College Basketball Nation: 2011 NCAA Badgers-Bruins

TUCSON, Ariz. -- We should have seen Wisconsin coming. The Badgers are not a good team to pick against in the first round of the NCAA tournament, not even if they looked bad in their past two games.

Stylish pick to go down to scrappy Belmont? Nope. That's so 40 minutes ago after an impressive 72-58 dismantling of the Bruins, who were kind of hoping they'd get the team that lost 36-33 to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament.

Again, nope.

"I think it probably hurt us that they hadn't played as well the last couple times out," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "Most of us do a better coaching job and demand a little bit more when things haven't been going well."

The Badgers are now 9-1 in their first tournament game under coach Bo Ryan. So we should have seen this coming. And we should have remembered about point guard Jordan Taylor and forward Jon Leuer, only one of the nation's best inside-out combinations.

Taylor scored 21 points with six assists, while Leuer had 22 points and seven rebounds. Taylor was 5-of-9 from 3-point range, with the Badgers accuracy from behind the arc ultimately being the story of the game.

Belmont loves the 3 and shoots a lot of them. But both teams shot 22, and the Badgers were happy to hit 12 while the Bruins were less enthused about their six.

"[When] we are hitting shots, believe it or not, we tend to play better," Ryan said.

This was not the team that got drubbed by Ohio State end embarrassed by Penn State. But Ryan and his Badgers weren't biting on whether their downturn and the rising skepticism about whether they were ready for the tournament served as motivation.

Ryan is all about what's next, and his players apparently have digested his philosophy.

"We forgot about those last two games as soon as they were over," Taylor said.

Let's not forget, the Badgers, now 24-8, had won eight of nine before the two-game skid.

Still, Taylor did admit that scoring just 33 points in a loss is, well, remarkably ugly. They had 34 at the half against the Bruins.

"Anytime you lose you want to play better," he said. "You want to get back on the court."

Here's a guess the court of public opinion may now judge these Badgers a bit differently.
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Wisconsin just had too much Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer for Belmont, as the fourth-seeded Badgers whipped the 12th-seeded Bruins 72-58 in the second round of Southeast Regional of the NCAA tournament.

Belmont scrapped hard, but Wisconsin just had too many horses. The Badgers are now 9-1 under coach Bo Ryan in first-round games.

Turning point: Consecutive 3-pointers from Belmont's Jordan Campbell narrowed the margin to 43-39 with 13:38 remaining. It looked as though the scrappy Bruins would make a challenge. But five minutes later, Wisconsin's lead had reached 16 points at 56-40. Two treys from Jared Berggren and another from Mike Bruesewitz as well as an alley-oop dunk by Leuer from Taylor quashed the Bruins momentum.

Key player: Taylor and Leuer have been touted as one of the nation's better inside-outside combinations, and they supported their case against Belmont. Taylor had 21 points and six assists, while Leuer added 22 points and seven rebounds.

Key stat: Belmont shot 319 more 3-pointers than its opponents this year, but Wisconsin shot just as many in the regional. The more notable factoid was the Badgers made 12 of their 22 treys, while the Bruins only made six of their 22.

Miscellaneous: Wisconsin ended a two-game losing streak; Belmont ended a 12-game winning streak... The Atlantic Sun, Belmont's conference, hasn’t enjoyed an NCAA tournament victory since it was the Trans America Athletic Conference in 2001 (Georgia State beat Wisconsin, 50-49)... The Badgers won the rebounding battle 33-22... The Bruins outscored the Badgers 22-10 in the paint and their bench outscored Wisconsin 28-18.

What's next: Wisconsin will play the winner of the Southeast Regional nightcap between Kansas State and Utah State on Saturday.

Previewing Tucson: The night games

March, 17, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Southeast Regional games here pits teams from major conferences against a pair of so-called "mid-majors" that each won 30 games. Should the higher-seeded power conference teams be worried? Probably.

Wisconsin vs. Belmont, 7:27 p.m. ET

The setup: Wisconsin had won eight of nine before losing its final two games, including a plodding 36-33 defeat to Penn State. Still, the Badgers MO is they don't beat themselves. Belmont, which has won 12 in a row, is a deep team -- nine players see at least 14 minutes per game -- that forces a lot of turnovers, shoots well from 3-point range and takes care of the ball.

Who to watch: The Badgers feature an outstanding inside-outside combination in forward Jon Leuer and in point guard Jordan Taylor. Both earned All-Big Ten honors and average more than 18 points per game. Belmont is all about balance. Four players average between 7.7 and 12.4 points per game. The guy with 12.4 ppg, sophomore guard Ian Clark, however, is likely the one to take the lead Thursday.

Why to watch: These are two smart, disciplined teams, and that would tend to favor the more talented Badgers if not for the final two games of the season: a blowout loss to Ohio State and a terrible performance against Penn State. Also, Belmont has a lot of the qualities of a team that notches an upset in the tournament. The Bruins up-tempo, high-scoring offense could challenge the Badgers.

What they're saying: "The key is to not let them get good looks. Wisconsin lost their last two games, so they're going to come in prepared. Their loss to Penn State is a good example of how to beat them. We have to keep them to a low field goal percentage and confuse their defense," said Belmont guard Drew Hanlon.

"We know they're a good team. I've been around long enough to know how good some teams are in spite of what the public or other people might understand about teams or names or anything else. So, being a grizzled veteran, I'm well-aware of Belmont," said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.

Of note: Belmont shot 319 more 3-pointers than its opponents this season. ... The Badgers have been to the NCAA tournament in each of coach Bo Ryan's 10 seasons in Madison. Just five other coaches can say that: Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Texas' Rick Barnes and Gonzaga's Mark Few. ... Rick Byrd has been Belmont's coach for 25 seasons and he ranks 12th among active Division I head coaches with 610 career wins. ... Leuer has reached double-figures in scoring in 38 consecutive games. ... Belmont has reached the tournament four times since 2006 but this is its first Big Dance since 2008. ... The Badgers are 8-1 under Ryan in first-round games. ... Byrd is close friends with country singer Vince Gill and his wife, Amy Grant.

Kansas State vs. Utah State, 9:57 p.m. ET

The setup: Kansas State was one of the nation's most disappointing teams -- it started 2-5 in the Big 12 -- before it won eight of its final nine games and earned a No. 5 seed. Utah State dominated the WAC and finished 30-3 and felt it deserved a higher seed than 12. Still, the Aggies have been impressive in the regular season before only to flame out in the tournament -- see five consecutive first-round defeats.

Who to watch: Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen averaged 27 points per game over the final six regular-season games. He does it all and is one of the elite players in the region. The Aggies are led by WAC player of the year Tai Wesley, who leads the Aggies with 14.7 ppg and 8.0 rebounds.

Why to watch: The Aggies didn't play a terribly ambitious nonconference schedule and they haven't won a tournament game since 2001, but this is a veteran team -- four senior starters -- that has been here before. Further, they are disciplined and smart and play good defense. Kansas State, despite the turnaround, is still a bit flighty. It doesn't shoot terribly well and hits only 64.4 percent of its free throws. Was the loss to Colorado in the Big 12 tournament another wake-up call? Or a regression?

What they're saying: "Early in the year, I might have questioned the leadership on our basketball team, but I'm telling you, I couldn't be prouder of the leadership that we've got right now," said Kansas State coach Frank Martin.

"We've been around long enough to know that K-State is just a bunch of guys. We hear a lot of things about the Big 12, the Big Ten and the western conferences. We get it in our heads that they're not a normal basketball team. But in the end they're just a bunch of guys playing basketball just like us. We're going to come out and play hard. I like our chances," said Utah State junior forward Brady Jardine.

Of note: Utah State has been ranked in the top-25 for nine straight weeks, its longest streak being ranked since 1970-71. ... Kansas State is 10-4 in first-round games. ... The Aggies are one of just three teams that have won at least 23 games in each of the past 11 years (Gonzaga and Kansas are the other two). They've averaged 25.6 wins over the past 12 years. ... Pullen is the Wildcats first two-team All-Big 12 first-team selection. ... Wesley ranks 10th in the nation in field goal percentage (59.5 percent). ... Utah State's No. 12 seed isn't far off from its NCAA RPI (15th).