was UW coach Bo Ryan.

"It was a good moment," said Leuer after thanking Ryan for helping him to get to this point in his basketball career. "He had a big part in it."

Play of the Year Nominee: Brad Nortman

Vote: UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year

Our look back on the top plays of 2010-11 continues Friday as we look back on the play that had the Badgers' punter playing the unexpected hero as UW looked to rally for a Big Ten road win at Iowa.

Is it your choice for the best of 2010-11? Feel free to vote once per day for your favorite play, and we will announce the winner Wednesday, June 29.


Brad Nortman - Football
Fake punt to keep drive alive vs. Iowa (Oct. 23)

Facing a fourth-and-4 and backed up on their own 26 yard line, the 10th-ranked Badgers dipped into their bag of tricks to keep a crucial late-game drive alive against No. 12 Iowa. With blocks laid out perfectly ahead of him, punter Brad Nortman tucked the ball and ran 17 yards to give UW a first down that kept the series moving and helped bring the Heartland Trophy back to Madison. The drive eventually led to Montee Ball's game-winning score in a dramatic 31-30 victory inside hostile Kinnick Stadium.

Entourage_Cast.jpgMany things separate Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez from other athletic directors.

Like the national championship that he won as a defensive coordinator at Notre Dame.

Like the three Rose Bowls that he won as the head coach of the Badgers.

Like his Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card and "Entourage.''

OK, so maybe he doesn't have an entourage, a retinue, per se; though he could make a case for one since he has been inducted into so many halls of fame, including the College Football Hall of Fame.

What he does have is a cameo appearance on the HBO series "Entourage.''

How many other ADs can say they were in a scene with Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven)?

"I've done some cool things in my day,'' Alvarez said. "But this was a great experience.''

He owes it all to a UW alum, Marquis Jet CEO/founder Kenny Dichter, whose entrepreneurial skills and business savvy can be traced back to his undergrad days on campus.

Dichter was the driving force behind "Late Night with the Badgers" and "Bleacher Creatures'' at the Field House. He has framed his success with passion, resiliency and match-making know-how.

Marquis Jet, as such, is affiliated with NetJets (read: Warren Buffett, who's expected to be in Madison for the Nebraska-Wisconsin football game in October).

To this end, Dichter has many friends in high places, including a fellow New Yorker by the name of Doug Ellin, the creator and executive producer of "Entourage.''

"Doug has come to a lot of our games with Kenny,'' Alvarez said. "So that's how I got to know Doug. Over the years, I've met some of the cast members of the show.''

Alvarez recently attended a NetJets/Marquis Jet function with Dichter and Ellin. One thing led to another and Ellin wound up inviting Alvarez to take part in an episode of "Entourage.''

The taping took place Tuesday in Hollywood.

Joining Alvarez on the set was "Da" Coach, Mike Ditka. Both attended high school in western Pennyslvania; Alvarez in Burgettstown, Ditka in Aliquippa. Both talk the same language.

Alvarez and Ditka were in a scene together with Jeremy Piven, the aforementioned Ari Gold; and Beverly D'Angelo (i.e. Ellen Griswold), whose "Entourage'' character is Babs Miller.

Both were raised on Big Ten turf.  Piven is from Evanston, Ill., while D'Angelo is from Columbus, Ohio. D'Angelo's grandfather, Howard Dwight Smith, was the architect of Ohio Stadium (the Horseshoe).

Alvarez was impressed with the professionalism of Piven and D'Angelo.

"They were so easy to work with,'' he said. "We had a lot of fun.''

So how many lines did Alvarez actually have?

"I greet Ari and I respond to something that Ditka says,'' Alvarez said. "You don't know how much is going to be used. It took us about three and half hours to tape less than a minute."

Was he star-struck?

"No, I felt very comfortable,'' he said. "They filmed our scene in an all-glass conference room, and you can't believe the amount of activity and the number of people that are involved in the taping.''

Alvarez had his very own dressing trailer.

And now he has his very own SAG card.

Sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Or was it just once?

With a twinkle in his eye, Alvarez declined to comment.

Leuer preps for tonight's NBA Draft

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The whirlwind preparation tour is over and now Jon Leuer begins the waiting game.

Auditioning for tonight's 2011 NBA Draft (6 p.m. CT on ESPN), Leuer has been to nearly every corner of the United States and racked up enough frequent flyer miles to follow Brad Paisley on his summer tour. In just the last six weeks, Leuer has had individual workouts with more than 15 teams, participated in the combine in Chicago and done private training in Los Angeles. (Not to mention sneaking off to South Dakota for Joe Krabbenhoft's wedding.)

That has all built up to tonight's draft where Leuer will learn his professional fate. The former All-Big Ten Badger is projected to be picked anywhere from late in the first round to the second round sometime.

"It's been a lot of travel, but it's been fun," Leuer said of the last few weeks. "I'll be watching at home in Minnesota with friends and family. Tim (Jarmusz), Brett (Valentyn) and J.P. (Gavinski) also drove up from Madison to be here."

Leuer's agent will be in a war room at his Chicago office.

Check back to UWBadgers.com later tonight for information when Leuer is drafted.

Play of the Year Nominee: Josh Gasser

Vote: UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year

Our look back on the top plays of 2010-11 continues Thursday as we look back on a dramatic game-winner from a freshman who played like anything but a rookie as a regular starter for the UW men's basketball team.

Is it your choice for the best of 2010-11? Feel free to vote once per day for your favorite play, and we will announce the winner Wednesday, June 29.


Josh Gasser - Men's Basketball
Buzzer-beating 3-pointer for win at Michigan (Feb. 23)

The 12th-ranked Wisconsin men's basketball team had plenty of time for a final shot, and logic said the Badgers would keep the ball in the hot hand of junior Jordan Taylor. When Michigan double-teamed Taylor, however, the stage was set for a heroic heave from Josh Gasser. The freshman responded by banking in a last-gasp 3-pointer that hit glass before splashing through the net as time expired on a 53-52 win over the Wolverines. The shot gave UW its 10th-straight win over Michigan and helped the Badgers secure a third-place finish in the Big Ten standings.


Lucas at Large: Leuer poised to be Badgers' latest draft pick

110623_MBB_Leuer.jpgHere's how one NBA executive sized up the draft.

"The trend of underclassmen coming out certainly makes it a more talented draft than it was,'' he said. "But these guys are getting younger and younger as they come out.

"Some of them may not be quite as ready as they think they are.

"The expectation sometimes is NBA stardom and that might not happen.''

Most would agree with that assessment of today's NBA.

Only these comments weren't made today. They weren't made yesterday, either.

They were made 16 years ago by Sacramento Kings' vice-president Geoff Petrie.

The more things change, the more ...

Petrie is now Sacramento's team president, but his opinions are still tangent to the 2011 draft.

Here's how another NBA executive saw the draft.

"If you don't feel comfortable that a player has a strong work ethic,'' he said, "that a player is coachable, that a player loves the game and that a player is competitive, then you probably aren't going to have a consistent performer.

"Consistency is as important as anything. You have such a demanding, grueling, lengthy schedule that consistent performers and coachable people become so valuable. NBA teams value that tremendously and the players that stand out regarding intangibles are ones that team target.''

The speaker was Brad Greenberg, then the vice-president of the Portland Trail Blazers -- then being 1995. Greenberg would move on to Philly, where he would draft Allen Iverson over Kobe Bryant. After a four-year coaching stint at Radford, Greenberg resigned amid allegations of NCAA violations.

Why the flashbacks? What Petrie and Greenberg had to say THEN still applies today; then was also the draft year of two former UW players, Michael Finley and Rashard Griffith. The former was taken in the first round, No. 21, by Phoenix; the latter went in the second round, No. 38, to the Bucks.

Finley carved out a very nice NBA career. Griffith never played in the league. But he has made a comfortable living playing as a professional in Europe. "I believe God does everything for a reason,'' Griffith once told me. "And it was meant for me to go overseas.''

It definitely worked out for Griffith, 36, who has played on a number of championship teams during his career, which included stops in Turkey, Spain, Israel, Italy and Romania. While Finley had less of a need for MapQuest in the NBA, he also has a championship ring, thanks to the San Antonio Spurs.

The moral of this story? Roundball success is not limited to one path. Finley was a four-year player at Wisconsin, Griffith was not. He played two seasons and declared for the draft during a coaching transition from interim head coach Stan Van Gundy to incoming coach Dick Bennett.

For the record, Finley was one of seven UW players chosen in the first round of the draft.

Will Jon Leuer be the eighth when the draft begins Thursday at 6 p.m., joining the likes of Alando Tucker (2007), Devin Harris (2004), Paul Grant (1997), Finley ('95), Wes Matthews (1980), Albert Henry (1970) and Don Rehfeldt (1950)?

Based on the early projections, Leuer has been slotted for the second round though there's a chance that he could sneak into the first round with the Celtics, Mavericks, Nets, Spurs or Bulls, who will select at the end of the round. The Bulls currently hold the 28th and 30th picks.

Hit rewind to Greenberg's sentiments from 16 years ago about the value of players who are coachable and possess a strong work ethic; players who stand out for the intangibles. If that is still the case today, you would think that Leuer would be a fit for somebody in that first round.

It will be interesting to see how the draft treats the senior class -- four-year players like Leuer, Jimmer Fredette, Kenneth Faried, Nolan Smith, Justin Harper, JaJuan Johnson, Kyle Singler, Charles Jenkins, Norris Cole, Demetri McCamey, Marshon Brooks, E'Twaun Moore, Chandler Parson, et al.

The only "sure thing'' about the 2011 draft is that Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams will likely be among the top picks, if not No. 1, and No. 2, respectively. Irving played all of 11 games at Duke because of injuries. Williams played a couple of seasons at Arizona.

The Badgers have some history with Williams. In fact, Williams said recently that one of the turning points in his brief college career was a game that he played in the 2009 Maui Invitational against Wisconsin. Williams, then a freshman, scored 25 points, including 13-of-21 free throws.

The Badgers had the last laugh, winning 65-61, behind Trevon Hughes, who finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and five steals. Williams, of course, will be laughing all the way to the bank tonight when he hears his name called by NBA commissioner David Stern.

But there is one caveat - one word -- that will impact everyone's immediate future.

Lockout.

To be continued.

NBA tour winding down, Leuer works out for Bucks

Leuer_Jon_NBA_Bucks_Workout_110621.jpgJon Leuer's whirlwind tour of the nation in advance of Thursday's NBA Draft is winding down, and the former Badger was back within the borders of Wisconsin on Tuesday to work out for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Leuer was of six players to work out in Milwaukee and proved he is certainly on the radar of the Bucks, who have a first-round pick at No. 10 and a second-round selection at No. 40.

The 2011 NBA Draft is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, live on ESPN and online at ESPN3.com.

Coverage of Tuesday's workout, thanks to Betsy and the staff at Bucks.com...

- Video: Interviews with Leuer and Bucks scouting director Billy McKinney

- Photo Gallery: Tuesday Workout

Jon Leuer

On his workout schedule...
"This was lucky number 16. I have one more left in Dallas tomorrow. I'm feeling good. It's definitely been a lot of travel and a grind, but I'm enjoying it. You only go through this process once, so you just have to try to enjoy it and prove yourself every time you step out onto the court."

On if he knows which teams are more interested in him...
"Talking with my agent, there are teams that like me, but you never know. Like I said, until you hear your name called, nothing's for certain. While I have these opportunities to step on the court and try to compete and prove myself, that's all I'm focused on right now."

On skills that he's surprised teams with in workouts...
"I think that's one thing: my athleticism. Just showing I can move well for a big man, how skilled I am. Defensively, I'm solid. I can rebound, just all those things I'm trying to show myself every time I step on the court."

On if Wisconsin's coaching staff has helped through the process...
"I've talked to them a lot - Coach (Bo) Ryan, Coach (Gary) Close, Coach (Greg) Gard - they've been great for me, developing as a player these past four years. They've had guys go through this process before, so I've just been picking their brains. They've been telling me what to do, what not to do, so they've given me great advice so far."

On if his mid-range game is helping him in the workouts...
"Yeah, I think so. As a big, to be able to put the ball on the floor and knock down a pull-up jump shot, there's not a lot of bigs that can do that so that's something that I think sets me apart a little bit from other guys in this draft."

On today's workout...
"It went well, it went really well. I was really the only big, there were a lot of small forwards. I was matched up a lot with Tobias Harris and Chris Singleton, guys that are really good and have proven themselves. I felt like I held my own and did really well against them. I was able to do some things. Overall, it was a good workout. We got after it, we competed and now it's on to the next one."

On if there was anything different in this workout compared to others...
"If you lose, you have to run down and back. That's the biggest difference. You should be penalized for losing, I guess. That's the only difference. Most of the workouts are pretty similar."

On if he feels the Bucks are interested in him...
"I hope so. The Bucks are a great organization and would definitely be a good team to play for. Right now, like I said, it's hard to say who's real high on you. You can only control so many things."

On if it would mean a lot to stay in Wisconsin and get drafted by the Bucks...
"Yeah, it would. It would be cool. The people up in Madison, the Badger fans, have been great to me over the last four years and they're one of a kind. I loved my time up in Madison. To stay in Wisconsin and stay with these fans would definitely be a great honor."

Bucks Director of Scouting - Billy McKinney
On today's workout...
"We had a really good workout today, six players in again. Jon Leuer from Wisconsin, Chandler Parsons from Florida, Marshon Brooks from Providence, a very good scorer, Josh Selby, Chris Singleton and Tobias Harris, from the University of Tennessee, came out as a freshman. The last workout today was a good workout, but you can really start to see the fatigue that the players are having from the workouts that they've had. Talking to the players at breakfast this morning, each of the players had about 13 workouts so they're all ready for the draft, as are we."

On Wisconsin's Jon Leuer...
"(There is) not much to dislike about Jon, the way he plays. Of course, being in our backyard, we've had an opportunity to watch him play quite a bit. We call him a stretch four that also has the ability to score out of the low post. He's a little better athlete than people give him credit for, a little better shooter than people think he is. We like him. Of course, we're not thinking about him with the 10th pick in the draft. Potentially, every guy here at the workout today has an opportunity to possibly go in the first round."

On if the Bucks would take Leuer at No. 40...
"If he's at 40, I think it's kind of a no-brainer for us. But that's doubtful with the workouts that he's had so far and the way he's performed that he will be there with our 40th pick."

On if Leuer is moving up in the draft...

"With a player like Jon, who has the size and the skill set that he has, he's going to be a very valuable asset to the team that drafts him."

Play of the Year Nominee: Justin Schultz

Vote: UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year

As UW Athletics continues its retrospective on the 2010-11 season, we debut a week-long look back on some of the season's top plays from across the Badgers' lineup of 23 sports.

Narrowing the list to just seven nominees was difficult, but now comes the fun part. We're asking fans to make their selections for the 2010-11 Wisconsin Athletics Play of the Year.

Feel free to vote once per day for your favorite play, and we will announce the winner next Wednesday, June 29.

We'll feature a nominee each day for the next week, highlighting one of the nominees on the front page of UWBadgers.com.

The process begins with an outstanding offensive play from a defenseman who proved he has no problems finding the back of the net from the blue line:

Justin Schultz - Men's Hockey
OT game-winning goal vs. Canisius (Jan. 8)

In the Badgers' final non-conference game of the season, visiting Canisius put up three goals in the third period to tie the score at 5-5 and force overtime at the Kohl Center. With just 8 seconds remaining in the extra session, Justin Schultz -- the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year -- took a pass from Jake Gardiner and tucked the puck in on the back side of the net for the game-winning tally. Schultz finished the year as the nation's top-scoring defenseman, but few of his tallies were as dramatic as this one:


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Nebraska football fans are among the most passionate in the country.  Nobody knows that better than UW athletic director Barry Alvarez, a former Cornhuskers linebacker and grad assistant.

"Someone told me we've had a number of requests for season tickets from Nebraska people,'' Alvarez said. "Everywhere I go, I run into someone from Nebraska trying to find tickets for that game.''

That game, of course, is the Oct. 1 Big Ten opener between Nebraska and Wisconsin -- marking a baptism under fire for the Huskers, under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium.

Alvarez figures thousands of Nebraska fans will make the trip to Madison that weekend even if they don't have tickets for the game. "They will find ways to get in,'' he predicted.

Earlier this week, the UW put student football season tickets on sale for undergraduates and they were all gone in about 40 minutes; the 18th-consecutive year that the tickets have sold out.

That's a far cry from the early '90s when Alvarez, the UW football coach, had trouble giving away tickets to home games. To help fill the empty seats, he sent his graduate assistant coaches to every high school in the state that had a player on the roster in an attempt to drum up interest.

They were pitching buying a block of tickets in support of their hometown players.

That was standard operating procedure for Alvarez and his staff during those early years.

"Knowing the students were important, I assigned each of my assistants to a fraternity, a sorority and a dorm,'' he said. "Each coach was also responsible for talking to a dean on campus. While they learned more about our program and goals, we learned more about the system and academics.''

Such was the give-and-take.

Ironically enough, UW football coach Bret Bielema has also been reaching out to the students. Whereas Alvarez was trying to get them to show up, period, Bielema has been trying to get them to show up before the kickoff; or, at the very least, to show up before the end of the first quarter.

So much has changed over the last 20 years -- most notably the demand for tickets is far greater than it ever has been; especially for high-profile matchups like Nebraska versus Wisconsin. And that has created a seller's market -- which is still a better problem than having no market at all for your product.

Some history, no matter how ancient, is worth revisiting; particularly for perspective.

So we take you back to Alvarez' introductory press conference in 1990.

Here's how he saw it through his own eyes (as recounted in his autobiography).

One of the first questions I got was about the dwindling fan support for Badger football and all those empty seats at Camp Randall Stadium at the end of the Morton era.

"What do you tell those people who are maybe skeptical,'' I was asked, "about what's going to happen here?''

Now remember I was pretty damn cocky. We had won at Iowa. We had gone to six straight bowls and two Rose Bowls.

We had won at Notre Dame. We had been arguably the best team in college football over the last two seasons, winning 24 of our last 25 games.

When the question came up -- about building a fan base -- I couldn't help but think what (Bob) Devaney had done at Nebraska, too.

"People want good football in Wisconsin,'' I assured the audience. "And people have to be patient. They have to understand that things aren't going to change overnight.

"But let me say this - they better get season tickets right now because before long they won't be able to.''

That's what I thought. It wasn't a contrived statement or anything like that. I believed what I was saying. And I thought I had all the answers. But I had no idea how bad it was here.

But he made it better -- faster and better than anyone could have ever imagined. Alvarez and Bielema have made Badger football an even hotter ticket today.  Just don't ask the old Husker if he has any left for that Oct. 1 date with his alma mater.

His allotment has long since been spoken for.

Lucas at Large: BTN gets it right with award for Johnson

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WHKY_110621_Johnson_Mark.jpg

One of the most prolific goal-scorers in college hockey history got credit for a "save'' Monday  when Mark Johnson saved the Badgers from getting skunked on the Big Ten Network awards show.

Wisconsin had nominees in six different categories.

After guiding the UW women's hockey team to its fourth national championship in the last six seasons, the 53-year-old Johnson was honored as BTN's Women's Coach of the Year.

Johnson beat out Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins and Penn State basketball coach Coquese Washington.  In collecting 37 wins overall - an NCAA record -- the Badgers finished the 2010-11 season on a 27-game unbeaten streak. Johnson is now 14-2 all-time in the NCAA tournament.

"We never lost a game from Thanksgiving on and that really impresses me about this group,'' Johnson said. "Especially when you think about being ranked No. 1 (for 12 straight weeks, Jan. 3 to March 21) and having that bullseye on your back every game. 

"It was an incredible run.''

Despite the graduation loss of captain Meghan Duggan - the UW's career scoring leader and the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner as the nation's top player -- Johnson is confident that the Badgers will stay among the elite.

Citing the returning strength of WCHA rivals Minnesota and North Dakota, he pointed out, "That bodes well for our sport and women's hockey. Competiton creates excitement and brings people to the rink.''

There will be no shortage of motivation for Johnson, who has a 247-41-24 (.830) career mark.

"It's one of the things that we teach our players - to be successful you have to be competitive,'' he said. "And that usually starts at the top. It's a lot more enjoyable to win than to lose.

"One of the nice things about the summer is that you get a chance to reflect while recharging your engine. By the time September comes around, you're fired up and ready to go again.''

The off-season will be a little more challenging in one respect for Johnson in that he must find a replacement for long-time assistant Tracey DeKeyser, who plans on retiring.

DeKeyser, who just completed her 12th season with the program, served as Wisconsin's interim coach while Johnson took a one-year sabbatical to coach the 2010 U.S. Women's Olympic hockey team.

"When you lose an assistant coach - someone who has contact with the players on a daily basis - it changes things,'' Johnson said. "Tracey has been here since day one and she's been outstanding.

"She'll certainly be missed for all the things she does, not only form a hockey standpoint, but from helping kids with their academics and personal issues. She's been a great mentor to our players.''

Outside of Johnson's award, UW fans had little to cheer about Monday night when BTN announced its winners. Some decisions were more understandable than others.

For example, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was singled out for Most Dominating Performance - gaining the nod over Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor and Illinois tailback Mikel Leshoure.

Although Taylor was most deserving - after sparking the Badgers past No. 1 Ohio State - Robinson did account for 502 of his team's 532 yards of total offense in a 28-24 win over Notre Dame.

The biggest surprise was that neither of Wisconsin nominees for the Game of the Year - the dramatic triumphs over the unbeaten Buckeyes in football and basketball - resonated with the voters.

Go figure. BTN opted to recognize two really crummy defenses for the roles that they played in Michigan's 67-65 victory over Illinois in triple-overtime. You can do the math.

Michigan's defense ranked No. 110 nationally and got Rich Rodriguez fired, among other things. Meanwhile, the two 7-6 teams combined for 132 points and 1,237 yards of total offense.

For decades, the Big Ten has prided itself on defense winning championships.

There's apparently a different standard for winning awards in the Legends and Leaders era.

Lucas at Large: Ryan in heady company

Bo_PC.jpgBecause he missed being around the game of basketball so much during his military commitment, Bo Ryan knew that he wanted to teach and coach when he got out of the Army in 1971.

Although he could have gone to work for ARCO (Atlantic Richfield), he returned to Chester, Pa.,  and enrolled at Widener College (where his mom worked in the business office).

While getting his teaching certificate in social sciences -- he went heavy on the history courses -- Ryan fed his competitive hunger by playing basketball and touch football.

A defensive back, Ryan was impressed with one of his teammates during their practices; a speedy wide receiver. His name was Vince Papale, a substitute teacher and bartender.

The 2006 movie "Invincible'' documented Papale's road to the NFL. Defying the odds as a 30-year-old rookie who had never played college ball, he survived three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Mark Wahlberg was Papale.

Greg Kinnear was Philly coach Dick Vermeil.

Bo Ryan was Bo Ryan -- Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise were busy.

Seriously, the UW basketball coach wasn't in the movie, but he's in the 2011 induction class for the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, which will also include Papale and Vermeil.

Ryan teased that he would be asking for autographs, not signing them. "I just look at some of the guys I will be hanging with," he said. "It's a pretty elite group to be a part of. I'm blown away."

Ryan will be inducted with one of the top defensive backs to have ever played for the Badgers -- and the Eagles -- Troy Vincent, who went to five straight Pro Bowls in Philadelphia. One of Philly's Top 50 players all-time, Vincent was also named to the Eagles' 75th anniversary team.

The legendary Dodgers skipper Tom Lasorda, 83, a Norristown, Pa., native, is in the induction class, along with Pete Carril, 80, who won over 500 games coaching basketball at Princeton.

"Pete Carril's reputation," Ryan said, "was that he could take any bunch of guys and still make you play to beat them. He used his talent as well as anyone has ever done in the game."

Two successful Pennsylvania high school coaches are in the Hall of Fame class, too; Mike Pittine Sr. (Central Bucks West) and Patti Hower (Lebanon Catholic). Joining them will be Blair Thomas, the former Penn State tailback; and Doug Overton, who led La Salle to three straight NCAA appearances.

An Olympic gold medalist, Horace Ashenfelter, a steeplechaser in the 1952 games, will be inducted, along with Ken Herock, a Pittsburgh native, and longtime NFL front office executive.

You can see why Ryan is thrilled to be in such company.

"Oh, I will definitely be asking for autographs," he reiterated.

For now, he's putting the finishing touches on the summer camp season.

"When you've been doing this for as long as I have, it's all about the energy that these kids bring, whether they're high school kids or grade school kids or whatever," Ryan said.

"You've got to remember it's not always about playing on TV or getting to the NCAA tournament. It's about their smiling faces and keeping the game alive with these young kids.

"How much fun is a bouncing ball? It's a lot of fun. We can direct their energy to team play and get them to improve as individuals. It hasn't changed since the days when I went to basketball camps.

"I went there to compete and so do these kids."
WHKY_110617_Duggan_Meghan_2.jpg
The best players aren't always the best leaders.

But it helps when they are - just like it helps when they have a presence.

"Presence is always good,'' suggested athletic director Barry Alvarez, the UW football coach for 16 seasons. "But sometimes you don't have a presence.''

That's definitely not the case with Meghan Duggan and Jordan Taylor, the UW's Female and Male athletes of the year, respectively. They've both earned that respect, too, Alvarez said.

"Meghan lights up a room,'' he noted. "I've been really impressed with her anytime I've been around her. She's legitimate. You can see her teammates hang on every word she says.

"Jordan is one of the most special kids we've ever had here,'' Alvarez went on. "There's a magnetism about him.  Kids follow him because he does thing the right way and backs up what he says.''

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Duggan, the senior forward, and Taylor, the junior guard, are not only among the best players on their respective teams - if not the best - but they have "it,'' which so often translates to presence.

"I've always defined leadership,'' Alvarez said, "as someone who can get a group of people to do a common job or something they couldn't do without someone organizing it.

"You've got people playing a game; people running a team, you need someone - Hayden Fry used to call them bell-cows - to take the rest of the people in a certain direction.

"Someone can say all the right things - they can yell and scream - but if that person turns around after practice and doesn't live the right life, their teammates know they're an imposter.''

"Meghan Duggan and Jordan Taylor are as legit as it gets.''

One of my favorite examples of Duggan's leadership emerged before the Badgers faced Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA quarterfinals. Duggan took ownership of the room, the locker room.

Freshman goalie Alex Rigsby recalled how Duggan addressed the players before taking the ice.

"She told us, 'Listen, this is what we're going to do and this is how it's going to happen and we're going out there and we're going to win,''' Rigsby said.

Explained Duggan, "I always try to get the team ready for the big game to make sure we're all on the same page and prepared for the task at hand.''

Mission accomplished; the Badgers beat Duluth.

Duggan later detailed her message.

"I just told the girls, 'Let's not let this one slip away,''' she said. "We had 60 minutes ahead of us (against Duluth) and we were basically in control of our destiny.

"I didn't want a minute to go by where anyone questioned, 'What if I did this? Or what if I did that?' I just kind of instilled that in their head.

"I let them know we're an incredible team. We have everything that we need - as long as we play our game and play up to our potential - to do great things.''

Mission accomplished, again. The Badgers went on to win the national championship.

Duggan shares many positive qualities with Taylor.

"Remember that it's a sport that I love,'' she said of hockey. "It's a game and I play it for fun as much as sometimes the games are life and death for me. I want to make sure we're having fun.''

That would be the personification of Taylor.

"I remind myself and the guys what we're supposed to be doing,'' he said. "But I'm also reminding them that it's still just a game and I try to keep them loose that way.

"It's a fine line - staying focused and staying loose. We play because we have fun. But we also play because we want to win. You have to find that even balance.

"As a point guard,'' he also said, "you're looked to be the leader, the floor general ... but a team is a collective unit and we're all working together to try and reach the same goals and win.''

Taylor shares many positive qualities with Duggan, including this trait, "Opponents can respect me - or better respect me - for wanting to come out there and kick their butts around the court.''

Or ice.

Now that's having a presence.

The envelope please

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WHKY_110617_Duggan_Meghan.jpgIt's fitting that as we look back at the 2010-11 season on UWBadgers.com that BTN (formerly Big Ten Network) sent out its release this morning about its end of the year awards show. The show will air on Monday, June 20 at 6:30 p.m. and be hosted by Mike Hall and Rick Pizzo.

Given the type of year UW's teams had it's not surprising to find them prominently among the nominees. In addition to the Suzy Favor Award for the best female student-athlete, and the Jesse Owens Award for the best male student-athlete, there are nine other categories on the show. 

Wisconsin student-athletes, coaches or teams are among the three nominees in six of those categories. That is tied with Michigan for the most. Below is the complete list of awards and nominees. Which ones do the Badgers deserve?

Men's Team of the Year
Ohio State Basketball
Penn State Wrestling
Wisconsin Football

Women's Team of the Year
Northwestern Lacrosse
Penn State Volleyball
Wisconsin Hockey

Game of the Year
Illinois at Michigan - football (11/6/2010)
Ohio State at Wisconsin - football (10/16/2010)
Ohio State at Wisconsin - men's basketball (2/12/2011)

Men's Coach of the Year
Thad Matta - Ohio State basketball
Matt Painter - Purdue basketball
Cael Sanderson - Penn State wrestling

Women's Coach of the Year
Carol Hutchins - Michigan softball
Mark Johnson - Wisconsin ice hockey
Coquese Washington - Penn State basketball

Most Dominating Performance
Denard Robinson - Michigan football (vs. Notre Dame, 9/11/2010)
Mikel Leshoure - Illinois football (vs. Northwestern, 11/20/2010)
Jordan Taylor - Wisconsin men's basketball (vs. Ohio State, 2/12/2011)

Best Finish
Notre Dame at Michigan State - football (9/18/2010)
Illinois at Michigan - football (11/6/2010)
Wisconsin at Michigan - men's basketball (2/23/2011)

Breakout Performer of the Year
Darius Morris - Michigan men's basketball
Denard Robinson - Michigan football
Jared Sullinger - Ohio State men's basketball

Most Courageous Performance
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State football
Jon Hoese, Minnesota football
Brock Mealer, brother of Michigan offensive lineman Elliott Mealer

Bowl schedule announced

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The complete schedule of the 2011-12 bowl games has been announced. The bowl season will begin with the New Mexico Bowl (MWC vs. Pac-12) on Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. and conclude with the Allstate BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 9 at 7:30 p.m. from the Superdome in New Orleans.

There are 35 total bowl games this season, including 12 in which the Badgers are eligible to play. Since they don't plan on snapping their nine-year bowl streak this season, those games, dates and times are listed below. Any guesses as to UW's location come late December/early January?

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Safety the key to any kickoff modifications

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Thumbnail image for 100918FB-5590-18.jpgRutgers head coach Greg Schiano has made news recently with a revolutionary proposal to eliminate kickoffs from college football. One of Schiano's players, Eric LeGrand, was paralyzed last season while covering a kickoff vs. Army.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, who oversaw special teams early in his head coaching career and still has a hand in it, has long been in favor of reducing the injury risk on kickoffs.

"I do think there are some things we can do to try and limit the amount of full-speed collisions we subject our players to on kickoffs," Bielema said, "whether it's moving the kickoff up to the 35-yard line, which the NFL has done and would lead to more touchbacks and maybe some safety concepts that the NFL has introduced, a lot of which we implemented into the college game last year."

While the onside kick has gained attention as being a potentially dangerous play with more teams moving towards a set up where the first wave of players simply tries to take out the first line of defenders, essentially freeing up their back line to go after the ball, Bielema is more concerned with a full kickoff.

"In an onside kick, you're dealing with 10-yard sprints," Bielema said. "It's the 30- or 40-yard sprints when you've got a full head of steam and the opportunity to blindside somebody that really concern me. Watching the hockey game last night, you can see the consequences when someone is caught off guard with a violent hit they aren't expecting. I think in all sports everyone is looking to reduce the risks in high-speed collisions."

Some have compared eliminating kickoffs to eliminating the center jump after made baskets in the early years of basketball. Men's basketball coach Bo Ryan pointed out that the reason for the center jump because in the early years, the peach baskets that were used had a bottom, so the ball needed to be fished out of the basket before being put back in play.

According to Ryan, the women's physical instruction teacher at Springfield College was the first to suggest taking the bottom out of the basket, thereby eliminating the need for the center jump after each made basket.

That's your nugget for the day.

2010-11 Athlete of the Year: The contenders

Each year, Wisconsin Athletics submits its top men's and women's athletes for the prestigious Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year and Suzy Favor Female Athlete of the Year awards, presented annually by the Big Ten Conference.

The Badgers' nominees are considered to be the UW Male Athlete of the Year and UW Female Athlete of the Year award winners.

With UW teams experiencing success across the board during the 2010-11 season, it's as difficult a job as ever to narrow the field to just one deserving student-athlete on both the men's and women's sides of competition.

The winner of UW's awards will be announced Friday, but you can read profiles on each of the nominees who were not selected today. Then, make your own decision and vote in our polls on Facebook to determine the fans' choice for the Badgers' top athletes in 2010-11.

(Yes, it's pretty easy to figure out who will be announced as winners Friday...)



Men's Candidates

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Gabe Carimi (Football)
The 29th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, Gabe Carimi started 49 games throughout his Badger career. A 2010 consensus first-team All-American, Carimi became the second Badger to win the Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation's top interior lineman. He is just the eighth Badger to earn unanimous, consensus first-team All-America honors.

Last season Carimi was a key cog in an offense that led the Big Ten and averaged a school-record 41.5 points per game (fifth in the country), including 45.2 points per game in Big Ten play, second-best in conference history. UW also led the Big Ten and ranked 12th in the country in rushing offense, nearly becoming the first FBS team in history to have three running backs go over 1,000 yards in the same season.

At left tackle, Carimi lined up against some of the best defensive linemen in the country, including All-Americans Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue, Cameron Heyward of Ohio State and Adrian Clayborn of Iowa. He was just the third player in Badger history to earn Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors.

Earlier this month, Carimi was named Wisconsin's male Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient. He graduated in May with 3.13 grade-point average in civil and environmental engineering and was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

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Landon Peacock (Cross Country)
Landon Peacock capped off his senior season for the Badgers in style with a come-from-behind performance that gave him the win in a dramatic men's race at the 2010 Big Ten Cross Country Championship.

The Morley, Mich., native claimed his first individual Big Ten title by a half-second, out-leaning Indiana's Andrew Bayer at the finish line for the win. Peacock clocked in at 23 minutes, 40.8 seconds, while Bayer was second in 23:41.3.

The victory made Peacock UW's 27th individual conference champion and led the way for the Badgers to secure their 12th-consecutive team crown in the first-ever Big Ten championship held at their own Zimmer Championship Course.

Sitting fifth heading into the course's finishing chute, Peacock charged past teammate Mohammed Ahmed and Minnesota's Ben Blankenship and trailed only Bayer with 30 meters to go. He finally hunted the Hoosier down at the line to become UW's first individual titlist since Matt Withrow in 2007.

He went on to earn first-team all-region honors with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional -- as UW won its eighth-straight team title -- and then scored All-America laurels for the second time in his career with a 20th-place showing at the 2010 NCAA Championship.

In track, Peacock was unable to defend his 2010 Big Ten title in the 5,000 meters as an injury sidelined him for the duration of the indoor season. However, he came back outdoors to finish fifth at the Big Ten meet in the 5,000 and then posted a personal-best time of 13:42.90 in the event at the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round. 

Despite the outstanding time, which would have won the other preliminary-round heat in Eugene, Ore., as well as both sections of the event at the NCAA East Preliminary Round site, Peacock did not advance to the NCAA championships due to regional qualifying procedures.

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Anchoring the blue line for the Badgers in the 2010-11 season, Justin Schultz completed his sophomore campaign as the nation's top-scoring defenseman with 18 goals and 47 points.  His 18 goals were the most by a blueliner in the nation since 2002-03 and was just one shy of the UW single-season record for a defenseman.

Schultz had a remarkable sophomore season and did not go more than two games without a point. He scored the opening goal of a game five times and led the Badgers with 14 multi-point games.

The All-American was also named Defenseman of the Year by Inside College Hockey,  WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-WCHA,  was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award and earned a spot on College Hockey News' national first team.

On Nov. 27 against Michigan State, Schultz became the sixth Badger defenseman in program history -- and the first since 1991-92 -- to record a hat trick. He was also the sixth Wisconsin defenseman to lead the team in points. 

Schultz was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week after scoring the overtime game-winner in a 6-5 victory over Canisius on Jan. 8, snapping UW's 26-game overtime winless drought.  He tallied three assists against Alabama Huntsville on Oct. 17 and had a total of three multi-goal games on the year. 

In part to Schultz's efforts, Wisconsin ranked No. 8 nationally in goals-against average at 2.39. The Badgers also had the nation's top-scoring defensive corps, with a combined 120 points from the blue line. 

Women's Candidates

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Dorcas Akinniyi (Track & Field)
Dorcas Akinniyi continues to haul in hardware every time she heads to a championship meet. The Carrollton, Texas, native added to her collection in 2011 with All-America honors both indoors and outdoors.

Akinniyi has qualified for the NCAA championships in all five seasons -- indoor and outdoor combined -- in which she's been eligible. After this season, she has also collected an All-America award four times. 

She posted her best-ever NCAA finish with an outstanding fourth-place showing in the pentathlon at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships, racking up a school-record total of 4,254 points to earn her first All-America laurel of the year. 

That performance came on the heels of her second-consecutive conference title in the pentathlon at the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Championships, where she scored 3,929 points.

Moving outdoors, Akinniyi earned a berth directly to the NCAA championships by virtue of her heptathlon score of 5,352 points at the Mt. SAC Relays Multi-Events in April. She also qualified for the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round in the open high jump for the second-straight season.

At the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Akinniyi piled up 5,554 points -- just 30 markers shy of her lifetime-best score -- to finish sixth in the heptathlon and secure the fourth All-America honor of her career. A career-best 3,469 points on the opening day of the two-day, seven-event competition propelled Akinniyi to another top-eight finish.

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Hilary Knight (Hockey)
After taking a year off to compete with the U.S. Olympic Team in the 2010 Winter Games, Hilary Knight returned to Wisconsin for her junior season, leading the nation with 47 goals and helping the Badgers to their fourth NCAA championship.

Third in the nation in points with 81 on the season, the alternate captain now sits in third place on the UW all-time career-scoring list with 202 points.

Knight tallied a career-best 20-game point streak that spanned from Dec. 10 to Feb. 26, tying for the second-longest steak in UW history. In 41 games, she recorded 25 multi-point games, including three five-point efforts and four hat tricks. With her 47 goals, Knight scored more goals than four NCAA Division I teams did all year.

Knight was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week twice, once after tallying five points against RPI on Oct. 2 and lastly on Jan. 5 after having back-to-back four-point games against Northeastern and Mercyhurst  at the Easton Holiday Showcase.

Scoring just 47 seconds into the Fill the Bowl contest at the Kohl Center, Knight tallied the first of three goals as the Badgers downed Minnesota, 3-1, in front of 10,668 fans on Jan. 29. Her game-winning goal against Bemidji State on Feb. 4 marked her 100th career tally.

She led UW with two points, including the game-tying goal and an assist on the game-winner, against Minnesota Duluth in an NCAA regional game on March 12. She went on to record three assists at the Frozen Four, including two in a 3-2 win over Boston College on March 18 in the national semifinal game. 

On the national stage, Knight represented the United States as a member of the Women's Under-22 Select Team at the 2010 USA Hockey Women's National Festival and a three-game series against Canada.

Knight tallied three points for the U.S. Women's Select Team in the 2010 Women's Four Nations Cup in St. John's, Canada, where Team USA placed second.

After winning the national title with Wisconsin, Knight scored the game-winner in overtime against Canada as the U.S. Women's National Team claimed gold in April's 2011 IIHF World Women's Championship in Zurich and Winterthur, Switzerland.

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Maggie Meyer (Swimming)
Maggie Meyer capped off a brilliant career at Wisconsin by becoming the first national champion in program history when she won the 200-yard backstroke at the 2011 NCAA Championships in March. Meyer finished the NCAAs as a six-time All-American and was an 11-time All-American for her career. 

With seven honorable mention All-America honors in career as well, Meyer tied for the second-most All-America accolades in school history with 18.

The 2011 Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, Meyer won five of the six events she entered at the 2011 Big Ten Championships, bumping her career total to 10 conference titles. The White Bear Lake, Minn., native swept the 100 and 200 backstroke events, then recorded relay wins in the 400 free, 200 medley and 400 medley. 

She set four school records as a senior, bringing her career total to six. Meyer also set a Big Ten record in the 200 medley relay.

In addition to setting the school record in the 200 back, Meyer also lowered the mark individually in the 100 back (51.66). In the relays, Meyer was a part of record-setting teams in the 200 medley relay (1:35.71) and 400 medley relay (3:31.73).

Meyer dominated the backstroke events in 2010-11, going undefeated in the 200 backstroke and winning 10 of 11 races in the 100 back. All told, Meyer won 38 out of possible 57 races she entered during the season either as an individual or as a member of a relay unit.

Big Ten schedule details released

The Wisconsin men's basketball team has a slightly better idea about its 2011-12 conference schedule as the Big Ten released its one-play designations on Thursday.

For the upcoming season, the Badgers will play every team in the Big Ten twice except for single-game contests against Indiana, Northwestern, Michigan and Purdue.

Games against the Hoosiers and Wildcats will take place at the Kohl Center, while contests against the Wolverines and the Boilermakers are both designated as road games.

The Big Ten schedule will consist of 18 games for the fifth straight season, but with the addition of Nebraska to the conference, there will now be four single-game opponents for each team. From 2006-07 through 2010-11, each team had two opponents it played just once.

2011-12 Big Ten Opponents
Home and Away: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State

Single-Game: Indiana (Home), Northwestern (Home), Michigan (Away), Purdue (Away)

Lucas at Large: Title in hand, Meyer sets sights on Olympics

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Despite becoming the first swimmer in school history to win a national championship, Maggie Meyer's daily workload in the pool hasn't lessened to any appreciably degree.

That's because she has her eyes fixed on the next goal; or rather THE gold, the gold medal. Meyer's complete focus has turned to the 2012 Olympics in London, England.

"Having that title," she said of her victory in the 200-yard backstroke last March, "really has given me a little more confidence going into this next step of my swimming career. Having it under my belt has made me feel more capable and confident with my potential and what's to come in the next year."

Would she have felt the same way about her Badger career without an NCAA title?

"Absolutely," she said. "I've always been very much invested in the process and thinking about what happens at the end of it as a bonus. I got a lot out of being a student-athlete at the UW-Madison. I got more out of it than I could have dreamed and I absolutely would have been fulfilled if I hadn't won."

Meyer's backstroke championship was a culmination, more than a coronation. It culminated four years of commitment and sacrifice. "It was a very special moment I will always cherish," she said.

In the context of leaving a legacy as an accomplished college athlete - the Big Ten's Swimmer of the Year, no less - she wants to be remembered for "being focused, dedicated and well-balanced."

One other thing she wants people to know. "That I really earned that title," she added.

As she prepares for London, Meyer is now training twice a day Monday, Wednesday and Friday; once each on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Her only void has been school.

"I've been trying to think about another focus," said Meyer, who got her undergraduate degree from the UW in the spring, "because I really worked hard at trying to get a good balance between athletics and academics. That's a reason why I was so successful in both."

She can see herself doing many things. Maybe she will do volunteer work in the community. Maybe she will join a book club. Or, maybe she will reconsider going to grad school.

Mostly, she can see herself swimming in London; a most reachable goal.

"I'm working for it," Meyer said.
Wills_Purdue_Cardinal.jpgLong before Brian Cardinal, or rather the "Custodian" became a household name - at least deep in the heart of Texas - he was called more colorful names by opposing fans around the Big Ten.

Many despised Cardinal because of his all-out hustle, flopping and rugged presence at both ends of the floor. No job was too dirty for Citizen Pain (a take-off on Orson Well's 1941 Citizen Kane).

Mostly they despised him because he didn't play for them.

"If you understand and appreciate the game of basketball, then you love Brian Cardinal," Kelvin Sampson once said of the Custodian (at the time Sampson was coaching at Oklahoma).

"If you don't understand the game of basketball," Sampson continued, "if you're caught up in the runners, jumpers, dunkers and flashy guys, that tells me a little about you.

"And those are the teams Brian Cardinal's team beats."

Wisconsin players, if not fans, embraced the Custodian's game.

"I think Brian Cardinal provoked the best in me," said former UW point guard Mike Kelley, no shrinking violet when it came to physical hoops. "Seeing him dive on the floor got me going."

Provoked was a good, action verb for Cardinal. He provoked all sorts of feelings (and confrontations). But that was also true of the 1999-2000 Purdue Boilermakers and Wisconsin Badgers.

The teams played four times that season and an average of 41 fouls were called, including 49 in a Big Ten tournament tug-of-war. Kelley and Purdue's Carson Cunningham needed stitches afterward.

"There's always blood," Cunningham said.

Purdue won the first battle, 63-52, in West Lafayette, extending the UW's losing streak to 26 games at Mackey Arena. Cardinal finished with 26 points, including five 3-pointers.

Wisconsin won the next two - 55-45 at the Kohl Center and 78-66 at the United Center.

"The Purdue games are the most physically demanding I've ever played," Kelley said.
    
On March 25, 2000, the No. 6 seed Boilers (24-9) and the No. 8 seed Badgers (21-13) played in the NCAA's West Regional Finals for the ultimate reward: a trip to Indianapolis and the Final Four.

"It's going to be a battle, a boxing match, 40 minutes of hell,'' Cardinal said before Purdue and Wisconsin squared off at the legendary Pit in Albuquerque, NM.

"I would love basketball to be played like it is with our two teams - with tough, hard-nosed guys," he added. "Regardless if you have the greatest talent, you have to play hard and great defense."

Jon Bryant broke Purdue's spirit early with three consecutive triples to open the game and the Badgers outdistanced the Boilermakers, 64-60, to earn their coveted trip to the Final Four.

Bryant wound up with five 3-pointers and a game-high 18 points. Andy Kowske had 14 and Roy Boone had 12 for the Badgers. Cardinal and Cunningham scored 13 each for the Boilers.

Kelley once again locked up Purdue's gifted scorer Jaraan Cornell, who was 1-of-9. 
   
Kelley and Cardinal were the same players - only in different bodies and jerseys.

"I knew when I came into the league that if I was going to be successful, I'd have to do things other guys didn't like to do," said Cardinal, who could have been speaking for Kelley.

"If it's a battle of who can jump the highest, or who's the best athlete, I'm not going to win. But if you measure heart and competitiveness and desire, then, it's a battle. If there's a brick wall and the ball's on the other side of the brick wall, I'll go through it."

Cardinal finally got his ring - an NBA world championship ring with the Dallas Mavericks. He looks much different than he did when he used to arm-wrestle the Badgers and his role has changed.

But you still have to love his passion.

Mike Bruesewitz plays the college game the same way that Cardinal once did at Purdue. In the next two years, it will be interesting to see if Bruiser can elevate his game to the ol' bruiser's level.

Once thing is certain, Bruiser has better hair (versus no hair at all for the Custodian).

Lucas at Large: Fastest Badger? Bennett in a blur

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Bennett_action_oregon.jpgFor the fourth consecutive year, University of Florida running back Jeff Demps has been "crowned" the fastest player in college football. Demps is a 5-foot-8, 181-pound senior speedster.

Last season, he led the Gators in rushing with 551 yards (6.0 ypc.) and was one of only nine players nationally with a run of over 70 yards and a kick return of over 50. He has 22 career starts.

Demps comes by his speed naturally as a sprinter on the Florida track team. In 2010, he won the 100 meters at the NCAA outdoor meet; a crown that he failed to defend last week in Des Moines, Iowa.

Demps was third in his heat and didn't make the finals; proving that he's no Tyson Gay, no Ato Boldon, and no Ngonidzashe Makusha; the Florida State sprinter who won the 100 in 9.89 seconds.

But there's no doubting Demps' speed on the gridiron - as confirmed by Heismanpundit.com, which ranked him No. 1 based on times that he has already posted, including a 10.1 in the 100 meters.

Rounding out the Top 5 are Texas' Marquise Goodwin, Louisiana-Monroe's Luther Ambrose, North Carolina State's T.J. Graham and UCLA's Randall Carroll. All are wide receivers.

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and Penn State kick return specialist Devon Smith received honorable mention recognition; the only Big Ten players among the 30 listed by the web site.
    
That begs the question, "Who's the fastest of the fast in UW football history?"

Topping the list would be tailback Michael Bennett, who won the 2000 Big Ten title in the 100 meters with a clocking of 10.22 seconds. That same spring, he also ran a wind-aided 10.0

Prior to Bennett's arrival in Madison, the school record-holder was wide receiver Tony Simmons, who also won a conference title in the 100 meters (10.29). He ran a wind-aided 10.15.

Rounding out my UW list would be cornerback Lawrence Johnson (10.37); running back/receiver Shawn Peters (10.50) and wide receiver Reggie Torian, who was a faster hurdler than sprinter.

Johnson and Peters won Big Ten titles in the 100 meters. Torian was timed at 6.29 seconds over 55 meters at an indoor meet. Johnson ran 6.2 over 60 yards. So did Billy Smith, another football player.

Rick Reichardt was an outstanding high school sprinter who wound up concentrating on football and baseball when he competed for the Badgers. Reichardt had great speed. So did Crazylegs for his era.

In the mid-'90s, the Big Ten sprint field was a "Who's Who" of football players: Touchdown Tony Simmons, Michigan's Tyrone Wheatley, Ohio State's Butler By'not'e and Chris Sanders, Minnesota's Chris Darkins and Omar Douglas, Michigan State's Octavius Long and Indiana's Jermaine Chaney.

In 1994, the 6-1, 225-pound Wheatley upset Torian, then a freshman, in the 110-meter high hurdles at the Big Ten outdoor meet on the Dan McClimon Memorial Track.

Said Wheatley, "I really can't train or dedicate myself to track as much as I would like since my religious beliefs have been football, football, and football. But I'm still an athlete and I love to compete."

The "time" factor - or rather finding the time - applies to most two-sport athletes.

Bennett was once asked, "When you're racing the wind, do you hear the wind?''

Bennett smirked and said, "It's like a football game. You hear the crowd before the play. But once you get the ball, you don't hear anything during the play. In track, during a sprint, once the gun goes off, you don't hear anything. Your eyes are pulling you to the finish line."

Duje Dukan Travel Blog - No. 1

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UW sophomore Duje Dukan is overseas preparing with the Croatian National Team for the U-20 European Championships in Bilbao, Spain later this summer. He'll be checking in periodically with UWBadgers.com with stories from the road.
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Greetings from Croatia! or Pozdrav iz Hrvatska!

We are now seven days into training camp in Daruvar, Croatia and have been having two-a-days on a daily basis. It has been a great experience thus far and I've learned something new every day.

We have no internet at my hotel so we have to go to the city to find a coffee shop during our breaks to get internet. All of the guys on the team are really nice and it seems like a great group. It's been really crazy communicating about each of our seasons since they are so different. These guys are busy playing in professional leagues and making an income while I'm off at college taking classes and playing for a university. Different worlds.

During our two-a-day, the schedule has looked like this:
8:15 - wake up
8:30 - breakfast
10:30 - depart hotel and walk about a mile to a local gym for practice
12:00 - finish skill work and go to the local school track and run sprints or whatever is decided
1:30 - lunch
3-5 - Mandatory rest time in your rooms
6:30 - depart for practice
8:30 - end practice
9:15 - dinner
12:00 am - lights out

It's a very hectic day. After a while of repeating that schedule, it starts to become a habit, but your body does become more tired. It takes a toll.

The thing that keeps me going is the notion of playing for a national team. I'm getting to represent a whole country and we're about to embark on a European competition against other top athletes our age. So, the motivation is that you train to get any type of advantage over them.

We started training camp with 17 guys on the roster and two just got cut, so we are down to 15. The final cut would trim the competition roster down to 12 men.

Hope all is well back in the States. I'm having fun and getting better and stronger over here.

Talk to you again soon,

Duje
4516977_sm.jpgJordan Taylor was understandably excited.

Scott Tolzien was understandably frustrated.

Taylor got invited to a camp - Tolzien is still waiting.

So it goes for two of the highest-profile athletes on the UW campus.

Last weekend, Taylor attended the CP3 Elite Guard Camp in Winston-Salem, N.C.; the home base for Wake Forest University, the former home of CP3: New Orleans point guard Chris Paul.

As you might expect, the CP3 camp attracts some of the best high school guards in the country, including a number of "Five-Star" rated prospects.

The list of college players is even more impressive, a veritable Who's Who, including Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall from North Carolina and Seth Curry and Andrew Dawkins from Duke.

The heavyweight roster also featured Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche of Syracuse; Marcus Denmon of Missouri, Will Barton of Memphis, Kenny Boyton of Florida and, of course, Taylor.

Here's what a couple of bloggers (Marcus Shockley and James Blackburn) wrote about Taylor: "Solid, smart-great defender-high release-shot has little hitch. Went through drills very hard. Has a strong upper body. Great defense in 1 on 1 drill.

"Had a great defensive trip against Chris Paul, forcing Chris into a tough fade away that hit the side of the backboard. Explosive and can get to rim and go to middle - loves little right hand/floater. Shawn Marion type shot. Future pro.''

Here's what Taylor had to say before leaving for the camp: "I'm going there with an open mind. It just seems like a good opportunity to meet some new guys, play with some new faces and learn some new things from one of the best point guards, if not the best point guard in the world, Chris Paul.''

Taylor has also been invited to the tryouts for Team USA, which will compete in the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China (Aug. 13-23). The USA camp is in Colorado Springs (July 29-Aug. 7).

"The last time I tried out for a team was probably the sixth or seventh grade," Taylor said, chuckling. "I'll prepare for that camp just like I'm preparing for the season: by staying in the gym and improving on the things that I need to improve on."

Tolzien, meanwhile, is waiting for the lockout to end so he can get into a camp; any NFL training camp. As an undrafted free agent, Tolzien has been in limbo for awhile. All he can do is work out.

"It's frustrating because it gets repetitive when you're putting yourself through the same workout routine every day,'' he said. "At the same time, you realize that you're only going to get one shot at this (making an NFL roster) and you'd be crazy not to be in the best shape.

"That's what carries you forward - making sure you give yourself the best opportunity to succeed at the next level - since it's all about controlling what you can control. That's my focus.''

You can read more about Taylor and Tolzien in this week's issue of Varsity as the two reminisce about the Badgers' pair of victories over No. 1 Ohio State last season.

What started out as a nervous and stressful last day of singles ended in victory for the 2011 Palmer Cup team. Being down one point going into the last day, we needed to win five-of-eight singles matches to claim the cup.


With stellar play from our guys, we did just that.  It came down to the last two matches and it was exciting to say the least.  The crowds were great and it could not of been a better experience. 

It was such an honor and a pleasure to spend a week with these eight players. As the week went on, the intensity level grew and their games took another step as well. With NCAAs a week prior and the U.S. Open looming the week ahead, it would of been easy for them to have tired, wondering minds.

 

I made eight new friends this week and certainly probably learned more from them from they did from me. It is amazing how much you can pick up in regards to routines, practice habits, and theories when you spend time with top players.

 

I want to thank Russell Henley (Georgia), Patrick Cantlay (UCLA) , Bank Vongvanij (Florida), Alex Carpenter (Abiline Christian), Daniel Miernicki (Oregon), Chris Williams (Washington), Andrew Yun (Stanford), Blaine Barber (Auburn), and Head Coach Tim Poe for a spectacular and memorable week! 

 

With the close of the Palmer Cup, my official time as a Badger has begun. I am overwhelmed with excitement regarding the opportunity in Madison and the goals that I have for this program. There is a lot of work to be done and I could not be more excited to get started. I want to thank all the Badger fans for their loyalty and support and I look forward to meeting many of you sometime soon!

 

May All Your Putts Fall,

Coach Burcin


NOTE: New University of Wisconsin head men's golf coach Michael Burcin is serving as an assistant coach with the Palmer Cup team. An assistant at South Carolina the past seven years, Burcin was named head coach at Wisconsin on May 31.
 
Burcin was named the 2010 Golf Coaches Association of America's Jan Strickland Assistant Coach of the Year. In April he was selected to serve as an assistant at the 2011 Palmer Cup, a Ryder Cup-style competition as teams of collegiate golfers from the United States and Europe square off in a three-day match play event.

Lucas at Large: Tauscher's journey still unbelievable

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Tauscher_99.jpgIf Mark Tauscher didn't have a fateful day at the track - the Kentucky Derby - the former UW offensive tackle would have been fighting long odds to have a "Mark Tauscher Day'' in Wisconsin.

Had it all played out differently, in fact, he would have wound up playing his final year of college eligibility for Jim Tressel at Youngstown State, not Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin.

That came to mind Friday when Gov. Scott Walker declared a Mark Tauscher Day in conjunction with a Green Bay Packers function: the Greg Jennings celebrity golf tournament in Waukesha.
    
Nobody is more deserving than Tauscher, who will turn 34 this week. Not only did he overcome the odds as a UW walk-on, but he survived 11 years in the NFL after being drafted in the seventh round.

But there's a unique backdrop to Tauscher being the 224th player taken in the 2000 draft: Tauscher gave up his fifth year with the Badgers because no one knew he had one, including Alvarez.

Let's start from the beginning.  Tauscher gained more notice as a high school basketball player - as a member of a state championship team that won 51-straight - than a football player at Auburndale.

That led to a walk-on invitation from Alvarez, who liked the way he moved his feet. For three years, Tauscher was primarily utilized as a backup left tackle behind Chris McIntosh, an All-American.

In 1998, Tauscher got playing time whenever the Badgers shifted to an unbalanced line, which put McIntosh on the opposite side of the formation next to starting right tackle Aaron Gibson.

Upon the completion of that season, Tauscher was honored with the seniors. After completing work on his undergrad degree in May of '99, he considered his graduate school options.

To this end, he thought about continuing his education at Youngstown State, a Division I-AA program which would have also allowed him to play one season for Tressel, then the head coach.

"Quite frankly, I didn't realize he had a fifth year," Alvarez later confessed.

But he became aware of it when someone bumped into Tauscher at the Kentucky Derby. Teased Alvarez, "He had turned into a cigar and wine aficionado ... living the life."

Countered Tauscher, "I was at the Derby and there's a possibility that I did have a stogie; a cheap stogie. I don't have the budget for a big-time stogie but I do know I wasn't drinking wine."

Alvarez got in touch with Tauscher and began the process to get Tauscher into the UW grad school thereby bringing him back to campus and the football program for one more season of eligibility.

During spring practice, Brian Lamont and Ben Johnson had shared reps at right tackle. Both were young and unproven. Tauscher came back and started - replacing Gibson, a first-round pick of the Lions.

The rest is history - NCAA history. On tailback Ron Dayne's 31-yard run which broke Ricky Williams' career rushing mark, Tauscher threw a key block, locking up Iowa's Anthony Herron.

In short, Tauscher was an important cog on an O-line that created running seams for Dayne. From left to right, the UW featured McIntosh, Bill Ferrario, Casey Rabach, Dave Costa and Tauscher.

The '99 Badgers went on to win a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl. And Tauscher went on from there to a memorable run with the Packers for more than a decade; living the NFL life. His horse came in.

Lucas at Large: Burress helped bring out Fletcher's finest

Fletcher_Jamar.jpgAfter spending nearly two years in jail for criminal possession of a weapon - his sentence was cut short for good behavior - Plaxico Burress' release triggered two unrelated flashbacks.

The first was to the 1956 World Series when New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra leaped into the arms of pitcher Don Larsen who had just thrown a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Drew Rosenhaus, the perpetually annoying agent, tried to replicate this moment by likewise jumping into the arms of his client, Burress, 33, the former New York Giants wide receiver.

Rosenhaus fell woefully short of sincere.

The second flashback was to a 1999 college football game between Michigan State and Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium which drew plenty of attention to Jamar Fletcher.

On game week, UW coach Barry Alvarez had nothing but praise for Burress, who was not only the Spartans' top receiver, but one of the most challenging matchups in the Big Ten because of his size.

"He's a Randy Moss-type receiver,'' Alvarez said of the 6-foot-6, 222-pound Burress, who had 10 catches for a school-record 255 yards in MSU's victory over rival Michigan a few weeks earlier.

"I'm talking about athleticism. I'm talking about height. I'm talking about big-play capabilities. Everybody that plays him pays special attention to him, yet he still gets the ball.''

The following day, Fletcher essentially "demanded'' to cover Burress - one -on-one.

"I'll be surprised if I don't get it (the assignment),'' said the 5-10, 171-pound Fletcher, a sophomore cornerback out of St. Louis. "I'm looking forward to guarding him.

"Any time you go up against a prime-time receiver like Plaxico, you want to show your game and let everybody else around the country know that you're pretty good, too. So that's what I'm out to do.''

Burress was known around the conference for pounding his chest after catches and being an All-American trash talker. "But I don't know if he's faced anyone that's my caliber,'' Fletcher said.

That was true of Fletcher as a defender and a woofer. And he more than held up his end of the deal with Burress - shutting him down and shutting him up.

The Badgers routed Michigan State, 40-10, behind the running of tailback Ron Dayne, who shredded the Spartans No. 1-ranked rush defense to the tune of 214 yards on 34 carries.

MSU coach Nick Saban was left almost speechless. So was Burress, who was held to five catches for 58 yards. Fletcher intercepted two of the first six passes thrown in Burress' direction.

When asked about Fletcher's boast, UW coach Barry Alvarez said afterward, "I've got one saying and I stole it from Lou Holtz, 'If your mouth writes a check, your fanny better be able to cash it.'''

Fletcher blanketed Burress from the start. "I felt that was the thing I had to do,'' Fletcher said. "I had to come out strong and let him know I'd be there all day; come out and play my game.''

Fletcher later added, "It's never bragging if you back it up.''

Two years later, UW cornerback Mike Echols traveled down the same path. Echols had started in the same Badger secondary with Fletcher, who skipped his final year of eligibility in 2001 for the NFL.

Leading up to the Michigan game, Echols "demanded'' to be matched one-on-one against Marquis Walker, who was leading the Big Ten in receptions per game (6.89).

Echols held Walker to just two catches for 10 yards.

His check didn't bounce, either.
"Heat wave strikes the northeast" was the heading in today's paper as Team USA began play in the 2011 Palmer Cup. At 7:30 a.m., with Arnold Palmer on the first tee, we began our quest to retain the cup.

JT11 going camping with CP3

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Jordan Taylor's final summer as a college student promises to be a busy one. I guess that's what happens when your junior season is filled with All-American talk, Worldwide Twitter trends and some of the most impressive games in UW hoops history.

USA Basketball announced earlier this week that Taylor will be trying out for the World University Games team. But first, Taylor is heading to North Carolina for the Chris Paul CP3 Elite Camp from June 10-12.

According to the camp website, the CP3 Elite Camp is "an invitation-only camp for the top high school and collegiate point guards from North Carolina and across the country."

"The camp should be a cool experience," Taylor said. "Chris Paul is one of the best point guards in the game and I'm sure I can learn a lot from him. Plus, it will be a good chance to play against some other great guards."

Even though the camp is advertised as a point guard instructional, that doesn't mean combo guards aren't invited. This year, Taylor will be joined at the CP3 Camp by Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall (UNC), Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine (Syracuse), Kenny Boynton (Florida), Seth Curry (Duke), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), Peyton Siva (Louisville), Will Barton (Memphis) and Andre Dawkins (Duke) among others.

Lucas at Large: Herbert has Badgers ready to roll from Day 1

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There is no gray area in Ben Herbert's world. As the UW strength and conditioning coach for football, Herbert deals in exacts, not inexacts. He doesn't have time for close enoughs or maybes.

You either do the work. Or you don't.

"I told them before they left for break,'' he said, "we're going to hit the ground running.''

That was Herbert's parting gift to the players following the post-spring practice conditioning phase, which was more about recovery than anything else. Most were off-campus in May.

That was their halftime.

"You can only encourage them to do certain things during the break,'' Herbert said. "But the one thing Day One will tell you is who did what they were suppose to do, and who didn't.''

Monday was Day One in the UW's summer phase.

"In terms of intensity,'' Herbert said, "it was the highest it has been the last three years.''

The Badgers, mind you, are coming off a Rose Bowl season.

"They came back hungry,'' said Herbert. "It's my job to feed them on a daily basis.''

The rallying cry in the weight room has been "Every day, every detail.'' No day will be wasted, Herbert promised, and no detail overlooked in advance of the Sept. 1 opener against UNLV.

"We're always smart about what we expose them to and how we monitor that,'' Herbert went on. "But they're two or three weeks ahead of where they would normally be on Day One.''

Tempo is the operative word in any discussion about Badger football. The UW coaches, headed by Bret Bielema, put significant emphasis on practicing with great tempo in the fall or the spring.

Gerry DiNardo, an analyst for the Big Ten Network, shared his perspective with Lindy's Sports.

"The day I was at practice,'' said DiNardo, the former head coach at Vanderbilt, Indiana and LSU, "they were in half pads, meaning just helmets and shoulder pads.

"It was the best half-padded practice I've ever seen. If there is a hangover from the Rose Bowl, it was not obvious. Just the opposite was true the day I was there.''

Herbert also believes tempo is critical to success in his area of the program.

That, too, stood out on Day One.

"I like this group,'' Herbert said. "They're locked in. They took care of their business over break. Anytime guys self-administrate and control what they're doing, it's always a good sign.''
Herbert is perceptive to such things, in part, because he's a former UW player. As a four-year letterwinner and two-year starter, he was the personification of the program's blue collar mentality.

A converted linebacker, he played where they told him to play - even as an undersized nose guard. So he doesn't ask his players to do anything that he hasn't done, or wouldn't do himself.

During the recent heat spell, Herbert noted, "You have to closely monitor where they are.''

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were scorchers in Madison with temps in the 90s.

"We always communicate, 'Listen to your bodies,''' Herbert said. "We're not trying to win any awards in Week One. We want to get acclimated and ready to transition into weeks two, three and four.

"With the heat, you just have to pay close attention to where they're at - with certain guys, you'll give them a chance to catch their breath and hydrate while others in the group may be fine.''

The presence of athletic trainers has been a positive development to out of season conditioning.

"You can never be too cautious,'' Herbert said. "From the standpoint of putting the guys in the safest environment possible, you have to make sure they can tolerate what they're exposed to.''

This group would appear ready to build on last season's success.

"They're ready to roll,'' Herbert said. "There are only so many work days from now until UNLV and we're going to take advantage of every one of them.''
100_3835TEAM USAThumb.jpgA wonderful week of Palmer Cup activities got off to a great start yesterday with the first practice round for Team USA. The competition is being contested at the Stanwich Club in Stamford, Conn., which is a traditional layout with quick, bent grass greens. 

With another practice round today our guys are feeling more and more comfortable on the golf course. 

This team representing the USA this week is an honor to be apart of for us as coaches. On our team of eight we have three 2011 U.S. Open Qualifiers, the D-I and D-II players of the year, the No. 1 rated college player in the country, and a Nationwide Tour event winner as an amateur, just a few weeks ago. More importantly, these kids are very grateful of the opportunity and so appreciative for the royal treatment we have been given this week.

Before the intensity rises tomorrow morning I was fortunate to experience one of the greatest afternoons anyone in golf could ask for. After a private meeting with Mr. Arnold Palmer in our team locker room, Mr. Palmer joined myself, team USA head coach Tim Poe, and the European coaching staff for lunch.

The opportunity to enjoy 90 minutes with the "King", one-on-one, is right up there in regards to sports highlights. He was more gracious than could be asked for, and made any nerves we had regarding such a meeting disappear quickly. Just as exciting was Mr. Palmer's enthusiasm for the new opportunity at the University of Wisconsin. It is hard to describe such an incredible afternoon and what an unbelievable start to a terrific week ahead.
 
I look forward to periodically updating Badger supporters on the Palmer Cup and hopefully a victorious USA Team!

May all your putts fall
- Coach Burcin

NOTE: New University of Wisconsin head men's golf coach Michael Burcin is serving as an assistant coach with the Palmer Cup team. An assistant at South Carolina the past seven years, Burcin was named head coach at Wisconsin on May 31.
 
Burcin was named the 2010 Golf Coaches Association of America's Jan Strickland Assistant Coach of the Year. In April he was selected to serve as an assistant at the 2011 Palmer Cup, a Ryder Cup-style competition as teams of collegiate golfers from the United States and Europe square off in a three-day match play event.

Bielema, Ryan team up to help fight cancer

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photo.JPGHead coach Bret Bielema is surrounded by inspiration. His mother is a 22-year breast cancer survivor. His secretary Lisa Powell is a survivor as well. And this week, he was literally surrounded.

Bielema and head men's basketball coach Bo Ryan were the honorary starters for the Madison Race for the Cure, which drew an estimated 14,000 participants at the Alliant Energy Center on Saturday morning.

"I've got a mother that's a 22-year breast cancer survivor so any opportunity to work with Susan G. Komen has been very special for me," Bielema said. "I've grown to appreciate the people of Madison and all the people that support this cause. To see close to 14,000 people out there on Saturday was wonderful."

After spending much of Thursday and Friday together for the Badger Days event in Wisconsin Dells, including golfing in the same foursome on Friday, Bielema and Ryan have seen a lot of each other recently.

"What made it especially entertaining was spending most of the morning in a truck with Bo Ryan," Bielema said.

Following the race, Bielema moved into the survivors' tents to mingle with the participants.

"I was actually in the survivors' tent at the end of the race and hugged probably between 100-200 survivors and got to congratulate them, making it a very special event."

Bielema also hosts his own event to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Football 101 for Women. Held Wednesday at Camp Randall Stadium, the event is in its third year.

"The event is once again sold out," Bielema said. "Every year we've done it we've increased the numbers. This year we're up to about 300. It's a great way for us to raise awareness of breast cancer but also educate women about football. It's a football 101 class that will give them some insight into our program and what we think is important."

For Ryan, the Race for the Cure was just the start of a busy weekend. He headed back up to Wisconsin Dells on Sunday for "An Evening with Andy & Friends Dinner" and Monday's "Andy North & Friends Golf Getaway." Both events were designed to raise money and awareness for the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.  

An auction accompanied Sunday night's dinner, during which a pair of seats behind the Badger bench for the Marquette game fetched more than $11,000. Among the celebrities in attendance were ESPN's Erin Andrews, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former Indiana coach and current ESPN men's basketball commentator Bobby Knight.

Pryor's exit leaves Leaders Division race wide open

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101016FB-1400-93.jpgAn energized Camp Randall was rocking with noise after the Badgers had imposed their will on the Ohio State defense during a 10-play, 63-yard scoring drive highlighted by the running of John Clay.

Wisconsin now led 17-13 and all the pressure was on OSU's 19-year-old freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, a man-child, who had performed erratically up to this point.

What happened next was one of the defining moments of Pryor's career.

Exhibiting poise and "escapability" in the clutch, Pryor led the Buckeyes on a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive during which he converted twice on third down and twice on second-and-long.

Pryor was not only good, he was lucky.

The ball was also on the ground twice during this series; once on a Pryor fumbled which he retrieved and once on a Brian Hartline fumble which his OSU teammate Brian Robiskie recovered.

Pryor capped the march with an 11-yard run for the game-winning touchdown. He made it look easy because it was easy - the Badgers had a breakdown in communication and didn't get lined up right.

It was the first time UW coach Bret Bielema had experienced a defeat on home turf. And it wouldn't end there. Pryor came back to haunt the Badgers the following season in Columbus.

Statistically, Wisconsin dominated Ohio State in total plays (89-40), total yards (368-184) and time of possession (42:47 to 17:13). But the Buckeyes scored twice on interceptions returns.

They also got a timely lift from Pryor just before the end of the first half. The key play? Pryor eluded J.J. Watt and broke containment on a 27-yard scamper, once again showing his escapability.

Despite being off-target with most of his throws, Pryor delivered a perfect strike when it counted - a 12-yard TD pass to DeVier Posey. In a blink, he had driven the offense 88 yards for a score.

That's what Pryor could do - he could change the course of a game with his athleticism and skill.

Last season, the Badgers and Watt, in particular, finally got the better of Pryor - on the scoreboard - with a memorable win over the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes at raucous Camp Randall.

Nobody knew then - except maybe OSU coach Jim Tressel - that Wisconsin would not get another chance to even the score with Pryor, who will not be returning to OSU for his senior year.

Yes, this would be another example of his escapability.

Nobody's surprised; not with the NCAA posse getting closer and closer to Pryor, who had already been suspended for the first five games of 2011, along with a handful of teammates.

Pryor will likely apply for the NFL's supplemental draft; still guaranteed under the old CBA. Pryor is an unfinished product as a quarterback. But somebody will take a chance. Someone always does.

Pryor could wind up at wide receiver, not unlike former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones, who was Jacksonville's first-round draft pick. Pryor, like Jones, brings a lot of Samsonite, though.

While awaiting further sanctions, the Buckeyes can start fresh - without Pryor - avoiding the logistical nightmare of how to integrate Pryor back into the offense once his suspension expired.

Pryor will forever be linked to Jim Tressel - also ousted and humbled and tainted by Ohio State's scandal; not unlike the former USC battery of Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll.

Who replaces Pryor with the Buckeyes? Interim coach Luke Fickell will have to choose between fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman or true freshman Braxton Miller, who practiced in the spring.

Ohio State is not the only team in the Leaders Division with uncertainty at quarterback; starting with the Badgers and Hoosiers who must replace Scott Tolzien and Ben Chappell, respectively.
    
Penn State is looking for consistency from Matt McGloin or Rob Bolden or someone else. Purdue is still looking for the same thing from Rob Henry or Robert Marve, who's coming off an injury.
   
The only team in the division without an issue at QB is Illinois, which returns Nathan Scheelhaase who set a single-season school record by rushing for 868 yards. But there are questions about his arm.

In sum, there's no clear-cut Leader in the Leaders; at least not today.


Borland talks health, 2011 prep at Badger Days

Sophomore linebacker Chris Borland, who is coming off a 2010 season that saw him play in only two games due to shoulder injuries, accompanied the UW coaches to Tuesday's Badger Days event in Green Bay.

Borland talked to Matt Lepay about his health, starting summer workouts and the team's outlook for 2011.

 

Badgers and Beavers scheduled for 11 a.m. kickoff

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In just the second meeting all-time between the two schools, Wisconsin will host Oregon State at 11 a.m. (CT) on Sept. 10 at Camp Randall Stadium, it was announced on Tuesday.

The game will be broadcast on either ESPN or ESPN2.

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Wisconsin and Oregon State have met only once prior, with UW coming away with a 23-20 victory on Oct. 14, 1961 in Madison.

The Beavers, who went 5-7 last season, including a 4-5 mark in the Pac-10, are led by junior quarterback Ryan Katz (2,401 yards and 17 TDs). Senior wide receiver James Rodgers also returns for Oregon State and enters the season with the second-most all-purpose yards for active players in the FBS with an OSU record 5,784.

The match-up will mark the third time in the last five seasons that the Badgers have faced an opponent from the Pac-10. Wisconsin beat Arizona State, 20-19, last season and opened the 2007 season with a 42-21 victory over Washington State.

Six of the Badgers' 12 games in 2011 now have kickoff times.

View the full schedule here.

Bruesewitz chomping at the bit

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For a UW student athlete, the sports calendar is nearly a 12-month commitment. With extra classes and workouts filling most of the summer, it's rare that guys like Mike Bruesewitz are ever off campus.

However, since the school year ended in mid-May, Bruesewitz and his teammates have been scattered to their hometowns and beyond. Most use the time to recharge their batteries and work out with friends and former high school teammates.

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The clock is ticking for their return to Madison as summer classes and workouts resume on Monday, June 13.

For Bruesewitz, that's not soon enough.

"I'm pretty anxious to get back to Madison," Bruesewitz said this week from his home in the St. Paul, Minn. area. "It will be nice to have a gym open any time we need it and not have to drive 30 minutes to work out like I'm doing now."

Since emerging as a media darling during the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Bruesewitz has backed off the workouts a bit to let his knee recover. You'll remember that the soon-to-be junior averaged 8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds off the bench during the tournament, but did so on a sprained knee, which he suffered during the Big Ten tournament.

Just recently Bruesewitz has ramped up the training again and has admitted that it's been a lot of work.

"After sitting out the last two months, it's been a struggle to get going again," he admitted. "My knee is completely fine, but my body just isn't used to the workouts yet. There is plenty of motivation for me and for our team, so we're all excited to get back to Madison and get going again."

Lucas at Large: Joe Thomas among NFL's top 50

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On Sunday night, the NFL Network revealed another installment in its 10-part series identifying the Top 100 Players in the National Football League as voted on by their peers;  current players.   
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The exercise not only fills a void (read: lockout) but triggers a healthy debate among fans whose opinions may offer from the voters.  Radio talk show hosts are forever grateful for such lists.

Given this backdrop, it should not come as a surprise to anyone in this part of the world that former UW offensive tackle Joe Thomas is among the Top 50 Players in the NFL. Thomas is No. 43.

Thomas, a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns (No. 3 overall in 2007), has been selected to four Pro Bowls in four pro seasons. He has been named first-team All-Pro twice.

As such, Thomas would have to already rank among Wisconsin's most accomplished NFL offensive linemen; a short list that would feature the late Mike Webster of the Steelers at the very top.

Left tackle Paul Gruber is also very deserving of recognition in this category though his career was the antithesis of Webster's in that he played on so many losing teams with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

 Another left tackle, Chris McIntosh, never quite realized his potential with Seattle because of injuries, whereas right tackle Mark Tauscher far exceeded all expectations with the Packers.

A number of former UW linemen have turned out to be solid NFL players; maybe not Top 50, maybe not even Top 100. But Cory Raymer and Casey Rabach each found their own niche in the league.
   
Any Badger list would have to also include Terry Stieve, Jeff Dellenbach, and Joe Panos. Each was a "pro's pro'' - to varying degrees with different NFL organizations.

Thomas, meanwhile, has been training in Madison since late March because the players have been "locked-out'' of their facilities. Not that he has minded.  "I've really enjoyed it,'' he said.

What he would enjoy more is a resolution to the work stoppage.

Until then, the NFL Network will continue to spark dialogue with its Top 100.

Four members of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers have been ranked thus far: Chad Clifton, No. 99; Nick Collins, No. 96; B.J. Raji, No. 81; and Greg Jennings, No. 74.

Among the quarterbacks who have shown up in the Bottom 50 are Donovan McNabb, No. 100; Joe Flacco, No. 90; Josh Freeman, No. 86; Tony Romo, No. 72; and Matt Ryan, No. 52.

Where will Aaron Rodgers fall on the list? I'm thinking Top 25.

The first wave of Top 50 players include Wes Welker, No. 50; Brian Urlacher, No. 49; Champ Bailey, No. 48; Nick Mangold, No. 47; Tony Gonzalez, No. 46; Dwayne Bowe, No. 45; Robert Mathis, No. 44; THOMAS, No. 43; Michael Turner, No. 42; and Ben Roethlisberger, No. 41.

Dukan to play for U-20 Croatian National Team

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Wisconsin sophomore Duje Dukan is taking his talents to Spain.

Dukan will be spending a few weeks this summer playing for the Croatian National Team in the U-20 European Championships in Bilbao, Spain from July 14-24. Dukan, who was born in Split, Croatia, has dual citizenship in Croatia and the United States.

101106MBB-6091-13.jpg"I'm really excited about getting an opportunity to play for a national team and representing a county should be an unbelievable experience," Dukan said. "I'm going in with an open mind and I know that I'm going to have to learn on the fly."

Dukan will travel to Croatia on Thursday, June 2 and spend the first two weeks in a tryout/training setting.  The Croatian team will then play a few exhibition games before participating in the European Championships. Croatia is paired in Pool B with Latvia, France and Sweden.

The Deerfield, Ill., native was approached last summer about playing with the Croatian National Team, but after talking to head coach Bo Ryan decided to turn down the opportunity, instead enrolling in summer classes at UW and training in Madison with his new teammates.

When the Croatian National Team came calling again this summer, Ryan gave Dukan his blessing to play in the European Championships.

While international competition will be a new experience for Dukan, playing in a European setting won't be.

"My family has spent time in Europe every summer and while we're over there I've trained and practiced with one of the local teams," Dukan explained. "There are some rule changes in international basketball, a different ball and the game in general is just a little different, but being that I've been in that environment a little will hopefully help with the learning curve."

As a freshman, Dukan appeared in just eight games for the Badgers and is looking forward to the chance to get game minutes.

"I think this experience will help me out because I'll get to face the top European competition in my age group," Dukan added. "If I have aspirations of playing professional basketball after college, this will help me gauge my game a little. Also, this will definitely help for next year. I didn't play a lot of minutes last season, so just getting some game situations and play should help."