interim coach Greg Gard yells to his team during the
second half of its NCAA college basketball game
against Nebraska on Wednesday in Madison. Wisconsin
toughest two-game stretch of the season has arrived for
At No. 2
Maryland on Saturday. At No. 8 Michigan State next week.
six in a row, the Badgers can improve their postseason
credentials if they can pull off an upset or two on the
road. The Badgers (15-9, 7-4 Big Ten) are clawing their way
back into the NCAA Tournament conversation, a year removed
from a trip to the national title game and a second
consecutive Final Four appearance.
they're only concentrating on the Terrapins for now.
in the back of your mind," forward Vitto Brown said
about the tournament before adding, "we won't try to
look past any opponent ... don't try to look at the big
It is still
worth a look back just to see how far the Badgers have come.
A loss to
lowly Western Illinois in the season opener hurt, as did
defeats at home to in-state rivals Milwaukee and Marquette.
The midseason retirement of coach Bo Ryan was a stunner.
started 1-4 under interim coach Greg Gard, and the outlook
seemed dire after a five-point loss at Northwestern on Jan.
12 dropped the Badgers to 1-4 in conference play.
includes victories at home over the Spartans and Indiana,
both ranked teams at the time. The first four victories came
on the strength of inside play.
shooting helped lift the Badgers in their last two wins,
when they hit 24 of 45 from 3-point range. Wisconsin had an
answer with opponents focusing on forwards Nigel Hayes and
word is out that we like to touch the post. We kept it a
secret as long as we could ... and now it's out," Gard
said after the 72-61 victory on Wednesday over Nebraska. The
Badgers went 11 of 18 from behind the arc in that game.
losing so many close games, the Badgers are finding
different ways to succeed.
still be able to find a way was, I thought, a sign of
maturity," Gard said. "To rally, pick each other
up and move forward."
and players say much of the improvement is due to how the
team got closer through adversity.
court, the Badgers have grown more comfortable with Gard's
tweaks. Brown said the team is moving the ball better and
"starting to get a sense of where things are going to
that improvement stems from using more of the swing offense
upon which Ryan used to rely, which depends on good spacing,
screening and passing.
turned into a take-charge scorer, a role expected from the
team's best player. Guard Bronson Koenig's 3-point accuracy
scoring output has increased steadily during the streak, an
impressive run considering that he has been recovering from
a rib injury that had sidelined him for a couple practices
and slowed him in games.
Nebraska, Brown scored 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting,
including all 3 of 3 from the 3-point line.
the injury, in retrospect, helped him "slow down a
little bit." He was able see the game a little
differently while sitting out practice.
I was fine," he said. "When I tried to translate
it into actual action, I went 100 mph."
of Gard's calming, steady influence. It's an attitude that
the Badgers hope to keep under pressure in the final month
of the regular season.
There is no
letup after Maryland and Michigan State, with a home game
against Michigan and road games at ranked teams Iowa and
Purdue among dates left on the schedule.