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Field of 4: Tweeting 4 observations prior to tip-off

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DALLAS, Texas -- Following a thrilling overtime win over top-seeded Arizona in the Elite Eight on March 30, the Badgers earned a trip to Texas for their first Final Four appearance since the team's magical run back in 2000.

Follow the team's every move via the #Fieldof4, as @BadgerMBB sends out 4 tweets with observations and commentary leading up to Saturday's contest between No. 2 Wisconsin and eighth-seeded Kentucky.

Check out the Field of 68, Field of 32Field of 16 & Field of 8 to see what you missed from the first two weeks of the Big Dance.

Field of 8: Tweeting 8 observations prior to tip-off

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Following a victory over Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen on Thursday, the Badgers earned a berth in the NCAA Elite Eight on Saturday, with a trip to the 2014 Final Four on the line.

Follow the team's every move via the #Fieldof8, as @BadgerMBB sends out 8 tweets with observations and commentary leading up to Saturday's contest between No. 2 Wisconsin and top-seeded Arizona.

Check out the Field of 68, Field of 32 & Field of 16 to see what you missed from the first two weeks of the Big Dance.

Field of 16: Tweeting 16 observations prior to tip-off

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After a thrilling Round of 32 match-up in Milwaukee, the Badgers are off to California for their third third Sweet 16 appearance in the last four seasons.

Follow the team's every move via the #Fieldof16, as @BadgerMBB cranks out 16 Tweets with observations and commentary leading up to Thursday's contest between second-seeded Wisconsin and No. 6 Baylor.

Check out the Field of 68 and Field of 32 to see what you missed while the team was in Milwaukee.

Field of 32: Tweeting 32 observations prior to tip-off

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- The Badgers have advanced to the 2014 NCAA Tournament Round of 32, and that means @BadgerMBB will send out 32 Tweets with observations and commentary leading up to the third round NCAA tournament game between No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 7 Oregon.

Field of 68: Tweeting 68 observations leading up to tip-off

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- It's March Madness once again and that can only mean one thing: another edition of #Fieldof68. Follow along as we chronicle the Badgers journey through the 2014 NCAA Tournament, leading up to Wisconsin's first-round match-up against the American Eagles at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Sixty-eight teams in the tournament, that means 68 inside-access tweets about Wisconsin from @BadgerMBB all the way up to Thursday morning's tip between the Badgers and Eagles.

Aloha: Badgers make annual business trip to Hawaii

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MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin winters are sudden and serve as a cruel reminder that each year state residents are obliged to endure at least 2-3 months of freezing cold temperatures, snow and the occasional blizzard.

Aside from the obvious perks of enjoying a week and a half of sunshine and sandy beaches, this makes the annual nine-hour flight from Chicago's O'Hare Airport to Hawaii each December that much more bearable for the University of Wisconsin swimming and diving squad. 

Prior to head coach Whitney L. Hite taking over the reins of the program in 2011, the Badgers would travel to the Aloha State for a few weeks to train and enjoy the sun. Hite continued the tradition but slightly changed the focus and objective behind the opportunity.

"I view it as a business trip," Hite explained. "We go there with the mindset of getting better, whether it's getting stronger in training, faster in speed.

"There's a lot of development going on and it's a great opportunity for team bonding as well."

Hite uses the time spent away from campus to measure each student-athlete's progress at this point in the season, while also continuing to stress the idea of growth and getting better during grueling practices and training sessions.
"A lot of people think we go out there to lay on the beach," Hite added. "As (UW Senior Administrator) Terry Gawlik saw this year we worked out hard -- really hard."

Aside from escaping Wisconsin's below zero temperatures, the Badgers were able to refocus their energy to powering up for the final stretch of the season, which continues this weekend at Christiansburg, Va., for a two-day meet against Virginia and Virginia Tech, among others.

The team used their time in Hawaii to emphasize improving on last season's Big Ten championships finish and gaining momentum heading into the NCAA meet in March.

"I think that's the thing that has changed since I've been here," Hite said. "We made it clear why we made this trip and the team realizes the goal is to get better."

Badgers in the Pros: Leuer making the most of December

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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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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
Kirk Penney 2000-03 Turkey Trabzonspor
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

Lucas at Large: Group effort guides Badgers to 8-0 start

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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.

Dance Fever: UW makes most of appearance in Big Dance

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The Wisconsin men's soccer team has seen its fair share of dark days since its last postseason berth in 1995.

To put that into perspective, the last time UW appeared in the NCAA tournament, the 'World Wide Web' was four years young and Bill Clinton was serving his first term in office.

That 18-year drought ended Monday, as the 19th-ranked Badgers saw their name appear on the 2013 NCAA bracket.

To make the accomplishment even sweeter, UW was granted a first-round home match at a venue the team had not lost at in over a year.

"A long waiting period for the guys on the team as well as the staff," UW head coach John Trask explained. "To get rewarded with our body of work and be in the NCAA Tournament after 18 years here at the University of Wisconsin, it's more than exciting."

In its first postseason appearance (aside from Big Ten tournament) in nearly two decades, the Badgers outdueled in-state rival Milwaukee to extend the nation's longest current home unbeaten streak to 14 matches.

"It just shapes up for a great game, and it's what the NCAA Tournament is all about," Trask said. "You've got two very good, very hungry teams that haven't played each other in a long time but w're very aware of the success they've had. 

"I think it shapes up for just an excellent night of soccer."

All of the ingredients are there for UW to make an NCAA tournament run: leadership from 13 seniors, the highest scoring offense in the Big Ten, a hunger to make even more history.

Wisconsin has waited nearly two decades for an opportunity to make another run at a national title, similar to what it did in 1995. And Trask believes his team's best days are still ahead of them.

"I think there's more in this team," Trask said. "I've said it consistently to them. I'll say it publicly. I still don't think we've seen the best soccer out of this group of players."

Kaminsky, scoring 'trendy' topics on historic night

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Tuesday evening, Frank Kaminsky entered the Kohl Center boasting a career average of 3.2 points per game and a total of 26 points scored on the season. The UW junior exited the Kohl Center that night with a school record and whole lot of fame.

Thanks to his 43-point outburst in a 103-85 win over North Dakota, Kaminsky set the UW single-game record, a mark that had stood since 1965. He also set off a firestorm of chatter, headlining everything from ESPN's SportsCenter to trending worldwide on Twitter.

A few of Tuesday's tweets:

With each of his six 3-pointers and 16 total baskets, Kaminsky's celebrity status rose, as did his place in history. Let's examine that:

- Kaminsky's 43 points are the most scored by a Division I player this season.

- Kaminsky's 43 points equals the mark set by Illinois' Brandon Paul against Ohio State on 1/20/12 as the most by a Big Ten player since 1996-97. In fact, the Big Ten has produced only four 40-point games in the last 18 seasons.

- Over the last 15 years, Kaminsky and Central Michigan's Chris Kaman are the only 7-footers to score 40 points in a game.

- Kaminsky is one of just four Division I players since 1996-97 to score 43 points and shoot at least 84.0 percent from the field in a game.

- Kaminsky is one of four players to score at least 43 points against a Division 1 opponent in 28 minutes or less since 1996-97. The last player to do it was Davidson's Stephen Curry (43 points in 27 minutes vs. Appalachian State, 2009).