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
|Jared Berggren||2010-13||Belgium||Telenet BC Oostende (EuroLeague)|
|Brian Butch||2005-08||Bakersfield, Calif.||Bakersfield Jam (NBA D-League)|
|Jason Chappell||2003-07||Austria||Xion Dukes Klosterneuburg|
|Devin Harris||2002-04||Dallas, Texas||Dallas Mavericks (NBA)|
|Trevon Hughes||2007-10||Germany||TBB Trier (BBL)|
|Marcus Landry||2006-09||Reno, Nev.||Reno Bighorns (NBA D-League)|
|Jon Leuer||2008-11||Memphis, Tenn.||Memphis Grizzlies|
|Zach Morley||2004-05||Germany||Alba Berlin|
|Keaton Nankivil||2008-11||Germany||Ratiopharm Ulm|
|Ray Nixon||2003-06||Japan||Shiga Lakestars|
|Greg Stiemsma||2005-08||New Orleans, La.||New Orleans Pelicans (NBA)|
|Jordan Taylor||2009-12||Italy||Virtus Roma (EuroLeague)|
|Alando Tucker||2004-07||Bulgaria||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.