As the season changes from winter to spring the unseasonal sounds of football pads are beginning to fill the air.
The unique month-long period of football practices starting in late March and ending in late April granted by the NCAA gives college programs a chance to develop their team’s talent and cohesion. For Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema and the rest of the Badgers spring has been long awaited since a crushing 45-42 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl to end the 2010-’11 season. But despite the loss there has been no hangover for the Badgers as they begin spring practices.
“The way the guys have practiced the first two days has been exceptional,” Bielema said. “For as many new coaches as we have here, different terminology, other things being different, this is the best two days we’ve had here since I’ve been coach.”
Spring practice allows teams to develop players that will fill the roles that last year’s starters fulfilled. For Wisconsin it will be critical to find a replacement for departed quarterback Russell Wilson.
Expected to compete for the quarterback job in spring practice are redshirt freshmen Joel Stave, redshirt junior Jon Budmayr and redshirt senior Curt Philips. All have had questions trailing including Stave’s lack of leadership experience as a freshmen and Budmayr’s plague of injuries throughout his career. Despite the doubts, Bielema is confident that his quarterbacks can develop.
“I believe we are looking at a 70-percent completion percentage through two practices, which we’ve never been at that level before with those kind of quarterbacks,” Bielema said.
Also expected to compete once fall practice starts is incoming freshmen and highly touted four-star prospect Bart Houston from Concord, Calif.
Houston played his high school ball at nationally renowned De La Salle High School and won multiple section and state championships in the golden state. Houston is just one of an incoming recruiting class—a class that has continued a tradition of strong recruiting efforts during the Bielema era.
“One of the hardest things for me right now is we’ve come off two Big Ten championship seasons, and we can really do some nice things in recruiting,” Bielema said. “But I only have nine scholarships this year, so you really have to be detailed about who you’re offering, how you prioritize and where you prioritize guys.”
In the upcoming season, the high school football talent of Wisconsin that has led to the rise of the Badgers’ program will be tested by out of state programs this year. The limited number of scholarships that the Badgers have available to offer recruits will force Wisconsin to be more aggressive in targeting and getting the prospects they want.
“Here at Wisconsin, in-state recruiting is the heart and soul of what we do in our program,” Bielema said.
On the injury front, Badger fans have nothing to worry about at the all important running back position, as Heisman trophy finalist Montee Ball is as healthy as ever heading into this spring. Staying on the offensive side of the ball, redshirt junior Jared Abbrederis was described by Bielema as being “restricted” due to injury. On defense, the defensive front goes into spring healthy with the exception of redshirt junior Chris Borland, who tweaked a hamstring during winter workout.
Let's hope bucky can have another successful season. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
University of Wisconsin men's basketball coach Bo Ryan has earned $100,000 in NCAA tournament incentives and could earn an additional $200,000 if the Badgers win a national title, according to a report in USA Today.
Ryan's contract called for him to get $50,000 if UW advanced to the NCAA tournament and an additional $50,000 if the Badgers reached the Sweet 16. He'll get $50,000 if the Badgers advance to the Final Four, an extra $100,000 if they reach the title game and an extra $50,000 if they win it all.
Ryan, who is UW's all-time winningest coach and has led the Badgers to five Sweet 16 appearances in 11 seasons, received a raise last fall that pushed his annual compensation package past the $2 million mark. The deal included $1.675 million from private gift funds at the UW Foundation earmarked by donors specifically for athletics and a base salary of $436,364 from UW athletics, giving Ryan an annual package worth $2,111,364. His contract runs through May 30, 2016, and the amount from the foundation increases $25,000 each year.I would love to see Bucky go all the way to the Final Four. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"You've got to know how to drive the speed limit," Gard said. "Drive 65 in a 65 — not 90, and not 40. So you've got to find where to set the cruise control at."
Too often this season, UW has found itself stopped at a red light for what seems like an eternity. The clock ticks away, yet the Badgers' point total remains the same.
Those slumps may ultimately be what keep the Badgers from making an extended run in the NCAA tournament. In other words, one drought and fourth-seeded UW (24-9), which opens against 13th-seeded Montana (25-6) on Thursday afternoon at The Pit, might be out.
"We've got to try to avoid those situations as best we can," sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. "Because if they happen, unfortunately we don't get another chance to play."
There's no universal definition of what constitutes a drought, but UW fans certainly know it when they see it.
Three times in Saturday's 65-52 loss to Michigan State in a Big Ten Conference tournament semifinal, the Badgers went at least five possessions without scoring. One stretch lasted nine possessions and 7 minutes, 49 seconds; another lasted seven possessions and 4:57.
UW had at least one stretch of five or more possessions without a point in 16 of the 20 games it played this season against Big Ten opponents. The longest, in the first half at Penn State on Jan. 31, covered nine possessions and 9:04. Remarkably, UW found a way to win that game.
If fans think stretches like those are tough to watch, imagine being one of the Badgers trying to find a way to make the light turn green.
"You can feel it," UW senior Jordan Taylor, "so it's just a matter of trying to keep the other team on their heels and make them make decisions."
No drought is the same, either. Some have been caused by the Badgers, a team filled with streaky shooters, going cold from 3-point range.
In Saturday's game against Michigan State, Gard noted sloppy play and poor shot selection had a lot to do with the 7:49 drought that came after UW had used a 13-0 run to pull within 46-40 with 12:17 remaining in the game.
During the nine possessions that followed that spurt, UW had three turnovers and missed four times from 3-point range. Three of those misses were by junior forward Ryan Evans, who entered the game shooting 19.2 percent from beyond the arc.
UW's offense is at its best when players are moving without the ball and making hard cuts through the lane. On the flip side, the Badgers are at their worst when the offense goes stagnant and there's a lot of standing around as they pass the ball around the perimeter.
Dissect the Badgers' worst droughts this season and one finds much more of the latter than the former.
"You still have to be aggressive, and I think this group has done a good job of growing in that area, of being smart, being efficient but still staying aggressive," Gard said. "We've become better at that, I think more consistent with that.
"If you become too cautious, then you start to play hesitant, then you become passive, then you stand around and become stagnant. If you become too aggressive, then you end up charging, turn the ball over."
Both Taylor and Gasser said the Badgers need to do a better job of finding ways to get easy baskets to break the ice. UW doesn't push the ball up the floor very often, but that's one way to break out of a scoring rut.
Most of all, UW needs to be mentally tough during slumps and not let the previous possessions affect the current one.
"We can score the ball," UW senior swingman Rob Wilson said. "But when those droughts come, when it's 1, 2 minutes, we've got to pick it up and not let our last shot affect our next shot."
Gard admitted the Badgers don't have a large margin for error to begin with because of their style of play. This time of year, that margin gets even smaller.
"There's not a lot of mulligans that you can pull out of your pocket," he said. "You have to cash in any time you can. So you can't waste opportunities."
I sure hope the Badgers can make it to the sweet sixteen. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Head coach Bo Ryan has been in the business of college basketball for a long time. That’s why when a reporter tried to ask if he had any regrets about losing out on a share of the Big Ten regular season title, Ryan didn’t even let him finish the question.
“I’ve been around a little too long for that, I don’t do that woulda, coulda, shoulda stuff,” Ryan said. “I like my guys and I like what they did this year.”
Outsiders to the program might remind Ryan had it not been for two losses to a sub-par Iowa team then No. 15 Wisconsin would have won the conference title outright, which would have been his sixth title as head coach of Wisconsin. However, the headman of the Badgers sees this season’s conference campaign from a different perspective.
“You know how lucky we were to steal those games from Illinois, Purdue, and overtime at Minnesota?” Ryan said. “If we hadn’t won those games we would have finished in seventh or eighth place.”
There is also something to be said for the difficulty of the conference as three teams tied for a share of the conference title, one of which being No. 13 Michigan who won a Big Ten title in men’s basketball for the first time in school history since 1988. Between Michigan, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan State, Bo Ryan’s bunch only went a collective 1-4 against the champions of the conference. With close losses to Michigan State and Ohio State at home, it is more than fair to say that the Badgers finished where they deserved to in the final standings.
“Obviously there wasn’t just a dominant team this year that just dominated everyone else,” Ryan said. “The league is pretty tough and I think that was proven this year.”
If there are any regrets about the season Ryan certainly doesn’t want to hear it from anyone. Especially now that the Badgers are entering into the Big Ten Tournament, which marks the beginning of the wildest and most unpredictable month in sports affectionately known as “March Madness.” At this point in the year it is not always the most talented teams, but usually the team that is playing the best basketball that ends up taking home the hardware.
“How about you had gallons and gallons of Gatorade and every time someone said ‘hot’ you had to take a drink,” Ryan added. “Could you imagine how bloated you would be?”
Though “hot” tends to become an overused word when it comes to postseason play in college basketball, ultimately it is the only quality that matters in March. Even if Ryan doesn’t like to use the word, it may be exactly what describes his scrappy group as they head into March. The Badgers have won three straight and 12 of their last 15 games, one of which came on the road against then-No. 9 Ohio State which was the first time in decades that a Wisconsin men’s basketball team had beaten a top ten team away from Madison.
“Tell me something better? It’s still a great sport and a great game. At this time of [March Madness] is all people want to talk about. At all levels,” Ryan added.
Either way a person looks at it the time for second-guessing is over, as hesitation and dwelling on the past will only earn a team a one-way ticket back home. The do or die nature of college basketball in March is something that captivates the nation, and this year Bo Ryan just might have the team to make a deep run. In many ways this year’s group is the true embodiment of the word team, as the Badgers have been able to bridge talent with suffocating defense and impressive mental toughness.
“With how hard they’ve worked on defense and how much they’ve accomplished given what they had, this group is good,” Ryan said. “Anyone who doesn’t know that doesn’t know basketball, trust me.”
It would be awesome if the Badgers could win the Big Ten tournament. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!