Recently in Basketball Category
College basketball coaches have gotten their wish for more communication and contact with players during the summer. Ru ready 4 this? That includes unlimited texting and calls to recruits.
"I absolutely love it,'' said UW associate head coach Greg Gard. "It allows you to speak directly to the parents or the kids and you don't have to worry about anybody relaying a message.''
"It will help coaches get to know players better, and vice versa, they get to know you better. As long as everybody abides by the parameters, it will be good for college basketball and help the process.''
That would be the recruiting process. In the past, the NCAA limited calls between coaches and recruits to one or two a week. But it was very difficult to monitor and enforce.
"What we've found since the rules went into effect (June 15),'' said Gard, the UW's lead recruiter, "is that it's helpful to have multiple times during the day or the week to access prospects.
"You can have a short conversation and call them back later in the day, or tomorrow, or next week; however you want to do it. Now a dialogue can take place with the kids and parents.''
Besides unlimited texts and calls to prospects who have finished their sophomore year of high school, the NCAA is allowing coaches to send private messages through Facebook and Twitter.
UW head coach Bo Ryan is pragmatic about the changes.
"If a kid doesn't want to take your call, he doesn't take your call,'' Ryan said. "If a kid doesn't want to read your text messages, he doesn't read your text messages.''
Thx but no thx.
"I really would find it hard to coach someone for four years that constantly needed to be texted or tweeted or whatever,'' Ryan opined.
"In recruiting, I'm not looking for people who are so needy that they have to have someone talking to them -- or doing some form of communication -- 25 times a day.
"Be a teenager -- be a teenager.''
Ryan's plea is for kids to be kids.
"It isn't about the next step yet,'' he went on, "but when you're interested in a school, or a school is interested in you, then there are ways to communicate without being obsessive.''
Ryan is more excited about the NCAA allowing "court time'' in the summer. That amounts to two hours a week during the eight-week summer school session. Players must be enrolled to practice.
The Badgers held their first two-hour workout last Tuesday. Some coaches have elected to split up the time and hold two one-hour practices or three 40-minute practices per week.
Because of class schedules, Ryan said the two-hour window worked the best.
"We did a lot of competitive drills,'' Ryan said of the first workout. "I've already started to break that one down and some things we want to emphasize in the next one.
"We used it (the first practice) to get a little better idea of where the guys are -- those filling positions where you have guys graduating -- and who's stepping up in different areas competitively.
"You see, this is all we ever wanted as coaches, to have some kind of contact and be around our kids in the summer while they were playing; even if it was just to watch pick-up games.
"The fact that we can be on the court with them (two hours a week) is even better because now we can help them through some different situations.''
The old rules frustrated coaches who were left in the dark; out of the loop, if you will. "Unless our guys were working our summer camp, we didn't have any direct contact,'' Gard said.
There are just so many benefits to the NCAA relaxing those standards, he added, not the least of which is helping build more lasting relationships between the athletes and the coaches.
"It's not only good from the instruction and teaching standpoint on the court,'' Gard said, "but it also gives you more contact; such as helping the younger guys (freshmen) in their transition to college.''
That would be to the benefit of UW freshmen Zak Showalter and Sam Dekker, who was a member of the USA under-18 national team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship in Brazil.
"We're talking about two very talented and extremely competitive players who grew up being huge Badger fans and have worked extremely hard to put themselves in this position,'' Gard said.
"Anything they've gotten so far as high school players -- or will get down the road as college players -- will be because of their work ethic and the fact that they've both earned it.''
That would be the operative word in Ryan's vocabulary -- earn.
"There's never an excuse for not getting better (over the summer) whether we're teaching them on the court or not,'' Ryan said of a player's implied commitment to out-of-season development.
"We give them things -- the breakdown drills -- which they can work on.
"But this gives coaches a better understanding of the competitive level of the incoming guys and if there's been improvement since April with the returning guys; strength-wise and everything else.
"Still, they're going to have to do a lot if it on their own because two hours is nothing. Good players spent a heckuva a lot more time than two hours a week working on their game in the summer.''
Yet, he fully endorses the NCAA changes; the additional contact which adds up to eight hours a week (two on the court and six for weight-lifting and conditioning) while attending summer school.
"It's an historical period,'' Ryan said, "because basketball coaches have been fighting for this for a long time. (UW men's hockey coach) Mike Eaves asked me how we went about it.
"I just said, 'You have to keep knocking on the door,' because I can see other sports wanting to do this also. It just so happens in our sport we've been clamoring for it a longer period of time.
"If we have more contact with our players, it means that they're not running around with some of these third parties and runners and other people telling them things they don't need to be hearing.''
Two days after Wisconsin's season-ending loss to Syracuse in the "Sweet 16," an email from junior Zach Bohannon showed up in my inbox.
Bohannon, who redshirted in 2011-12 after transferring to Wisconsin from Air Force, was unable to travel with the team due to NCAA transfer rules. Instead he holed up in the UW men's basketball office at the Kohl Center and watched the season come to an end just like the rest of us.
However, unlike the rest of us, Zach's therapy to deal with the loss was to write about it. This is what he sent me.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Longest 15 Seconds of My Life
By Zach Bohannon
Just over 15 seconds remained on the clock...
Wisconsin just got the ball back, down 63-64, and it was in none other than Jordan Taylor's hands. As I sat watching the game from the basketball offices back at the Kohl Center, I could not help but think about what a picturesque scene this truly was. Wisconsin was in the Sweet 16, playing against a team that was ranked #1 in the nation for a good majority of the year and we had the final shot to win it. Coach Ryan, who strategically chose not to use his final timeout after we regained possession, more importantly trusted that Jordan would be able to make a play and send us into the next round. Who better would you want with the ball in that situation anyways?
Less than 13 seconds remained on the clock...
Jordan dribbled the ball up across the half court line and the top two defenders in Syracuse's ferocious 2-3 zone defense played a game of cat and mouse with him. Wisconsin had the play "Horns" called, which is two high ball screens at each side of the lane. This action was made famous by two-time NBA champion coach Chuck Daly, who coined the term in the 1980's. The play was exploited by Syracuse due to their great length and athleticism. However, Jordan tried to make a play anyways, something that Wisconsin fans saw countless times throughout his stellar career, but nothing was there. He retreat dribbled back to half court, a maneuver that has been drilled into his head religiously the past four seasons by Coach Ryan when you are under pressure. Time was running out and Jordan knew it, but still somehow kept his cool.
Less than 10 seconds remained on the clock...
Jordan took a look up at the clock and saw it was now or never to make something happen. He dialed in and dribbled right back at the two Syracuse guards, putting both of them on their heels. He drew a double team and whipped a right-handed pass around the left side of the top defender. The pass landed in Jordan's senior teammate hands of Rob Wilson. This was typical Jordan, knowing when to give up the ball when he had to. He became famous for this throughout his marvelous career as well, while along the way, shattering the NCAA's assist to turnover record. This was the action that made Jordan such a great player at Wisconsin, he knew when to take over a game but more importantly, he knew when it was time to make his teammates better. This was one of those.
Less than 7 seconds remained on the clock...
As the ball bounced to the floor and Rob caught a perfect pass from Jordan, he as well was immediately double teamed. Rob tried to pump fake to shake one of the defenders off of him, but it was to no avail. He was in a similar situation as Jordan was just in and knew nothing was there, so he kicked it back out to the point guard.
Less than 5 seconds remained on the clock...
Jordan received the bounce pass and took one right handed dribble in order to gather some momentum to get up a decent look from three. He found an opening and it was a miracle that he even got up a decent look. The infinitesimal gap he found to shoot was closed with not one, but two Syracuse defenders. However, Jordan still got the shot off cleanly with 3.3 seconds left, a smart play because he gave our team just enough time to have an opportunity for an offensive rebound and a put back to win. No one was thinking about that at the time though. As the shot was released, for that one second the ball was in the air, the world stopped spinning and everyone was focused on the spinning orange leather globe. Everyone was on their feet praying for two different outcomes. As I use to say when I was younger, the "good guys" (Badgers) were praying for only one more basket. The "bad guys" (Syracuse) were praying for one final miss. With exactly two seconds left, the shot fell inches short. But the season was not quite over yet.
Less than 2 seconds remained on the clock...
The one Badger who always found a way to get his hands in on the action throughout the year, found a way to do it again. Mike Bruesewitz "bruised" his way to another rebound and tapped it just enough to keep it alive, a play he had done countless times as well in the season. The ball was knocked to the floor with exactly one and a half seconds left and it was found in the hands of Josh Gasser, a player who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, had done it once again. Realizing that time was about to expire, he threw up a desperation one handed fade away shot as the horn sounded and it hit nothing. Nothing, but air.
No time remained on the clock...
The game was officially over. The scoreboard's red light was on, no more time was left, no fouls had been called, and nothing was reviewable. The final 15 seconds of Wisconsin's year had come to a halt, but more sadly, we witnessed the final game of two more great Badgers, Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson. These excellent ambassadors of not only the basketball program, but of the University of Wisconsin as a whole, just like that had both finished up their careers in this last play. Rob immediately bent down and put his hands on his knees, while Jordan put his jersey over his face. It was all over. The "good guys" did not win. Jordan and Rob did not get their one shining moment like they had dreamed of since they were little kids shooting hoops in their backyard and on the playground. Both of their four year college windows were over. In a blink of an eye, their careers were done.
The clock is ticking...
That is the magical thing about sports. The "good guys" do not always come out on top, even if they played their best and up to their potential. It is a mysterious phenomenon to grasp; that is, hard work does not always lead to success. One works his entire life to have that one golden opportunity, but it still sometimes is not enough. Through all of this however, we are forgetting to mention the hundreds of thousands of seconds that led to those final 15 seconds of their careers. Years down the road, this play will be meaningless. Sure we will remember that Wisconsin lost to Syracuse in the Sweet 16, but more importantly, we will remember the great lessons that these two fine seniors had shown throughout their careers.
Let's start with Rob. I do not think you can come up with a better word for his career than perseverance. Rob exhibited this trait throughout his career, and I am not only talking about on the court, but in the classroom as well. Rob is going to be the first college graduate in his family when he gets his degree this May. He overcame that great barrier, which should be applauded on its own. However, Rob did even more. On the court, Rob struggled throughout his career to get consistent minutes. His career was a roller coaster, with many highs and lows. His senior season in particular, he played sporadic minutes up until the second half of the Big Ten season, until finally he had taken advantage of his opportunity. The great thing that the average fan did not see was the hard work and commitment he showed through the tough times. Rob never pouted or got upset for a long period of time, he would be mad initially, but he moved on. He just prayed for one more opportunity to show what he really could do and what he believed in himself to be able to do. He persevered until finally he solidified his minutes and had a huge role on the team. To the average fan, Rob came out of nowhere and scored 30 points, along with tying a Wisconsin record of 7 three's, in a big win over Indiana in the conference tournament. However, the average fan did not see the thousands of shots and extra sessions in the gym through his difficult times. In regards to his final play, just the fact that Rob was in the game and in a position to make a play against #1 seeded Syracuse was a feat by itself, but showed how much he grew as a person throughout his career. He kept getting better and his hard work was rewarded. In the end, his perseverance paid off.
Now time to talk about Jordan. The one obvious word that defines his career and who he was is leader. As Coach Ryan often jokes, Jordan could possibly be "the future Governor." That's a pretty strong statement coming from your head coach, but I honestly think that is an understatement on just quite how great of a leader he truly is. His leadership skills put him second to none and could easily make him the President if he wanted to! Jordan will be one of the greatest leaders to come out of the University of Wisconsin, ever. He is that great with people, but that is not what makes him special. It is his ability to get people to not only listen to him, but to follow him as well. A lot of people, including most sports writers, said that the year that Jordan had this year was a "down year" compared to what he accomplished last year and he was no longer "a top five point guard in the country." That kind of statement is just mind boggling. He went from a Sweet 16 team, losing three starters, including one to the NBA, came back the following year as a senior, with a bunch of "no names", and accomplished the same, if not more. He turned these "no names" to household names in the mere matter of months. He led the team to not only a point away from an Elite Eight game, but he won a game in the conference tournament, something Wisconsin had not done the previous three years, and he was only one game out of the conference title race. Not bad for a senior point guard that's team was predicted to finish 7th in the Big Ten this year. He single handedly willed his team this year from start to finish, and took more burdens on himself than any single person deserves. But that's what leaders do, they take the blame when the going gets rough, and praises their teammates when their on a high. That's what Jordan did, time and time again throughout the year. It was an honor to be in his locker room and on the court, along with Rob, this season.
As I sat down to write this the morning after the game, coincidentally the basketball team was just landing in Madison and coming back from Boston. I could not help but think of the greater implications of the picturesque scene that they came back to. Jordan and Rob had started their next stage of their lives, the ending of one thing led to the beginning of another for them. However, someone, somewhere decided to still mourn. The day was overcast with a slight rain that happened throughout the day. We never did see the sun that day, the big orange thing, a metaphor for the mascot of Syracuse, was off hiding. They knew that the career of two great young men had just come to a close. They did not want to be anywhere near Madison, and someone greater than us all decided to mourn as well.
As a sports fan, eventually you will forget about great games, great plays or even great players. However, the one thing you will not forget will be the players who touched your life emotionally, either directly or indirectly. If each one of us could take these lessons and learn from them like we did from these two great seniors, think about how better off we would be. I hope that each one of you prepare for your "one shining moment" with every ounce of energy you have. Don't ever give up on that vision either, because the struggle will be worth it. Now what are you waiting for?! Your time is limited, and the clock is ticking...
In an era of college basketball "one and done" players and others who leave school early to chase their dreams of playing professionally, I bring you the Badgers' Dan Fahey (@DanFahey10
), who earlier this week offered this little nugget via Twitter:
"Lot of people asking me if I'm leaving for the NBA. Just want to let everyone know I'll return for my senior year & seek my 4th career point."
In the brief history of Twitter, I nominate this as the best tweet in the history of tweets.
Then our very own Patrick Herb (@BadgerMBB
) from UW Athletic Communications just had to deliver this cheap shot:
"That's good news...people definitely want to see how the career scoring race shakes out between you and @jd_wise22
I think that should be a Flagrant 1, if not an ejection for Herb.
* * *
On Tuesday, April 24, basketball fans will have one final chance to celebrate another successful season as the Badgers have their Sweet 16 Reception
at the Kohl Center. Tickets are just $25, with a cocktail buffet and a cash bar. This tends to be a fairly informal event, as Bo Ryan addresses the crowd and Patrick takes a break from tweeting to help offer a season in review. If you are a hoops fan, it is a fun evening.
Consider it one more chance to applaud the team, especially seniors Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson for a job well done. For more details, just follow the link
In the week following the national title game, it has been interesting hearing people talk about Kentucky's "one and done" players, and whether other teams can win in a similar fashion. Clearly in college basketball, there are different ways to be successful, be it style of play or how a program recruits.
I still like to believe there is no one set way to win. Perhaps Kentucky can keep winning with a new cast of one-year players, but that does not mean a school such as Wisconsin should try going that route. These are two different schools and two different programs, and what works for one may very well not work for the other.
Every school is different, and every school has its own mission statement. Make no mistake, the University of Wisconsin wants to win, but those within the university community are very comfortable with the type of athlete wearing a Badger uniform. Everyone wants to get the best players, but finding those who are the right fit academically and socially also remain very important.
This is in no way slamming Kentucky's method. Even if it is just for one year, as long as the players are doing the work in the classroom, what the Wildcats are doing is perfectly within the rules. If that does not happen, the program will pay a price, not unlike some other high-profile programs who fail to meet minimum academic progress requirements.
What I am saying is the "Wisconsin Way" is working just fine, too. The last player to leave early for the NBA draft was Devin Harris, yet the Badgers remain tournament regulars. The instant stars might be few and far between, but watching the development of the players is something loyal fans have embraced.
This year Kentucky had the most talent, and that group played together extremely well. Give them all the credit. But if you are a Badgers fan, do not be discouraged into thinking such a season is no more than a dream for your favorite team. This program continues to knock on the door, and as long as that happens, there is always a chance.
Now, let the scoring battle continue between Mr. Fahey and Mr. Wise.
For the record, Bo Ryan's Badgers went 3-0 against the two teams that beat Kentucky this season.
Wisconsin beat Indiana twice, and then knocked off Vanderbilt in the NCAA tournament. Maybe that is small consolation, and I understand that comparing scores can be misleading, but I thought I would throw it out there.
Now you know.
In the world of college football and basketball, it is interesting how the sports have such vastly different seasons.
In football, the regular season is precious, and the critics continue to hammer away for a playoff. In basketball, for millions of the more casual sports fans, it is all about those three weeks in March and early April.
I believe it is safe to say that a good chunk of the sporting public pays close attention to college hoops only during the NCAA tournament.
Locally, that might not be the case because attendance at the Kohl Center remains strong, but there is a reason CBS pays billions of dollars in rights fees, and it probably isn't for the Sunday games it shows in January.
While the powers that be continue to discuss a possible football playoff, maybe college basketball could look at ways to boost the regular season.
One idea seems obvious -- reward the regular season conference champion with an automatic bid in the NCAA field.
Clearly, this was not a banner year for the Pac-12, but for Washington, a league crown was rendered useless after a conference tournament loss to Oregon State.
For the Huskies, it was off to the NIT. To their credit, they advanced to the semifinals before losing to Minnesota. I say "to their credit" because it might have been very easy for Washington's players to blow off that tournament.
I mean, what does a coach say to a team after it wins the regular season title, only to be told that it is still not good enough to get in the NCAA tournament?
I understand the reason for conference tournaments. Revenue, for one, and a chance for lower-profile conferences to get some national exposure.
Everyone knows the risk involved, and there have been multiple instances where those so-called mid-major teams have lost an NCAA bid because of five bad minutes in a league tourney game.
This season it just happened to burn a program in a power conference.
Yes, it was a down year for that league, but there were 12 teams with a lower RPI than Washington that made the dance.
While the RPI is only part of the formula the tournament selection committee uses, doesn't that fact seem a bit odd?
Perhaps it is unrealistic to reward automatic bids for both regular season and conference tournament champions, but it seems to me that a team proving to be the best of its league during a period of more than two months should carry a little extra weight.
I get the excitement of conference tournaments, but I believe the game would be even better if the regular season is rewarded as it should be -- all across the board.
March Madness is great, and I love every minute of it. I also happen to enjoy those other months of the college basketball season.
Fortunately here in Wisconsin, I have lots of company. A big-time regular season game generates plenty of buzz in Badger Nation, and that is good.
I just tend to believe that too many sports fans across the nation are missing out on the fun prior to March.
BOSTON, Mass. --
The Badgers advanced to the 2012 Sweet 16, and that meant @BadgerMBB
sent out 16
Tweets with observations and commentary leading up to the matchup between No. 4 Wisconsin and top-seeded Syracuse.
Patrick Herb and Karl Anderson were in Boston with the team. Check out the Field of 68
and Field of 32
to see what you missed while the team was in Albuquerque.
16. Seems like an appropriate way to launch the #Badgers #Fieldof16. Beautiful Boston: http://t.co/tXxqmDEv
15. Scout team has a new weapon at its disposal for practice tonight. Former #Badgers big-man Paul Grant. http://t.co/69ybODtA
14. Snooping around TD Garden & found a familiar name. @GregStiemsma
with a nice corner locker. http://t.co/r5JQ0uq5
13. #Badgers photoshoot going on. Amusing watching these clowns try to look tough. http://t.co/d9Xc6Ndp
12. Found out-parquet floor was special ordered for Garden & seats are black/gold cuz Bruins own bldg http://t.co/n2FOFZLT
11. It gives me great pleasure to announce that no #Badgers players, staff, families, band, cheerleaders got sick last night.
10. Unlike ABQ when #Badgers had early games, today they're using their shoot-around at TD Garden. http://t.co/VsB5bqs7
9. After practice the team peeked into @Celtics
locker room... They're just fans like the rest of us. http://t.co/b2xCNE6l
8. Bo Ryan left a note for a certain #Celtics player he knows. http://t.co/v6NZQAf0
7. Unofficial superstition poll: Of the 9 UW staff that wore suits in Albuquerque, 5 packed the exact same 2 suits for Boston.
legend Antonio Freeman will be at tonight's game wearing the #Badgers red. As Al Michaels would say, "He did what?"
5. #Badgers send-off at hotel... First goosebumps of the day http://t.co/LDktb2yo
4. Even teams' warm-up drills are contrasting. Syracuse is practicing every style of dunk possible, #Badgers shooting jumpers.
3. #Badgers will wear red uniforms in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009 when Bucky was a No. 12 seed.
2. It's gonna feel like a road game in here for Bucky, & I think that's just the way the #Badgers would like it. #RoadWarriors
1. The Gameday blog is live from courtside... let's goooooooo! http://t.co/ASBRlfae
It happens every season, but it remains a jolt. Unless a team goes the distance, the basketball season ends suddenly. A player is in the routine of practices, scouting reports, road trips and all the rest. This time of year is especially hectic. The road trips are longer. The stage is bigger. The lights are brighter.
Then it is over. No more practices. No more scouting reports. No more road trips.
Even for someone who just announces games, it is a jolt. As someone who has seen more practices than I can count, at times it can seem like Groundhog Day. Then I miss it. Imagine how a player feels.
There are years when a team's final game is ugly, when you know that group simply did not have it. Sometimes a team loses because it runs out of gas. This Wisconsin team appeared to have plenty in the tank. It just ran out of time. At least this year's Badgers know they went down swinging against talent-rich Syracuse. One could argue that last Thursday's Sweet 16 game in Boston was the best game of the tournament so far.
For that reason, I left TD Garden feeling both good and lousy for the players, coaches and support staff. Good because the Badgers did nearly everything right. Sure, they could have made a couple of more free throws, or finished another play or two near the basket. That happens with every team nearly every game. The Badgers proved to be the toughest of outs, and there is no shame in that.
I felt lousy because I thought they deserved better. Yeah, I am a touch biased. I wanted to see Jordan Taylor nail one more big shot. Then again, if his final attempt is just another quarter of an inch short, it is an airball, and Mike Bruesewitz is in position to recreate the ending of the NC State-Houston NCAA title game of 1983. If the final attempt is a hair longer, the ball caroms off the rim better, and Bruesewitz probably is still in good position for the board.
So it goes.
That is not how I choose to remember the season.
There are the obvious moments that can make Badger fans smile, such as the thrilling victory at Ohio State, Rob Wilson's 30 point outing against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament, and the NCAA tournament nail-biter with Vanderbilt.
All of that works fine, but for the last few days, I was thinking about other things. Such as the night before a road game in January. The team was on the bus, returning to the hotel after a practice. On the radio was the 1983 Lionel Ritchie hit "All Night Long," and the players were singing along.
Gotta love it when players less than half my age know a tune that was big when I was in college.
I think about the routine on the airplane before road trips. The radio crew, athletic communications director for basketball Patrick Herb and some others usually are on board before the team arrives. When the rest of the travel party boards the plane, assistant coach Gary Close always acknowledges everyone with "Gentlemen," and then he looks at me and says "Matt." OK, maybe you need to be there, but it is always good for a chuckle.
Then strength and conditioning coach Scott Hettenbach will chime in with his usual wisecracks, leaving those within earshot laughing helplessly, and another trip officially begins.
Finally, I will think about those seemingly endless practices, and how I believe the Badgers have a chance to be pretty good again next year. George Marshall, Jarrod Uthoff and Zach Bohannon are players you have yet to see. My guess is you will like them.
Those three, plus the continued development of the other returning players and the additions of Zak Showalter and Sam Dekker, should make for quite the battle for minutes.
As for Taylor and Wilson, Bo Ryan put it best when he told the CBS crew that followed the team during the tournament, "They will be able to step away from here, once the sting of this eases up a little bit, they will realize what they have accomplished, and also how well they played for the name on the front of the jersey."
Perhaps that is the best memory of all. Their love of the game, and their love of the school they have represented so well. It was a pleasure watching them in a Wisconsin uniform.
Now, what time does practice start?
This will serve as a final snapshot of Jordan Taylor in his Wisconsin game jersey: Taylor politely answering all questions at his locker following Thursday's loss to Syracuse in an NCAA East Regional semifinal; Taylor dutifully staying true to his core beliefs despite the pain.
On Taylor's left is fellow senior Rob Wilson, who's looking inconsolable; his body very nearly curled up in the fetal position. On Taylor's right is junior Mike Bruesewitz, who's looking drawn and tired; his legs stretched out, his head back, his eyes vacant.
Taylor is first asked about the gamesmanship with Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine, a fifth-year senior. Taylor and Jardine were roommates at the Deron Williams elite guard basketball camp in Chicago over the summer. They attended the Chris Paul camp, too.
At the 10-minute mark of the second half, Jardine buried a 3-point shot to push the Orange into a 51-47 lead. A smiling Taylor brought the ball up and immediately answered Jardine with a 3-point hit -- one of his five triples, matching a season-high.
Acknowledging Jardine, and the competitiveness that exists between them, he said, "It's a very serious game. At the same time you've got to have some fun.
"Above everything else, I've had a ton of fun during my four years here. I wouldn't trade it for anything.''
Taylor was later told that UW coach Bo Ryan had praised him for his work in grooming Wisconsin's front line of Bruesewitz, Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans. Their development has been instrumental to the growth of the Badgers throughout the season.
Given that Berggren and Evans, in particular, had seen so very little playing time last season -- Berggren averaged 6.9 minutes and Evans averaged 11.6 while serving as understudys to Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil -- how far had they come as a group?
"Really far,'' Taylor said. "It's kind of a tough question to answer, just because I feel like they had that in them -- they just had to come out and show it. I'm sure I had a small role in that. But I didn't put all the talent in Ryan and Jared and Mike.
"That's not me. That's them working on their games hard in the offseason. My job was to try and get them the ball and encourage them -- be a leader for them. I did a decent job with that but, obviously, came up a little bit short.
"I hope that I helped them a little bit this year and I hope that I helped them move forward for next year, because they're going to have a really good team.''
All things considered, if Taylor had been given the ball and one possession -- one shot to win or lose against Syracuse, one shot to either advance his team to the Elite Eight or go home if that shot missed -- would he have accepted that proposition beforehand?
"I was thinking about it before the game,'' Taylor said. "I just had a weird feeling that it was going to come down to one possession. I mean obviously that's easy to say now. I just had a weird feeling that it was going to come down to that.
"I feel like seven-out-of-10, eight-out-of-10 times, we're going to get a score there. It's just unfortunate we didn't. Like I said earlier, hats off to Syracuse. They did a very good job of defending on that last possession. It was great defense.
"They did just enough to win.''
Berggren was presented the scenario: one shot to win or lose. Take it or leave it?
"Yeah, absolutely, I'd take it,'' he said. "To be in that kind of game back and forth -- they made runs, we made runs -- it's a lot of fun. That's what this tournament is all about. It's about guys playing with everything on the line and giving it all they have.
"To be down one (point) with the ball in our hands for one last possession, I never had a doubt; I believed to the very last second that we were going to win that game. To see the ball not go in at the end is heartbreaking.
"Until the final horn sounded and the ball didn't go in, I was still believing and hoping and praying and wishing that we'd be playing Saturday. But that's not the case.''
UW assistant coach Gary Close, who had put together the scouting report on Syracuse, felt that Badgers would have a chance to win the game if they made at least 10 3-point shots, had 10 or fewer turnovers, and had 10 or more offensive rebounds.
That was his formula: 10 + 10 + 10 = victory.
They finished with 14 3-point shots, six turnovers and eight offensive rebounds. "Maybe a couple of offensive rebounds would have gotten us one more bucket,'' he said.
So close, yet so ... painful.
"It was a one-point game in the Sweet 16 and we were one point short -- it's pretty tough to swallow,'' Bruesewitz summarized. "We did some good stuff. We made shots, played well as a team. It just wasn't enough, at least this time. We came up a little short.''
Sizing up the UW locker room, Close observed, "There's a lot of potential in here and they (the returning players) will get better. That's what this program is all about.''
From 1-3 in the Big Ten to one shot from the Elite Eight.
That's what this season was all about.
Rob Wilson, Ben Brust and Frank Kaminsky will be watching and studying. They will be taking mental notes on everything that takes place on the floor between Wisconsin and Syracuse in the early minutes of Thursday night's Sweet 16 game of the NCAA tournament.
They will each be paying attention to the individual matchups and all of the little details that impact runs and momentum despite not knowing for sure when they will get the call from Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan to enter the game against the Orange.
Staying ready is part of the challenge for any player who comes off the bench. Through the second and third round games - the wins over Montana and Vanderbilt - Wilson, Brust and Kaminsky are averaging 25.5, 16.5 and 4.5 minutes, respectively.
"You know that you could be called on at any time so you prepare your mind mentally that you're always ready," said Wilson, a senior, who stunned Indiana in the Big Ten tournament with 30 points in 32 minutes. He has two starts in 116 career games.
"You can learn a lot by not being out there right away," Wilson said, "because you're able to see what they're doing and you can almost figure out what their game plan is before you actually get into the game and go against it."
You can get a feel, Wilson noted, from watching how players move without the basketball on offense or handle screens on defense. Against Syracuse, which features a signature 2-3 zone, he will see if there are tendencies, especially jumping passing lanes.
"I want to know which guy is playing aggressively in their zone," said Wilson, adding that the most distinguishing characteristic of the Orange defense is the length of the players which they use to their advantage by getting deflections and creating turnovers.
"You always have to keep that in the back of your mind - that they are a lot longer than you might expect. So you have to make a lot of ball fakes and be strong with the ball. If you turn it over, there might be a dunk at the other end. They feed off that."
Understanding and accepting a bench role is key. "Our bench has been important all season and we have to keep bringing the energy," said Wilson who had 10 points against Montana but none against Vandy. "Scoring is not the only way you can contribute."
On defense, Wilson helped chase John Jenkins, who was held well under his season scoring average. He also had a couple of timely rebounds and assists without turning over the ball. That will be critical against Syracuse's ball-hawking defense.
"We haven't really faced a lot of zone this year," conceded Brust, who faced many box-and-one defenses in high school because he was such a big-time scorer. "We've played a lot of different defenses this year and we have to use that knowledge in this game."
As the opening minutes are unfolding, Brust said, "There's definitely a learning curve because you have the time to watch (from the bench) and see what's working, and what's not working and what mistakes are being made."
Brust had 11 points and four rebounds against Vanderbilt. That was the most he had scored since Jan. 26 when he had 13 against Indiana. But who's counting? "We have a balanced attack," he said. "Everybody can shoot, dribble, pass and defend."
Kaminsky, meanwhile, is still trying to figure out some things as a true freshman. Against Montana, he played only three minutes. "I was really nervous; it's my first tournament," he said, shrugging. "But I got rid of the nerves and now I'm ready to go."
While he's waiting for his turn, Kaminsky will try to get a feel for how Syracuse is handling Berggren and then put it to use when he's in the game. "If they're closing out too hard, then go to the rim," he said. "If they're playing off of him, then shoot it."
Getting up to game speed is more difficult. "You really have to be out there," Kaminsky said. "But you can pick up on the little things that can help you. Coach (Bo Ryan) is always telling us before the game to pay attention to what you can go in and do."
Syracuse's bench outscored Kansas State, 33-0. Dion Waiters, who's viewed in most circles as the top sixth man in college basketball, had a game-high 18 points while James Southerland chipped in with 15 points and six rebounds.
How will the Badgers counter-punch? Will it be Wilson? Brust? Will it be Wilson and Brust? Kaminsky has a reasonable expectation. "Even if I have to go in and give someone a break for a couple of minutes, that's fine," he said. "We have to do what we can do to win."
In honor of National Athletic Training Month month, a tip of the cap to the medical folks, including athletic trainer Henry Perez-Guerra and Dr. John Orwin, for helping Josh Gasser beat a nasty stomach virus last Saturday.
Their efforts made it possible for the sophomore guard to help his team advance to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16. Henry and Doc Orwin probably hate the fact I am mentioning their names, but you should know about their work.
They sit at the end of the bench, and fans might wonder who they are. Put it this way, without them last weekend, Gasser probably had no chance of playing.
The bug struck several members of the team's traveling party, including Gasser, freshman Jared Uthoff, a few cheerleaders, at least one administrator, and even some family members, including those of head coach Bo Ryan.
As someone pointed out earlier this week, on one hand it was amazing how many people were affected. On the other hand, it is amazing more folks, especially the players, were able to dodge the bullet.
Ryan is never one to publically make a big deal out of an injury or an illness. You either can play or you cannot. Gasser is much the same way, as he downplayed what he dealt with. Without going into great detail, it did not sound pretty. Add to it the challenge of going against a hot Vanderbilt team, featuring perhaps the prettiest 3-point shooter in college basketball, and the odds appeared to be stacked against Wisconsin.
Maybe the Badgers just like it that way. This group might not always shoot straight, but nobody with a clue will ever question their heart. Nobody with a clue will ever question their toughness.
Of course, Ryan ended up joking about it, saying Gasser was turning green in honor of St. Patrick's Day. No word yet whether the head coach will be appearing at a Boston area Chuckle Hut.
All kidding aside, there is no question that Ryan appreciated what Gasser went through, and the coach was proud of how his teammates helped pick him up. Very simply, that is how this team rolls, and perhaps more and more observers are taking notice.
Up next is a date with the region's No. 1 seed, Syracuse. While this will be their first matchup against each other, Ryan and Orange coach Jim Boeheim have known one another for years.
In fact, on May 5, Boeheim is scheduled to be the special guest at the fifth-annual Coaches vs. Cancer Wisconsin Gala that Ryan and members of his "coaching tree" host to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
In that regard, Ryan and Boeheim are very much on the same team. Thursday will be a different story. While the Badgers successfully handled adversity last week, Syracuse has had its own well-documented obstacles. The latest is the loss of freshman big man Fab Melo, the Big East's defensive player of the year. Yet the 'Cuse keeps rolling along, winners of 33 games in 35 outings.
As tip time approaches, you will hear more and more about the Orange's famed 2-3 zone, as well as the squad's lack of rebounding.
Don't be fooled about the latter. What they might lack on the glass they more than make up for by forcing turnovers. On average, Syracuse has a turnover margin of plus-six. This is an aggressive zone with players who have, as Ryan would say, great length and bounce.
While the Badgers shoot plenty of 3s, it will be interesting to see how they attack it. Can they get the ball inside? Will they get decent looks from midrange?
Offensively, the Badgers had terrific balance Saturday, with five players scoring in double figures. More of the same might be necessary against Syracuse, a balanced team in its own right whose second-leading scorer, Dion Waiters, comes off the bench.
Another game, another tough battle for the Badgers. To those surprised to see Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, perhaps they view it as a team playing with house money.
As for the players themselves, they seem to a be a group determined to extend their season as long as possible. Already they have beaten Montana, Vanderbilt and the flu. Why stop now?
A nauseous Josh Gasser got his wake-up call at 12:30 a.m. Saturday. The UW sophomore guard was not green in honor of St. Patrick's Day, either. Mike Bruesewitz was watching a movie when he heard something that he didn't want to hear from Gasser, his road roommate.
"Josh went to the bathroom," Bruesewitz related, "and he says, 'Mike, call Henry.'"
Henry is Henry Perez-Guerra, the trainer for the UW men's basketball team.
"That's when I got quarantined out of my room," said Bruesewitz, who joined Badger teammates Dan Fahey and Jordan Smith in their hotel room. Gasser was isolated, and the virus was severe enough that he was unable to get back to sleep because of vomiting and diarrhea.
"To be honest, I probably only slept from noon to 2 (p.m.) until we left for the game," he said.
It was not just any game, mind-you, but a third round NCAA Tournament game against Vanderbilt, the No. 5 seed. In preparation for chasing and checking John Jenkins - a prolific 3-point sniper - Gasser had three Saltine crackers. "That was my pre-game meal," he said.
Throughout his ordeal, he was hooked up to IVs. He didn't suffer alone, though. Bo Ryan's wife, Kelly, was too sick to attend the game. So was redshirt freshman Jarrod Uthoff. The virus also weakened several members of the UW travel party, including some cheerleaders.
In the early morning hours, Bruesewitz admitted that "It was looking real suspect." That was his prognosis on whether Gasser would be ready for the 4:10 p.m. tipoff (MT) at The Pit. The prospect of trying to deal with Jenkins without Gasser would be the pits, he thought.
"But we have world class trainers in Henry and Dr. O (Dr. John Orwin, the team's orthopedic surgeon)," Bruesewitz said. "They were really proactive and able to get fluids into Josh and they got everything under control. I didn't think for a second that Josh wasn't going to play. He's a tough kid."
By then, Gasser had already made up his mind. "I knew I was going to play, it really wasn't a question," said Gasser, a member of the Big Ten's All-Defensive team. "But I also knew that I wasn't going to play as much as I normally do because I didn't have the energy that I normally do."
That was apparent during the pregame warm-ups. Not only did Gasser look peaked, but he appeared to be conserving energy, by design. "I got a few shots up," he said. "But I knew I would be chasing Jenkins around most of the game and I wanted to be able to maintain that for 40 minutes."
UW coach Bo Ryan did a masterful job managing his bench and getting the most out of Gasser, who played 24 minutes in the UW's hard-fought 60-57 win over Vanderbilt. "I definitely didn't want this to be my last game this year because it would have been tough to swallow," Gasser said.
Not to worry, the Boston-bound Badgers have survived on their grit and toughness and advanced to the Sweet 16 where they will run into a No. 1 seed, Syracuse, in Thursday's East Regional semifinals at the TD Garden, the 18,000-seat home venue for the Celtics and Bruins.
"It's not about how you start, it's about how you finish, that's the best way to describe it," Bruesewitz said in response to a question about the UW's 1-3 start in the Big Ten. "We knew we had a tough group, a real gritty group. Maybe the best example is Josh getting sick the night before the game.
"But what happens in the closing minutes? Jordan (Taylor) missed a shot, and who tracks it down? Josh. He gets fouled, misses the free throw, but Ryan Evans comes up with a big defensive rebound on Jenkins miss and then Berg (Jared Berggren) knocks down their in-bounds pass."
All those contributions, Bruesewitz pointed out, came from different contributors. That's how the final box score read, too. Five different players scored 10 or more points and everybody who got into the Vanderbilt game came down with at least two rebounds; highlighting the team balance.
"I've been saying this for a long time," Berggren said, "when we get all of our guys contributing that's when we are at our best. When we get Mike (Bruesewitz) shooting the ball and Ben (Brust) shooting the ball and Josh gritting through his illness ... that's just huge."
Referencing that 1-3 conference pothole in early January, Berggren said, "We still knew we had a good team, and we never got too down on ourselves. Guys kept believing and we kept fighting and we were able to turn things around and get on a winning streak."
Maybe the Badgers needed a starting point, albeit a season low point, to build from. That's how UW associate head coach Greg Gard saw it. "That 1-3 stretch toughened us, and forced us to grow up in areas where we needed to be mature in," he said. "It's all about how you respond to adversity."
As such, Ryan and his assistants leave nothing to chance. Thus with the uncertainty surrounding Gasser's availability, they got Traevon Jackson and Duje Dukan ready to play against Vandy, if needed. "We wanted to make sure they knew what we were trying to do and were ready to go," Gard said.
Was there any doubt about Gasser? Not for Gard. "He's a gritty kid, a hard-nosed kid," he said. "Unless the doctor was going to make him stay in the hotel room, he was going to play. You have to credit him for gutting it out, and you have to credit his teammates for stepping up."
That has been the storyline since the players assembled to run Elver Hill at the start of classes. "We had a lot of young guys who had to grow up and be in these roles for the first time," Gard said. "I don't know in November whether they would have had the grit to get through this (Vandy)."
After Friday's practice, Gard discussed some of the keys for controlling Jenkins and beating the Commodores. "It's going to come down to a lot of blood and guts plays,'' he said. "At this stage of the season, a lot of times the hustle plays make the difference.''
When the contact escalated in The Pit, the Badgers felt like they were in their element. "It was one of the more physical games we've played, and usually Big Ten games are physical," Gasser said. "But this was right up there. That's how it's supposed to be - that's how you want it to go to the Sweet 16."
When he was on the floor, Gasser made it as tough as he could on Jenkins, and he got plenty of help from his teammates. "They were setting double and triple screens for him," Gasser said, "and he does a really good job of creating space, and getting that extra step. That's all he really needs."
The guards were not solely responsible for contesting Jenkins' shots. "I was just trying to get a hand in his face," said Berggren. "We knew that if I played off and let him come off their bigs uncontested, he's going to knock down those shots, especially coming right to left, he's money."
That's how it unfolded in the dramatic closing seconds with the Badgers clinging to a precarious two-point lead. Vanderbilt ran a play for Jenkins who came off a Festus Ezeli screen and got separation on his chaser. Moving right to left, he launched a shot from beyond the arc.
"I tried to come out on him, but I was probably a half-step late," Berggren said. "I tried to get a hand up as much as possible but he got a pretty good look. When the ball was in the air, I think my heart stopped for a second. It was straight-on and I thought, 'Please don't go in.'
"But he back-rimmed it, and Ryan (Evans) made a big play getting the rebound."
Evans fought off the 6-foot-11, 255-pound Ezeli for the board. The Vandy bench protested that he had pushed off, but Ezeli had been clearing space the whole game. "He was one of the biggest dudes I've ever played against," Evans said. "I got into his body and went up and grabbed it and got fouled."
Evans made one free throw, and Berggren deflected the in-bounds pass to seal the win - sending the Badgers into the Sweet 16. "It says so much about us as a team," Evans said. "Everyone is contributing. In order to make a deep run that's what you have to do, and we're doing it."
Jordan Taylor knew his teammates had enough grit to get it done. "When we were up by seven with six minutes left we knew it was far from over," he said. "We knew that they weren't going away quietly. But we were able to withstand their run and make just enough plays to win."
Taylor's dad was in Albuquerque but his mom didn't make the trip because of the travel expense. But she has a ticket for Boston. And the Badgers have punched theirs. "We didn't want to send Jordan and Rob home early," Bruesewitz said. "We like those guys too much."