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Badgers climb into rarefied air

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Gasser_Josh_Marquette_2013_14_Gotter_web.jpgMADISON, 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.

Leuer scores team-high 17 points for Grizzlies

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Thumbnail image for 72505121.jpgJon Leuer is playing on his fourth team in three NBA seasons, but if this year's preseason is any indication, he might have finally found a home with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Leuer - who was drafted by the Bucks in 2011, traded to Cleveland, then Houston and ultimately Memphis in Jan. of 2013 - played sparingly last season for the Grizzlies. After a vote of confidence re-signing in the summer, Leuer has made an impact in Memphis' first two preseason games.

Following a nine-point, five-rebound, four-assist effort against the Bulls, Leuer scored a team-high 17 points with 10 rebounds and five assists against the Mavericks Wednesday night. What might be an even better sign is that he played a team-high 34 minutes off the Memphis bench.

The Grizzles were playing without a few of their regulars, but Leuer seized the opportunity. The only negative on the 2011 UW alum's performance?

"He needs to be more selfish," Memphis head coach Dave Joerger said after the game. "I thought he passed up a bunch of shots tonight."

Gives him something to work on I guess.

Landry producing for Lakers as NBA training camps begin

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- Badgers in the NBA Page

MADISON, Wis. -- It seems like just a few days ago that LeBron James and the Heat were cutting down the nets after dispatching the Spurs in the NBA Finals. But here we are in October and NBA training camps have ramped up again, including five former Badgers spread around the league.

Marcus Landry (L.A. Lakers) is averaging 8.0 points per game in 13.5 minutes, including a 13 points off the bench against Denver Sunday night. Landry is 4-for-11 from 3-point range in the early going.

Greg Stiemsma (Pelicans) signed a free agent contract with New Orleans in the offseason and got the starting nod in the team's 116-115 win in the preseason opened over Houston. Stiemsma played 10 minutes and did not score.

Kammron Taylor (Celtics), Devin Harris (Mavericks) and Jon Leuer (Grizzlies) all begin their preseason schedules Monday night.



Real meaning of the 'changing of the guard'

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IMG_4785_blog.jpgWednesday morning began with breakfast at the hotel restaurant, a diverse buffet with hot and cold breakfast staples as well as more interesting early morning fare like cured meats and brown beans.

Then it was off on a walking tour of downtown Ottawa. The team marched a few blocks to Parliament Hill to watch the 10 a.m. Changing of the Guard ceremony. It's a pretty neat mix of pageantry, marching band and bagpipe music and military drills performed by the Ceremonial Guard.

After the ceremony, head coach Bo Ryan gathered the team for what seemed like an important message.

"Guys, I don't see what the big deal is about changing of the guards. Bronson (Koenig) and George (Marshall), go in and take out Ben (Brust) and Josh (Gasser). That's the changing of the guards," Ryan joked.

Pretty hard for this group to blend in - 20-some people walking around in matching white Wisconsin Basketball shirts, with many of the group towering over the standard tourists. Let's just say the players get approached a lot for photos and questions.

Then we met our tour guide, Alex, and got the historical background on Ottawa and some its major landmarks, visiting Parliament Hill, the Ottawa River, a view of Quebec, Rideau Canal, Sparks Street, Chateau Laurier, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and ByWard Market.
 
Photo Gallery of the Badgers in Ottawa

Temperatures were around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), so it was a bit toasty for this area. In fact there is a heat advisory in effect here - feels pretty good if you ask this group.

Then it was back to the hotel for a little rest before tonight's game. Hard to believe we're in pregame routine mode in August, but we are. Pregame meal at 3 p.m., bus leaves at 5:30 p.m., game time at 7 p.m.

Wisconsin vs. Carleton
Raven's Nest Gym in the Alumni Hall
7 p.m. - RogersTV

Travel day - Ottawa arrival

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Greetings from Ottawa, Ontario!
Salutations du Canada!

Tuesday was a travel day for the Badgers as they began their eight-day, five-game exhibition tour of Canada. Following a bus ride to Chicago, 16 of the 17 Badgers players (Zach Bohannon is in Madison for orientation to the UW MBA program and will join the team in progress) and staff hopped a midday flight to Ottawa.

The team was met with English and French speaking Customs officials, to which Bo Ryan deadpanned, "I think those four years of French 1 are going to come in handy on this trip."

Upon arrival, the team was given literature on the history of Ottawa and Canada at large. Did you know Dan Aykroyd, Paul Anka, Alanis Morissette and Matthew Perry are Ottawa natives? Neither did we.

The drive in to downtown Ottawa showed off the beautiful riverside and historic buildings and gave the travel party just a glimpse of what tomorrow's walking tour of the city will hold.

After checking into the downtown hotel and grabbing a quick snack, it was off to the trip's only practice at the Raven's Nest at Carleton University. Bo Ryan led the team through an hour and a half workout, further acclimating the team to the international FIBA rules that will be enforced tomorrow night.

Then it was back to the hotel for a late bite to eat and a soft bed. Tomorrow is gameday.

What do the Badgers know about Canada?

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Prior to the Badgers' five-game exhibition tour of Canada, sophomore Sam Dekker quizzed some of his teammates on their knowledge (or lack thereof) of our neighbors to the north.

Bo Ryan Accepts Big Ten Coach of the Year

Bo Ryan was named Big Ten Coach of the Year Monday. That evening he appeared on the Big Ten Network to accept the prestigious honor.


Bracketology with the Badgers

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With five regular season games left, the No. 19 Badgers still have a lot of business to take care of before March Madness. But with the calendar turning to late February its fair to start projecting how the 2013 NCAA Tournament field will shake out.

Wisconsin currently boasts a resume that includes an 18-8 record, and a third-place 9-4 mark during Big Ten play. Here is where the Badgers rank on other lists:
- No. 9 Strength of Schedule
- No. 9 in the Ken Pomeroy Ratings
- No. 12 in the Sagarin Ratings
- No. 26 in the RPI

Here is a look at where some of the national pundits are placing Wisconsin in the 2013 NCAA Tournament:
- ESPN Bracketology - Joe Lunardi: 5 seed in San Jose, Calif. playing Belmont (Duke is the No. 1 seed in that regional)
- CBS Sports Jerry Palm: 5 seed in San Jose, Calif. playing Middle Tennessee State (Miami is the No. 1 seed in the regional)
- NBC Sports: 5 seed in Austin, Texas playing Iowa State (Florida is the No. 1 seed in the regional)
- USA Today: No. 5 seed in San Jose, Calif. playing Louisiana Tech (Duke is the No. 1 seed in that regional)
- Yahoo Sports: Ranked as top No. 5 seed



Everything to be 'all white' when Wisconsin faces Nebraska

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WHITE_MBB_uniform.jpgWhen Wisconsin and Nebraska meet on the hardwood this season, both teams will be wearing special adidas "White Out" uniforms. The first such meeting comes this Sunday in Lincoln, Neb.

Similar to the adidas jerseys worn by NBA teams on Christmas day, both team's uniforms on Sunday will feature a solid color blocking of team logos, word marks and numbers with minimal accent color and shimmer finish for a bold on-court look. UW's uniform will be completely white uniform with white lettering and numbers accented by red trim. The Huskers will wear a red-on-red variation.

Wisconsin is also scheduled to wear the white-on-white jerseys when Nebraska makes a return trip to the Kohl Center on Feb. 26.

Sunday's game between UW and NU tips off at 3:30 p.m. (CT) on the Big Ten Network.

Three keys for Wisconsin vs. Florida

Defending the 3-point line
Wednesday night's top-25 match-up between Wisconsin and Florida is a case of strength vs. strength. Last season the Gators led the NCAA in made 3-pointers per game with an average of 9.5 per outing and shooting at rate of 38 percent. Florida's backcourt of Kenny Boyton (266) and Mike Rosario (187) have made a combined 453 3-pointers in their careers. To put that into perspective, UW's active leader in made triples is Ben Brust... with 62.

The good news is, Wisconsin ranked second in all of the NCAA in fewest 3-pointers allowed a year ago, surrendering just 3.6 per game and allowing opponents to made just 29 percent (11th in the country). In fact, only once did a UW opponent make at least nine 3-pointers in a game last season, and that was Iowa with 10.

Putting up a fence along the perimeter is pivotal vs. the Gators.

Two of the best BIG shooters
A one-on-one match-up to keep an eye on in this game is the battle between Florida's 6-foot-10 forward Erik Murphy and the Badgers' 6-foot-10 forward Jared Berggren. What you'll be watching is two of the best big-man shooters in all of college basketball.

Among players 6-foot-10 or taller, Murphy and Berggren finished first and third, respectively in made 3-pointers last season. Murphy knocked down 59-of-140 shots from downtown and Berggren connected on 42-of-121.

Bombs away.

Tempo, tempo, tempo
Wednesday night's game figures to be a baptism by fire for Wisconsin's young backcourt. Florida is a team conditioned on pressure defense and forcing turnovers. And after seeing the cramped nature of the O'Connell Center (the O-Dome), I can understand why. The sidelines are so close to the court, they feel like extra defenders.

The Gators - who forced 19 turnovers in their season opener - forced 10 or more turnovers in 29 of their 37 games a year ago. In recent memory, protecting the ball has been a major strength of the Wisconsin program. In fact, over the last three seasons, the Badgers have finished No. 1, No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation in fewest turnovers per game.

But that was the Jordan Taylor era.

Now, redshirt freshman George Marshall and sophomore Treavon Jackson are thrust into the spotlight, and into the blender. How the young guys handle it will be of great interest.

When thinking about the tempo of this game, think about UW's game at North Carolina early in the season a year ago. The Tarheels wanted to play fast and loose and turn it into a high-possession game (at least 140 total possessions). Florida will have similar ambitions.

In Chapel Hill, the Badgers dictated the tempo and kept the game to just 123 total possessions. That kept Wisconsin in it until the end, when UNC pulled out the 60-57 win.

Look for a similar recipe in Gainesville if the Badgers are going to pull off the early-season upset.
ON WISCONSIN