Badgers open tournament close to home
MADISON—Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan referenced sunflower seeds; asked his players about the “Mario Kart” video game; and briefly spoke in an Italian accent.
And at some point during his 25-minute meeting with reporters Sunday night after learning that the Badgers were headed to Milwaukee as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, Ryan talked some basketball, too.
It sure feels good to be near home for the opening weekend of the tourney.
“Being a No. 2 seed in Milwaukee, playing close to home … it just means we did something good this year,” guard Josh Gasser said.
The Badgers (26-7) open up Thursday against Patriot League champion American (20-12) in a West Region game that’s sure to attract a lot of fans in cardinal and white to the Bradley Center, barely a 90-minute drive down Interstate 94 from Madison.
Another Wisconsin school, Milwaukee, is headed to Buffalo as a No. 15 seed to play second-seeded Villanova in the East region.
Two other Wisconsin schools weren’t as lucky—Green Bay was snubbed after winning the Horizon League regular-season title but getting upset on its home floor by Milwaukee. The Phoenix are a four-seed in the NIT and will play Belmont on Tuesday.
At the Kohl Center, the Badgers gathered as a group to watch the selection show, though there really wasn’t that much drama. Despite losing in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, Wisconsin’s season-long body of work pretty much assured Ryan’s team would be a high seed playing in Milwaukee.
On a day typically reserved for celebration, the Badgers were a loose crew.
Asked about tournament seeding, Ryan again referred to sunflower seeds instead as his way to downplay the importance of the number. He did appreciate how having games close to home would limit the travel expenses incurred by players’ parents.
At another point, the conversation turned to the video game “Mario Kart,” at which point Ryan briefly spoke in an Italian accent. He referenced a story from his younger days, in 1975 while in his native Pennsylvania.
And when the talk turned to brackets, Gasser said he filled out “about 100 brackets” in high school.
“Not in college though,” Ryan interjected, to which Gasser agreed.
Not to worry, the Badgers will get down to business soon enough.
“They won’t hear from me that we’re a two-seed. They won’t hear from me that we’re in Milwaukee,” Ryan said. “My guys are pretty smart. They know what’s at stake.”
Gasser said he quickly started looking up information on American after the matchup was announced. Ryan already had an early scouting report, and noted American’s Princeton-style offense and tough defense.
Sounds like it could be a methodical first game for Wisconsin.
“It’s March, and teams didn’t get here just by luck of the draw,” guard Ben Brust said. “Whoever you play is going to bring it.”