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MADISON, Wis. -- When the Badgers open the season Friday night, they will do so in atypical fashion, traveling to Sioux Falls, S.D. for a neutral-site contest with St. John's.
Wisconsin has not opened the season away from the Kohl Center since 2005 when they played in the Paradise Jam tournament in St. Thomas.
Further, UW hasn't opened against a team from one of the "Power 6" conferences since traveling to Tennessee to begin the 2000-01 season.
So how did we get here?
Two reasons: this game gives the Badgers a quality non-conference opponent on their schedule and UW gets to help out an old friend.
"This is a great RPI team," Ryan said of a St. John's team who played in the NIT last season. "They've got everybody back; they're very athletic. It's a team that's going to make some noise."
UW's opener will also mark a reunion of sorts.
Sanford Health CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft, father of former Badger Joe Krabbenhoft, was looking for two major programs to help with the grand opening of the brand-new Sanford Pentagon, which is the cornerstone of a $19-million, 162-acre sports complex.
Ryan's connection with the Krabbenhoft family made the Badgers an ideal fit to participate in the first-ever regular-season game played on the building's Heritage Court, a 3,200-seat retro-styled fieldhouse.
"There are some really neat features at the Pentagon and I'm excited to see it," Ryan added. "Plus we get to help Kelby showcase their new arena. Everybody wins."
Well, not everybody gets to win. Either Wisconsin or St. John's will return home with a loss on their ledger, but the early-season experience and resume-building contest can only help in the long run.
"I'm sure that the opponents that we're playing non-conference will give us the test that we need," Ryan concluded "And how we respond to them? We'll see."
Let me start by offering a round of applause to UW and all the fans who were at the Kohl Center for Saturday's Red/White Scrimmage. That was one of the best turnouts I can remember for the men's basketball team's intrasquad game, and as scrimmages go, it was a high-quality show.
From the creative player introductions, where each of the Badgers had the chance to show off a move or two with a member of the UW Dance Team, to Vitto Brown's excellent performance of the national anthem, to the down-to-the-wire game itself, it was a fun way for Wisconsin hoops fans to spend a couple of hours.
As I wrote last week, the scrimmage included one of my favorite words -- free. It was a good weekend for that word. Last Friday, UW Athletics hosted its annual Kids Day at the Kohl Center, where young boys and girls had the chance to meet a number of student-athletes. As usual, the players seemed to enjoy the day as much as the youngsters.
The cost of attending sporting events is well documented, but we also should note that UW offers a number of low-cost or no-cost events. Hopefully you were able to take advantage of at least one of those outings last week. If not, hopefully you will in the future. After all, the price is right, and those who do attend have a great time.
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For this observer, November is when the Badgers' sports world kicks into high gear. Basketball season is here. After Wednesday night's exhibition game with UW-Platteville, Bo Ryan's Badgers set their sights on the regular season opener one week from Friday against St. John's.
The Badgers and the Red Storm will help break in the new Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.. It is a 3,200-seat facility with a parquet floor that might remind you of the old Boston Garden. A couple of weeks ago, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Minnesota Timberwolves played an exhibition game there.
This game counts, and it will be fun to see coach Steve Lavin again. During his days as an ESPN analyst, Lavin was the keynote speaker on two occasions for Bo's Coaches vs. Cancer gala in Madison. This season will be Lav's fourth as St. John's head coach.
* * * *
Now to football, where after two bye weeks in October, the stretch drive begins. In an odd schedule, the Badgers will play nearly half of their slate in November, starting this Saturday in Iowa City.
It is good to see Wisconsin crack the BCS rankings at No. 24. I am biased, but I believe they deserve a higher ranking. At least they broke into the Top 25, so I will spare you the complaining -- for now.
The Badgers have five games remaining, and while none features an opponent currently in the BCS rankings, this month will be anything but easy.
Iowa is coming off an emotionally-charged overtime victory against Northwestern and most expect a very physical battle this weekend. The Hawkeyes-Wildcats game had an old-school feel to it, and I would think it will be more of the same when the Badgers roll into town.
BYU is playing well, and it has a bye this week before visiting Camp Randall a week from Saturday. The Cougars have a very good dual-threat quarterback in Taysom Hill, who leads BYU in rushing and has accounted for 20 touchdowns so far this season.
On and on it goes. Minnesota is looking better and better. Indiana can score in bunches, and while Penn State had a long Saturday night in Columbus, the Nittany Lions can be a dangerous team. Just ask Michigan.
The hectic month of November is about to begin. Yes, it can be crazy, and it also has a chance to be special.
I am looking forward to it. I am guessing you are as well.
Ready or not -- and I would guess most of you are more than ready -- another season of Wisconsin basketball is about to begin.
This Saturday, while the football team enjoys its second bye of the month, the men's basketball team will have its annual Red/White Scrimmage. Tip time at the Kohl Center is 5 p.m., and admission is one of my favorite words -- free. (Media motto: "If it's free, it's for me. I'll take three.")
Once again, it figures to be an interesting season for Bo Ryan's group. While an August trip to Canada allowed the team to get a jump start on the season, Saturday's run will mark the first opportunity for most fans to get an up-close look at the Badgers, including the six new faces in the program.
There are minutes to be had in the front court, and everyone is eager to see the next step in Frank Kaminsky's growth, as well as the development of rookies Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown.
How much this first-year class will contribute right away remains to be seen, but based on some very early observations, both mine and others, this will be enjoyable bunch to watch and get to know.
Let me put it another way -- Ryan and his staff did not go out and recruit a class of wallflowers. At last week's Steak Fry, Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Patrick Herb was quizzing seniors Ben Brust and Zach Bohannon on the newbies. When they told the crowd that Brown can carry a tune, the entire team urged him to give a little sample. Young Vitto obliged, and yes, he can sing.
Actually, the man stole the show.
Herb accurately pointed out that "women's hearts are melting."
Yeah, I know that has nothing to do with understanding what Ryan wants done on the floor, but it was a fun moment at a preseason function.
It is hard to believe that this is the 13th year for Bo Ryan as the Badgers' head coach. Time flies when your team is winning most of its games, right? For the good times to continue, it is a good guess that Ryan and his staff will be counting on veterans such as Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson and the return of Josh Gasser to help lead the way.
There is also no doubt that defenses will be dialed in to sophomore Sam Dekker. As impressive as he was last year, keep in mind he averaged just a bit more than 22 minutes of playing time per game. I would imagine there is a decent chance his workload will increase this season.
Next Wednesday, the Badgers host UW-Platteville and then the regular season begins. In what is an aggressive non-conference schedule, the Badgers will jump right into the deep end of the pool. They open with St. John's in Sioux Falls, S.D. Four days later, Wisconsin has its home opener with Florida.
So much for easing into the season.
Most believe the Big Ten will again be a very strong conference. Perhaps the best in the nation. The good news is the Badgers have been good enough for long enough that they have earned nationwide respect.
When in doubt, many just assume they will be very good -- again.
Late Saturday afternoon is your chance to get a sneak peek at what this year's Badgers have to offer.
Jon 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.
- Badgers in the NBA PageMADISON, 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.
Wednesday 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
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.
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.
Following the Orlando Summer League (July 7-12), which featured recent graduates Ryan Evans (Detroit Pistons) and Jared Berggren (Orlando Magic), the focus of GMs, scouts and fans shifts to Las Vegas where the 2013 NBA Summer League continues play from July 12-22.
Former Badgers Jordan Taylor (Toronto Raptors), Marcus Landry (LA Lakers), Brian Butch (NBA D-League Select), Mike Bruesewitz (Milwaukee Bucks) and Jon Leuer (Memphis Grizzlies) are all looking to earn their stripes in the Vegas summer league and solidify a spot in a teams' rotation or in the case of some, an invite to an NBA squad's fall camp. The Las Vegas Summer League, held at the Thomas & Mack Center and COX Pavilion, will tip off July 12 and concludes with the first-ever summer league championship game on Monday, July 22.
Brian Butch (2004-08) - NBA D-League Select Team
Butch displayed a bevy of solid performances during his time with the D-League select team, including a double-double (18 pts, 11 reb) in a tournament play win over the Minnesota T'Wolves. Despite a quiet outing in the D-League's Elite Eight loss to Charlotte, Butch finished with averages of 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game it will be tough for GMs and scouts not to take a second and third look at Butch when evaluating and deciding on bigs to invite to fall camp this upcoming season.
Tournament Play (All times CT)
Thursday, July 18: NBA D-League 83, Minnesota 75
- 28 mins, 18 pts (6-9 FG, 2-4 3FG, 4-6 FT), 11 reb
Saturday, July 20: Charlotte 85, NBA D-League 75
- 17 mins, 3 pts (1-4 FG, 1-3 3FG), 4 reb
Bruesewitz's summer league experience concluded on Friday with a 90-80 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Despite only playing five minutes combined in the previous four games, Bruesewitz was a spark off the bench for the Bucks in their finale, earning 16 minutes and scoring five points on 2-for-3 shooting.
After a career in which he earned the label of the "Ultimate Glue Guy", Bruesewitz will take that same mindset and persona and attempt to turn it into a professional basketball career. That journey begins in the NBA Summer League for the St. Paul, Minn., native who is teaming up with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he will look to impress coaches, scouts and GMs alike, with his tenacity and passion, along with his fearlessness around the basket and his defensive intensity.
Schedule (All times CT):
Due to his old school personality and experienced mentality both on and off the court, Landry has and always will be known as an elder statesman, regardless of where he plays. His play in the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League was on par with that persona as his numbers mirrored that of an experienced NBA role player.
Landry ended his summer league experience in the top-20 among all NBA summer league participants in scoring (15.2 ppg), while grabbing 4.7 rebounds per game for a LA Lakers squad that fell to top-seeded Golden State in the Elite Eight. Landry has already been tabbed by some as a definite to be invited to the Lakers' fall camp and the relationship between LA head coach Mike D'Antoni and Landry, dating back to their time in New York, only improves those chances.
Schedule (All times CT):
Tournament Play (All times CT)
Thursday, July 18: LA Lakers 72, Milwaukee 68
- 28 mins, 18 pts (5-13 FG, 3-7 3FG, 5-7 FT), 6 reb
Saturday, July 20: Golden State 83, LA Lakers 77
- 32 mins, 14 pts (5-10 FG, 3-5 3FG, 1-2 FT), 2 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl
Taylor garnered starts in two of Toronto's three summer league contests, but his minutes took a hit with the addition of former Marquette grad Dwight Buycks, who inked a deal with Toronto as a back-up PG for the 2013-14 season following the Orlando Summer League.
Schedule (All times CT):
Berggren played sparingly for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the Las Vegas summer league. He tallied a rebound in nine minutes of action during the Cavs' final summer league contest, an 82-76 loss at the hands of the Miami Heat.
Garnering the start in his 2013 NBA Orlando Summer League finale, Berggren chipped in five points and four rebounds. The Princeton, Minn., native saw action in just two games for the Magic, earning the starting nod in his finale.
Although it wasn't enough to garner the win or go a long way in solidifying him a roster spot come fall, his final showing will hopefully give the former second-team All-Big Ten honoree something to build on heading into the latter part of the summer.
Schedule (All times CT):
In his 2013 NBA Summer League finale, Evans not only garnered the start at shooting guard, but he also exploded for 19 points on 7-for-15 (.460) shooting from the field and a 3-for-4 (.750) performance from the free throw stripe. Unfortunately, his efforts weren't enough as Detroit fell to the Miami Heat in tournament play.
Evans ended his 2013 NBA Summer League experience with averages of 7.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game and although his numbers aren't eye-popping, he definitely left NBA scouts and GMs in attendance at the Amway Center on Friday morning with something to salivate over.
Schedule (All times CT):
Thursday, July 11: Detroit 78, Miami 77
- 6 mins, 2 pts (1-2 FG), 2 reb
Friday, July 12: Miami 90, Detroit 85
- 30 mins, 19 pts (7-15 FG, 2-7 3FG, 3-4 FT), 5 reb, 2 stl, 1 ast
Jon Leuer (2008-11) - Memphis Grizzlies
Leuer, who recently signed a three-year contract to rejoin the Grizzlies beginning in 2013-14, was expected to compete for valuable minutes off of the bench next season. After spraining an ankle during the first practice in Las Vegas, it is doubtful Leuer will have an opportunity to begin that quest during the NBA Summer League.
Leuer did not appear in any of the Grizzlies' six summer league games due to the injury.
Schedule (All times CT)
Ben Brust was shown a map of the Road America track at Elkhart Lake and prodded to pinpoint his location during last Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race, the Johnsonville Sausage 200.
Using a pen to identify where he was standing on the winding 14-turn, 4-mile circuit that winds through scenic Kettle Moraine, he jabbed at the map and said, "I'm near a hamburger stand right here."
X marked the spot -- or in this case -- the spotter, who just happened to be the leading scorer on last season's Wisconsin basketball team. That would be Brust, a passionate NASCAR devotee.
Brust was spotting for Brendan Gaughan, a 37-year-old driver for Richard Childress Racing and a former walk-on basketball player at Georgetown University.
"Boom, right there," said Brust, pointing to the Road America map, "I had him (Gaughan) coming out of (turn) 6, the slight right at 7 and then I had a really good view of 8 from my angle."
If necessary, he could also partially follow the No. 26 car (Gaughan's car) through turns 9 and 10, otherwise known as the "Carousel" -- a lengthy tight-turning stretch that curves into a straightaway.
Whereas one full-time spotter is standard for oval racing, multiple spotters are necessary on a road course to see everything. Brust, a volunteer, was one of Gaughan's three spotters at Elkhart Lake.
Armed with a two-way radio, he might alert Gaughan to a driver that had spun out ahead of him by merely saying, "Spin in front, spin in front. Check up, check up. All clear, no pressure."
Short is sweet for Brust who has had some experience as a race fan monitoring scanners. "It's got to be precise and to the point," he said, "to make sure he (Gaughan) knows what's going on."
Less can be more. As such, there were some situations where Brust had to use his best judgment on what to say or not say. "Brendan trusted me," he said. "He knew I'd be able to handle it."
Brust and Gaughan were brought together by fate, resolve and racing.
A couple of years ago, ESPN basketball analyst Steven Bardo alerted Brust to Gaughan.
"He (Bardo) said, 'Hey, I heard you're into NASCAR, if you get a chance, you should check out Brendan,'" Brust recounted. "He put the name into my head and I went on Twitter and looked him up."
Brust learned that Gaughan, a Las Vegas native, was a 5-foot-9 walk-on guard at Georgetown; a practice player that wound up befriending Allen Iverson and seeing action in 25 career games.
Gaughan was also a placekicker on the Hoyas' football team, which competes within the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). In 1994, he converted on 39 of 40 extra points.
As a driver, Gaughan has steadily evolved from off-road to NASCAR. There had been some Twitter dialogue between Brust and Gaughan before meeting at the Chicagoland Speedway last year.
"I got a chance to talk with him," Brust said, "and hang out with him a little bit."
Following the UW's elimination from the NCAA tournament, Brust and two of his teammates, Jared Berggren and Dan Fahey, headed to Las Vegas, where Brust again crossed paths with Gaughan.
The Gaughan family has strong Vegas roots and resources, including the South Point Hotel and Casino, a sponsor for Brendan Gaughan, a veteran of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.
When Brust was at Road America last year, he was talking with one of Elliott Sadler's spotters, who suggested that if he had the time next year that he might look into spotting for a driver.
"It was kind of joking, kind of serious," Brust said. "But it gave me the idea."
Brust ran it past Gaughan during spring break in Las Vegas.
"When it came up," Brust related, "he said, 'Do you want to do it?' I said, 'Of course.' As it got closer (to the Elkhart Lake event), he texted, 'Still want to do it?' And I replied, 'Yeah, of course.'"
Gaughan made it happen. "Spotting isn't athletic," Gaughan told The Sporting News, "but you have to use your brain, you have to make decisions on the fly, which he (Brust) is used to (doing)."
Brust admitted to having some pre-race anxiety, not unlike the feeling prior to an opening tipoff.
"I was a little nervous," he said. "A nervous excitement, because I knew that I could do it. It's the same type of thing (in basketball); I'm there to help the team be successful.
"So I wanted to do my job and do it right."
As part of his pre-race preparation, Brust viewed a YouTube video featuring a road course driver, Ron Fellows, whose on-board camera taped laps 13-34 during a Road America event.
"I used it to memorize the track -- it's braking points and what are good passing zones -- just to give me some familiarity," said Brust, who had previously watched the race as a spectator from turn 5.
"That's where a lot of the action was, but I didn't know the whole track."
Brust arrived over an hour before the race to get his spotting directions from Team Gaughan and stake out his territory. He estimated that there were nearly 30 spotters in the same area.
"Everybody minds their own business and does their job," said Brust, who was originally scheduled to work out of the "Canada Corner" before a change in assignments.
Late in the race, when Gaughan encountered some difficulty in that corner, Brust fielded some disparaging tweets on Twitter from fans who mistakenly thought that he was responsible.
It was nothing that he couldn't handle; after all, he has played in Big Ten road venues.
Although none of the Childress cars were exceptional last Saturday -- Gaughan finished 11th -- Brust sounded like he was truly in his element. "I would do it again in a heartbeat," he said.
But that will have to wait.
"Right now, I have to focus on what's ahead," said Brust, whose eyes are fixed on his senior year at Wisconsin and the summer training phase in Madison. "I'm here to lift, get stronger and get better.
"Getting better in every category possible is one of my goals every year. We have a lot of young guys (six freshmen) so it's my job to set a good example for them and help them get better each day."
The thought of another Big Ten season, his final one, had his heart racing, as you might expect.