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.