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Soccer Insider: Badgers with chance at making 2012 Big Dance

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Despite falling in the first round of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament and witnessing its own bubble nearly burst following Illinois' upset win over Penn State in the tournament's semifinals, Wisconsin is still alive and kicking in its quest for its third berth in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years.

The official announcement of the 64-team field will not occur until Monday at 3:30 p.m. (CT), but that gives us two days to project and form our own opinions on the chances that Bucky will see at least one more game this season.

The RPI rankings are one of the biggest indicators of a potential NCAA Tournament team. A team's strength of schedule, combined with its overall record, cannot make or break a team's chances, but are huge in the grand scheme of things. In theory, teams in the RPI top-40 are in the comfort zone, while Nos. 41-64 are sweating as they keep an eye out for upsets come conference tournament time. There are exactly 24 AQ (automatic qualifier) bids in the tournament, which go to each conference's tournament champion.

When looking at the latest RPI rankings, which were released Oct. 29, Wisconsin was in the top-40, falling to No. 36 after its loss to Iowa on Oct. 27. The Badgers' 2012 schedule featured matches against six teams in the current RPI top-25, which included games against four of those seven teams on the road. UW also suffered one-goal losses to a pair of RPI top-five squads in UCLA (8/31) and Penn State (9/16).

According to former MLS star and U.S. National Team member turned women's soccer blogger, Chris Henderson, this past week's conference tournament did not hurt UW as much as we thought. Following multiple losses for various bubble teams and squads poised to steal AQ  bids, it looks like Wisconsin's season is still intact -- but nothing is for certain until the NCAA Tournament selection committee says it is.

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The selection committee will make its announcement on the field of 64 on Monday, Nov. 5, at 3:30 p.m. (CT). The selection show can be viewed live on NCAA.com.

All-Access: The Badgers invade Bloomington

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As the Badger women's soccer team prepares for its second-consecutive berth in the Big Ten Women's Soccer Tourmament, follow the 2012 squad as Jeremy Wodajo chronicles the entire trip in his all-access blog.

Day 3: Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012

3:11 p.m. - The bus pulls into Madison, Wis. After a combined 14 hours and eight minutes of driving, including over 700 miles traveled, the Badgers arrive safely on the UW campus. Now ... the waiting game begins. 

11:38 a.m. - Movie #2: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days....'nuff said.

11:02 a.m.  - After perusing the highway signs for a nearby Panera, we finally landed on one in Fighting Illini country. Although considered enemy territory, Champaign, Ill., was the most reasonable stop for food as we were just over three hours and 30 minutes from home and needed something to hold us over before then.

We also didn't want to take the chance of not hitting any food stops within the next two hours --  so all in all, the 20-minute wait in line was well worth it.

9:19 a.m. - The first movie of the trip back -- Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows Part II. Seemed like a good watch considering I was only awake for the second half of the flick. 

8:56 a.m. - Everyone is accounted for as we fill the bus and head back toward Madison. Aside from the short-lived rap battles that consumed all of five minutes of the trip off of the Indiana University campus, the exhausted and groggy faces of a few of the players also provided a source of entertainment for all. 

Day 2: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012

10:04 p.m. - A disappointing way to end the trip in Bloomington, Ind., but the Badgers, along with the entire staff, remain in high spirits as the NCAA Tournament selection show nears.

The players and coaches will spend one more night in the "castle-like" hotel before hitting the road for Madison at 9 a.m. Thursday morning. The team will continue to train as if in season and plan to congregate Monday afternoon as the fate of their season now lies in the decisions made by NCAA Tournament's selection committee.

7:13 p.m. - GAMETIME!!!!IMG_5433_sm.jpg

7:01 p.m. - With plenty of time to rest, the Badgers load the bus and head to Armstrong Stadium. With music blasting toward the back of the bus, the mood seemed confident yet humble, as the players realize they potentially have one more chance to put it all on the line.

2:39 p.m. - After a short break and the opportunity to head back to the room to catch up on their z's, the Badgers rounded up for lunch. Following a brief walk, the group hit the jackpot just two blocks from the hotel, as we found Noodles & Co., and Potbelly Sandwich Shop right next to one another, nestled in between two clothing stores.

The late lunch allowed each group to get in and out with just enough time to head back to the hotel and nap before the 5:55 p.m. team meeting.

12:11 p.m. - After taking a walk down the winding hallway that led to the video room -- which included a stop at the mini-graveyard just outside of the hotel -- the team spent the noon hour watching film.

walk_through_sm.jpg11:09 a.m. - The Badgers pile onto the bus to head to ground zero -- also known as Armstrong Stadium. Before sitting down to briefly watch the No. 4 Minnesota Gophers take on the No. 5 Fighting Illini, the team used an auxiliary field to conduct a quick walk-through in preparation for their quarterfinal match-up.

10:48 a.m. - We are reminded that it is Halloween after walking back from breakfast and seeing nearly every student dressed in everything from cat costumes (whiskers and all) to the biggest human pumpkin I have ever seen.

9:58 a.m. - The 7:30 p.m. match time allowed the team a little extra time to sleep in this morning. Despite the later wake-up call, the team bus driver still needed his beauty sleep so the team explored the campus by foot to find breakfast.

The majority of the Badgers decided on a small bagel shop known as Bloomington Bagel Company (Go figure!), that is well-known for its "east coast" bagels. After a short wait in line, it seemed as though many of the players, and nearly everyone that was present at the shop, decided on some combination of egg, cheese and bacon/sausage/ham, inside of a plain, cinnamon or asiago cheese bagel.

Day 1: Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012

10:41 p.m. - The bus rolls into Bloomington, Ind. UW head coach Paula Wilkins gives the team a short speech regarding the next day's itinerary before excusing them to gather their bags and hit the sack for the night. As we pile onto the 7 x 5 foot elevators, the players stare in awe of the "castle-like" structure of the team hotel, which is nestled in the heart of campus.

Two movies, one dinner stop and six-and-a-half hours of sitting have us all tired and ready for what tomorrow brings -- the 2012 Big Ten Tourney and a potential NCAA Tournament bid.

9:16 p.m. - The rain continues to fall as the second movie draws to a close. The noise on the bus is faint and it seems as though many of the players are either reading up for next week's midterms....or sleeping -- my guess would be the latter.

8:45 p.m. - A quick pit stop to one of the city's nearby gas stations results in a break from the chick flick and a chance for all to stretch their legs before hitting the home stretch of the road trip.

6:12 p.m. - The second installment of the movie portion of the trip began just after the six o'clock hour, as the consensus choice was No

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Strings Attached. The light drizzle that set in just as the bus entered the state of Indiana did not put a damper on the Ashton Kutcher-lovers who were seeing the movie for the umpteenth time, but still laughed at every comical scene.

4:33 p.m. - Just under an hour after crossing the Illinois border, the team makes the first stop of the trip at Sweet Tomatoes. Although the spot is known for its buffet-style menu of sandwiches, salads and soups, the pizza and ice cream stations seemed to garner the most attention.

2:07 p.m. - It did not take long before the first movie request was made. Regardless of the lack of interest from assistant head coach Tim Rosenfeld, who was manning the DVD player, the renowned trilogy and award-winning novel, The Hunger Games, was the first of two flicks played on the winding drive to Hoosierville.

1:52 p.m. - Following the team's noon practice, all 29 members of the Badgers' travel party boarded the Badger Bus and geared up for the 6.5-hour road trip to Bloomington, Ind., for the 2012 Big Ten Women's Soccer Tournament.

Soccer Insider: Stakes rise as regular season comes to a close

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Williams,Kodee12_MichiganState1_sm.jpgWith one weekend left in the regular-season, the Badgers are in a tie for the No. 4 seed with both Minnesota and Illinois. The Gophers downed UW on Sept. 27, while the Badgers outlasted Illinois in their regular-season home finale. All three squads have earned 16 points in conference matches, with the Gophers holding the tie-break in the case that all three win in the final weekend of competition. Either way, the scenarios that are bound to unfold will not hamper UW's chances at a trip to Bloomington, Ind. -- they will only make the journey toward its first Big Ten tourney title in over a decade that much more difficult.

Quick Hits:
Silence of the Lam-Feist
Senior Monica Lam-Feist has tallied a career-high 13 points in 2012, including a pair of scores in UW's 4-2 win over Purdue on Friday, Oct. 19, posting her first multi-goal match of the season. Lam-Feist's quiet demeanor is off-set by her aggressive on-field approach to defending, as well as scoring points. This season, the senior is leading the Badgers in shots (52) and is second in total goals (6).

Goal-oriented
The Badgers are tallying goals at a rapid pace this season. After 18 matches, Wisconsin has eclipsed its entire goal total from 2011. Behind a trio of four-goal outings and a five-goal performance against South Dakota State, the Badgers have 37 goals to date, 11 more than their total output all of last season, with one regular season match to go.

Wisconsin's offensive improvement is largely due to its aggressiveness on the front line. UW is outshooting its opponents 251-206 and are outscoring foes 37-23. 

B1G Race: Badgers back in Big Ten Tourney hunt

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Following the Badgers' 3-0 week, UW has now positioned itself to make a move for a top-four seed in the 2012 Big Ten Tournament scheduled to begin later this month in Bloomington, Ind. The Badgers have three regular-season matches left -- all on the road -- against squads who are also in the hunt for the top-eight spots in the tournament field. 
       "To get nine more points is the focus for us moving forward," UW head coach Paula Wilkins said. "There have been momentum building moments in all of the seasons and we've got to use last week as a momentum builder."

Quick Kicks:
Clutch Cara 
Sophomore Cara Walls played the role of savior during the Badgers last two matches, notching game-winning goals against both Northwestern and Illinois. The sophomore is currently tied for third in the Big Ten in game-winning goals (2) and now leads her team in points (17) and goals (8), after tallying 19 points and nine goals in 2011. 

10 is the magic number 
For the fourth-consecutive season the Badgers have eclipsed the 10-win plateau. Following UW's 2-1 double-overtime win over Illinois on Sunday, the Badgers matched their win total from 2011, with three matches left in the regular season. UW has now tallied 10 or more wins in seven of the last 10 years, making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament during five of those 10 double-digit winning seasons. 

Paige-turner: New year brings Adams success

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Following a season in which she tallied one goal and recorded no more than four shots all year, junior Paige Adams has emerged as arguably the most important member of the 2012 Badgers squad. The British Columbia native is currently leading the UW in points (14) and goals (5), and is tied for the lead in assists (4). As Adams goes, so do the Badgers as UW holds a 7-2-0 record when the junior records at least a point. Adams has either scored or assisted on a goal in nine of 14 matches this season, including a crucial penalty-kick goal in a 3-2 double-overtime win against Illinois St. on Sept. 9. 

Quick Kicks:
Know the foe - The Wildcats
Northwestern is 4-8-2 and has yet to record a win in Big Ten play in 2012. They are currently in the midst of a seven-match winless streak, with their last win dating back to Sept. 9, over Yale. Kate Allen is leading the Wildcats in points (15) and goals (6), while Allen and KK Barr are tied for the lead in assists with three.

McClimon Magic
The Badgers are 5-2-0 at the McClimon Soccer Complex this season, a feat UW has not accomplished since 2009. UW holds a 27-14-7 (.622) record at McClimon during the Paula Wilkins era and have recorded shutouts in 14 of its last 19 home matches, including four alone this season. UW is outscoring opponents, 16-8, at home in 2012 after kicking off its season with three-straight shutout victories.

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Badger freshmen Kinley McNicoll was named to Top Drawer Soccer's top-100 freshmen list, released Tuesday morning. McNicoll came in at No. 57 and is just one of 12 Big Ten rookies to make the list.

The Ontario native came to UW as part of head coach Paula Wilkins' highly-touted freshmen bunch and has shined since earning the starting nod early on during the 2012 pre-season. McNicoll is one of just four freshmen to start for the Badgers, and has garnered seen action in nearly every minute of all 14 contests this season, posting a goal in Monday night's 2-0 win over Green Bay.

McNicoll is third among all Badgers in points (10) and has shown flashes of experience and grit only seen in someone who has redshirted or is nearing the end of their four-year career.

The freshman has shown aggressiveness, ranking second on UW in shots (26) but has also displayed her unselfishness, notching only 10 shots on goal and tallying four assists this season. 

Late Arrival: Richard impressive in goal

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First appeared in Varsity

Genevieve Richard began the season out of the running for the starting GK position at UW. Richard was selected to join the Canadian National Team at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in late August, missing most of preseason camp. 

Richard returned to Madison to find the Badgers sitting in the top-25 and riding a five-game home win streak. Following a 1-2-0 stretch, the junior was inserted into the starting GK role, making her first in-game appearance on the road against Ohio State. 

The Quebec native did not disappoint, tallying six saves and posting UW's first road shutout of 2012. 


Quick Hits:
Early Bird Gets the Worm: UW holds a 60 percent chance of winning the match when scoring first and are 6-0-0 in game's where they have accomplished just that this season. The Badgers are 5-0-0 when leading at the half and 2-1-1 when tied heading into the intermission.

Goal-oriented: After 12 matches, Wisconsin has recorded nearly 90 percent of its entire goal total from 2011. Behind a pair of four-goal outings and a five-goal performance against South Dakota State, the Badgers have 23 goals to date, just three shy of their 2011 total of 26 goals. Wisconsin's offensive improvement is largely due to its aggressiveness on the front line. UW is outshooting its opponents 159-150 and is outscoring foes 23-15.

Five Badgers begin NBA camps, all with new addresses

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With the men's hoops season looming and Wisconsin fans in anticipation of yet another season of Badger basketball, a handful of former UW hoopsters are beginning their journey at the next level.

NBA training camp officially tipped off Tuesday, and all five former Badgers in the NBA are suiting up with new squads in 2012-13.

Devin Harris - Atlanta Hawks
2011-12 Stats: 11.3 PPG, 5.0 APG, 1.0 SPG 
Harris begins the 2012-13 season with his fourth NBA team and will be expected to take over the reins at the point following the abrupt trade of all-star Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets. The 2004 Big Ten Player of the Year joins a relatively young roster that includes only seven players with five or more years of NBA experience but has the luxury of one of the more explosive front courts in the entire NBA with Josh Smith and Al Horford at the forward and center positions, respectively. Harris is no stranger to the spotlight and will be asked to anchor a squad that has been on the brink of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals each of the past three seasons.
VIDEO: Harris at Hawks' media day

Alando Tucker - Milwaukee Bucks
2011-12 Stats: 14.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.7 APG (Texas Legends -NBDL)
After eclipsing Michael Finley as UW's all-time leading scorer and earning AP First-Team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year honors in 2007, Tucker entered the NBA Draft and was selected 29th overall by the Phoenix Suns. The Illinois native signed with one other NBA squad (Minnesota T'Wolves) before bouncing around various NBDL and overseas franchises. Tucker will now begin his NBA journey with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he will aim to make an impression on a team that has been plagued by inexperience at the small forward position in recent years.

Greg Stiemsma - Minnesota T'Wolves
2011-12 Stats: 2.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.6 BPG
The T'Wolves were a force last season, nearly making the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Steisma begins a new chapter with Minnesota in 2012 after earning his way onto the Boston Celtics roster last year, and earning valuable minutes and the respect of the coaching staff and teammates, including future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. The Randolph, Wisconsin, natives' persistent mindset paid off with a free agent offer sheet from the T'Wolves who will expect Stiemsma to bring the same defensive intensity and shot-blocking ability that made him a fan-favorite in Boston.
VIDEO: 1-on-1 with Stiemsma

Jon Leuer - Cleveland Cavaliers
2011-12 Stats: 4.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, .508 FG PCT.
After being drafted by the Bucks in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft and spending the lockout-shortened 2012 NBA season in Milwaukee, Leuer will begin his sophomore campaign with the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers. Leuer showed flashes of stardom in his rookie season, appearing in 46 of 60 games played and tallying season-highs of 19 points (Chicago - 1/27/12) and nine rebounds (L.A. Clippers - 1/27/12), and will be expected to play a vital role on a young, yet resurging Cavs squad that is led by 2012 Rookie of Year, Kyrie Irving, at the point guard position.

Brian Butch - Utah Jazz
2011-12 Stats: 15.3 PPG, 9.8 RPG (Bakersfield Jam-NBDL)
After a stint with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2012 Summer League, Butch's resilience has landed him a spot on the Jazz's NBA training camp roster. The Polar Bear last spent time in the NBA during the 2010-11 season, signing a 10-day contract with the Denver Nuggets. Butch is battling back from the latest in a long line of injuries and looking to make the final roster on a Jazz team that has just one other NBA veteran (Al Jefferson) taller than 6-feet-10.

Ten additional former Badgers have signed contracts to play professionally overseas for the 2012-13 season. 

Badgers Playing Professionally Overseas
PLAYER LOCATION TEAM
Jason Chappell Austria Xion Dukes Klosterneuburg
Trevon Hughes Lithuania Pieno Zvaigzdes
Zach Morley Germany Alba Berlin
Keaton Nankivil Germany Ratiopharm Ulm
Ray Nixon Japan Shiga Lakestars
Kirk Penney Turkey TED Kolejliler Ankara
Kammron Taylor   Germany    Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg     
Jordan Taylor Italy Virtus Roma
Mike Wilkinson Russia Unics Kazan
Rob Wilson Cyprus Ydra Asfalistiki ENAD

Road Test: UW prepares for key B1G road trip

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MADISON, Wis. --The Badgers hit the road this week for a pair of B1G matches against Minnesota (9/27) and Ohio State (9/30) and will end its regular-season schedule playing six of its final nine contests away from home. 

With an updated RPI of 23, including marquee wins over Notre Dame, Illinois St. and Milwaukee, the Badgers have the strength of schedule to make a postseason run. 

Recent losses to No. 8 Penn St. and No. 22 Michigan hurt the Badgers' chances but UW can make a strong case for itself and take a huge step toward regaining momentum in the B1G race with a good showing on the road this week.

Quick Hits:
Shooting Stars: The Badgers hold a 4-0-0 record in 2012 when outshooting opponents, with a pair of those victories coming in shutout fashion. The Badgers rank eighth in the conference in shots, averaging 11.33 a match, with senior Monica Lam-Feist leading the team through 10 games with 29.

McClimon Magic: The Badgers are 5-1-0 at the McClimon Soccer Complex this season, a feat UW has not accomplished since 2008. UW holds a 27-13-7 (.648) record at the McClimon Complex during the Paula Wilkins era and have recorded shutouts in 14 of its last 18 home matches.

Quick Kicks: Forever young

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After an impressive freshman campaign, Cara Walls entered 2012 as one of Paula Wilkins' premier players. Walls' dominance has not wavered but a pair of underclassmen are surfacing as formidable threats for a team that has not lost a game at home this season.

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Sophomore Kodee Williams and freshman Kinley McNicoll are two of the most active players for Wilkins in 2012. McNicoll is third on the team in points (8), while Williams brings unmatched intensity coming off of the bench, tallying three goal already this year. Together, the trio has combined for 24 of UW's 40 points and have scored 40 percent of the team's goals. 

Quick Hits:
Goal-oriented
After eight games, Wisconsin has recorded 76 percent of its entire goal total from 2011. Behind a pair of four-goal outings and a five-goal performance against South Dakota State, the Badgers have 20 goals to date, just six shy of their 2011 total of 26.

Ram(Paige) Adams
Making the most of her senior season, Paige Adams is leading the Badgers in points (10) and total goals (4). Adams has tallied at least a point in six of UW's eight matches this season, and is currently on a four-game point scoring streak, tallying goals in all home matches except for one. Ironically, the only two matches Adams has failed to tally a point in have resulted in losses at No. 2 UCLA (8/31) and No. 11 Penn State (9/16).

ON WISCONSIN