December 2013 Archives
Badgers fans turned out in force Tuesday to fire up for the Capital One Bowl at the team's official pep rally at Pointe Orlando. They were treated to comments from seniors Jared Abbrederis, Chris Borland and James White, along with head coach Gary Andersen, director of athletics Barry Alvarez, Badgers legend Ron Dayne and UW-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank. The UW Marching Band wrapped things up with a 30-minute performance that included all the usual fan favorites, from the Bud Song to Varsity.
- Photos: Capital One Bowl Pep Rally
Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen put his comedic chops on display -- with some jokes at the expense of South Carolina and Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier -- and seniors Chris Borland, Ryan Groy and James White provided some drama in winning the "Capital One Minute Challenge" over their counterparts from South Carolina at the Capital One Bowl Kickoff Luncheon on Tuesday.
Andersen's one-liners were a hit with emcee Dave Pasch of ESPN and at least half the room -- the side wearing red -- while Borland, Groy and White combined to win two of the three games styled after the game show "Minute to Win It." That included Groy snapping 42 rolls of toilet paper into a basket that Borland held 20 feet away (South Carolina managed 27 rolls in the same 60-second window) and White successfully unrolling a pair of streamers before his Gamecock opponent.
- Photos: 2014 Capital One Bowl Kickoff Luncheon
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, senior WR Jared Abbrederis and senior LB Chris Borland represented the Badgers at a Monday press conference in Orlando to preview the Capital One Bowl.
Among the highlights:
- Ludwig on the Badgers' offensive game plan for South Carolina: "We're going to play to our strength. We're a run/play-action team. That's the way we're built. So we're going to go into the game with that mindset. I don't think there's any surprise there."
- Aranda on defending South Carolina: "I see great athletes. I see an offense that can go from a power run game to a spread attack. I see an offense that can change plays based upon the defensive structure."
- Abbrederis on head coach Gary Andersen: "I think he just brought back the fun in football."
- Borland on the Badgers being favored in the game: "I was a little surprised. We're confident that we're going to win. It's just this huge SEC, you know, bias out there that they're a great conference -- which they are. But, yeah, I was surprised but still confident -- and we expect to win."
The scoreboard will be the focus of the Wisconsin football team during the Capital One Bowl on Wednesday. After the game, however, the Badgers' focus will be on a different tally.
Members of the team will be checking to see how their efforts to get in the end zone on game day helped raise funds for a rare disease through UW's chapter of Uplifting Athletes.
Fans can pledge a specific amount to donate for each touchdown the Badgers score in the Capital One Bowl, with each score multiplying the amount the UW chapter raises to battle the disease Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis X.
"Fans can start by being familiar with the fight against rare diseases and donating. Anything will help," said UW running back and Uplifting Athletes chapter president Jeff Lewis. "Pledges made by our fans and supporters will be compared to South Carolina at the end of the game.
"Our goal is to have more money raised than they do."
UW's Uplifting Athletes chapter supports fundraising efforts to battle the rare disease Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis X because of the team's friendship with Madison teen Darien Moran, who grew close to the Badgers while receiving treatment for the disease.
Those efforts led to the Badgers to undertake the touchdown pledge drive that will pit UW against South Carolina off the field, as well. The Gamecocks' chapter of Uplifting Athletes raises funds and awareness for Pelizaeus-Merzbacher, an inherited rare disease that affects the central nervous system.
"We started a Chapter at Wisconsin to be part of the good Uplifting Athletes was doing," UW linebacker Chris Borland said. "The desire was strengthened when we met Darien."
The Badgers had a busy day Sunday that began with the Day for Kids at DisneyQuest. Some players stayed at Walt Disney World to enjoy the Happiest Place on Earth, but many were sure to pull up a seat at the team hotel to watch the Green Bay Packers' regular-season finale against Chicago.
The reaction when Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown? Priceless.
Most in the room were thrilled with the Packers' push into the playoffs by securing the NFC North Division title. Except for Bears fan Vonte Jackson, that is. The running back -- decked out in his Matt Forte jersey -- wasn't as pleased with the result.
The latest installment of "The Camp: Orlando" goes behind the scenes of the Badgers' preparations for the Capital One Bowl, from the team's chartered flight on a 747 to practice in Orlando to a Best Buy shopping spree and more.
With a day off from practice, the Badgers traveled to Walt Disney World on Sunday. The first stop was DisneyQuest, where the Badgers and South Carolina teamed up to have some fun with Orlando area children in need. The players and the children they were paired with spent nearly two hours enjoying three stories worth of games and activities at the giant interactive arcade.
The impact was easy to see, with smiles on the faces of both the kids and the players.
- Photos: Kids Day at Disney
The month of November can be rough on kickers in the Big Ten, what with the cold temperatures, hard footballs and windy conditions. For UW kicker Jack Russell and punter Drew Meyer, the 70-degree weather in Orlando is very welcomed.
Mike Lucas caught up with both kickers after a couple days in Florida to get their thoughts on the Capital One Bowl and how the improved conditions will affect their games.
"It's like Christmas all over again," said placekicker Jack Russell on the day after Christmas.
"The ball is definitely jumping off the foot a little more, we're excited," said punter Drew Meyer.
Russell has made eight of his last nine field goal attempts over the last four games.
"Jack is playing now with much more confidence," Meyer said of Russell. "He's kicking the ball great; it's really jumping off his foot. I'm excited to see what he's going to do in the bowl game."
Meyer, on the other hand, is looking to build off a solid performance in the Badgers' last bowl game, the 2013 Rose Bowl.
In last season's Rose Bowl, Meyer averaged 44.6 yards on seven punts. He had three downed inside the 20. It was his first appearance on the postseason stage and he acquitted himself well.
Read the entire story: Specialists warm up to kicking in Capital One Bowl
The Sunshine State brought rain Saturday as the Wisconsin football team practiced for the third time since arriving in Orlando. The Badgers' 14-period session at Freedom High School started off on a damp note before the rain gave way to some stray rays of sun.
- Photos: Capital One Bowl Practice #3
UW will take Sunday off from practice and head to DisneyQuest at Walt Disney World to join Capital One Bowl foe South Carolina for a special charity event involving area children. The team will then have several hours to explore the Disney grounds on their own before returning to the team hotel for a brief walk-through.
The Badgers were back on the practice field at Freedom High School in Orlando on Saturday, drilling through some light rain as they continued to work toward Wednesday's Capital One Bowl matchup against South Carolina. Here's a sampling of what safeties Dez Southward and Michael Caputo had to say after practice:Senior S Dezmen SouthwardOn Badgers' approach to bowl prep:
"We've been preparing for a month. You don't need to come out here and practice for three hours. If you're not understanding and getting better at this point, it's probably not going to happen. We have the game plan. It's about getting us fresh -- getting our legs ready, getting our minds ready -- to go out and play a four-quarter game."Sophomore S Michael CaputoOn ending season on high note:
"We definitely know we can compete in this game and know we can do better than we did in our last performance."
On the loss to Penn State:
"It's one of those where you learn from it and you move on. I'm not dwelling on it. I'm not standing here harping on it. It's one of those things where you look at it and say, 'I know I can do this better, do this better, do this better.' You learn from it and move on."On how Penn State loss affected team:
"Nothing really changed. Our demeanor didn't change other than we're a little angrier and a little hungrier to get back out there. After the announcement came out that we were going to play South Carolina, we zoned in and got right into the playbook and watching film."
Members of Wisconsin's offense met the media following Friday's practice at Freedom High School in Orlando. Here's a sampling of what the Badgers had to say, from senior RB James White and assistant coach Thomas Hammock:Running backs coach Thomas HammockOn South Carolina's defense:
"They're certainly as good as advertised, I'll tell you that. Their defensive line is really, really stout. Jadeveon Clowney is as good of a player as I've seen on tape (this year) and we have to be ready to step up to the challenge."On being in Orlando:
"The weather is nice. It may be raining right now but I don't mind being out here. It's been a good experience. It's a great bowl trip. Everything has been first class. We're just excited to get to the game. As a coach you get antsy and you're ready to play, put this work behind us and play against great competition."On staying fresh with a month between games:
"We've spaced practices out. We've had shorter practices. I think the kids are mentally sharp. We've got some good practice time for our developmental guys that we expect to contribute next year. But we try to get them in and get them out (of practice)."
Senior RB James WhiteOn losing the last three bowl games:
"It's tough. You definitely want to send the seniors out on a high note. I haven't won a bowl game so I'm anxious to get out there and get a win. It motivates me a lot, and I know it motivates those guys (other seniors) as well. With a new coaching staff, we definitely want to get Coach Andersen a bowl win in his first year. It's a lot of fun coming down here for a bowl game but at the same time it's a business trip."On closing out his senior season:
"You just have to stay focused. A lot of guys here have a lot of big things ahead of them and some dreams to capture but right now you have to focus in on this week. We have one week left, a couple days left and you have to stay locked in and prepare the right way."
The Badgers were back on the practice field Friday morning for their second on-site session at Freedom High School in Orlando. Afterward, the team traveled to a nearby Best Buy store to make use of the gift cards the players were given by the Capital One Bowl. Here's a look at practice and the Best Buy visit in photos:
- Photos: Capital One Bowl Practice #2 / Best Buy Visit
Each year when the bowl matchups are announced, media outlets scramble to make a list of the best, most watchable and most intriguing games.This year is no different and the Capital One Bowl between the Badgers and South Carolina ranks high among the 35 bowl games this year. Here's a rundown of what people around the country are saying about this Big Ten-SEC matchup:
- Athlon - No. 5
- SI.com - No. 6
- ESPN.com - No. 6
- CBSSports.com - No. 6
- SBNation - No. 7
- USA Today - No. 9
I hope everyone had a great holiday and is looking forward to the New Year! Another treat for the holiday is another guest blogger, senior goaltender, Ilana Friedman!
Greetings Badger Fans!
This is Ilana Friedman, one of the goalies on the women's hockey team. I'm writing from a distant location in relation to Madison...well actually not really. As a Middleton, Wisconsin, native, my holiday travel plans are not as exciting as a lot of other members of the team this year. A quick ten-minute drive west on University Avenue gets me home! Downtown is usually very quiet during the various breaks, and this break has been no different thus far, especially with the recent snowfall that's forced many to stay inside!
Break has been very relaxing thus far. My plan usually revolves around sleeping in, trekking over to the rink and working out, sitting in our amazing hot tub or sauna, and then relaxing the rest of the day. Over break the team likes to pick up new TV shows as we have a bit more free time than during the semester, so I'm currently catching up on Scandal (a team favorite) and just started a new biography about the Kennedy's (one of my favorite topics as a history major).
Winter break also includes another not so fun activity: law school and internship applications. I took the LSAT in October and am now applying to various schools and internship positions. Although they're not too difficult to complete, they are time consuming. I'm mainly looking at schools out east either in Boston, New York, or Washington D.C. but as our recent trip to Vail forced me to fall in love with the state, I might apply some places in Colorado too.
My holiday plans were probably a little different than many of the members on the team, as my family and I do not celebrate Christmas. I was raised Jewish, so our holiday traditions have a different little spin. Christmas Eve was spent with my family playing various different board games like Settlers of Catan and Tripoli. The fun continued on Christmas day, which included a movie at one of the local Madison movie theaters and Chinese food for dinner (that's why I have to continue working out over break!). In years past we usually saw one of the Lord of the Ring's movies, and this year was no different with The Hobbit! The rest of the day was spent with the famed pets in the Friedman household: the puggles (pug-beagle mixes). They're names are Jem and Scout and they are divas just as their big sister is!
Although Christmas is not a holiday that I personally celebrate, I do love this time of year and I would like to extend my holiday greetings to all of our supporters! Thanks for being the best fans in the country and enjoy the rest of the holiday season!
Seasons greetings and On Wisconsin!
- Ilana Friedman
Following Thursday's practice, the Badgers' first in Florida, head coach Gary Andersen met with the media:
The Badgers officially began their on-site prep for the Capital One Bowl with the first practice at Freedom High School in Orlando on Thursday. Here's a photographic look at the crisp session held in some warm, 70-degree weather -- including Robert Wheelwright's highlight-reel catch (above).
- Photos: Capital One Bowl Practice #1
What are the keys to the Badgers coming out on top vs. South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl? Who will make the difference on offense and defense? What's the Badgers' mindset, especially the seniors, heading into another showcase game on Jan. 1?
All those questions and more are answered in this week's edition of 'Varsity' Magazine
Find out who said, "I like the matchup. We're a physical team; heavy in the run game and play-action. They're physical up front with great talent and speed."
The Badgers escaped the cold of Madison in favor of 70-degree temperatures in Orlando with a two-hour flight on Christmas day. Most of UW's upperclassmen were treated to first-class amenities in the Boeing 747 the Badgers used for the trip, including senior defensive ends Tyler Dippel and Pat Muldoon (above).
Upon arrival in the Sunshine State, the team gathered for Christmas dinner at its hotel, an event that included a visit from Santa Claus himself. Although Santa stopped by to provide gifts for the children of UW's coaches and staff, that didn't stop at least a couple players from jumping up on the big guy's lap (like Corey Clement, below).
- Photos: Capital One Bowl - Travel Day
Hey followers! The blog has a special treat today, a guest blogger from the Badgers! As the team is spread out across North America celebrating the holiday with their families I have asked senior goaltender Alex Rigsby to share what she is up to this holiday season, so without further introduction, Alex Rigsby!
Greetings Badger Fans!
The busy semester has ended and a much deserved break is in place for the team. I finished up the semester with two exams this past Friday and returned home right after. My break thus far has been busy for me, but a good busy. Since my finals, I have been running around doing some last minute Christmas shopping, catching up with friends from home including former teammate, Brianna Decker, and training.
My dad was out of town this past weekend watching my younger brother, Chase, play hockey in Connecticut and they got back yesterday. My older brother, Zach, is currently recovering from shoulder surgery with my mom as his nurse. It is great to have our whole family together for the first time since August!
Last night an extra special event occurred. Growing up, I played for the Milwaukee Jr. Admirals and played with the boys under a very inspiring coach, Ulvis Katlaps. Ulvis was a former Badger hockey player from Latvia who passed away suddenly from cancer this past August. Last night, the organization put on the fourth annual alumni hockey game, but this year they named it the UK2 Alumni Game. Although I did not participate in the game this year, it was a great time seeing my old teammates and how much they have grown as hockey players and young men over the past few years. We were a very close group and picked up right where we left off!
After the game, a dinner was held at the rink for the parents and players to mingle and catch up. The great thing about the hockey community is how tight knit and supportive it is, just like the Badger community. It was fun to hear the different stories told about Ulvis from over the years. He is greatly missed, but will always be remembered.
Now, my family and I are at my grandparent's lake house.They live in a small town in Illinois and have their own private lake. They recently built a house on it, but before that, we camped in the summer and never came out here for the holidays. I love spending the holiday here and it is one of my favorite places to be. It is truly a winter wonderland!
Tonight we will have our traditional seafood dinner and attend church after. Also as a tradition, my two brothers and I get to open one gift the night before, so I am anxious for that!
Nothing compares to spending the holidays with the family. I am looking forward to Christmas and enjoying a few extra days off before returning back to school on the 27th. Thanks for reading and I want to wish you all a safe and Happy Holidays!!!
Happy Bowl Season!
Fortunately, Badgers fans have been able to say such a thing for 12 straight years. That is correct. Next week the Wisconsin Badgers will play in a bowl game for the 12th-consecutive season, extending what is already the longest active streak in the Big Ten Conference.
I would hope players and fans appreciate that little nugget. I would guess there are a ton of schools across the country who would love to be in Wisconsin's position.
This figures to be a very entertaining matchup. South Carolina, under the direction of Steve Spurrier, ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak, which began with a dramatic come-from-behind overtime victory at Missouri. It concluded with a 31-17 win against in-state rival Clemson.
To say the least, that makes for an impressive resumé.
Spurrier, who many refer to as the "Head Ball Coach," will be coaching his 300th college game.
Wisconsin's "Ball Coach," Gary Andersen, will be on the sideline for his 74th college tilt.
Beyond the obvious issue of overall talent, there are a few other factors in a bowl game that can give one team an edge on the other.
How does a team handle the four-week gap between games? Can it peak at the right time?
Is a team motivated? Will a star player go all out, or will he protect himself for the NFL draft?
My guess is both teams will be highly motivated.
South Carolina is trying to win 11 games for the third straight season. The Gamecocks program has never had such a streak.
Wisconsin is looking for its fourth 10-win season in the last five years, while the seniors are shooting for their 40th victory. If they can pull it off, it would match the school record set by the classes of 2007 and 2012.
South Carolina has an FBS low of five seniors on the roster, but a notable underclassman took part in the team's Senior Day ceremony. That man would be Jadeveon Clowney, a player many believe will be at -- or very near -- the top of the draft board this spring.
While some might wonder what Clowney has to gain in Orlando, the Badgers are expecting the star defensive lineman will be eager to leave a lasting final impression to NFL scouts and general managers.
As for the Badgers, there are a number of seniors who have had terrific seasons, but a standout performance on New Year's Day could improve their stock even more.
Sometimes, coaches and others refer to these contests as "Contract Games" or "Money Games."
While I am not a scout, and have no interest playing one in this forum, I have to believe a good game on a stage such as this would get the attention of the NFL folks.
Finally, the Badgers, especially the seniors, dearly want to end their college careers on a winning note. This group has turned in some amazing work. Three straight Rose Bowls, a stellar home record and an unbeaten mark against rivals Iowa and Minnesota are good places to start.
But they want a bowl victory, something this program has not enjoyed since 2009.
There is no doubt the Badgers will have to earn it. South Carolina is top-10 good, and has been for the last three seasons.
Hoisting a trophy at the end of this game would be a sweet conclusion to what already has been a very good season.
With the Badgers off until Saturday, Dec. 28, hoops fans have a little waiting to do before their unbeaten squad takes its talents back to the hardwood.
But the current members of the UW team aren't the only Badgers making noise this winter. Wisconsin basketball alums
around the world are shining for their respective teams, from the NBA to the Euro League. Here's a look at a few of the former Badgers and the work they've been doing in the pro ranks.
JON LEUER | MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES | NBA
Leuer has been enjoying the best stretch of his young career during the month of December. He opened the month pouring in a career-high 23 points, shooting 10-for-13 from the field to go along with nine rebounds in 30 minutes of action against the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 3. Prior to his two-point, five-rebound performance on Dec. 21, just his second single-digit scoring output of month, Leuer was averaging 15.3 points and 7.2 boards per game. The Orono, Minn., native recorded his first career double-double on Dec. 9 vs. Orlando, scoring 16 points and adding 12 rebounds. Leuer went on to score in double figures in six of his next seven games, taking advantage of an increase in minutes in just his third season in the pros, his second with the Grizzlies.
RYAN EVANS | SIOUX FALLS SKYFORCE | NBA D-LEAGUE
Through nine games in the NBA Developmental League, Evans is fourth on the SkyForce in scoring at 13.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. The Phoenix, Ariz., native tallied a career-high 29 points and 12 rebounds in just the third regular-season game of the season, shooting 11-of-20 from the field and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. Evans went on to score in double figures in two of Sioux Falls' next three games, dropping 22 points and 14 points in consecutive games earlier this month.
JARED BERGGREN | TELENET BC OOSTENDE (BELGIUM) | EUROLEAGUE
In his first season overseas, Berggren has been inserted into the starting lineup for Oostende, averaging 11.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 71.7 percent from the field this season. The former second-team All-Big Ten performer has reached double figures five times this season, tallying 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting on Dec. 4. Berggren followed that up with a 23-point, eight-rebound outing on a 10-of-11 performance from the field.
JORDAN TAYLOR | VIRTUS ROMA (ITALY) | EUROLEAGUE
Taylor is averaging just over 10 points per game for Virtus Roma this season, adding 3.3 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game. The two-time AP All-American at UW poured in a season-best 23 points in 35 minutes of action on Dec. 18. Taylor shot 10-of-12 from the free throw stripe, while adding four steals, three rebounds and three assists. He has also tallied scoring totals of 22, 19 and 15 points, reaching double digits in scoring nine times this season.
BRIAN BUTCH | BAKERSFIELD JAM | NBA D-LEAGUE
Butch has earned the starting nod in 11 of 12 games this season for the Bakersfield Jam, averaging 13.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. The former All-Big Ten performer has reached double figures in nine games this season, dropping 32 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks back in late November. Butch has earned six double-doubles this season, and has recorded 15 or more rebounds three times this season.
TREVON HUGHES | TBB TRIER (GERMANY) | BBL
The former Badgers point guard is averaging 15.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in Germany. Hughes, a 2013 Latvian Basketball League All-Star has reached double figures in 10 of 13 games this season, including a 30-point performance in 31 minutes of action on Oct. 12. Hughes also poured in 29 points and five assists in a Nov. 2 contest.
GREG STIEMSMA | NEW ORLEANS PELICANS | NBA
Stiemsma appeared in all eight games to start the season for the Pelicans but suffered a sprained left MCL in mid-November and has not returned to the lineup since. The former Minnesota T'Wolves center was averaging 2.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and a block per game prior to suffering the injury.
BADGERS IN PRO BASKETBALL IN 2013-14
||Telenet BC Oostende (EuroLeague)
||Bakersfield Jam (NBA D-League)
||Xion Dukes Klosterneuburg
||Dallas Mavericks (NBA)
||TBB Trier (BBL)
||Reno Bighorns (NBA D-League)
||New Orleans, La.
||New Orleans Pelicans (NBA)
||Virtus Roma (EuroLeague)
||Lukoil Academic Sofia
The inside look at the Wisconsin football program is back for another round as the Badgers prepare for the 2014 Capital One Bowl. Check out Episode 1 of "The Camp: Orlando" with exclusive inside access to practice.
1. I am not the jinx.
I started calling Wisconsin volleyball on the radio in 2008. I didn't know anything about the program other than they won a lot and got to the tournament all the time.
That changed once I entered the picture. "You're a jinx," I would hear from co-workers after the first year. The talk increased in year two. By year three and beyond friends would ask "What has changed other than you started calling matches?"
For a while there, I think I even started to believe some of the talk. That was until this year when the team made the postseason for the first time since 2007. What a relief off my shoulders right? Now I know what Red Sox fans must have felt like after their World Series drought, to know that the "jinx" doesn't exist.
2. Confidence, combined with "dreaming big," can get you a long way.
Now that I have the silly stuff out of the way, let's get serious. This team's confidence is through the roof right now. That's not to say that the team wasn't confident throughout the season, but this confidence is paired with a mindset to "dream big." It has turned out to be a successful combination.
The players have never doubted what the result of every tournament game would be during this run. I talked to junior Courtney Thomas before the team's regional final match against Purdue and asked her what it's like being so close to making the NCAA National Semifinals, one of her dreams as a collegiate volleyball player. "It's so exciting! I mean we're going to Seattle, no doubt about it," she told me. She was right.
The coaching staff has encouraged the players to "dream big" and not just have a goal of winning one or two matches, but to strive for the entire thing and win six straight. I think it's been just as big of a key to their post-season success as their aggressive serving and tough defensive play.
Sure you need to put in the physical work, study the game and have a crazy elite skill set to get this far in the tournament, but trusting your abilities and believing good things will happen can take you to places you've only dreamed of before. Just ask the 2013 Badgers volleyball team.
OK, I thought the Wisconsin men's basketball team had a chance to be good, but I will admit that the team's 12-0 start has me a bit surprised.
The victory last Saturday against Eastern Kentucky established the school's modern-era record, previously held by Stu Jackson's Badgers of the 1993-94 season. That group, led by players such as Michael Finley, Tracy Webster and Rashard Griffith, rolled through its first 11 games, breaking the 100-point mark four times.
Actually, the Badgers opened with consecutive games in triple digits. They started with a 106-84 thumping of Milwaukee. That was some payback for the Panthers beating Wisconsin the year before at the UW Field House.
Game two was in Los Angeles, where the Badgers rolled Loyola Marymount 103-67. That was the same evening as the Wisconsin-Michigan State football game in Tokyo. Maybe you remember -- there was a Rose Bowl bid at stake for Barry Alvarez's squad.
As the second half of the hoops tilt was progressing, even Stu wanted updates from Japan, so we helped him as best we could. It turned out to be a very good night for Badgers fans.
As impressive as the streak was 20 years ago -- and remember that team ended a 47-year NCAA tournament drought -- to me this season's start is even better.
Bo Ryan's bunch has navigated a very challenging schedule. Right away the Badgers faced St. John's, Florida and Green Bay. The Cancun Challenge was just that, as St. Louis and West Virginia provided stiff competition.
To say the least, the Virginia game was a grinder, and the annual battle with Marquette is never easy.
But, so far, the Badgers are unbeaten, and they have accomplished their record in a variety of ways.
While they are averaging just two more possessions per game than last season, it sure seems as though the Badgers are playing faster. Perhaps that is because the ball is going through the basket at a much better clip. Last year's team shot just 42 percent from the floor. The present squad is hitting 47 percent of its shots.
A major difference is at the free throw line. A staple of many of Bo Ryan's best teams -- at Wisconsin, Platteville or anywhere else -- is the ability to make more free throws than their opponents attempt.
At the 12-game mark, the Badgers have knocked down 196 throws, while opponents have ATTEMPTED just 166.
Last year's team shot just 63 percent from the foul line. It's at nearly 74 percent so far this season.
As Bo often says, it is amazing how good an offense looks when the shots are going down.
To this point in the season, the Badgers have been terrific at sharing the ball. The scoring balance is impressive. True freshmen Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have proven they belong on the floor.
Frank Kaminsky has to be one of the nation's most improved players, and the return of Josh Gasser has helped in areas that will not show up in a box score.
The fact is every player has had a significant role, including those who are redshirting. To say the least, they have made for some very competitive practices.
I have been throwing out a lot of compliments so far, but I think the best part of this team is that it knows it can continue to get better.
Talent, work ethic and the willingness to keep learning. That is a good combination, and it is making the Badgers a very enjoyable team to watch.
It makes fans very eager for the games to resume on Dec. 28.
Join Wisconsin football head coach Gary Andersen for a live chat, starting at 11 a.m. (CT) on Wednesday, Dec. 18. Submit your questions directly into the chat below or on Twitter by tweeting at @BadgerFootball
with the hashtag #AskAndersen
There is no chimney at the McClain Center, but that didn't stop Santa Claus from paying a surprise visit to the Wisconsin football team after the Badgers' practice session Monday morning. Santa brought candy canes, hats and, perhaps most importantly, a little levity as the team continued through the early stages of Finals Week.
The weekend was an overall success for the Badger squad, as we swept the Bemidji State Beavers, and finished the 2013 year on a solid note. Now, a much needed and anticipated break is in the wave for the team. We will prepare for finals coming up next week, and then head home for some down time with our families. The team is happy with where we sit heading into the second half of the year, and looking forward to getting some down time to reenergize and come back from break ready to go right back to work. Most of us will head home for the holiday, and return a few days after Christmas to begin preparing for the first series back against St. Cloud.
This is a short post, as it is mainly just to keep followers up to speed on what is to be expected. Stay tuned for another post later this week that may reveal some different twists in the blog format, and may give a sneak peak of some other voices that may appear on the blog over Christmas break.
Thanks for all the support you have provided our team up until this point, we look forward to a second half of the year that is just as action packed and successful as the first! Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!
Unlike college football, where the coaches and Harris polls carry a ton of weight, the national polls in college hoops can help generate conversation and add hype to any number of games. Beyond that, the polls have little if anything to do with positioning teams for post season play.
But if you are a Badgers fan, it still is fun to see your team ranked sixth in this week's USA Today Coaches Poll and fourth in the Associated Press Top 25.
The team is off to its best start since Stu Jackson's squad began the 1993-94 season with 11 straight wins. What makes this year's effort even more impressive is the schedule it has had to navigate. Wisconsin started the week with five wins against teams ranked in the RPI top 50. No other team had more than two against that caliber of competition.
Yes, it is enjoyable to talk about the Badgers' current status in the polls. Head coach Bo Ryan gets it, but he will not get caught up in it. Never has. Never will.
"I don't pay attention to them (ratings), but I know other people do," said Ryan. "I think some people pay attention to them to a fault.
"I have always been honest with people. If you were to ask me today who is ranked where -- who is in front of us, who is behind us -- I could not tell you."
While some might find that difficult to believe, Ryan is nothing if not consistent. I remember many years ago asking him about his team being in the top 25. He said he had no idea where the Badgers were ranked. His focus is on helping his team get better and preparing for the next game.
Maybe that sounds boring. Then again, his teams win most of the time, and what is so boring about that?
Another thing to consider. When Ryan was leading UW-Platteville to title after title, the Pioneers were ranked No. 1 or No. 2 or a regular basis.
"If we have that number on our ranking, they (the opponents) wanna get us. So shhhhhh -- keep the ratings down," said the smiling head coach.
The Badgers' better-than-many-expected start included a milestone win for Ryan last Wednesday at Virginia. It was the 300th at Wisconsin for the 13th-year UW mentor. He became the ninth coach in conference history to hit that number at a Big Ten institution. The short list includes legends such as Bob Knight, Gene Keady, Tom Izzo and Lou Henson.
Many of Ryan's old friends and former teammates from Chester, Pa., and Wilkes College were in attendance for Wisconsin's hard-fought victory to get the coach into the "300 Club." It was good timing for such a gathering.
"I think the most important thing about that number is to think of all the players and all the people involved," he said.
"I think of the young men, the commitments they have made. How dedicated they were to getting in shape, doing the hills, doing all the work in the weight room. And all the coaches and the personnel that surround the basketball program. That makes the number."
The good news for the Badgers and their fans is the number continues to climb. In the meantime, while the head man appreciates all of those games where his team ended up on the "left hand side," he continues to focus on "next."
MADISON, Wis. -- Bo Ryan admitted Monday at his weekly news conference that he never pays attention to rankings and will not bring it up with his team this week or any week for that matter.
But that won't stop us from acknowledging the fact that Wisconsin has climbed to No. 4 in the latest AP rankings, its highest position since the 2006-07 season.
"This team's attention will be on the clips from Saturday and the UWM scouting report," Ryan said. "That's all we'll talk about. Now what they talk about in the locker room or on campus or anything else, I just hope they understand that they've done some things that put them in this position."
This "position" is rarefied air for the Badgers.
In the history of the AP poll, which began in 1949, Wisconsin is spending just its 13th week in the top five. In fact, prior to this week's appearance the only other time the Badgers climbed this high in the rankings was a 12-week run from Dec. 18, 2006 to March 5, 2007.
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That 2006-07 team reached the No. 1 spot in the Feb. 19, 2007 AP poll. A position that Wisconsin did not hold for long Ryan joked with reporters.
"That lasted a long time," he said. "Seven days."
Upon reaching the top ranking, the 2006-07 Badgers dropped a pair of road contests at No. 2 Ohio State and at Michigan State. That team would go on to finish 30-6 and earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament before falling to UNLV in the second round.
At 10-0, this year's team has climbed from a preseason ranking of No. 20 up to No. 4 in six weeks. Now, it will likely deal with a sizeable target on its back. Something Ryan thinks the team is prepared for.
"Because of the leadership that we have, I think the right things are being said in the locker room and the right direction is being given out on the court with the players, with the upperclassmen. Even though it's not a real old group at all, there are guys that have been around. They've knocked off in years past teams that were highly ranked. So they know highly ranked teams are just as vulnerable as anybody else."
Wisconsin has three non-conference games remaining - all at home - beginning with in-state rival Milwaukee on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The time is here again, it's game day for the Badgers. This post is unusual in timing as we typically do not have a day off in between, but I just wanted to keep followers up to speed as a great deal happened in the short break. The game Friday was a big win for the ladies, and we were happy with our efforts, happy but not content. After the game we went right back to work, enjoying a long afternoon and then returning to the rink Saturday morning to learn from the night before.
We watched film Saturday, then practiced and reviewed a few systems. We also worked a bit with our lines to get the flow going for the game Sunday afternoon. After practice, the team exchanged gifts for our secret snowman. It was a fun holiday tradition, and the gifts were awesome all around. From store bought goodies, to homemade gag gifts, the team had a few laughs and enjoyed opening gifts from one another with Christmas music playing in the background.
After the gift exchange, a number of us returned home before heading out again for a night packed with activity. Several girls went out to cheer on the volleyball team, who won their match Saturday night and are headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006. Also, Alex Rigsby, Sydney McKibbon, Kelly Jaminski, Jenny Ryan, Katy Josephs, and myself all volunteered at the men's game, raising money and collecting toys for the Toys for Tots drive. Our efforts collected 92 toys and about $3,350, all to be donated to the Toys for Tots foundation to help children around the United States have a better Christmas this winter. The night was fun, but didn't last too long, as we all wanted to be sure we were home and in bed in time to get a good nights rest. I am always amazed with my teammates and all they do outside of the arena to give back to the community, and Saturday night was a great example of the girls giving back to a community that gives so much to us year round.
The team is amped up and looking forward to finishing on a high note what has been a great weekend for Badger athletics. The team returns to the ice Sunday at 2 p.m. to face off against Bemidji for one final time in 2013. We hope to see as many fans out as possible as we look to maintain our second place seed, and head into the new year rested and ready to continue on our journey.
Until next time, thanks for reading! On Wisconsin!
This week has been business as usual for the Badgers. Practices, lifts, and video sessions have helped us to prepare as we gear up for one final weekend of games against Bemidji State. The team is ready to go and looking forward to finishing off the first half of the season in front of our home crowd.
asked about the upcoming weekend, how it feels to be home, and what the future
holds, junior forward Karley Sylvester was happy to be back.
great to be back home," Sylvester said. "It will be fun to play in
front of our home crowd. They bring a lot of energy that we don't get on the
road. It will be great to play in our own rink and also sleep in our own beds.
After this week the upcoming break will be nice. We have had a great start and
it will be important we all come back from break re-energized and excited to
defenseman Courtney Burke had similar emotions, but was also a little star
struck. When asked to comment she first said, "OMG! Paparazzi!" After
taking a few moments to gather herself, Court expressed her excitement about
playing at home.
will be exciting to finally play at home again since we have been on the road
for the past three weeks," Burke said. "We get to play the last two
games hopefully coming up with some points for our league and head into the
break in great shape. It will make finishing up finals and spending the holiday
with our families much more enjoyable."
at home is a huge advantage as we get the perks of having our own fans, and
also sleeping at home in our own beds. This weekend is different with the day
off Saturday in between Friday and Sunday games, but that is to our advantage
as we will be able to utilize our home facilities and resources to ensure we
are fully recovered and ready to go Sunday for game two.
members of the women's team, senior captains Kelly Jaminski, Alex Rigsby, and
myself will be heading the Toys for Tots drive at the men's hockey game on
Saturday night at 7 p.m. We will be collecting toys and donations to help
military families this holiday season. I encourage all those who can to get out
and make a contribution to this great cause Saturday night, and help cheer the
men on in their Big Ten home opener.
puck drops Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. for the Badger women's team, and we look
forward to seeing you all out as we finish off 2013 in LaBahn Arena. Until next
time, thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!
It is interesting how quickly a team's perception can change based on one bad game.
Interesting, and at times inaccurate.
For weeks, as the Badgers football team was rolling along, more and more national observers were talking about how Gary Andersen's squad was underrated. The Arizona State game was incomplete.
With the Badgers on the brink of the top 14 in the BCS standings, at least some media members were projecting Wisconsin to play in the Orange Bowl.
Then last Saturday happened.
Suddenly, at least for some, the image has changed. Be it a talk show host or a national columnist or two, much of the love for the Badgers has faded.
So goes life in the Big Ten. This week the debate continues whether Ohio State is worthy of its No. 2 ranking. Yes it is undefeated, but critics point to its poor non-conference schedule and a league that remains viewed as weak.
Suddenly, the Buckeyes' win against Wisconsin loses some juice. How can OSU be ranked ahead of a one-loss SEC team? On and on it goes.
While Penn State deserves a ton of credit for coming to Camp Randall and dumping a bucket of cold water on the Badgers' Senior Day, let us not forget that UW has had a very good season.
Yes, the loss to the Nittany Lions will cost Wisconsin a chance at a BCS at-large bid, but take a look at the other two setbacks. We know what is on the line for Ohio State, but it is worth mentioning that Arizona State will be hosting the Pac-12 title game this weekend against Stanford.
While the officials botched the ending of the UW-ASU game in Tempe, it is worth noting that the Sun Devils are having a terrific season, and they are one win away from playing in the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 1997.
To me, what is happening here is the classic case of an old saying: You are never as good as people say you are, nor are you ever as bad.
Was I surprised at last weekend's outcome? Yes, very much so. The Badgers defense had been in shutdown mode for several weeks, while the offense was taking care of its business. Penn State had just lost on its Senior Day and had yet to win a road game in the Big Ten.
The script called for another convincing victory for the home team, but PSU played one of its best games of the season, while the Badgers played their worst.
Sometimes it is just that simple. It can happen in any sport at any level. In this case it stinks, but it is reality.
As someone who has lived in Big Ten Country his entire life, I will admit to being sick and tired of the verbal pounding this league has had to absorb.
There is one sure way to stop it. Win the big bowl games.
I can tell you how I believe the Big Ten is better than many believe. I really do believe that. However, the image can only change through better postseason results.
Assuming the Badgers are headed for either Orlando or Tampa, they will play a highly-regarded SEC team. Ohio State and Michigan State will be in big-stage bowl games -- for OSU, maybe the biggest of them all.
Win those games, and the perception will begin to change.
To this observer, the Big Ten is improving. Hopefully in the next few weeks this conference will make a loud statement that can be heard nationwide.
It has been a while since the last post, and a lot has happened for the Wisconsin women's hockey team. I want to apologize for the long gap in posts. Life on the road has proven to be a bit hectic and scattered, but the next few weeks should be more on track. The trip to Duluth was a long one, with a five hour bus ride each way. The bus ride was relaxing for most of us as we didn't have much homework with the holiday weekend, and I made some cute little turkey cookies for the team to enjoy along the way.
We left early Thursday morning, arriving in Duluth around 3 p.m., and hit the ice for practice. Practice was the usual round of drills to get the legs moving and finished up with the routine shootout. It was another goalie win on the road, which is always disappointing for the players, but we were happy with their choice for the singer at team meal.
After practice we went back to the hotel and enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving meal as a team. It was different, spending a holiday that is typically shared with our families, away from home with a group of girls in sweats; however, it was a good reminder what a solid group we really are. The group we spend so much time with is more than just a team, and truly becomes much like a family and it was nice to be able to spend the holiday with them. During the Thanksgiving meal the goalies pick of Mikayla Johnson as singer was revealed, and she chose to sing Follow Me by Uncle Kracker, nailing all the notes perfectly.
The game Friday night was a battle from the start. It is always tough to play Duluth on the road, and it took the team some time to get our legs moving and play Wisconsin hockey. We pushed through the obstacles and came together in the end as a team, and were happy to pull away with one point on the road for the night. It is tough to find a positive in a situation when we don't win, but a tie was enough for us to keep in good spirits and learn from the game to put our knowledge to use for Saturday night.
Saturday night's game was a different game altogether, but was a dogfight again nonetheless. The team played hard, and never gave up on the system. We came out with a lot of energy in the third period, and three shifts in, junior forward Karley Sylvester was able to find the back of the net on a beautiful shot glove side high. The team held the lead and played defensively to the end. Senior goaltender Alex Rigsby played great, as did freshman goaltender Ann Renee Desbiens. Ann came in the game cold in the second period, and made a few game changing saves to keep us in it until we got our momentum back. Ann earned the hardhat for the night, which is awarded to the player who embodies our team goals and makes plays that are gritty and sometimes unnoticed by the general public. The team was fired up to pull away with a win, and take 4 out of 6 points on the road. This was the first road win for the team in Duluth since my sophomore year, and it was a great way for the seniors to leave the ice up there one last time.
The team boarded the bus and headed back to Madison in good spirits. We watched Elf on the bus, which is always a team favorite, and also enjoyed some holiday snacks prepared by Mrs. Sylvester (Karley's mom). The trees were little corn flake wreaths, smothered in sprinkles and marshmallow. The team doesn't get to enjoy too many treats that often, so a treat on the way to Duluth and home were definitely highlights of the road trip. The team made it back into Madison around 2 am, and I speak for the entire squad when I say sleeping in my own bed never felt better.
Sunday was spent recovering and relaxing, preparing for school to start up again and taking care of our bodies in order to be ready for one final weekend of games before a much needed break. The team is looking forward to finishing the first half of the season off at home, and ready for the break that follows.
The games this weekend are on Friday and Sunday at 2 p.m.. We hope to see as many people out as possible to cheer us on one last time in 2013 as we battle for points that will help us maintain our second place spot in the WCHA heading into the second half of the year. Stay tuned for another post this week, as players look forward to the games this weekend and talk about their favorite holiday activities.
Until next time, thanks for reading, and On Wisconsin!
CANCUN, Mexico -- Wisconsin's Sam Dekker took the question in an all-encompassing vein after the Badgers held off West Virginia, 70-63, Wednesday night to capture the Cancun Challenge in Rivera Maya, Mexico.
What was the difference tonight, Sam?
"Us staying solid," he said. "We started playing our game and that got us the early lead. We went up 30-13 and they battled back. They (the Mountaineers) are a good shooting team.
"We just had to weather the storm and that's what we've been doing so far this season (during a 8-0 start) and if we continue to do that it will be the difference in a lot of ball games."
But what was the difference tonight, Sam - in Sam - what was the difference in your game?
"Me playing confident," he said. "I came out early kind of looking for my shot. On my first touch I hit that turnaround jumper and that felt good, so I kept attacking."
West Virginia started a frontline of 6-9 Devin Williams, 6-9 Nathan Adrian and 6-10 Kevin Noreen. The Mountaineers opened in a man-to-man defense and Williams, a freshman, drew Dekker.
"They put a big guy on me and I just wanted to keep taking him in the hole," Dekker said, "and that kind of propelled me to stay active. I waited for my moments and when I saw openings, I attacked."
Dekker, at times, was dominant. In the first half, he had 10 points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes. That matched his career high in rebounds. Dekker had eight against Marquette last season.
For more context, he had nine rebounds in the previous three games combined. His previous high this season had been seven, which he collected twice - against St. John's and Green Bay.
"They're always on me about how I've got to rebound more," Dekker acknowledged. "I have to be more active and more aggressive and use my length to get those boards and I was able to do that."
Dekker finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, his first career double-double. It was more in line with the lofty expectations for Dekker who had stellar high school and AAU resumes.
On what made the difference in Dekker's game against West Virginia, UW point guard Traevon Jackson said, "He had the instinct on when to take over the game."
In this case, it was from the on-set - and then again - over the last five minutes.
"He didn't care about messing up, he didn't care about what he did wrong," said Jackson, adding that everything was predicated on focusing "on the next play" or the next possession.
"That's what we need Sam to do for us to be the team that we want to be. He's such a competitor and he's hard on himself a lot."
Did Dekker feel like he had been putting too much pressure on himself, maybe pressing?
"Pressing? No, I don't think so," Dekker said. "I just think teams were playing some good 'D' on me and I wasn't hitting the open shot.
"But you can't get down on yourself. You have to come out and play every possession. Our coaches preach that and I know they have confidence in me."
The confidence was rewarded after West Virginia came roaring back in the second half on the strength of a quicker three-guard line-up and a zone defense that caused problems for the Badgers.
Dekker responded with some 3-point daggers. When the Mountaineers closed within five points, 56-51, he hit a triple with 4:51 left. He got another at 2:54 and yet another at 1:23.
"I was working the baseline and the high post area against their zone," Dekker said, "but Trae (Jackson) was doing a great job of driving and kicking and I was able to hit those '3s."
Jackson ended up with seven assists against West Virginia.
"When we moved the ball," Jackson said, "we got wide open shots."
His shot wasn't falling, though. Jackson was 1-of-9 from the field.
"At the end of the day, I've got to hit shots," he said. "True shooters shoot the same way every time, no matter where they're at. I got away from that when I missed a couple.
"Luckily my teammates were hitting and I was able to find them."
Jackson, like Dekker, has a tendency to be too hard on himself. Not only did Jackson have seven assists and just one turnover in 35 minutes, he had a career-high 10 rebounds.
"Look at his stat line," Dekker said. "That's a true point guard right there. He didn't shoot the ball very well, but he did things when we needed him and he was a difference-maker on the court."
Jackson couldn't remember the last time that he reached double-digits in rebounds. But he rationalized his board work by saying, "I can't be a liability on the floor, I've got to do something."
Jackson and Dekker were named to the All-Tournament team in Cancun after the Badgers knocked off St. Louis and West Virginia. Dekker was selected as the Most Valuable player.
"It's cool," said Dekker. "But I've said it before: when your team does well, individual accolades will come. We worked together as a team and I was blessed to be this situation and get this award."
From game to game, Dekker and Jackson agreed, it seems like someone different is doing something positive to help this team win. It speaks to the unselfishness of the players, young and old.
"We jell, we get along off the court really well, we're all best friends," observed junior guard Josh Gasser who missed all of last season after undergoing ACL surgery.
"When we're on the court, it's just fun for. We're playing together and when you've got a group of unselfish guys who really want to win - and have common goals - good things can happen."
What is their team strength?
"Our versatility at both ends of the court," said Gasser. "We've got guys who can play inside and out on offense and defense. That poses matchup problems for other teams.
"We can put together a lot of different combinations on the court. It's definitely a positive. And that's where the unselfishness comes in."
To the extent, Gasser suggested, that no one cares who scores.
"One night Frank (Kaminsky) will go off; another night it will be Sam or someone else," he said. "We have a different guy every night who can really carry the load.
"It all starts with Traevon (as the point guard) and the leadership and energy that a lot of us bring to the game. If you try to stop one guy, others will step up and pick him up."
The winning formula will be put to the test with the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Virginia on Wednesday followed by Saturday's always intense intra-state rivalry with Marquette at the Kohl Center.
The Badgers are 8-0 for the first time in 20 years. Dekker won't turn 20 until May. Maybe it's the youth in the locker room. But nobody is satisfied.
"We can always get better," Jackson said.