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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
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.
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.
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.
Junior Zach Bohannon (Marion, Iowa) will be a season-long guest contributor for CBSSports.com. Here is his first blog entry.
By Zach Bohannon
There are seven letters, two words, and one phrase that no athlete, but more specifically, no basketball player, ever wants to hear over his entire career: Torn ACL.
It can bring that player to immediate tears. But as I found out on Saturday, it can bring many of his teammates to tears as well. This is my story from the perspective of a teammate who witnessed the knee of Josh Gasser, the starting point guard for the Wisconsin Badgers, buckle right before his eyes.
The scariest part of the whole play was how routine and seemingly innocent it really was. We were scrimmaging during a typical Saturday morning practice. Josh was on a fast break and planted his left foot. His knee gave out. It was that simple.
Athletes hear all the time, "Play every play like it's your last," but this was one of the moments that made me take a step back and understand what that statement truly meant. I was less than 10 feet behind him trailing the play. I heard the piercing scream come out of his mouth as he crumbled to the ground. I tried to keep him calm and said, "You're fine, take some deep breaths." However, Josh knew, and shot back sharply, "No, I'm not fine!"
Everyone in the gym fell quiet. Nothing could be said. We all saw our athletic trainer and team doctor immediately test out his left knee on the court. We all prayed for the best, though we knew we had no choice but to expect the worst.
As we saw Josh get helped off the floor, none of it seemed real. Josh was the last person you expected this to happen to. Josh seemingly had no kryptonite; he was indestructible to us. Our team tried to put the shock of what we had just seen behind us. After about an hour of more practicing, Coach [Bo] Ryan called us in and told us before we did our final shooting drill we would all have a chance to see Josh before he left for the hospital. As we filed in one by one to the training room, each one of us had a moment to spend with Josh. Many of us hardly said a word; it was a quick good luck with a handshake or a hug for most. It was a very somber moment because we all knew the magnitude of the earthquake that had just shaken our team.
As practice ended and my teammates went their separate ways, we all had a day of grieving for Josh. Not because of the basketball player he is, but more importantly, for who he is as a person and what he represents for our program and for the state of Wisconsin. He truly is, and always will be, the face of our program. I personally was sick to my stomach the rest of the day because Josh is the last kid you would ever want something so devastating to happen to. However, as Josh tweeted (@JPGasser21) on that night, "Wow thanks for the support everyone. Really tough time but I will be okay.. Our team won't skip a beat, trust me. #OnWisconsin."
Throughout the mystery of life, you can think all you want about what could have, should have, or would have been? However, the greatest success stories in sports are of teams and individuals who use adversity to their advantage and come roaring back unified like never before.
Our team started the process of unification on Sunday.
Of course we were all upset and it was hard to imagine playing without Josh, but at that moment, we all realized the past is now behind us and we, as a team, had no choice but to play the ball where it lies. I will be the first to admit that our ball is in the deep rough, but all it takes is one shot to knock us back onto the green. As long as we can keep this hole under control and the damage to a minimum, we will be rewarded on the next drive with the addition of Mike Bruesewitz. Mike, who most fans recall him as "carrot top," was another player lost a few weeks ago when he suffered a seven-inch laceration during practice. At the time of his injury, our team had no idea the severity of it. We are fortunate enough to know that he will be back on the floor battling with us soon.
Our success on the court as a team will not be dictated by a few minor setbacks this season. Josh, the floor general, might be out for the year, but Josh, the leader, will be with us every step of the way on our journey toward success. And I promise you, we will have success.
For all Badger fans out there, do not let your support falter or downgrade the season due to a couple of injuries. As Josh himself said, he will be "OK." He will be back next year, stronger than ever. But the moment is now for Wisconsin basketball. There are five seniors in our locker room who must be sent out the right way.
Yes, we have had a few bumps in the road thus far that have damaged us physically. But the heart and soul of our team will not be touched, regardless of whatever adversity that is thrown our way. Our team has no choice but to continue to get better and stronger each day as one. Our focus is on the present, as shall everyone else's be in their own lives. On, Wisconsin!
The Badgers did end up getting a private meet-and-greet with the president before Obama addressed a crowd on campus.
While connections from freshman George Marshall sealed the deal to meet Obama, Bohannon's full-court press via Twitter got the ball rolling. Here is a sampling of some of Bohannon's nearly 100 Tweets aimed at Obama and his staff.
@barackobama, Sir, the Wisconsin bball team extends an offer 2 play open gym on Thursday before or after ur talk. Badgers RETWEET 4 support!-- Zach Bohannon (@ZBohannon) October 3, 2012
Wisconsin checks in at No. 23 in the Blue Ribbon poll, one of four Big Ten teams in the top 25. Indiana is their preseason favorite, followed by Michigan at No. 5, Michigan State at No. 7, Ohio State at No. 17.
In all, the Badgers are scheduled to play eight games against teams in the Blue Ribbon Top 25, including six games against top-10 teams - Indiana (1), Michigan (5), two vs. Michigan State (7), Florida (8) and Creighton (10).
Blue Ribbon preseason Top 25:
4. NC State
9. North Carolina
11. Saint Louis
17. Ohio State
21. Notre Dame
UWBadgers.com writer Mike Lucas took a whack at putting together what a Badgers 'Dream Team' would look like from the Bo Ryan era (2001-2012, current players excluded). His task was to come up with a 12-man "team," not necessarily the best 12 players from the last decade.
Here is what he came up with. Who would you pick?
Taylor, who earned his degree from UW in May, told the Wisconsin State Journal that he sees this move to Italy as a stepping stone to his ultimate goal of reaching the NBA.
"I'm looking forward to it," Taylor said. "It's a new experience. All I can do is keep working and keep trying to reach my goals and make some money in the meantime. I'm definitely not giving up on trying to get to the NBA."
Taylor hopes to join a long list of Virtus Roma alumni that have seen NBA duty, including George Gervin, Michael Cooper, Anthony Parker, Dino Radja, Brian Shaw, Rick Mahorn and Danny Ferry among others. Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings spent the 2008-09 season playing for Virtus Roma prior to being drafted by the Bucks.
Four Badgers will compete in the 2012 NBA Summer League, with the hopes of earning an invitation to an NBA training camp this coming fall. Brian Butch, Marcus Landry, Kammron Taylor and recent graduate Jordan Taylor will look to showcase their talents in front of numerous NBA scouts and GMs during the five-game, two-week slate, which is set to begin Friday, July 13th at the Thomas & Mack Center and the Cox Pavilion on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
NBA TV will televise all 60 games, including 39 live from both the Thomas & Mack Center and COX Pavilion in Las Vegas. Games will also be available online at NBA.com.
Brian Butch (2004-08) - Milwaukee Bucks
If there is one thing for certain regarding Butch and his NBA career, it is that he is persistent. After ending his last two NBA Summer League experiences earlier than expected due to injury, Butch returns looking to make up for time lost. Following graduation, the Appleton, Wis., native began his professional career in China before leaving for the Greek League later that season.
Butch eventually landed with the NBDL's Bakersfield Jam, serving as the team's starting center and earning a spot on the D-League Western Conference All-Star team. The 7-footer also spent time with the Denver Nuggets before returning to the Jam in 2010.
Schedule (All time CT):
Monday, July 16: Milwaukee vs. New Orleans (9:30 p.m.)
Wednesday, July 18: Milwaukee vs. Washington (3 p.m.)
Thursday, July 19: Milwaukee vs. NBA D-League (9 p.m.)
Saturday, July 21: Milwaukee vs. Boston (9:30 p.m.)
Sunday, July 22: Milwaukee vs. Chicago (3 p.m.)
Marcus Landry (2006-09) - Phoenix Suns
Landry began his NBA career as an undrafted free agent, earning an invite to the New York Knicks training camp and a spot on their 15-man roster at the beginning of the 2009-10 season. After being traded to Boston later in the season, the Celtics assigned Landry to the Maine Red Claws of the NBDL for the remainder of the season. Landry later spent time with the D-League's Reno Bighorns, teaming up with current New York Knick, Jeremy Lin. The Milwaukee, Wis., native spent last season playing in France for the BCM Gravelines.
Schedule (All time CT):
Sunday, July 15: Phoenix vs. New York (3 p.m.)
Tuesday, July 17: Phoenix vs. Cleveland (7:30 p.m.)
Wednesday, July 18: Phoenix vs. New Orleans (7:30 p.m.)
Friday, July 20: Phoenix vs. NBA D-League (9 p.m.)
Saturday, July 21: Phoenix vs. Memphis (9 p.m.)
Jordan Taylor (2009-2012) - Atlanta Hawks
After concluding a polished career with the Badgers that included earning All-America mention in consecutive years, Taylor begins his pro career with the Atlanta Hawks summer league organization. An undrafted free agent, Taylor earned numerous summer league offers, choosing to sign with the Hawks. Taylor will try to impress GMs at this week's summer league in the hopes of beginning his professional career at the highest level of basketball.
Schedule (All time CT):
Friday, July 13: Atlanta vs. Washington (3 p.m.)
Sunday, July 15: Atlanta vs. San Antonio (7 p.m.)
Monday, May 16: Atlanta vs. Boston (3 p.m.)
Wednesday, July 18: Atlanta vs. Dallas (7 p.m.)
Thursday, July 19: Atlanta vs. Portland (5 p.m.)
Kammron Taylor (2004-07) - Minnesota Timberwolves
Taylor returns to the U.S. after spending this past season in Ukraine where he averaged 14.6 points and 3.6 assists. The former second-team All-Big Ten honoree enjoyed stints in France, Hungary, Turkey and Spain following his UW career and now the Minneapolis native will look to build his NBA stock while playing for his hometown team.
Schedule (All times CT):
Monday, July 16: Minnesota vs. LA Clippers (9 p.m.)
Tuesday, July 17: Minnesota vs. Charlotte (9:30 p.m.)
Thursday, July 19: Minnesota vs. Cleveland (7 p.m.)
Saturday, July 21: Minnesota vs. NBA D-League (7 p.m.)
Sunday, July 22: Minnesota vs. Memphis (7 p.m.)