UW Health Sports Medicine 

Badgers know what to expect in March

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgIt is safe to say the Wisconsin Badgers opened some eyes at last weekend's Big Ten tournament in Chicago. When you beat two teams ranked in the top 10 and take a third to the final minute, it only makes sense that people will notice. Even the skeptics had to admit this team might not be so bad. After all, who else went 4-0 against Indiana and Michigan?

While the Badgers might have surprised many, one gets the impression they did not exactly shock themselves. Quite the contrary. The players walked out of the United Center in less than a great mood. Sure, there is excitement about the program's 15th-straight trip to the NCAA tournament, but the Badgers departed Chicago knowing how close they were to winning a trophy.

"We know we can play with anyone," said freshman Sam Dekker. "It is not a surprise to us when we have big wins like that. We expected to come down here and win the tournament. That is plainly stated. I feel like most of the guys probably said the same thing."

"We let one slip away. That is a bitter taste, but we have to correct that and use that energy Friday down in Kansas City, and hopefully take care of business."

The business at hand is facing an Ole Miss team that is fresh off an SEC tournament championship. The Rebels will come to town with a five-game winning streak, which includes a come-from-behind victory against Florida in the conference title game.

Sunday's victory secured the first NCAA trip for Ole Miss since 2002. That little nugget brings up the question about how much, if at all, does experience matter in the Big Dance?

I figure it does not hurt to have it, but experience alone certainly offers no guarantees of success.

"The seniors have been through it and all that," said coach Bo Ryan. Then, ever the coach, he offered  the following advice: "But what the seniors need to be doing is talking to themselves about playing better.

"We need to have the young and the old if we expect to get something done in the tournament. Especially with the way they set it up in our bracket. There are a lot of challenges out there."

With Ole Miss, the challenges begin with trying to contain junior guard Marshall Henderson, who will shoot from anywhere and say almost anything. Flamboyant? To say the least. More importantly, Henderson can put a team on his back.

His teammates aren't too bad either. Reggie Buckner has rejected 91 shots this season, while 6-foot-7 senior Murphy Holloway averages 9.6 rebounds. He has 38 double-doubles in his career.

Similar to Wisconsin, Ole Miss has dealt with injuries. The latest for the Rebels occurred to starting point guard Jarvis Summers, who suffered a concussion in the Rebels' opening SEC tourney game against Missouri. Summers missed the last two games, but Ole Miss moved on, defeating Vanderbilt and the Gators in route to earning the automatic bid to the NCAAs.
All week we will read and hear about how these programs are polar opposites, but both the Badgers and the Rebels appear to be pretty good at proving people wrong, and I believe it is a safe guess to say both teams enjoy doing just that.

It never hurts to have a little fun, and Badgers guard Ben Brust is hoping his group can have an extended experience in college basketball's showcase event.

"It's a special thing," he said. "Everyone dreams of it growing up. You want to play in the NCAA tournament. So, enjoy every moment, but at the same time stay focused on the task at hand because we are capable of making a run."

That run begins Friday morning, and hopefully the Badgers will be running for the next few weeks.