With national signing day for football coming up on Wednesday, this is the time of year a lot of folks get wrapped in recruiting rankings, "five-star" athletes and "winning" signing day. I thought it would be a good idea to go back and look at the Badgers' signing day classes in recent history and see how they fared. I left out last year's class because obviously the jury is still out on most of the players.
I don't want this taken as an indictment of recruiting rankings. According to Rivals.com, Alabama has had the No. 1 class in the country three of the last four years. And I heard they were pretty good this season. So there is some correlation between success on the recruiting trail and succeeding on the field. However, both Illinois and Minnesota were ranked higher than UW in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Their combined record over the last three seasons was 29-46 (.387). Wisconsin was 32-8 (.800).
From 2007-10, Wisconsin signed 86 players to National Letters of Intent. Sixty-four of those players (74.4 percent) are either still on the Badgers' roster or finished their careers at UW. A recent story came out that Auburn has only retained 57 percent of its signees from 2009 and 2010 (both classes ranked in the top 20 in the country by Rivals). UW has 39 of its 45 signees (86.7 percent) still on the roster over that span.
On the field, these classes have helped UW win back-to-back Big Ten titles, play in consecutive Rose Bowls and become one of just six teams in the country to win at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons.
Below are some facts and figures for the Badgers' classes in question:
2007 - 17 players signed - Ranked 34th nationally and 7th in the Big Ten by Rivals - Produced 11 starters - 10 players finished their careers as Badgers - 7 earned All-Big Ten honors and 1 All-American - Notable signees: RB John Clay (4 stars), S Aaron Henry (3 stars), OL Josh Oglesby (5 stars), WR Nick Toon (4 stars) 2008 - 24 players signed - Ranked 41st nationally and 6th in the Big Ten by Rivals - Produced 14 starters (includes 2 walk-ons) - 15 players finished their careers as Badgers or are still on the roster - 6 earned All-Big Ten honors (includes 1 walk-on) and 2 All-Americans - Notable signees: CB Antonio Fenelus (2 stars), OL Peter Konz (4 stars), LB Mike Taylor (2 stars), OL Kevin Zeitler (3 stars) - Notable walk-ons: FB Bradie Ewing (2 stars), OL Ricky Wagner (not rated) 2009 - 21 players signed - Ranked 43rd nationally and 8th in the Big Ten by Rivals - Produced 9 starters (includes 2 walk-ons) - 17 players are still on the roster - 5 earned All-Big Ten honors (includes 1 walk-on) and 2 All-Americans - Notable signees: RB Montee Ball (4 stars), LB Chris Borland (3 stars), OL Travis Frederick (3 stars), TE Jacob Pedersen (2 stars) - Notable walk-ons: Ethan Hemer (not rated), Jared Abbrederis (not rated) 2010 - 24 players signed - Not ranked in Rivals top 50, 11th in the Big Ten - 22 players are still on the roster - Notable signees: DT Beau Allen (3 stars), OL Rob Havenstein (3 stars), RB James White (3 stars), WR Manasseh Garner (3 stars) - Notable walk-ons: K Kyle French (not rated), LB Marcus Trotter (not rated)
Bruesewitz on 'The Journey' Photo GalleryThe standard practice of "icing" the free throw shooter takes on a whole different context with Mike Bruesewitz, who may be the only player in college basketball with ice skates in his locker.
So it evolved on Thursday night with Bruesewitz converting free throws around a timeout in the final 15 seconds to help No. 25 Wisconsin "ice" a 57-50 victory over 16th-ranked Indiana at the Kohl Center.
As a team, the Badgers went 12-of-12 from the line in the second half after knocking down only 3-of-7 free throws in the first half thereby extending a curious trend.
---------------------------------------------------------------- Watch Bruesewitz on "The Journey 2012" Sunday, Jan. 29 - BTN - 7 p.m. CT ----------------------------------------------------------------
There was also a tale of two halves from the free throw line in UW's win at Illinois last Sunday: 2-of-8 in the first and 8-of-10 in the second; all of which suggests the obvious "ice water in the veins" cliche.
Bruesewitz would qualify as one of those players by birth. After all, he was born in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 outdoor hockey rinks, i.e. lakes i.e. the skates in his Kohl Center locker.
Big Ten Network was intrigued enough to film a segment on Bruesewitz for its "The Journey 2012" series, which has been chronicling many of the more unique basketball storylines in the league.
In the episode scheduled to air Sunday night at 7 p.m. (CT), Bruesewitz will be featured on the ice with a couple of UW hockey players in All-American defenseman Justin Schultz and forward Derek Lee.
Bruesewitz, Schultz and Lee have been friends since their freshman year together in the dorms.
"They were great sports to do it," Bruesewitz said.
The filming took place at Vilas Park. At one point, Lee manned the camera at ice level while Schultz and Bruesewitz skated to the net, passing the puck back and forth between them.
"I hadn't skated outdoors in a long time," Bruesewitz said.
The last time he played competitive hockey was in the seventh grade.
"My dangling (juking) skills are sub-par now," he said. "But I used to dangle back in the day."
Bruesewitz was a center iceman in youth hockey.
"When the Kohl Center ice is down, I'll probably skate six or seven times a year," he said. "It's a little different activity for me and it gets me away from everything."
"My claim to fame is that I scored on a couple of college-age goalies."
Laughing, he added, "But I won't mention any names."
However, he did drop Jordan Taylor's name in the conversation since Taylor also hails from Minnesota. The natural assumption, of course, is that everyone who grew up in the state can skate.
"Jordan tries," Bruesewitz said of UW's All-American point guard. "But he's like Louis Mendoza from (the movie) 'The Mighty Ducks.' He can skate pretty fast, but he can't stop."
Over the last 13 minutes and 24 seconds of Thursday's game, Taylor's offense was "on ice" but, despite not scoring, he did all the other critical little things to ensure success against the Hoosiers.
More telling in the long run may have been the fact that his teammates picked him up. Ben Brust and Ryan Evans each scored 10 points in the second half. Evans also finished with nine rebounds.
"We didn't have a great shooting night as a team but finding other ways to win is real encouraging," said Evans, who was only 2-of-8 from the field but 8-of-8 from the free throw line.
"My rebounding got me to the line."
Evans acknowledged that he has struggled in the first half in each of the last two home games.
"But I'm fortunate that Coach (Bo Ryan) is not giving up on me," he said. "It's very important knowing that I'm going to get a chance in the second half to turn things around, which I felt I did."
Throughout the season, Indiana's Christian Watford has hit clutch shots, including the game-winner over No. 1 ranked Kentucky. But Evans limited Watford to just six points in the second half.
"I consider myself a defensive player," Evans said, "and I kind of learn about a player throughout the game. I knew that he (Watford) was going to be aggressive at the end, so I wanted to contain him.
"I knew that he was strong to the right hand so I wanted to force him left a little bit more."
The scouting report also factored into Bruesewitz's defense on Cody Zeller. "He's one of the best freshman not only in the Big Ten but the country; one of the best big men regardless of class," he said.
For long stretches -- however long he was on the floor due to foul trouble -- Wisconsin center Jared Berggren did a terrific defensive job on Zeller and ended up with a career- high five blocked shots.
But it was the 6-foot-6 Bruesewitz who checked the 6-11 Zeller down the stretch.
"I just wanted to make sure he had to work as hard as possible to get the ball," Bruesewitz said. "That's always been my M.O., especially in post-defense being a little undersized.
"Sometimes it helps that I can duck under those bigger guys and get in front of them and work a little harder than them. My whole thought process was to make him work.
"I wanted to make him do something he wasn't comfortable doing. We had watched a lot of film on Zeller. Watching him go against Jared, he did a lot of countering, especially on the baseline."
One of the key possessions of the game revolved around Bruesewitz' post defense on Zeller. With the Badgers protecting a 53-50 lead, Zeller missed a short jump hook and Taylor rebounded.
"I thought he might go baseline," Bruesewitz said. "I told everybody afterward if he would have continued to the middle, he probably would have had a dunk or a layup. But he countered."
Thanks to that aforementioned scouting report -- "Our coaches do a great job letting us know all that stuff" -- Bruesewitz was ready for Zeller's counter move. Standing tall, he forced a difficult shot.
At the opposite end, Bruesewitz then pulled down an offensive rebound. Although he was all alone under the basket -- Zeller had fallen down -- he took the ball back outside and got fouled.
"I'm not quite sure how he ended up on his butt," said Bruesewitz, clearing his throat. Wink, wink. "But Watford was behind me and there was a lot of traffic. I didn't know where everybody was.
"My whole through process there was to get it out and try to run some clock. I almost turned the ball over. But luckily I got it back as soon as I lost it and I got to the free throw line."
That would not be a cause for celebration this season, since Bruesewitz was shooting 53 percent from the line in Big Ten games. But he claimed that was an aberration, not a sign of things to come.
Validating that thinking, he went 4-of-4 against the Hoosiers.
"The free throw line is all about mental toughness and confidence," said Bruesewitz. "It's just repetition. I know that I'm a good free throw shooter. It just hasn't shown."
To get back on track, he has been staying after practice to shoot 50 to 100 free throws. Before Thursday morning's shoot-around, he also got on the floor early to work on his stroke and rhythm.
In the second half, Bruesewitz and his teammates drew nothing but net, and cheers.
"Personally I feed off the crowd," Evans said. "That was huge for me and the team."
"The crowd was amped and got here early," Bruesewitz said. "I don't think a lot of people around here like Indiana too much.
"I know it was really fun to have a rocking Kohl Center."
By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson on January 27, 2012 2:08 PM
In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the first two weeks of practice and what a privilege competition is.
Winter Practice: Week 1
The Badger softball team spent a lot of time in 2011 listening to chalk-talks and inspiring speeches from great coaches and leaders on campus. We kicked off our 2012 winter practice season last week with a few visitors willing to share words of wisdom to help break up our two-a-day workouts. Major Shannon Hellenbrand spoke to our group about leadership, before our team got to participate in a mini boot camp. The amazing thing about Shannon is that she was young, friendly and bubbly. She shared her experiences of leading two tours to Iraq, managing units comprised primarily men, many of them older than her. She led a group of engineers and oversaw a detention camp. Her leadership seemed to be centered on caring for her coworkers. By establishing relationships with the people she commanded, she got more from her employees and created a better environment. We were inspired to meet someone so young who has dedicated her life to serving her country as a leader.
Later in the week Lindsey Smith from Athletes in Action spoke to the team about opportunities at Wisconsin for service, community outreach and spiritual growth. It's amazing how many resources are available to our student-athletes at Wisconsin. There are so many groups, organizations and professionals who are dedicated to helping our student-athletes reach their potential on the field, in the classroom and in life. One of my favorite quotes that you can find on a lot of the Athletes in Action materials is from Nelson Mandela, "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down barriers. It laughs in the face of discrimination."
Winter Practice: Week 2
This week's chalk talk was one of the most inspiring for me, because it featured two of our own student-athletes who wanted to share insights into leadership and mental toughness that they learned over break. Senior Karla Powell led the way by reading a book, "Strengths-Based Leadership", by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. While the book focused on leadership in corporate America, Karla shared lessons that translated into sports. It's rewarding to hear our team echo some of the life-lessons that our staff is working to emphasize.
The two lessons that Karla talked about, which resonated with me, had to do with surrounding yourself with good people, and leading from a strength-based perspective. The book emphasized the need to surround yourself with people who are positive influences. I think that's one of the most important things we can do in life; seek out individuals that inspire us, who build us up, who challenge us and make us better people. There are so many negative influences in this world, why not choose to be around people with similar values and goals, who care for others and do things the right way. My mom always told my sister and me to surround ourselves with good people when we were growing up. That lesson has helped so much in choosing the right college, dating nice guys, finding true friends and working for amazing bosses.
The other message I liked from Karla's talk said that leaders focus on their strengths and the strengths of their organization and employees. As coaches there are so many times that we dwell on what's wrong. It's so easy to see where our players fall short and how deficient our team is. Great leaders have the unique ability to see what people do right, and accentuate the positive. Sports and life can be a long, difficult journey. There are so many challenges and pitfalls along the way. To inspire our athletes, our teams and ourselves to survive the marathon, and stay motivated and positive, we must highlight the good. If athletes don't feel good, and worthy and special, they'll never have the energy or tenacity to chip away at their weaknesses. It's a tough world out there. If we lead from a strength-based perspective, our athletes will feel the confidence and energy they need, to take on new challenges in sport and life.
Sophomore Stephanie Peace then spoke to the team about a 30 day challenge she took on. She read two, 14 day workbooks on mental training. Each day there were stories and activities to read and complete. These workbooks offer a great, tangible plan for improving mental toughness, and teaching relaxation. If our staff had made the team complete these workbooks, I'm not sure how much they would have gotten out of them. I love having one of our young leaders share some of the extra work she is doing and to inspire her peers to do the same. What a powerful way to lead by example. Everyone wanted to try these workbooks out after hearing Steph's talk.
Accountability is an amazing thing among athletes. We can all take on new challenges, or try to overcome a weakness. Yet when you stand in front of your team, commit to being more positive under pressure and in control when the going gets tough, you really become accountable for your actions. True change happens when you put yourself out there and become vulnerable in front of your teammates, committing to a goal in public.
My favorite lesson from Steph's reading on mental toughness states that "Pressure is a Privilege." How true. If you are under pressure at work, in life, or on the field, you must have an amazing opportunity in front of you. Sure, you could fail, but you're in the fight, you've stood up, put yourself out there, accepted the challenge and joined the dance. You might fail, but you have the opportunity to fail brilliantly. Not many people have the privilege of experiencing pressure. If you're feeling pressure you must have made the team, and you are probably in the game! What a privilege to compete.
As the teams make their final preparations for the Saturday's Senior Bowl, the Badgers who are participating in the game are still turning heads. However, inclement weather forced the North squad to "practice" inside a ballroom in the Mobile Convention Center.
Russell Wilson and the other North Team QBs have impressed the Minnesota Vikings coach staff they have been working with all week (Minneapolis Star-Tribune).
Pro Football Weekly's two reporters both couldn't help but notice Wilson during Wednesday's practice ("I wasn't watching the North quarterbacks closely this morning, but Wisconsin's Russell Wilson nonetheless caught my eye").
Even though he's not at the Senior Bowl (probably because he left as a junior), C Peter Konz shows up on Pro Football Weekly's Mock draft 1.0 at No. 18 to San Diego ("Konz has the strength and power to make an immediate impact and fortify the Chargers' interior").
The Senior Bowl will start at 3 p.m. CT with coverage beginning on NFL Network at 2:30 p.m.
By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson on January 26, 2012 2:27 PM
UWBadgers.com sat down
with head coach Yvette Healy to discuss the first week of practice. The Badgers
kicked off the season on Jan. 17 and play in their first game Feb. 17.
How did the first week of practice go?
"The first week back looked good. We spent a lot of the time
making sure physically we are in great shape. Practice is a lot more creative
than usual. A lot more running, jumping, diving, medi balls, jump ropes, ladders
and juggling. Fun stuff like that. We are really working on some differential learning
with the team, trying to get them active besides just softball skills.
Were there any surprises the first week?
"Molly Spence had been hurt and she was out last year. Even with
being in some pain and being out, she hits the ball a ton. It is really fun as
a staff to see her hit live and hit in scrimmages. She is a tremendous athlete
and she is someone you can't help but notice when you are watching practice."
You worked on fitness the first week, what does the second
"We are getting into a little more philosophy stuff. We are
working a lot on our swings. I think we have a lot of potential to hit home
runs and attack that record. Coach Schneider has been doing a lot of the
science behind it and working with our team on torque and their bat
positioning, creating velocity and increasing bat speed. (There has been) a lot
of strength stuff, vision training and then just your basic, grounders, fly
balls and breaking down the skill and re-teaching it. I think you spend the
second week tearing apart your fundamentals, making sure you are all on the
same page and re-teaching. It is a great week going into a weekend of camp to
have our team reviewing all of those fundamentals."
What are your goals for the next two and a half weeks of
"Every week we try to advance what we are doing and just
make sure we are getting better from a pitching, fielding, defensive and
hitting stand point, each aspect of the game. We are ramping it up to feel more
like game situations, but we were careful not to jump right in and just go from
0 to 60 right away. Really the first weeks are about getting your fundamentals
down and being in great shape and having the team work really hard and get in
"The next couple weeks will really start to feel like game
mode, where every drill feels more a little more rushed, a little more sense of
urgency, a little more game like.
During the 1989 and 1990 Badger football seasons, I had the privilege of working with legendary announcer Jim Irwin. In those days, Jim did the play-by-play alongside Elroy Hirsch and Brian Manthey. My role was hosting the pregame, halftime and postgame shows.
I certainly knew about Jim. In those days, every sports fan in Wisconsin was familiar with the name. Among his many duties, Jim was the voice of the Badgers, the Milwaukee Bucks and, most notably, the Green Bay Packers. When needed, Jim also would fill in for Bob Uecker on the Brewers' broadcasts.
He did it all. On Friday, Jim would call a Bucks game. On Saturday, he would be in the booth for a Badgers game, and then he would either head up to Lambeau Field or race to catch a plane to wherever the Packers were playing on Sunday.
It was quite the schedule, but Jim was the consummate professional. There is a reason he is a Hall of Famer.
Like so many sports fans in this state and beyond, I am saddened at the news of his passing. Irwin died earlier this week in Southern California at age 77.
For many years, Jim Irwin was the voice of teams that had very little success. When we worked together for those two years on the UW football broadcasts, the Badgers' record was 3-19. On the field, those seasons were anything but pretty, but Jim always had plenty of energy, and he was the eternal optimist.
As for your truly, I was a twenty-something kid from Ohio still trying to figure out the business. The next think I knew, I was sitting next to a Wisconsin broadcasting icon.
While those were trying times for the Badgers and their fans, the 1989 and 1990 Wisconsin football seasons are years that I cherish. Why? Because Jim could not have been more welcoming to someone who was still fairly new to the industry.
Someone like Jim could have "big timed" me, but he always offered words of encouragement. In a sense, perhaps he was taking me under his wing. It was only 22 Saturdays, but for me they were important Saturdays, and Jim made me feel as though I was a big part of the Badgers' radio crew. He did not have to be that way, but he was. The same goes for Jim's lovely wife, Gloria, who often joined him in Madison for those home football games.
Jim retired more than a decade ago, and clearly the Packers have a great announcer in Wayne Larrivee. The Bucks' Ted Davis also does terrific work. But I think we all understand that for so many people, hearing Jim Irwin's voice takes us back to so many memorable moments.
From Wes Matthews' half-court heave to beat Michigan State in 1979, when he told his listeners, "Yes! He made it! He made it! He made it, and we win the ballgame! 83 to 81! From mid-court! Wesley Matthews made it!" to the 1981 Badger football team's upset of No. 1 Michigan.
On that September afternoon, Irwin described Matt VandenBoom's three interceptions, including the pick that sealed the game: "Back goes (Steve) Smith. He's gonna throw. He looks. This is the last play of the game. He fires it over the middle. Picked off! The Badgers win it. With 2 seconds to go, Matt VandenBoom intercepts the ball!"
Then there was the Packers' Super Bowl XXXI victory against the New England Patriots: "The Vince Lombardi Trophy is coming home where it started!" said Irwin that day.
Hearing those calls is like turning back the clock and being a kid again.
I am proud to say that I had the chance to work with Jim Irwin. I was very lucky to have had that opportunity. It isn't every day that one can say he was able to spend time with a Hall of Famer who was gracious, supportive and just a pretty down-to-earth man who loved his craft and performed it at a level that most of us can only hope to reach.
Rest in peace, Jim. Thank you for all of your wonderful calls, and thank you for believing in that young broadcaster.
Some observations and links from Tuesday morning's North team practice at the 2012 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.:
QB Russell Wilson was again largely discussed on the NFL Network coverage. Badger head coach Bret Bielema called in to talk about his quarterback with Paul Burmeister and Mike Mayock (VIDEO).
The beat writer for the Houston Texans (Badgers south?) from the Houston Chronicle weighed in with his thoughts on Wilson ("Wilson has a nice, over-the-top delivery and keeps high during his backpedal") and Kevin Zeitler ("I was very excited to see Kevin Zeitler because he's such a powerful and technically sound run blocker and he didn't disappoint in the scrimmage phase").
Pro Football Weekly also briefly touched on Wilson ("Wilson was very impressive. He was accurate, consistent and had the best zip on his ball of the three quarterbacks"). They also checked in later on video breaking down Wilson's day.
Zeitler, who moved over and played a little center during practice, impressed Tom Melton ("As I said in my preview of the Senior Bowl I think that Kevin Zeitler is the top senior offensive guard and I still believe that").
Tony Softli, who covers the Rams, also had good things to say about Zeitler ("Tough and aggressive lineman. Is not the best athlete of the bunch, but he has that over-achiever attitude with skill set to develop at the next level. I like this young man.") and Wilson ("When it's all said and done, this quarterback might be the best at the 2012 Senior Bowl. Play-maker!").
Punter Brad Nortman also has been turning some heads. After Monday's practice, SI.com's Tony Pauline said, "Brad Nortman (P/Wisconsin) was kicking moon shots all afternoon. His punts were consistently flying 55-to-60 yards with great hang time."
SB Nation also chimed in following Tuesday's practice, "Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman boomed his kicks and routinely got quite a bit of hang time, garnering him some attention from a few scouts after practice."
Practice continues today, televised live at 10 a.m. CT on NFL Network.
Three former Badger defensive players took part in all-star games last weekend, with Aaron Henry playing in the East-West Shrine game, Patrick Butrym in the NFLPA Collegiate All-Star game and Antonio Fenelus in the Battle of Florida.
Fenelus, the only one of the three Badgers with an official invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine, was on the losing end of a 51-3 score at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla. He did account for one of the South Team's highlights, recording an interception. Fenelus also added two tackles and pass breakup.
Henry was voted the captain of the victorious West team in the East-West Shrine game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Defensive stats were hard to come by but The Naples Daily News caught up with Henry before the game.
Butrym played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, but information and stats on the game are scarce.
In contrast to that, the Senior Bowl is like the Super Bowl of college all-star games. Practices are televised, reporters are numerous and scouts fill the stands. Five Badgers are participating this week, including QB Russell Wilson, FB Bradie Ewing, OL Kevin Zeitler, P Brad Nortman and LS Kyle Wojta. WR Nick Toon was invited to the Senior Bowl but is sitting out due to a foot injury.
As is usually the case, the QBs garnered a lot of attention, especially on NFL Network's coverage of practice (VIDEO). The New York Times blog also broke down the QBs: "Wilson is an exceptional athlete and it showed on the first day of practice. He didn't start particularly well, but as the session progressed he was the most impressive quarterback in the first practice of the week."
And the Charlotte Observer also caught up with Wilson to discuss the one thing he has no control over, his height.
In the early going, Zeitler is the highest rated draft prospect among the former Badgers. He impressed a number of folks, including the web site NEPatriotsDraft.com: "Kevin Zeitler was a stud all day long, I didn't see him get beat at all and when I did watch him he dominated Alameda Ta'amu, knocking his helmet off of him. He is feisty and a battler."
NFLmocks.com also praised Zeitler: "I find it funny that everyone talks about DeCastro but no one talked about Zeitler. DeCastro might be better but I am not willing to admit that yet. Zeitler dominated in both run blocking and pass blocking in college and faced much stiffer competition. He fared well against Devon Still and Jerel Worthy who are both thought to be 1rst Round talents. With a week in front of scouts many might start wondering if Zeitler is DeCastro's equal."
The strongest endorsement came from DraftCountdown.com: "Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler was incredible at right guard. Zeitler wowed onlookers and showed a real nasty streak in the 1-on-1 drills. Alameda Ta'amu is just one of the guys who struggled to make anything happen against the Badger blocker. On the day Zeitler was only beat once and looked every bit the part of a first rounder."
Coverage of the Senior Bowl practices continue on Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. CT on NFL Network. There is also a daily recap show on Wednesday and Thursday on NFL Network at 9:30 p.m. CT. The Senior Bowl game is then televised live on NFL Network at 3 p.m. CT.
By Mike Lucas on January 24, 2012 10:28 AM
Growth is not only a function of player development but team building.
January is usually a good starting point to take stock of any growing pains, too.
"Anytime you're into a season, especially conference play,'' said Indiana's Tom Crean, "and you can feel like you're getting better and improving, then, things are moving forward.
"Getting better is physical ... it's mental ... it's every aspect of it.''
Nobody has gotten better in January than Wisconsin, a winner of four straight games. That's the longest active winning streak in the conference. Minnesota has won three in a row.
Also consider that the Badgers started off the month mired in a three-game losing streak.
On Monday's Big Ten coaches' teleconference, Bruce Weber noted that his Illini had the misfortune "to play a Wisconsin team that had struggled and now is playing about as well as anybody.''
After Sunday's loss to the Badgers at Assembly Hall in Champaign -- where Illinois had won 14 in a row -- Weber confessed, "They made the plays ... they out-toughed us and out-hustled us.''
That was personified by one possession in the second half -- what UW's Mike Bruesewitz labeled "a mad scramble" -- during which Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser both hit the floor.
"Josh made a heckuva dive,'' Bruesewitz said. "He dove probably about eight feet for the ball and gave us a shot. Then I got on top of it.
"I looked back and I was going to throw it to Jared (Berggren) and then I looked up the floor and I saw Ben (Brust), Jordan (Taylor) and (Illinois' D.J.) Richardson.
"I thought, 'All right, I'll get it to Ben.' I tried to throw it as hard as I could but I was on my butt. So I did the best that I could to get it to him and he ended up finishing (with a lay-up at the other end).
"It was a good series of events and that kind of changed the game for us.''
Purdue's Matt Painter saw a change in the Badgers coming long before that.
"I thought they had some breakdowns offensively in a couple of their (Big Ten) losses but a lot of what they did was they just missed some shots,'' Painter said before facing Wisconsin on Jan. 12.
"They had some guys shooting low percentages that are capable of shooting high percentages. We gave them respect. We talked about not giving them rhythm shots.
"But they got too many early and got their heads up and that ended up being the difference.''
In winning for only the third time in the 45-year history of Mackey Arena, the Badgers snapped their losing streak and generated much-needed momentum and confidence for their turnaround.
Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team with a winning record (3-1) in league road games.
"Knock on wood, we've just got to keep it going,'' said senior point guard Jordan Taylor. "I can't put my finger on it. But we just have to keep trying to find ways to win on the road.''
Do the Badgers get more energized when they play in hostile environments like they have at Purdue and Illinois? Do they play with the proverbial chip on their shoulder on the road?
Taylor nodded and said, "I think a lot of the guys on our team weren't high-profile recruits or touted for their basketball ability. I think we just like proving people wrong.''
Part of the mission statement is outhustling or out-toughing opponents.
"Generally our motto has been, 'Find a way,''' Taylor related. "It's coach (Bo) Ryan's motto: scrap, fight, and claw. Do what you've got to do -- home or away -- and just try to find a way to win.''
Taylor has his own motto.
"Always work hard and never let anyone tell you that you can't do something,'' he said. "If you have a goal or dream set your sights on it and work your butt off to try and get it.
"Even if it doesn't work out, at least you gave it your best effort.''
Taylor relishes such gung-ho, one-for-all, all-for-one commitments.
"I just love being around the college atmosphere,'' he said. "High school doesn't compare to college in that you're around the guys here so much -- like 45 weeks of the year.
"You see these guys every day and they become like brothers.''
Ryan has admired Taylor's perseverance while transitioning with new starters this season.
"Point guard play is affected tremendously -- or more so than people realize -- by the other players around them,'' said Ryan, who played the position himself in high school and college.
"In all fairness, Jordan is playing with guys on the front line (Berggren, Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans) who logged less minutes (last season) than probably any front line in the Big Ten.
"You have to give Jordan credit for helping to bring these guys along and to include them in the mix -- for him to get comfortable with them and for them to get comfortable with him.
"You're into January now, so hopefully all those parts are meshing ... What I'm hoping is that we're maturing as a team and we can continue to move in that direction.
"It's a different team (this year) and we've had to find different ways to get things done.''
One constant has been defense. Opponents have struggled to score against the Badgers.
"Defensively our guys have bought in all year, which gives us a chance,'' Ryan said. "But if we're not shooting the ball well, we're like every other team in the country.
"If we can get consistent scoring from other positions (other than Taylor) then obviously we're a much better team. We're going to need that if we want to make things happen the rest of the season.
"Three-point shooting can be fickle. Sometimes the rim looks huge and other times it looks pretty small. Mentally you have to have players who believe the next shot is going in.
"If we keep doing that we have a chance to get some things done.''
You don't have to sell Crean on what the Badgers have been doing well lately.
"They know how to play and they've got a great guard certainly in Jordan Taylor,'' he said. "But they've got numerous guys who can play at a high level.
"When they've been at their best, they've had very good balance. That's what stands out to me. They just keep moving forward and that's a tribute to Bo and his staff and the continuity in the program.
"From what I've seen, there's no question they get great dribble penetration (from Taylor) and they're going to put five guys out on the court, as usual, that can score with range.
"Their system is very solid and strong.''
So is the Big Ten -- from top to bottom. There doesn't appear to be any easy out.
"If you don't have you're 'A' game every night, you're going to get beat,'' said Iowa's Fran McCaffrey.
Added Weber, "I'm not sure what's an upset, if there are upsets. Your main guys have got to play and be consistent if you're going to have success in the league.
After a four-hour bus ride filled with movies Columbiana and Orange County and Jimmy John's subs, the Badgers rolled into Champaign, Ill. Saturday afternoon in advance of Sunday's showdown with the No. 22 Fighting Illini.
Wisconsin practiced for about an hour and a half at Assembly Hall. Visit the Wisconsin Men's Basketball Team's page on Facebook for a photo gallery from practice.
Be sure to "Like" the page to get exclusive photos and updates sent to your Facebook wall.
One year after having five players taken in the 2011 NFL Draft, including two in the first round, a number of former Badgers are embarking on a three-month job interview that will culminate in late April. The 2012 draft will be held April 26-28 and, for a number of familiar names to UW fans, the "Path to the Draft" has already started.
Some of the seniors from the 2011 Wisconsin squad that have NFL scouts talking are QB Russell Wilson, OL Kevin Zeitler, WR Nick Toon, FB Bradie Ewing and FS Aaron Henry. With junior center Peter Konz forgoing his senior season to put his name into the draft, there's a good chance that as many as seven or eight Badgers will hear their name called in late April.
As the former UW players train for the draft, they are spread all over the country, in Florida, Arizona, California and even Milwaukee and Madison. Over the course of the next three weeks, we will try to catch up with as many of them as possible to keep tabs on their progress.
There are a number of important dates between now and late April. Some of them are below:
NFL Draft (New York City) April 26-28 NFL Network and ESPN
This weekend, senior defensive captains Henry and DT Patrick Butrym have the chance to show off for scouts. Henry will be playing in the East-West Shrine Game while Butrym takes part in the NFLPA Collegiate All-Star Game.
Those two games are a prelude to the Senior Bowl. A school-record six Badgers will play in that game and take part in a week's worth of practices in front of NFL scouts. The UW players include Ewing, P Brad Nortman, Toon, Wilson, LS Kyle Wojta and Zeitler.
The "main event" of the NFL draft prep is the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine on Feb. 22-28 in Indianapolis. The NFL released its initial invite list, which does not include underclassmen and is not a final list. Among the Badgers heading to Indy are CB Antonio Fenelus, Nortman, OL Josh Oglesby, Toon and Wilson. More UW players, including Konz, should be added to the invite list later.
If nothing else, this should be an interesting offseason for the Wisconsin seniors. And for Badger fans, if you don't get NFL Network, you should probably find a way to watch it because UW should have a strong presence there for the next couple of months.
Scott Tolzien has derived a synergy from the symmetry in his full-circle journey.
That has encompassed his ride from scout team quarterback to Rose Bowl quarterback for the Badgers -- to free agent quarterback to scout team quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
Tolzien is still the sum of his parts -- he is who we think he is -- except on those weeks when he has been role-playing and been assigned to be somebody else for the benefit of the No. 1 defense.
Last week, he was New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
This week, he has been New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
Truth is, he was hoping for a "discount double-check" and a chance to be Aaron Rodgers.
"At one point, I was thinking, 'Holy smokes, we might be playing at Lambeau Field,''' Tolzien said. "I grew up a Packer fan and as a little kid I dreamed about playing at Lambeau.
"But all you have to do is be the better team on that given day in the playoffs, and the Giants played a cleaner game than the Packers last Sunday.''
What are the odds that Tolzien would get this shot -- a shot to be himself, Scott Tolzien, the undrafted, free agent quarterback out of Wisconsin -- with the 49ers in the NFC championship game?
"It has been a roller coaster,'' he said. "But let me put it this way, if I were to sit here today and tell you I would have known it was going to turn out like this, I would have thought, 'Hogwash.'''
That's how improbable his journey has been dating all the way back to the NFL scouting combine in February, when he was invited to be one of the "throwing quarterbacks.''
In addition to taking part in his own workouts over the three days, he stayed in Indianapolis for the entire week and threw for the other position groups: wide receivers, running backs, etc.
The other "throwing QBs" were Fresno State's Ryan Colburn and North Carolina's T.J. Yates.
Yes, that T.J. Yates, a fifth-round draft pick, who wound up taking the Houston Texans to the playoffs because of injuries to starting quarterback Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart.
"We got real tight throughout that week (in Indy),'' Tolzien said of his friendship with Yates. "We were kind of in each other's shadow even sitting on the bench together. He's a great guy.''
Tolzien and Yates have stayed in touch throughout the season. In fact, before Schaub and Leinart were sidelined, Yates was serving as a scout team receiver because the Texans were short bodies.
Tolzien has had plenty to text about from his end, too. When the free agency period opened, he was contacted by eight teams. His final two choices were San Francisco and San Diego.
Since the 49ers drafted a quarterback in the second round -- Nevada's Colin Kaepernick -- Tolizen ended up "signing in the final hour'' with the Chargers, who did not select a quarterback in the draft.
"I remember going from sitting in my house (in Rolling Meadows, Ill.),'' Tolzien said, "to being on the practice field in the Chargers' huddle the next day. It was just me and Philip (Rivers).''
That's because San Diego's backup quarterback, Billy Volek, wasn't in training camp yet. That afforded Tolzien a tremendous learning opportunity under Rivers and head coach Norv Turner.
"I got to play a lot in the preseason because they knew what they were getting from Philip and Billy was also a veteran,'' Tolzien said. "It was really a fascinating and awesome experience.''
Tolzien saved his best for last -- the last preseason game -- completing 16-of-23 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown. "We were throwing it all over the place, it was a blast,'' he said.
The next day, he was summoned to Turner's office. "He told me, 'I thought I knew what I was getting from you based on your senior tape, but you blew away my expectations,''' Tolzien related.
Then he cut to the chase.
Because of some grave concerns over special teams, and the time-honored "numbers'' game, Turner said, "We have to take a chance and put you on waivers and hope that nobody picks you up.''
Tolzien was released on a Saturday and claimed on a Sunday by the team that he had faced in the final preseason game -- and his second choice from the very beginning -- the San Francisco 49ers.
Tolzien had a lot of people in the 49ers organization on his side, including San Francisco quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, the brother of Wisconsin's then-offensive coordinator, Paul Chryst.
As the No. 3 quarterback, Tolzien has split the snaps on the scout team with Kaepernick while continuing his pro education under the wing of Alex Smith, the former No. 1 pick overall.
"On game days, you basically try to live vicariously through the starter,'' Tolzien said. "We have a wristband system, so I have a headset on and an earpiece so I can hear the play call.
"Our whole system is based on checks, especially the run game. So we're looking at the pictures together on the sidelines (all three quarterbacks) and trying to figure the whole thing out.''
Tolzien has always been a player who "gets it.'' Nothing has changed in that respect.
"You just try to have big ears every day,'' he said. "You don't have to say much. You just take it all in.''
Right now, he's savoring the moment; savoring being Scott Tolzien, not someone else.
Before the Big Ten basketball season began, it seemed everyone picked Ohio State to win the conference title, and perhaps win it going away.
On paper, it was hard to select any other team. With Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft and William Buford, among others, the Buckeyes appear to be the most skilled team in the league.
That still could be the case, but through six games, the Buckeyes already have two losses.
Not one team made it through the first five Big Ten games unscathed. Home court has not always been an advantage.
The Badgers have dropped two of their first three conference games at the Kohl Center.
Indiana, which has beaten previously top-ranked Kentucky and then No. 2 Ohio State, lost to Minnesota last week at Assembly Hall. It was the Gophers' first victory in league play.
As Jim Polzin accurately writes in Tuesday's Wisconsin State Journal, "The Big Ten standings already are a mess."
With nine teams in the RPI top 50 and no one rated lower than 145, the Big Ten appears to be incredibly deep -- at least so far.
It makes me wonder. Will Big Ten teams beat up on each other all season and be worn down by March? Or will the best teams in this league be that much tougher and more NCAA tournament ready?
I realize it is early, but right now I tend to believe the answer is the latter.
My guess is Ohio State still has its best basketball ahead of it. Michigan State, led by Draymond Green, is just plain tough. Michigan, despite losing by 16 at Iowa last Saturday, appears to be strong. Freshman guard Trey Burke has been a valuable addition, and Tim Hardaway, Jr. is improving.
Illinois will be interesting to watch. Brandon Paul is coming off a monster 43-point outing against Ohio State, and big man Meyers Leonard is capable of being a difference maker.
It is unwise to look past anyone, including Northwestern. Otherwise neutral observers likely will pull for the Wildcats to make the NCAA field. When the Cats are on their game, they are a very tough out.
The shooting of John Shurna and Drew Crawford, impressive guard play from freshman Dave Sobolewski and the ever-present threat of the backdoor play in the Princeton offense make for a challenging preparation.
So where does this leave the Badgers? The shooting continues to be up and down, but for the most part, the defense has been quite good.
On most nights, that should give Wisconsin a chance.
As impressive as they looked at Purdue, perhaps Sunday's grinder with Nebraska said every bit as much about this team's resolve. When you shoot 31 percent from the floor (21 percent in the second half) and still win the game, you take it and move on.
I would like to believe that the Badgers' best ball is ahead of them too.
Let's face it. Replacing the scoring of Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil is no easy task. Opposing teams are doing what they can to make life difficult for Jordan Taylor, and at times they are daring someone else to beat them.
As players such as Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Ben Brust and Mike Bruesewitz continue to grow in their roles, the hope is they can become more consistent threats.
When they are in rhythm, the Badgers are pretty good. When they struggle to score, the Badgers struggle to win.
The one safe assumption about Big Ten basketball this winter is that little if anything will be easy. That is part of what should make it fun to watch, and perhaps it will help this conference make plenty of noise in March.
The Badgers are hoping to get a little winning streak going and be in the middle of all that fun.
For the first time since their hires were announced this week, new Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni met with members of the local media on Wednesday.
Video of each coach's media session, including comments from head coach Bret Bielema, can be found below. Also, be sure to check out profiles on both Canada and Azzanni in the this week's issue of VarsityMagazine.
"The one thing that we've noticed over the last two or three games is that Mike is starting to get back to being that Energizer Bunny,'' said Gard, Wisconsin's associate head coach.
"That's what made him who he was last season and what fans loved about him. If he's flying around and bringing energy and making things happen then the offense will flow from it.
"That was the whole point when we were recruiting him -- that's what we saw. He was everywhere on the court. He made things happen. He was skilled, rebounded and scored.
"He played with a lot of heart and energy. That has to be his game.''
Bruesewitz was on top of his game Thursday night at Purdue, helping trigger a 22-4 opening run against the Boilermakers by knocking down a couple of 3-pointers.
"We came out with a lot of energy,'' Jordan Taylor said.
"Mike hit some big shots,'' Ben Brust said.
In this context, Bruesewitz deserves some of the credit for setting the tempo in Wisconsin's 67-62 victory, which snapped Purdue's 26-game home winning streak, the sixth longest in the nation.
In his own mind, he was ready to pull the trigger.
"That was my mindset,'' said Bruesewitz after scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the beyond the 3-point arc. "If I got an open shot, I was going to shoot it with confidence and knock it down."
To such an extent that he even banked his second triple off the glass.
"I called it, too, look at the tape,'' said Bruesewitz, who had been shooting 33 percent from distance. "I didn't smirk or anything. As soon as it left my hand I knew it was going in.''
Mackey Arena, which opened during the 1967-68 season, has been a House of Pain for the Badgers, who had won there only twice previously (1972 and 2005).
Bringing the energy was a Bruesewitz priority.
"We needed to be excited to play and we needed to get off to a fast start,'' he said. "You have to bring your own energy on the road. It's you against the world.
"The way you get energy there is through silence -- silence is your motivation. You want to try to silence the crowd as much as possible and get the fans to sit on their hands.''
In addition to his 12 points -- the most that he has scored since Thanksgiving weekend when he had 13 against BYU -- Bruesewitz also had five timely defensive rebounds against the Boilers.
"He has become a more active rebounder lately,'' Gard said. "Whether or not he's getting the rebound, he's also keeping the ball alive so somebody else can secure it.''
Bruesewitz, who contributed defensively to Robbie Hummel's poor shooting night (13 points on 5-of-17 field goal attempts), put his own game plan for the Boilermakers into focus.
"We've got to climb back on the horse, get back after it and right the ship,'' he said.
If you're keeping score at home, that's three clichés in one sentence.
Invited to use whatever trite phrases or bromides were warranted, Bruesewitz grinned and confided that he was well-versed and stocked on clichés thanks to the movie, "Bull Durham.''
"That's where I got all my media training,'' he said.
With all due respect to Crash Davis, then, you could say Bruesewitz believes there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf, the designated hitter and losing streaks.
"I hate losing,'' he stressed on the heels of the UW's three-game losing skid.
That's understandable since Bruesewitz has had so little experience with it. The last time the Badgers were mired in a "significant'' losing streak, he was a senior at Sibley High in St. Paul, Minn.
("Significant'' translating to more than two in a row.)
That was during the 2008-09 season when the UW lost six straight Big Ten games. Despite the ignominious stretch, Wisconsin still made the NCAA tournament and won its first round game.
"Nobody had really experienced what we were going through,'' Bruesewitz said, "other than the seniors and the redshirt juniors. We lost one game at home my first two years here.''
After Michigan saddled the Badgers with their third consecutive defeat -- a streak including back-to-back losses to Iowa and Michigan State at the Kohl Center -- Bruesewitz took charge.
When the team got back from Ann Arbor early last Sunday evening, he suggested that everyone get together for a "bonding'' session and a "late night breakfast.'' So they huddled at Perkins Restaurant.
"We really didn't discuss basketball,'' Bruesewitz said. "Nobody gave any big speeches.''
The players just hung out together.
"We just wanted to change things up,'' he said. "It was a team event.''
It was important to point out that nobody had accepted losing. On the contrary, Bruesewitz said, "We were definitely disappointed'' with the 1-3 start in the Big Ten. That topic had been broached.
"We talked a lot about it in the locker room,'' Bruesewitz said. "We've got good leaders on this team. We don't have guys sitting there with their heads in their hands.''
Nobody was feeling sorry for themselves, he added. And there was an urgency to turn the season around, which the Badgers may have done with their rare victory in West Lafayette.
"Winning is a good deodorant,'' he said. "Trust me, it's a good deodorant for a lot of things.''
Prodded to critique his own play, Bruesewitz said, "I think I've underachieved. I feel like I should be more consistent offensively. But I'm not trying to force shots, I'm not trying to do too much.''
This is where he reached for the "quicksand'' cliché.
"The harder you try, the more you bury yourself,'' he explained. "I'm trying to let things come to me. I've been working on my jump shot and finishing around the rim.
"Luckily there's more than just shooting and scoring in the game of basketball. I feel like I've done a good job rebounding, and I've tried to bring as much energy as possible to the team defensively.''
Bruesewitz admitted that he tends to be tougher on himself than others.
"You know the cliché, it's the old lawyer's model,'' he said. "If you get everything you asked for, you didn't ask for enough. I kind of ask a lot out of myself and I haven't quite gotten there yet.''
But he's working on it. So are his UW teammates. "Everybody in our locker room,'' he said, "feels like we're a better team than we've shown most of the year.''
And they went out and proved it Thursday at Mackey Arena.
By Brian Mason on January 12, 2012 10:35 AM
Back in October, I wrote about what a great time it was to be a sports fan in Wisconsin. The Brewers were rolling into the playoffs. After pounding Nebraska in the much-anticipated Big Ten opener, the unbeaten Badger football team was enjoying a bye week. The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers and company, were putting on a show each week.
Hopefully, that show in Green Bay will continue for a few more weeks.
However, given the fragile nature of sports, we witnessed the Brewers' season end to rival and eventual World Series champion St. Louis. Later, we learned that Ryan Braun might be in line for a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test. Brewers fans nervously await the final word from MLB officials.
As for the Badger football team, a thrilling victory in the first-ever conference title game was followed by a heart-breaking Rose Bowl loss to Oregon.
To be sure, there is no shame in losing to the Ducks. It was a wildly entertaining game featuring two prolific offenses, but Wisconsin fell just short.
In the days following the Rose Bowl, Bret Bielema finds himself needing to replace five assistants. Paul Chryst, Bob Bostad, Dave Huxtable and Joe Rudolph are moving to Pittsburgh, while DelVaughn Alexander will join the Arizona State staff.
While assistants will move on, this is an unusually large hit. In some corners of Badger Nation, there exists a state of panic. Badgers fans nervously await word from Bielema regarding the new hires.
At the risk of sounding like the uptight guy in the movie "Animal House" who, during the parade scene, desperately shrieks "All is well. All is well!" let me suggest that it is too early to press the panic button. Perhaps it makes sense to sit back and allow Bielema the chance to reassemble his staff. In six years as the head coach, he has demonstrated the ability to follow a living legend, and his program has bounced back quite well after the 7-6 season of 2008.
Just consider it another example of the head coach's favorite saying, "It's not what happens, it is how you respond."
We move onto basketball, where Bo Ryan's team is going through an awful shooting slump that has resulted in three straight losses, two coming on the home court. This is the same Badger squad that thumped 12th-ranked UNLV, a team that has not lost since. It also is the same Badger group that took North Carolina to the final minute.
It is fair to be concerned, but I would think it is a bit early to jump off the ship.
On Thursday night, the Badgers have another tough road test at Purdue, followed by a home game with Nebraska on Sunday afternoon.
Yes, Sunday afternoon, while the Packers are playing the New York Giants. Tough timing for a Wisconsin basketball game, but the NFL has other scheduling matters to worry about.
It makes me wonder what kind of atmosphere there will be at the Kohl Center. It is no secret that the reputation is slipping.
When it comes to noise level, a writer from Las Vegas compared it to a library.
Look, I have little if any right to tell folks who pay very good money to support the Badgers to get off their butts and cheer louder. So please allow me to suggest that the team might need a little more help these days.
If nothing else, the past week-and-a-half should remind everyone that winning is not a given.
Yes, the Badgers can do their part to create more excitement, specifically by making more shots.
But let's be real -- it is easy to get behind a team when it is smooth sailing. Now that the waters are a tad choppy, it will be interesting to see how everyone responds, players and fans alike.
The college basketball season has reached the midpoint of the season and the professional ranks are ramping up. Seems as good a time as any for an update on how former Badgers are doing.
Three former Wisconsin players call the NBA home right now: Devin Harris is in his seventh season in the NBA and second season with the Utah Jazz, while Jon Leuer (Milwaukee Bucks) and Greg Stiemsma (Boston Celtics) are in their rookie season.
Harris has started all nine games for the Jazz, who are 6-3 and currently riding a five-game winning streak. Harris is averaging 9.3 points and 4.4 assists per game.
Stiemsma has appeared in six games (one start) for the 4-4 Celtics. He made a splash with six blocks in his first-career game and followed it up with 13 points and seven rebounds in his first career start. The 6-11 center is averaging 3.7 points and 3.8 rebounds and ranks sixth in the NBA with 2.2 blocks per game.
Leuer has found a comfortable home in Milwaukee, appearing in all nine games for the Bucks. He averages 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18.3 minutes off the bench. He is scheduled to make his first career start Thursday night against Detroit.
Several other Badgers names that will ring a bell are playing professionally overseas.
Marcus Landry recently signed with the Shanghai Sharks and is promptly making big shots.
Tim Jarmusz is also playing in Germany (Gotha) for the first-place BIG Oettinger Rockets (hope you speak German).
Badgers in the NBA NBA Team UW Yrs Devin Harris Utah Jazz 2002-04 Jon Leuer Milwaukee Bucks 2008-11 Greg Stiemsma Boston Celtics 2005-08
Current Badgers Overseas UW Years Country Team Jason Chappell 2003-07 Austria Xion Dukes Klosterneuburg Tim Jarmusz 2008-11 Germany Gotha Rockets Joe Krabbenhoft 2006-09 Greece Panellinios G.S. Marcus Landry 2006-09 China Shanghai Sharks Zach Morley 2004-05 Ukraine Budivelnyk Kyiv Keaton Nankivil 2008-11 Germany Ratiopharm Ulm Ray Nixon 2003-06 Japan Hamamatsu-Higashi Mikawa Kirk Penney 2000-03 Spain Baloncesto Fuenlabrada Kammron Taylor 2004-07 Cyprus Keravnos Alando Tucker 2003-07 Spain Gran Canaria Mike Wilkinson 2002-05 Russia Lokomotiv Kuban
It took nearly a year (and a second-consecutive Rose Bowl appearance for the Wisconsin football team) but the wait was certainly worth it for the UW Marching Band -- and the fans that crowded the street outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 1.
Michael Jurkovac, a UW alumnus who is the founder and CEO of New York-based production company cYclops, originally reached out to the Badger Band and spirit squad over a year ago, when the Badgers were poised to make the first of back-to-back trips to Pasadena.
His connections resulted in a New Year's Eve show for the band and spirit squad at L.A. Live, the multi-billion dollar entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles.
This time around, Jurkovac collaborated with spirit squad director Josette Scheer and assistant band director Dr. Justin Stolarik to pull off something even bigger.
Jurkovac developed a soft spot for the UW Marching Band when taking a class by Dr. Michael Leckrone during his time in Madison and again reached out to the group when the Badgers won the Big Ten championship game to secure a second-straight appearance in the Rose Bowl.
Among Jurkovac's clients is will.i.am, one of the voices of the Grammy award-winning group The Black Eyed Peas, who happened to be interested in having the UW band perform a version of his yet-to-be-released single "Great Times."
With the artist's blessing, Leckrone got to work on a special arrangement of the track, which the band spent nearly three weeks practicing before arriving in L.A.
That's when the surprise came.
As the band went through a final rehearsal for its latest L.A. Live performance, will.i.am dropped in to pay an unexpected visit to the parking lot adjacent to the J.W. Marriott hotel.
The even bigger surprise came when he took the stage just outside the Staples Center to provide matching vocals to the band's performance of "Great Times" -- something he had not planned to do originally.
It doesn't stop there for the band, however, as will.i.am plans to make use of a recording of the band's take on "Great Times" when the single is released in the coming months.
If one surprise wasn't enough, Jurkovac also helped line up another star for the Badgers' show at L.A. Live. He enlisted Everlast, who fronted House of Pain when the group recorded "Jump Around" in 1992, to perform his signature hit -- and a Camp Randall favorite -- with the band.
Check out video of the L.A. Live performance (above), as well as will.i.am's visit to the band's rehersal (below).
By Matt Lepay on January 4, 2012 12:00 PM
When our red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Madison landed at about 5 o'clock Tuesday morning, Mike Lucas suggested that, with the way things are going in the Badgers' world, Michigan State will win that night's basketball game on a buzzer-beater.
It was worse. It went to a replay review. Are you kidding me? Another (expletive deleted) replay review?
And yes, the officials got it right. Ryan Evans' desperation 3-point attempt -- a Hail Mary if you will -- was just a tad too late, leaving Badger Nation with yet another shot to the solar plexus.
This follows Monday's gut-wrenching setback in Pasadena, where the Badgers went toe-to-toe with lightning-fast Oregon only to fall one play short of at least having a chance to force overtime.
In yet another sign of how things have changed in these parts, a storyline coming out of the Rose Bowl is how Badgers coach Bret Bielema is in search of winning the big one. Or is it The Big One?
It is the same question Ducks coach Chip Kelly had to hear after his group lost the 2010 Rose Bowl, and then went down on a last-second field goal to Auburn in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game.
I understand how it works, but let's be honest -- you have to win some big games to get to The Big One, don't you? The Badgers turned in a dominating performance against Penn State to win the Leaders Division. They followed that effort with the Big Ten championship game thriller with Michigan State. Those were pretty big games.
Following a legend is never easy, and fans, as well as some in the media, are wondering why Bielema's Badgers are 0-2 in Rose Bowls, while Barry Alvarez and the boys went 3-0 in the 1990s.
I suppose it is a natural question, but at the same time, perhaps it just points out how hard it is to win these BCS games, and it serves as a reminder of how special those 1993, 1998 and '99 teams were to have so much success at the Rose Bowl.
One could argue that the two most famous coaches in Big Ten history are Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler. They led Ohio State and Michigan teams that, more often than not, ran roughshod through the rest of the Big Ten, and then squared off in what amounted to an almost annual conference title game. The winner would go to the Rose Bowl, where it would lose a lot.
Schembechler's Rose Bowl record was 2-8. In his book, written with Mitch Albom in the late 1980s, there is a chapter called "Why My Bowl Record Stinks, and Other Thoughts."
Hayes' OSU teams dropped four of its last five Rose Bowls, and went 4-4 overall.
I am talking about two dominant programs that generally ruled the day in the Big Ten.
In more current events, albeit from a different league, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer now has a 1-5 record in the big boy bowl games of the BCS era.
My point is not to sound like a Badgers apologist, but rather to suggest that the final step to becoming an elite team is extraordinarily difficult.
Wisconsin has turned in some tremendous work to reach its current level, which is that of a nationally-respected program. In the BCS era, only USC has made more Rose Bowl appearances than the Badgers.
That is something to shout about.
The 2011 Wisconsin Badgers embraced the lofty expectations. They fell a little short of meeting all of them, and that will hurt for awhile.
But man, what a ride it was. Monday concluded my 24th year of covering Badger football, and the 18th as its radio play-by-play announcer. This offense was the most exciting I have seen, led by a quarterback who always gave his team a chance, right up to the final second of the final game.
To be sure, there were flaws with the 2011 Badgers, but the team found a way to win another conference title, giving thousands of fans a great excuse to head to Southern California to ring in the New Year. That isn't so bad, is it?
I have been around this program long enough to remember when big stage games were few and far between.
I also understand the disappointment of losing a second straight Rose Bowl, but I hope most fans will look back and recall how much fun it was to watch this team.
The last chapter might have had the wrong ending, but in my book, this team will forever be special.
Not to nit-pick Charlie, but I don't think Michigan State lost to themselves. It was Duke and ?
Tuesday January 3, 2012 5:51 Badger Rose
Good catch Rose, thanks. Michigan State lost to North Carolina and Duke
Tuesday January 3, 2012 5:51 Charlie Healy
As many will remember, the game against North Carolina was the Carrier Classic, held in San Diego on the deck of a US aircraft carrier. Definitely one of the coolest moments of the college basketball season
Hope there is a full house that is loud and involved!! Make some noise, Badger fans!!
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:00 maryv
The Kohl Center is quickly nearing capacity. It is definitely a sellout, and with the early 6pm tip there are a few empty seats but they are filling up fast. It's a great environment here on Dayton Street
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:01 Charlie Healy
Ok Badger fans... what do you say we get a win here tonight? I think we all need it for our psyche huh?
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:01 Patrick Herb
I'm looking forward to watching the PG match-up tonight. Jordan Taylor has played beautifully in his last 3 games vs. Michigan State, but his counterpart tonight (Keith Appling) is one of the best up and coming PGs in the league.
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:02 Patrick Herb
Keys for UW?
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:02 Patrick Herb
And fresh off their trip to Pasadena, the Band is back! They arrived back in Madison at 6am and the section is packed tonight.
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:02 Charlie Healy
1.) Rebounding 2.) Transition D 3.) Hitting Shots
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:02 Patrick Herb
Wisconsin wins the tip and we're underway!
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:03 Charlie Healy
Green guarding Evans on the first possession.
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:03 Patrick Herb
Berggren missed a layup and it bounces out of bounds, MSU ball
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:03 Charlie Healy
Evans made a great move but couldn't finish. I like the set-up, but gotta hit those shorties
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:03 Patrick Herb
Green hits a jumper for MSU
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:03 Charlie Healy
Berggren answers with a layup that spins in!
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:04 Charlie Healy
Berggren used the same up and under move that Evans did on the last possession but this time he scores it!
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:04 Patrick Herb
Badgers pounding it inside early
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:04 Patrick Herb
Green misses a short jumper and it goes out of bounds, UW ball
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:04 Charlie Healy
Berggren's layup is blocked by Payne but he grabs is own rebound. As the clock goes down it's out of bounds off Bruesewitz
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:05 Charlie Healy
Payne answers with a dunk after the block of Berggren
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:05 Charlie Healy
From Taylor, Berggren misses a three, MSU rebound. Gasser steals it on the other end off an MSU pass
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:06 Charlie Healy
After Berg misses a 3... Good D from Berggren on the interior
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:06 Patrick Herb
[Comment From Badger RoseBadger Rose: ]
I would add to your list, Patrick: working the ball inside. Settling for jumpers keeps our %age low on nights when they aren't falling.
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:06 Badger Rose
Out of bounds off a failed MSU steal on the baseline, UW ball still
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:06 Charlie Healy
Jordan Taylor with a floating jumper is good!
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:06 Charlie Healy
Taylor with a TOUGH spinning shot. Let's hope he elevates his game tonight
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:06 Patrick Herb
Excellent D from Evans there on Appling. Appling loved the mismatch and spun on him, but Evans stayed right with and forced the miss. Love it.
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:07 Patrick Herb
[Comment From maryvmaryv: ]
I like going inside--too many three's lately!
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:07 maryv
running layup missed by MSU, UW rebound and Berggren is fouled as he talks it to the basket.
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:07 Charlie Healy
Gasser will inbound with a fresh 35
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:07 Charlie Healy
Hard to turn them down if they're open tho maryv
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:08 Patrick Herb
Wilson in for Gasser, he inbounds to Brust
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:08 Charlie Healy
Wilson and Brust in for Gasser and Bruiser
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:08 Patrick Herb
Evans with a tough layup that doesn't go in but he hustles for a nice rebound. Berggren fouls on a missed Taylor shot
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:09 Charlie Healy
Really nice hustle out of Evans though
Tuesday January 3, 2012 6:09 Charlie Healy
Badgers are attacking the glass pretty hard tonight, 2 offensive rebounds already, but not crazy about Berggren picking up a foul on the offensive glass. Can't lose him