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It has become one of the Big Ten's more entertaining rivalries, enhanced because both teams have been championship caliber of late. In fact, in the last eight years, either Wisconsin or Ohio State has won the league title.
Taking it a step further, in the last 20 years, the Buckeyes and the Badgers rank 1-2 in the conference for number of victories.
It is the mark of a true, hotly-contested series. Add to it both programs have loyal, vocal fan bases that don't seem to care for one another, and you have the makings for good theatre.
But these days, there is a little twist. Former UW coach Bret Bielema did not see eye-to-eye with OSU's Urban Meyer. In a highly-competitive business, that will happen. However, there is a much different relationship between Gary Andersen and the Buckeyes boss.
Actually, Andersen and Meyer are good friends and former co-workers. When Meyer was the head man at Utah, Andersen was the defensive line coach. The year they were together, the Utes went 12-0.
Granted, going undefeated is a good way to get along, but both Meyer and Andresen have made it very clear there is much respect and personal admiration between the two men.
It reminds me of the relationship basketball coach Bo Ryan has enjoyed with his Ohio State counterpart, Thad Matta. (For that matter, of much lesser importance, our broadcast team gets along extremely well with the Ohio State radio crew. Knowing that, I am sure you will sleep much better tonight.)
Sure, every one of these coaches is a fierce competitor, and when the teams square off, each wants his squad to beat the daylights out of the opponent. But each is careful to make it about the players, not coach versus coach.
So, knowing that Andersen and Meyer are buds, does that alter your view of this rivalry? Does it lesson the hype? Does it make it any less enjoyable?
Nah, didn't think so. It is still Ohio State. Be honest -- you don't like the Buckeyes -- and they are not fond of the Badgers.
Understandable. Think about some of the recent meetings. It was 10 years ago when Matt Schabert connected with Lee Evans for the game-winning touchdown toss at Camp Randall Stadium. Good ol' 56 Jerk. That was the name of the play, with Evans running an out and up past star defensive back Chris Gamble.
Three years ago, there was David Gilreath's opening haymaker, a 97-yard kickoff return that sent the home crowd into a frenzy. Actually, the crowd had been in a frenzy for hours. The return ramped it up another notch -- or three.
Ohio State has had its moments too, especially recently. Last November Curt Phillips engineered a clutch scoring drive in the final minute of regulation, only to see the Buckeyes win in overtime. Two years ago was even worse, when a Russell Wilson-led rally was washed out by Braxton Miller's 40-yard strike to Devin Smith.
This Saturday night, I have the feeling it will be another close game. If that is the case, perhaps it is the Badgers turn to land the final blow.
Whatever happens, Andersen and Meyer will remain friends. At some point in the offseason, they likely will get together.
Friends and rivals. While not exactly a new concept, it is a change of pace in this series.
It is just another interesting storyline in what has become a much-talked about matchup between two very good football programs, and two very good coaches.
Before I started writing this column, I thought maybe I should move on to another topic. The old line "The horse is dead. Get off of it," comes to mind.
Then again, as an observer I have a luxury that a coach or a player does not have -- I can hang on to a topic a bit longer.
In the aftermath of last Saturday's baffling ending in Tempe, it has been amazing to see how UW head coach Gary Andersen and his players have dealt with it. Of course fans are upset. I was ticked off. Still am.
Yet try to imagine how they feel. The players and coaches who worked all week, and all night, at Sun Devil Stadium only to have a bungled piece of officiating deny them a chance to win the game fair and square.
Leaving the stadium that night, one could not help but be impressed by how the head coach and the players handled the media session.
I was thinking about that, and about how the officiating crew simply ran off the field, with no worries about facing questions from reporters.
What is wrong with that picture?
Look, when talking about officials, a team's radio announcer is walking a tight rope. We are all homers, right? So I'll stop there and focus on other matters.
Such as the postgame interviews. On our radio broadcast, we always interview the head coach and when possible, a player. Last Saturday night we did our usual interview with Andersen, which included a few questions about the final play. He answered the questions on point, and was a complete professional.
After thanking him, I stalled for a few moments, not sure whether we would be able to talk to a player. I then went into a rather lengthy commercial break. Just as I went into the break, our sideline reporter, Patrick Herb, informed me that Chris Borland would be available. I told Patrick to relay the message that the break would last a few minutes, and with the team wanting to get home, we would understand if Chris just wanted to move on.
Nope. Borland waited out the long break, and we had our interview.
It may be a minor thing, but to me it is just another example of what Chris Borland is about, and what this program is about. Credibility and accountability.
Every Monday, Andersen meets with the media. As you would expect, this week's session was very well attended, and everyone was eager to hear more from the coach regarding Saturday's bizarre ending.
Perhaps he was still steaming on the inside, but on the outside, he was cool, calm and collected. He made it clear that, while the outcome of the game will not change, he wants accountability. Just as he expects from himself and his players.
As he was answering question after question, I just kept thinking to myself "This guy is good."
By the nature of our jobs, Gary Andersen and I spend a fair amount of time together. We conduct various radio interviews as well as a couple of segments on his weekly TV show. Still, I can't say we really know each other that well yet.
However, with each passing day, I am more and more convinced the Badgers football program is not in good hands. It is in great hands.
So to the fans, go ahead and be upset about how the game ended. But I would hope you are proud of how your team, led by its coach, responded after a game ended by circumstances beyond its control.
Matt Lepay is the Voice of fhe Badgers and provides play-by-play coverage of Wisconsin football and men's basketball on the Badger Sports Network. Read "The Voice" each Thursday in Varsity, the official digital magazine of Wisconsin Athletics.
As sports fans, it is only natural to view a favorite team or a favorite player simply by performance in the athletic arena. Did it win or lose? How many points did so-and-so score? How many goals? How fast did he or she run?
Badger fans have enjoyed the opportunity to view a number of memorable performances in a variety of sports. On a yearly basis, UW teams have given fans ample reason to cheer.
For the last five years, the University of Wisconsin has had an event that celebrates the student-athletes' successes beyond the playing field. It is called The Buckinghams, and it is quite a show. The purpose is to recognize those who have excelled in the classroom and in the community. The program also gives several student-athletes the opportunity to display their unique talents, which this year ranged from tap dancing to performing an opera piece.
It truly is a showcase of excellence
The organizers, with special mention to Director of Student-Athlete Development Bridget Woodruff, somehow manage to gather student-athletes from every sport in the same room for a well-planned, entertaining evening.
In addition to the official award winners, an unofficial trophy for toughness should go to women's hockey player Katy Josephs. In addition to her gifts as a forward for Mark Johnson's hockey team, Josephs also possesses a beautiful signing voice. However, earlier in the day during rehearsal, she was feeling lousy -- as evidenced by her constant coughing.
As someone who speaks for a living, having a cold or the flu can be a nightmare. I figured she would be listed as doubtful for the event. I was wrong. The show must go on, right? So Katy sang, and she was outstanding in her rendition of "Try" by P!nk.
Never doubt the focus of a determined Badger.
* * * *
Also, never doubt the loyalty of a Badger. Last Friday night, 175 former UW football players were in town to take a look at the new locker room and players' lounge, as well as the new varsity sports and football weight rooms. The word "impressive" hardly does justice to the finished product. Those who attended probably understand more than most the importance of the project. I also should add this group came away very impressed and excited about coach Gary Andersen.
During the reunion weekend, some 500 former players and their families were in attendance for Saturday's spring game. It was a treat to see players from several eras. On a personal note, I really enjoyed seeing some of the guys from my first years here in the late 1980s. Those seasons might have been difficult, but there were some very good players on those teams, and many of them were on campus last week. It was fun catching up with them.
That connection is important. Hopefully every athlete who has gone through this university understands that he or she is part of a special group. Think of the number of young boys and girls who dream of being a Badger. Yet in the grand scheme of things, only a select few get that opportunity. You might be an ex-player, but you are never an ex-Badger. I spoke to those who have not been around very much in recent years. My message is simple -- don't be a stranger.
In the last week, I have visited with a number of current athletes as well as those of yesteryear. Watching them perform, or listening to some old stories simply reminds me that I am very lucky to be associated with this institution.
As the spring sports season continues, I wish all the best for a strong finish.
Thank you for checking out my blog this season. Have a great spring and summer!
With any luck, this Saturday's spring game at Camp Randall Stadium will unfold with actual spring weather.
Then again, since that is out of our control, why worry about it? A day in the high 40s is football weather, right?
Outdoor practices have been infrequent this spring, but on Monday, coach Gary Andersen had his team scrimmage during a steady rain. While the offense had its struggles, Andersen was encouraged with a seemingly little thing that can become a big thing.
"We didn't drop the ball in the snap," he said. "That was impressive, especially from a rookie center (redshirt freshman Dan Voltz) and a bunch of different quarterbacks. (The players) didn't say a word about the weather. That's a good thing. They go out and take care of business, which is what we would expect to have done."
During an interview this week on Madison radio station The Big 1070, Andersen talked about the development of his team in general, and of some of the younger players specifically. Players such as outside linebackers Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert, as well as defensive lineman James Adeyanju.
Regarding the young players, or the not-so-young Badgers who could be in line for bigger roles this fall, Saturday's scrimmage matters.
"They need to get out there," said Andersen. "Saturday is big for them to get out there and play in front of people. They need to get out and do more than run down on a kickoff."
The defense is developing, especially the front seven. While you will not see some of the familiar faces on Saturday, spring practice has given the team a chance to develop some depth.
"There are a lot of kids fighting for positions," said Andersen. "There are kids who have played for two and three years here, and played at a high level and played well that are getting pushed. And that is a good thing."
Andersen seems to fit the definition of a players' coach. He has sprinkled in some fun things during spring ball, such as having a dance contest, and having his players sing "On, Wisconsin." He says the team will sing the fight song after every game, both home and away.
My guess is Badgers fans will love it.
My guess is Badgers fans also will appreciate Andersen's sometimes candid nature. Candid without calling out specific players. During the radio interview, Andersen made it clear he wants to see more punch from the offense.
"Football is a hard game to play when you have to do everything exactly right. We need to be more explosive on offense. And that is hard sometimes when you don't have Jared (Abbrederis) out there, and James (White) doesn't get as many carries as you want.
"At the end of the day, those are just excuses. We need to be more explosive as a football team.
"We need to get some throws over 25 yards, and we need to get some runs over 15 yards consistently. When you do that, you are a good offense," he added. "Show me a good offense that just trudges down the field, you know, 12 plays, three or four times a game, and goes four or five yards at a shot -- they are not a great offense. It is impossible. There is not enough time in a game, and there are not enough quarters in a game to be able to do it that way."
Andersen acknowledges those long drives can serve a purpose in wearing down a defense. He simply would rather not have to rely solely on long, time-consuming marches. He wants to see the ball move in bigger chunks.
"We can get it done in the backfield, there is no question," said Andersen. "We have tight ends that can make some big plays. Jared can make big plays. After that, we have got to challenge ourselves as coaches, myself and players to be able to have some young men on the offensive side of the ball that can consistently make big plays down the field."
While it is one scrimmage to conclude spring practices, maybe that is something to keep an eye on.
Hope to see you this Saturday.
Maybe I have become a bit spoiled. After all, for the last 25 years, I have had a terrific seat to watch college basketball, specifically the Badgers. They have won a lot, including this season. They have won in dramatic fashion. The Big Ten regular season was thrilling, and around here, that still matters.
Sure, it would have been fun to see the Badgers put together a run in the NCAA tournament. However, with an early exit, I actually was able to watch more tourney games than I have seen in years. It was entertaining stuff. At least it was to me.
Not everyone shares that opinion. There are some, including popular national talk show hosts such as Dan Patrick and Mike Greenberg of "Mike & Mike in the Morning" fame who were underwhelmed by this year's Big Dance.
Monday night's title game aside, Patrick told his audience that outside of Florida Gulf Coast's run to the Sweet 16 and the drama of Louisville guard Kevin Ware's injury, there was little that he viewed as compelling.
On his ESPN Radio show, Greenberg expressed disappointment at the overall quality of play. In his opinion, it simply wasn't very good.
I am sure those two have company in their critique of college basketball. I just tend to believe it is not in such dire straits.
Yes, the game could use some tweaks. There probably are several reasons why scoring is down. One-and-done players likely have hurt both the college and the NBA game. Perhaps the college game is too physical. Maybe there are too many AAU games and not enough drill work in the summer.
I can buy all of that. Yet sometimes we conveniently forget that great games do not require high scores.
Remember the 1983 title game, when Lorenzo Charles dunked at the buzzer to give North Carolina State a shocking victory against Houston? The final score was 54-52.
Or how about a year earlier, when a young player named Michael Jordan hit a jumper to give North Carolina a one-point victory against Georgetown? The final was 63-62.
Then there was three years ago, when Duke hung on to beat Butler. The Blue Devils survived only when Gordon Hayward's half court heave bounced off the glass, then the rim. Final score: 61-59
Yes, scoring is down. Yes, watching teams get up and down the floor is enjoyable to watch. But to me it doesn't define whether a game is good.
I think Wichita State made for a heck of a story. Badgers fans might remember Shockers coach Gregg Marshall, who in 2006 brought a Winthrop team to the Kohl Center and took Wisconsin to overtime. This year Marshall guided a nine-seed to the Final Four.
LaSalle had to win a play-in game, also known as a "first round" game. A 13-seed made it through to the Sweet 16.
Florida Gulf Coast made us aware of Dunk City.
Michigan, while falling just short of the national title, needed a stunning comeback to get past Kansas in the Sweet 16. Ohio State had two game-winners at or just before the final horn.
All in all, the Big Ten fared well in the NCAA tournament. Four teams survived the first weekend, two made the Elite 8, and Michigan, a team that went 0-2 against the Badgers, went toe-to-toe with the tourney's overall No. 1 seed.
The college game isn't perfect, but there soon could be some changes to make it better. Earlier this week, ESPN's Andy Katz reported the rules makers are looking at expanding replay in the final minute of games. Sounds good to me.
For several years, the physical nature of games has been an issue, specifically defenders who constantly bump offensive players off course (called, oddly enough "bumping the cutters"). We will see what, if anything, is done about it.
I would guess every sport has hot topics. Basketball has its share. But overall, the product remains pretty solid to me. Perfect? No, but still very watchable.
I just hope next year I get to see more of the tournament in person.
After all, I am spoiled.
Matt Lepay's "The Voice" is featured each week in Varsity, the official digital magazine of Wisconsin Athletics. Subscribe to get Varsity delivered to your inbox each Thursday, download the official apps for iPhone and iPad or Android, and check out the complete Varsity archive on UWBadgers.com.
For sports fans, at times it can be as easy to criticize a network or even a specific announcer as it is to rip on your own team. Most of us have done it, right? It is just part of being a sports nut.
This time, rather than ranting about what is wrong with the broadcasting biz, please allow me to offer praise to those in charge at CBS Sports. Last Sunday during the NCAA basketball tournament, the network faced a very difficult situation. Just when you think television, or broadcasting in general, is all about sensationalism, CBS opted to be -- shall I say it? -- responsible.
By now, we all know the story. Duke and Louisville in the Midwest Regional final. An intense, high stakes game featuring two tradition-rich programs. Suddenly, the game itself took a backseat to a terrible moment. Louisville's Kevin Ware, running out to the right wing in an attempt to block a shot, landed the wrong way. He also landed near his team's bench.
Ware suffered a compound fracture that was so ghastly, several of his teammates collapsed in shock and horror. Coach Rick Pitino admitted he nearly vomited when he looked at Ware's leg.
Within a minute or so of the injury, CBS showed two replays. The rest of the coverage focused on the reaction of the players and coaches. We could see the concern from the Duke players as well as coach Mike Krzyzewski. We could see the tears from Pitino, and the look of fear and genuine sadness from Ware's teammates.
The injury to Ware reminded me of a Badgers-Manhattan NIT game at the Field House in 1996, when Mosezell Peterson suffered an awful knee injury. Because they had an up-close view of what happened, some fans seated near the floor became ill. From our broadcast position in the upper level, I knew it was bad, but we did not have a monitor to see a replay. The following day I took at look, not from the TV copy, but rather the team's video. I didn't need to see it again.
I suppose there are some who wanted CBS to show a few more replays. They recall the 1985 Monday Night Football game when Joe Theismann's leg injury was so bad that it frightened New York Giants hall of fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Or closer to home, when former Badgers great Tim Krumrie broke his leg in Super Bowl XXIII.
And let's face it, there are some viewers who just HAVE to see it. And there are some TV producers and other executives who are more than willing to please, all in the name of higher ratings.
Not this time, and for that CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus deserves credit.
We don't live in the 1980s or '90s anymore, so McManus allowed modern technology and common sense to rule the day.
The Huffington Post quotes McManus as saying "If people want to go watch the footage for whatever reason, they have the right to do so. I just didn't think we had any obligation to be the facilitator of putting that footage back on the screen. We documented it, we described it and we showed it, and I think that was enough."
It was enough.
To be clear, other networks have shown restraint, but it was CBS taking the lead. Anyone who wants to see the replay can do so at his or her convenience. On Sunday afternoon, some wise decision makers in a production room chose to spare us from taking one more look at a stomach-turning moment. We knew it was bad, and there was no need to show it again and again.
At least in this instance, responsibility prevailed.
It is safe to say the Wisconsin Badgers opened some eyes at last weekend's Big Ten tournament in Chicago. When you beat two teams ranked in the top 10 and take a third to the final minute, it only makes sense that people will notice. Even the skeptics had to admit this team might not be so bad. After all, who else went 4-0 against Indiana and Michigan?
While the Badgers might have surprised many, one gets the impression they did not exactly shock themselves. Quite the contrary. The players walked out of the United Center in less than a great mood. Sure, there is excitement about the program's 15th-straight trip to the NCAA tournament, but the Badgers departed Chicago knowing how close they were to winning a trophy.
"We know we can play with anyone," said freshman Sam Dekker. "It is not a surprise to us when we have big wins like that. We expected to come down here and win the tournament. That is plainly stated. I feel like most of the guys probably said the same thing."
"We let one slip away. That is a bitter taste, but we have to correct that and use that energy Friday down in Kansas City, and hopefully take care of business."
The business at hand is facing an Ole Miss team that is fresh off an SEC tournament championship. The Rebels will come to town with a five-game winning streak, which includes a come-from-behind victory against Florida in the conference title game.
Sunday's victory secured the first NCAA trip for Ole Miss since 2002. That little nugget brings up the question about how much, if at all, does experience matter in the Big Dance?
I figure it does not hurt to have it, but experience alone certainly offers no guarantees of success.
"The seniors have been through it and all that," said coach Bo Ryan. Then, ever the coach, he offered the following advice: "But what the seniors need to be doing is talking to themselves about playing better.
"We need to have the young and the old if we expect to get something done in the tournament. Especially with the way they set it up in our bracket. There are a lot of challenges out there."
With Ole Miss, the challenges begin with trying to contain junior guard Marshall Henderson, who will shoot from anywhere and say almost anything. Flamboyant? To say the least. More importantly, Henderson can put a team on his back.
His teammates aren't too bad either. Reggie Buckner has rejected 91 shots this season, while 6-foot-7 senior Murphy Holloway averages 9.6 rebounds. He has 38 double-doubles in his career.
Similar to Wisconsin, Ole Miss has dealt with injuries. The latest for the Rebels occurred to starting point guard Jarvis Summers, who suffered a concussion in the Rebels' opening SEC tourney game against Missouri. Summers missed the last two games, but Ole Miss moved on, defeating Vanderbilt and the Gators in route to earning the automatic bid to the NCAAs.
All week we will read and hear about how these programs are polar opposites, but both the Badgers and the Rebels appear to be pretty good at proving people wrong, and I believe it is a safe guess to say both teams enjoy doing just that.
It never hurts to have a little fun, and Badgers guard Ben Brust is hoping his group can have an extended experience in college basketball's showcase event.
"It's a special thing," he said. "Everyone dreams of it growing up. You want to play in the NCAA tournament. So, enjoy every moment, but at the same time stay focused on the task at hand because we are capable of making a run."
That run begins Friday morning, and hopefully the Badgers will be running for the next few weeks.
Last fall, Bo Ryan and his fellow Big Ten basketball coaches told anyone willing to listen how good the league would be this season. Badgers associate head coach Greg Gard said there are no "feel-good" games. In other words, no team on the schedule would serve as a breather.
Ryan and Gard were right. So was everyone else.
The Big Ten tournament can be an excellent showcase for the league. In his perfect world, Ryan would simply play more regular season games, but even he believes this could be a wild weekend at the United Center. If you have a ticket to this sold-out show, consider yourself lucky.
As good as the tournament might be, it will be hard pressed to top the regular season. Give Indiana credit for winning the championship. In a sports sense, it truly was a game of survival.
Look at it this way. In the closing seconds of last Sunday's Michigan-Indiana game, the Wolverines' Jordan Morgan was trying to tip in a missed shot from teammate Trey Burke. The ball hung on the right side of the rim, then fell off. That was the difference between Michigan winning a piece of the title and being the fifth seed this week.
From the Badgers' perspective, that miss, preceded by Traevon Jackson's buzzer-beater at Penn State, allowed Wisconsin to earn a first-round bye for the 13th-straight year.
To some, if not many, this seemed to be shaping up as a season when the Badgers finally finished in the lower half of the Big Ten. It is the nation's best conference, and the Badgers were going to be without Josh Gasser. Mike Bruesewitz sliced his leg, then a few weeks later suffered a concussion. Young players had to grow up in a hurry.
Maybe it hasn't always been pretty, but they are growing up. Put it all together, and once again the Badgers exceeded expectations in the conference race.
For those efforts, Bo Ryan is the 2013 Big Ten Coach of the Year. Deservedly so.
As was the case the previous two times he was so honored, Ryan made it about the team. His name will be on the plaque, but it is the school he represents that makes him smile.
"It is nice because it always has the 'University of Wisconsin' coach. That is what matters the most. They get our brand in there."
It can be easy to wonder what might have been. What if Wisconsin had held on at Minnesota? Or what if they could have played better against Purdue on Senior Day.
Ryan knows that works both ways, and points out that more of those either/or games went the Badgers' way. Games such as the overtime thrillers with Michigan and Iowa, not to mention last Sunday's game with Penn State.
Through the injuries and the other challenges of the regular season, the Badgers finished in the top four -- again. That is a remarkable 12 straight years of a fourth-place or better showing. In the Big Ten, only Purdue has a longer streak, and that happened between 1920 and 1932.
"Take a look at the players from 2001 to now," Ryan said on his weekly radio show Monday. "You just say, boy, they were very consistent in their competitive values, in their style, in how they tried to get things done."
"You know, our teams haven't changed that much. Some years maybe you have a little more of this, a little less of that. But to be as consistent as they have been, I am extremely proud of the way they have played.
"(I am proud of) the assistant coaches, our philosophy -- we have made some tweaks, but we still try to do it on fundamentals, working hard, and good things will happen."
Despite the obstacles, the Badgers have made plenty of good things happen.
Now they get a chance to make a good thing even better.
Wow. Give my wife a blog for one week, and she crushes me for my lack of pop culture knowledge. OK, until the last month or so, I knew little, if anything, about Ke$ha. I had no clue about the Harlem Shake. Guilty.
But completely unhip? I object.
For comfort, I turned to Ryan Evans. After practice last Sunday, the Badgers had a brief session in the weight room. Word has it the D.J. is strength and conditioning coach Scott Hettenbach. (FYI, hey kids, D.J. means "disc jockey." The person who plays the songs. Back in the day, we called those songs "records").
Whatever the case, the music blaring included some selections that Evans loves. Current tunes you think? Nope. Try "Love Rollercoaster" by the Ohio Players. Or Heatwave's "Groove Line."
Some 1970s funk. What your friendly blogger was hearing in high school. And Ryan Evans likes it.
"It definitely favors me," says Evans. That's the stuff I was raised on. I definitely like that when it comes on."
Thank you Mr. Evans. Maybe I am not unhip after all. Maybe, just maybe, I am "sneaky hip." Seemingly out of touch, yet still fairly cool.
Let me dream, OK?
* * * *
Onto the much more important matters of the day, such as the final week of home games for the Wisconsin basketball team. Time sure flies when you are having fun, and Badger fans have had a blast watching this team, from the double overtime thriller with Iowa, to the dominating performance against Ohio State. In the middle was the dramatic OT tilt with Michigan.
Even Bo Ryan jokes that he wonders how many people will claim to have been in attendance for "The Shot," starring Ben Brust. We guess about 150,000 -- at least.
Senior Day always has plenty of emotion. The good news is there will be more games to play. Two more regular-season games, on the road at Michigan State as well as Penn State. Then there is the Big Ten tournament, followed by postseason play.
Still, these seniors know the clock is ticking.
"It feels like yesterday we were preparing for Southeastern Louisiana," said Dan Fahey. "All the older guys have said that things fly by, especially your last year. Brett (Valentyn) always told me that. It really has sunk in. It really has flown by."
It is much the same for J. D. Wise, who admits he will be "Tryin' to fight back the tears."
Each year following the final home game, there is a video presentation featuring each of the seniors.
With a smile, Wise offered up a bittersweet moment. "I was looking at the senior questions for the video. It's like sitting in my room listening to Closing Time," referring to the song released by Semisonic in 1998. (Yes, I have heard of it).
The season is far from done, but on Sunday afternoon five players will conclude a heck of a chapter in their lives. With it comes the challenge of balancing any tears with the task at hand.
"The idea is we want them to play as long as they can," says coach Bo Ryan. "That is what they keep in the forefront, that there is still a lot more (games) to play. As emotional as Senior Day can get, and it is emotional, you know our guys still understand that we've gotta play."
Hopefully, they will be playing quite a bit in the next few weeks, even if it won't be at the Kohl Center.
BY LINDA LEPAY
Mrs. Voice of the Badgers
I am here this week to share with you a big problem. In fact this issue is so pervasive that it affects almost all aspects of my life. It's sad; it's pathetic, and it's totally preventable. It may not be a problem for you (yet), but could you help a person out during these trying times?
My husband is utterly unhip.
This became apparent to me during the past couple weeks as pop culture and Badger sports merged together to give us high entertainment. In fact people everywhere are dancing, having fun and being silly.
Here's what I'm talking about:
1. Ke$ha inspires the men's basketball team. You've probably seen the YouTube video of the Badgers in the locker room jumping around to "Die Young" after they beat Michigan. Even Ke$ha got a kick out of it, tweeting that this was the 'hottest/cutest thing' she's ever seen.
2. The Grateful Red embraces the Harlem Shake. Heck, everyone is doing it, including Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
In addition to the dancing frenzy, the Grammy Awards were recently given out. This is music's big night where millionaire musicians mingle with billionaires such as Jay-Z and Beyonce.
These three events have meant that there's a lot of tutoring is going on at the Lepay house. For a guy who has made a career watching young people play sports, Matt is not tuned in to "what the kids are listening to." During the Grammys I felt like a Tanzanian native tour guide, pointing out singers and bands and explaining their significance.
Here's who Matt recognized:
• Justin Timberlake
Here's who he didn't know:
• Everyone else
At one point I started talking about the The Black Keys and The White Stripes, which left Matt baffled. I even pulled up a YouTube video of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" so he could listen to the bass line that is, gasp, being played in stadiums and arenas all over the country. (Note from Linda's husband: I AM aware of The White Stripes. Wow. Tough crowd!)
Matt is perhaps the oldest 50-year-old I know. I don't mean he's an old soul; I mean he still talks about the 1980s like it was last week. It dawned on me that his exposure to popular music ended the day he was fired downsized from a Top 40 station in Columbus, Ohio. The date was April of 1986. This explains why he knew who Prince was. (And didn't Prince look smashing at the Grammys with his fancy walking stick and sunglasses?) It also explains why he waxes nostalgic when Wang Chung is mentioned.
Look, if Tubby Smith can bust a move to Ke$ha, I'm pretty certain that Matt can learn about the ways of 21st century music. He just has to be a willing student. All work and no play makes play-by-play guys dull. (Another note from Linda's husband: Hey, Gophers, get your own song, OK?)
Here's where I need your help. If you see Matt in person, my advice is to smile at him warmly and talk about popular music the way you would to a 3-month old beagle. Talk slowly and smile a lot. I think the he'll learn best that way.
In the meantime, keep dancing and rocking, Badger Nation. I'll do my best to keep Matt in this decade. (Final note from Linda's husband: Next, she'll tell me it is no longer cool to listen to Earth, Wind & Fire. And by the way, do NOT undersell the greatness of Wang Chung. Kids today would love it.)