College Basketball Nation: Mike Bruesewitz

CHICAGO -- Bo Ryan’s roster -- a Wisconsin squad that defeated Michigan 68-59 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center on Friday -- lacks the star power some of its league and national peers employ.

His Badgers aren’t anchored by NBA prospects and five-star recruits. Their layup lines rarely feature the acrobatic dunks that draw gasps from the crowd.

One of his best players, Ryan Evans, sports a high-top fade and takes jump shots at the free throw line because he’s been so shaky from the charity stripe this season. Then there’s the guy with the impossible name and the funny carrot-top haircut (Mike Bruesewitz).

Per RecruitingNation, point guard Traevon Jackson was a two-star recruit from Westerville, Ohio, when Ryan signed him. Jared Berggren is … big. Wisconsin’s former starting point guard, Josh Gasser, tore an anterior cruciate ligament before the season.

And that didn’t stop Ryan from winning 20 games for the 10th time at Wisconsin and earning Big Ten Coach of the Year honors.

“When the guys come in, I take those little stars you lick, and I take them and I put four or five stars on each locker. ‘Hey, you're a five-star guy. You're a four-star guy,’” Ryan joked. “You know, it's what that star shines like when you're finished with your career. So I'm always looking for guys who are willing to come in, work hard, have talent, and it's about us, not individuals. But individuals can thrive. If you're good, you can get to do a lot of things. So I don't want to sell my players short. I've got good players who are much better as a result of playing together.”

[+] EnlargeBo Ryan
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhBo Ryan watched his Badgers overcome a brutal first half to advance to the Big Ten semifinals.
The critics assess the Badgers within a college basketball culture that tends to value "SportsCenter" highlights over efficiency ratings. But they never worry Ryan.

He continues to defy every misperception, stereotype and false assumption about his program. That’s because Ryan focuses on winning. And his players follow his example.

“We’re not really concerned about what other people think. Clearly,” Bruesewitz said. “If I did, I wouldn’t have this ridiculous haircut. And I don’t think he would recruit some of the guys. We’ve got some ugly dudes on this team, so if he cared what other people thought I don’t think he’d recruit some of us.”

Ryan and the Badgers proved -- again -- that they’re among the country’s top programs when they secured their second victory over the Wolverines in 2012-13.

They shot 17 percent from the field in the first half. Then the offense unclogged its drain and flowed. Wisconsin went 17-for-28 and scored 51 points after halftime.

Evans (12 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal) attacked the rim. Wisconsin’s shooters, including Bruesewitz (2-for-4 from the 3-point line, 8 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals), found their range. Jackson (16 points and a steal) helped the Badgers frustrate Trey Burke (8-for-22, 19 points), a top candidate for national player of the year.

After the Badgers secured a 56-45 lead on a Ben Brust 3-pointer with 6:03 to play, Michigan scored nine unanswered points to cut Wisconsin’s lead to two on Burke’s layup with 3:37 to go.

But the Badgers never deviated from their system. They maintained their gritty man-to-man defense. They remained aggressive on offense.

And they won after the Wolverines finished 2-for-7 from the field after that Burke layup.

Michigan has a minimum of three NBA prospects. Burke could be a lottery pick this summer. Glenn Robinson III was a five-star forward in the 2012 recruiting class, per Tim Hardaway Jr., son of a former NBA All-Star, could be a first-round pick, too. But Wisconsin’s cohesiveness often trumps talent gaps in matchups.

“The old cliché: ‘Defense wins championships,’” Evans said. “We understand that here, and anything we can do to slow those guys down and get our shots is what's going to move us forward.”

Don’t pity Wisconsin.

Its 2012-13 campaign has proved that the Badgers’ skill, athleticism and potential are largely underrated. Evans is a physical forward with a solid post game. Bruesewitz can beat teams inside or outside. Berggren has a better block percentage (7.02) than Trevor Mbakwe, Cody Zeller and Adreian Payne, according to Ken Pomeroy. Jackson is fearless, so he’s never afraid of big shots.

“I think we have as much talent as anybody,” Evans said. “I can go between the legs. Sam [Dekker] can go between the legs.”

In the postgame news conference, Ryan seemed more interested in the soda in his left hand than explaining his legacy of success.

He has utilized the same formula and offered the same responses to the same questions.

He rarely signs five-star recruits. He believes in molding players over time. They always defend or they don’t play.

His swing offense is based on smart shots, not individual maneuvering.

With that philosophy, Ryan has never finished below fourth in the Big Ten. He has never missed the NCAA tournament since his tenure began with the 2001-02 season. He has won at least 19 games each season, too.

Albeit without the nation’s sexiest style.

“It doesn’t really matter what they say,” Jackson said. “As long as we stay together, it’s OK.”

In Saturday's semifinals, the Badgers will face another team that NBA front offices love. The Hoosiers feature Zeller and Victor Oladipo, who could join Burke in the lottery in June.

If “talent” is the best barometer, then Indiana will win.

But the Badgers have won 11 in a row against the Hoosiers. So perhaps it’s not.

“We got to get these guys down and get them some rest for tomorrow,” Ryan said.

Indiana should probably get to bed early, too.

MINNEAPOLIS – On Thursday night, Rodney Williams grimaced as he held his left shoulder.

With his team facing a deficit in the second half of a 58-53 overtime victory against No. 20 Wisconsin at Williams Arena, the senior tried to ignore the pain of an injury that forced him to miss last Sunday's loss to Illinois.

Williams has nearly exhausted his tomorrows. And his team needs him now.

So when he aggravated the shoulder injury in the second half, he did not put on his warm-ups and tell his coaches he couldn’t go. He just went to the team’s trainer and asked for ibuprofen and a glass of water. A few minutes later, he checked back into the game.

“I just wanted to go out there and fight for my teammates,” said Williams, who sported a cantaloupe-sized ice pack on his left shoulder following the victory.

His teammates channeled the same attitude against the Badgers. Finally, the Gophers played with a hunger they’ve tapped during stretches throughout the season. It’s a resilience they lacked during a period that included six losses in eight games.

After a rough first half Thursday night, the Gophers pushed the pace against a Wisconsin team that’s accustomed to controlling the tempo.

Williams scored on a tip-in, drew a foul and hit the free throw with 14 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in regulation. That sequence tied the game at 33. A pair of Andre Hollins free throws gave Minnesota its first lead, 35-33, on its next possession. A Trevor Mbakwe dunk put the Gophers up after Wisconsin pulled back even.

[+] EnlargeRodney Williams
Marilyn Indahl/USA TODAY SportsMinnesota's Rodney Williams, sore shoulder and all, slams home a pair of his 10 points.
But the Badgers, up 49-47 late, regained the edge and nearly sealed the game in the final seconds of regulation after Mike Bruesewitz drew an offensive foul on Austin Hollins with 22 seconds to go. On the next play, however, Bruesewitz committed a turnover on the inbounds.

Sophomore Joe Coleman was fouled, and he hit the free throws to tie the game at 49-49 with 17.4 seconds to go.

Yet, the teams' second game nearly ended like their first. In the Jan. 26 meeting in Madison, Traevon Jackson hit the game winner with 4 seconds to play in a 45-44 victory for the Badgers. Jackson had the ball again Thursday on his team’s final possession.

But it was a messy finish that concluded regulation as Jackson’s last-second shot clanked off the backboard.

By then, the Gophers had already recaptured the night. The Badgers failed to record a field goal after Ben Brust’s jumper with 6:18 to play in regulation until Jared Berggren’s layup with 10 seconds remaining in overtime.

“It started on defense,” said Mbakwe. “We got a lot of key stops at the end. We made Wisconsin play our tempo a little bit and that’s kind of hard, especially against a team like that.”

In overtime, Andre Hollins hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:40 to go and blew a kiss to the crowd. Mbawke, a 62 percent free throw shooter entering the game, hit a pair on Minnesota’s following possession to give the Gophers a 54-49 lead with 1:32 left. The teams traded free throws down the stretch but the Badgers (17-8, 8-4 Big Ten) couldn’t secure the shots necessary to overcome the Gophers’ late push.

“We just kept being aggressive, kept being aggressive on defense,” Coleman said. “We try to make the least amount of mistakes possible, and I think we really focused in on that at the end of the game … it helped going into overtime. We were playing so aggressive and it helped.”

Hollins led all scorers with 21 points. As a team, the Gophers (eight turnovers) held the Badgers (10-for-17 from the free throw line) to a 30.5 percent shooting clip in arguably their most significant Big Ten matchup of the year.

The pressure has become palpable in Minneapolis.

The Gophers (18-7, 6-6) have fallen in the Big Ten standings and lost their national ranking. Tubby Smith’s job status has been questioned by local media. Earlier this week, the Star Tribune’s Jim Souhan wrote a column titled “If Tubby can’t turn this around, it’s time to get [Shaka] Smart.”

“The sky was falling around here. Sometimes when the sky is falling and you’re lying under the ceiling, you think it’s going to cave in on you,” Smith said after the game. “They wanted it, but we had to have it. That was the key tonight.”

“Desperate” is a term that’s frequently used to describe the condition of any college basketball team that’s struggling in mid-February.

The bubble is big. And the subjective process of a selection committee that consults stats, standings, RPI figures and overall resumes to determine the teams that will earn 37 at-large slots on Selection Sunday, fuels paranoia.

Are we in or are we out?

The Gophers seemed desperate entering Thursday's game. But most of their recent losses came in matchups against ranked Big Ten teams. So they maintained a top-20 RPI.

They’re not Illinois or Villanova or Baylor.

But the expectation for 2012-13 is not an at-large bid. The expectation is an at-large bid and a few wins.

Smith has not won an NCAA tournament matchup in his six seasons with the Gophers.

“We don’t listen to too much on the outside,” Mbakwe said. “I know a lot of people were high on us. We [lost] down the stretch and people were like, ‘This is the same old Minnesota team.’”

Winning is the only elixir for that perception.

Thursday’s victory was a good start.

But it certainly won’t cure the pain of a program that’s feigned progress in the past.
Mike Bruesewitz and Jared BerggrenMary Langenfeld/USA TODAY SportsJared Berggren (left) and Mike Bruesewitz celebrate after UW's win over No. 3 Michigan.
Mike Bruesewitz's pass was in stride, perfectly thrown, hitting Ben Brust in motion so all he had to do was think about the shot without collecting the ball first.

"Mike put it perfectly. I caught it, squared up right away," Brust said by phone from Madison, Wis., a few hours after Saturday's thrilling 65-62 overtime victory over No. 3 Michigan. "Without that, the shot doesn't get off. If that thing gets tipped, then that's the game. Mike put it right where I needed it. I think there is a quarterback tossup in the fall. Mike should compete for it since that pass was on the money.''

Brust buried the running 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Wisconsin into overtime against the Wolverines, two-plus seconds after Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 3-pointer over Bruesewitz to give Michigan a 60-57 lead.

Wisconsin had fouls to give on the Hardaway shot since it had committed only three in the second half to that point. But the Badgers elected to play defense.

"I wasn't trying to foul, I was going after the steal,'' said Bruesewitz by phone. "He came off the ball screen, and I tried to swipe at it and maybe foul him in the process, but it didn't get called. At that point, you can't really foul because he was shooting a 3 and then he's knocking down free throws."

On the ensuing inbounds, Bruesewitz said as soon as he threw the ball to Brust he knew it had a chance.

"I still feel completely, I don't know, like it's just another game right now,'' Brust said. "It's going to hit me. I don't know when. When Mike got the ball, I made my cut, and he led me perfectly. He put it in my pocket, I got squared up without wasting any time. I knew as soon as it left my hands that it was pretty good.''

[+] EnlargeBen Brust
AP Photo/Andy ManisThis shot by Ben Brust forced OT in a game Wisconsin would eventually win against Michigan.
Bruesewitz trailed the play and immediately said he told Brust to settle down since there were five more minutes to play.

"I wanted to win the game right there,'' Brust said. "But then I knew we had overtime and had to get focused.''

That he did, as Brust hit a 3 that proved to be the difference in a low-scoring OT. But it's the shot at the end of regulation that will be long remembered in Madison. Brust will get the credit for it, but Bruesewitz's pass should be remembered as well, much like Brandon Paul's to Tyler Griffey on Thursday night on Illinois' improbable game-winning basket at the buzzer over No. 1 Indiana.

"I saw that, too. Brandon Paul put that pass right in Griffey's pocket, and he laid it up and in," Brust said. "I got it in stride, to my right hand. Caris LeVert is like 6-foot-5, and he is long and athletic and he did a good job contesting it."

With the win -- UW's second over a top-three team this season (at Indiana) -- the Badgers moved to 17-7 overall, but, more importantly, 8-3 in the Big Ten, tied with Michigan for second and a game back in the loss column behind Michigan State and Indiana (both 8-2).

"We've had early setbacks with Josh [Gasser] going down with an ACL [in the preseason], my leg injury [a major laceration that required surgery in the preseason] and a concussion," Bruesewitz said. "We've been injury-prone, but a lot of guys have stepped up. There aren't one or two great teams [in the Big Ten]. There isn't separation between the top teams and the middle of the pack."

Having young guards mature and develop provided an early-season hiccup, but Bruesewitz said the expectation within the locker room has remained a league title.

"We've always thought we could win the Big Ten and win a national championship," Bruesewitz said. "That hasn't changed."

As for Saturday's memorable moment at the Kohl Center, well, that one will be talked about for a while. Brust said he can't wait to get a framed photo of the shot. He knows it will have a special place in his home.

"I just want it somewhere where we can talk about it," Brust said. "It's going to be a moment I'll remember forever. I'm just grateful for the opportunity."
Overview: Creighton’s finish belied the back-and-forth action in the second half of the Bluejays’ 84-74 victory over Wisconsin in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena. They didn’t seize a comfortable edge until the final minutes of the game. The Badgers took a lead with nearly eight minutes to go, but Creighton responded and put them away with an 18-4 run down the stretch.

Turning Point: Ethan Wragge (17 points) hit a 3-pointer that put his team ahead 61-60 with 7 minutes, 46 seconds to play. That shot commenced a rally that turned a two-point deficit into a 12-point lead. Until then, Creighton (5-0) struggled to put away its Big Ten foe. Wragge’s team had squandered an eight-point advantage a few minutes prior to that crucial late-game run.

Why Creighton won: After a slow start (it started off 2-for-10 from the field), Creighton shot 25-for-48 the rest of the way. Doug McDermott had a lot to do with that offensive fruitfulness (his team hit 62 percent of its shots after halftime). The national player-of-the-year candidate scored 30 points on a 10-for-23 clip. He became aggressive in the paint as he struggled from the perimeter (1-for-5). That relentlessness inside opened up the arc for Wragge (4-for-7 from 3) and Austin Chatman (2-for-2 from deep). The Bluejays were also more aggressive on defense in the second half, especially on the perimeter. Wisconsin (3-2) missed 12 of its 15 3-point attempts in the second half.

Why Wisconsin lost: The Badgers climbed back into the game as the Missouri Valley favorites nearly pulled away midway through the first half. Jared Berggren scored 10 points in a row during a three-minute stretch, tying the game at 55-55 with 10:03 to play. But Wisconsin couldn’t maintain that productivity. Berggren’s late cramps limited his availability and contributions; he scored two points in the last nine minutes of the game. Mike Bruesewitz struggled with foul trouble and eventually fouled out. Neither helped an ailing Wisconsin offense that went 6-for-20 after taking a 60-58 lead with 8:48 seconds on the game clock.

[+] EnlargeDoug McDermott, Ben Brust
AP Photo/David BeckerCreighton's Doug McDermott (3) and Wisconsin's Ben Brust get tangled up under the basket.
Star(s) of the game: McDermott looked like an NBA prospect as he showcased his post repertoire when his jump shot wasn’t falling. His 30 points led all scorers. He also had eight rebounds and hit nine of 10 free throws. Berggren registered 27 points and seven rebounds.

What it means for Creighton: The win means that Creighton passed a crucial test. The Bluejays had problems with Wisconsin’s defense in the first half, but they eventually found their rhythm and overcame a squad that kept the game tight until the final minutes. Scoring 84 points against one of the top defensive units in the country will build confidence for the undefeated program.

What it means for Wisconsin: If Bruesewitz, who’d helped his team frustrate McDermott early, had avoided foul trouble, the Badgers would have had a better chance to pull off the upset. But they were ultimately doomed by their offensive inefficiency. They couldn’t keep up with the Bluejays in the last 10 minutes. But they played tough most of the game. Wisconsin looked like a top-25 squad in stretches; it just finished poorly. And the Badgers aren’t talented enough to recover in that situation when they’re facing elite opponents.

More observations: Creighton wasn’t sure about its point guard situation after Antoine Young graduated, but Chatman has played the role well this season. He was a vital contributor against the Badgers. … I don’t remember McDermott being so forceful in the paint last season. He’s still working on his interior game, but was far more aggressive against the Badgers than he’d been in the past. Huge plus for Creighton. … Wisconsin senior Ryan Evans is tough to stop when he penetrates. I wonder why he doesn’t drive more often. … Wragge gives Creighton a pure shooter off the bench. With Wisconsin so preoccupied by McDermott, Wragge found space and hit big shots. … Point guard George Marshall scored 13 points for the Badgers. But zero assists won’t cut it for any point guard in Coach Bo Ryan’s system.

What’s next: Creighton will face Arizona State in the tournament championship Saturday. Wisconsin will play Arkansas in the consolation game.

3-point shot: The NCAA's glacial pace

November, 13, 2012
1. The NCAA enforcement process continues to evolve and adjust to the changing time. But the NCAA isn't the law. Yet one of the most consistent constructive criticisms of the process is the glacial speed at which decisions are made -- often pushing the start of a season or shortly thereafter. The latest example is the case of Shabazz Muhammad. The NCAA stated it finally got all the facts of the case which were agreed to by UCLA and the NCAA. The statement said the NCAA made requests for the information on July 31 but didn't get a response with the information until Sept. 25, and then again on Oct. 10 and Nov. 1. The NCAA interviewed the Muhammad family last week before rendering an amateurism violation and ineligibility ruling. But why not set a deadline? The NCAA may have come to the point where it set a time limit for all the information and interviews, and if it isn't received then the player could be ineligible until further notice. That sounds harsh. But there clearly needs to be a sense of urgency on all parties to get the information to the NCAA to speed up this process. Both sides tend to be at fault for the pace of progress. The information the NCAA requests can range from ridiculous to basic. At times there is a standoff, especially if it involves personal matters like bank statements. Still, the common refrain from the NCAA in these cases is that it didn't receive the necessary information to make a decision. Deadlines may need to be set in the future to speed this up or more delays will occur. Meanwhile, a timeline on a final resolution in Muhammad's case is still unknown.

2. Wisconsin senior forward Mike Bruesewitz has recovered well after playing 13 minutes and scoring 10 points in the season-opening win over SE Louisiana. It was his first game back after needing a month to recover from surgery to repair a laceration in his right leg. He tore his leg in a freak accident by running into the basket standard during a workout on Oct. 9. Bruesewitz was sore Monday but practiced later in the day and the plan is still for him to play at Florida Wednesday. Getting Bruesewitz on the court against the Gators gives the Badgers a chance. His presence in practice, let alone during the game, gives the Badgers an emotional lift. Bruesewitz made all three shots he attempted.

3. Obsessing about March is easy to do in a sport that has the best postseason tournament. But for the players, the coaches and the fans, the regular season matters. And that's why UConn and Central Florida have plenty to play for this season. Both schools have been banned by the NCAA -- the former for poor academic scores and the latter for NCAA violations. Yet, each school has plenty of pride. The Huskies and the Knights had two of the most impressive wins in the first weekend of the season. UConn beat Michigan State at Ramstein Air Base in Germany while UCF knocked off rival South Florida, which was in the NCAA tournament last season. Credit to UConn coach Kevin Ollie and UCF coach Donnie Jones for having their teams ready to go on Day One. The Huskies have a set of guards and a pestering, pressure, turnover-driven defense that will challenge every team in the Big East. UCF has two of the best players in CUSA in Keith Clanton and Isaiah Sykes. Expect both to be in the hunt for a top five finish in the Big East and CUSA, respectively.
The loss of All-American point guard Jordan Taylor affected early projections about Bo Ryan’s ability to lead Wisconsin to the top of the Big Ten in 2012-13, a perennial status for the program throughout his tenure.

Ryan’s offensive and defensive systems flow best when operated by dynamic point guards.

For the first time in years, however, the Badgers didn’t appear to have that in the months that preceded the start of this season.

And now that the program has announced that Josh Gasser -- the player Ryan called his starter at the position during Thursday’s Big Ten media day in Chicago -- will miss the 2012-13 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, there are even more questions about the Badgers.

According to a Saturday news release from the team, Gasser tore the ACL during practice Saturday morning at the Kohl Center and will undergo surgery after an upcoming re-evaluation by the team’s medical staff. He will redshirt this season and preserve his two remaining seasons of eligibility, the school said.

Ryan will have to go with an inexperienced orchestrator regardless of whom he chooses to run the show in Madison.

He could turn to George Marshall, a redshirt freshman from Chicago. Traevon Jackson, a sophomore who averaged 5.4 minutes per game last season, will be in the mix, too.

But Gasser (7.6 points and 1.9 assists per game, 45.2 percent from the 3-point line 2011-12) offered Ryan’s program the best option in its transition to life without Taylor.

“Based on the summer, based on what we’ve done so far, Josh Gasser is the point guard,” Ryan said Thursday.

Saturday’s news is another early challenge for the program. The Badgers will compete without forward Mike Bruesewitz for the first few weeks of the season as he recovers from a leg injury.

Now what?

Well, throughout the media session Thursday, Wisconsin players and coaches talked about playing faster and diversifying the offense with the addition of freshman Sam Dekker. The Badgers, ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press preseason poll released Friday, talked about Taylor’s absence as an opportunity for more guys to get involved.

It was clear that they trusted Gasser and thought they’d succeed with him at point guard.

“He’s fundamentally sound. He’s someone who’s tough. Great defender. [He] shoots a high percentage,” said Badgers forward Ryan Evans during media day. “[He’s] someone who’s fun to play with. … A guy like Josh, he’s going to give you his all.”

The Badgers were a mystery in the months that followed Taylor’s graduation based on his immense contributions during his tenure. Now, they’re even more difficult to assess.

Ryan’s legacy suggests that he’ll find a way to win, especially with the early talk about Dekker’s next-level talent and potential impact this season. But he has to identify a new point guard, a unique situation for a coach who’s grown accustomed to utilizing elite prospects at the position.
1. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said he can go a variety of ways to fill senior forward Mike Bruesewitz's absence. Bruesewitz is out for a month while recovering from a severe cut on his right leg that required surgery after he crashed into the basket standard last Tuesday. Ryan said he could go with a combination of sophomore forward Frank Kaminsky, sophomore guard Traevon Jackson and freshman forward Sam Dekker or go smaller along the frontline. He said that junior guard Josh Gasser has improved greatly over the summer. Gasser has to be the lead guard after the departure of Jordan Taylor. The injury occurred because of Bruesewitz was diving for a loose ball, like no other player. Ryan said he it could only happen to “three guys I know [former Badgers] Mike Heineman and Joe Krabbenhoft and Mike [Bruesewitz].’’

2. Cincinnati is a trendy pick in the Big East and for good reason. The Bearcats are fully capable of challenging anyone for second (with the assumption that Louisville is the champ). Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said Sunday night he has the best chemistry he’s had at UC. “The depth could be tremendous. I love our potential defensively. It’s the most athletic team we’ve ever had and we have veteran winners." Cronin said that after a few days of practice. If he keeps seeing this potential in January then the Bearcats will be a formidable force.

3. South Florida sophomore point guard Anthony Collins, who averaged 5.2 assists a game, should be ready for full practice and contact Tuesday after missing the first four days due to a concussion, according to coach Stan Heath. The Bulls, who reached the NCAA tournament last season, have depth with South Alabama transfer Martino Brock available. Heath said Brock is a combo guard who is extremely athletic and tough. Brock averaged 14.2 points a game as a sophomore at South Alabama.

3-point shot: Calhoun still a presence

October, 11, 2012
1. UConn coach Kevin Ollie said Wednesday night that his predecessor, Jim Calhoun, has been at most of the individual and team workouts leading up to Friday's start of practice. Ollie, who was at the Jimmy V Classic dinner at New York City's Pier Sixty, said that Calhoun -- still recovering from hip surgery -- has been taking notes and waving his cane around to illustrate his points. Calhoun uses a cane at times to get around but is aggressively rehabbing from his injury. Ollie said Calhoun keeps his distance when Ollie is going over team issues so as not to distract the players -- but added that it's good to have Calhoun involved and for the players to see him still actively contributing. UConn officials confirmed Calhoun's statement last week that he plans on making the trip to Germany for the Huskies' opener against Michigan State at Ramstein Air Base on Nov. 9.

2. The freaky, scary injury to Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz rocked the Badgers on Tuesday, according to a UW official. The Badgers were understandably anxious when they saw the gory cut on Bruesewitz's right leg after he sliced it on the back of a basket standard while chasing an loose ball. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was there to comfort Bruesewitz and the training staff was apparently quick to treat him before he was taken away by ambulance. Bruesewitz has become the leader of this squad and is easily one of the most well-liked Badgers in the past three years. He will have to take his time returning from this injury. He was apparently fortunate that the prognosis is for him to be out only four to six weeks. The Badgers have two big-time games in their first five that will be much harder if Bruesewitz isn't available -- a Nov. 14 visit to Florida and a Nov. 23 meeting with Creighton in Las Vegas.

3. Texas Southern was banned from the 2013 postseason due to rules violations. TSU hired Mike Davis to shepherd the program through the season before it knew of the penalties. If Davis wants the job long-term, the Southwestern Athletic Conference school should sign him to a lengthy contract to get the program right. Texas Southern isn't going to get a coach with Davis' experience. The school has him now -- it should do everything in its power to keep him.
Incoming freshmen should anticipate major adjustments at the Division I level. The players are bigger, stronger and faster.

But the uptick in competition is only part of the transition from high school to college. The 21st-century college basketball player should understand off-court expectations, too.

They're all about adhering to proper swagger etiquette.

I hope you all have notepads ready. Here’s what you’ll need to get ready for Division I basketball off the floor:

  • An Instagram account: Twitter is so 2011. These days, college basketball players send messages through photos via Instagram. It’s a cool tool. You take photos, attach a brief memo and ship the image to the world. Or if you’re Jared Sullinger, you send photos of text-message exchanges with other All-America forwards. You need this. Trust me.
  • Friendships with rappers: Blame Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins. Lil Wayne’s highly publicized crush on the talented guard dramatically increased her street cred and Twitter follower count. Jay-Z sat behind Kentucky’s bench during the Final Four. Romeo Miller (the onetime Lil' Romeo who now just goes by Romeo) didn’t just support USC basketball. He actually joined the team. Find a rapper. Become his friend.
  • Fashionable specs: I know. You have 20/20 vision. Doesn’t matter. This is all about style. I learned about this recent development in college basketball fashion from Michigan State’s Adreian Payne. He says his black glasses project sophistication. It’s either that or an affinity for Clark Kent.
  • [+] EnlargeNerlens Noel
    Kelly Kline/Getty ImagesNerlens Noel brings a signature coif to Kentucky ... but does he have the right backpack?
  • The Kevin Durant backpack: Throw the gym bag in the trash. That’s old school. You need a backpack. Not a normal backpack. You won’t haul anything in it. You need a backpack that’s also a fashion statement. Durant’s backpack -- one he wears to postgame press conferences -- started this trend.
  • Access to a state-of-the-art facility: Florida State’s players get access to their team’s practice facility by placing their hands on some sort of “Star Trek” detection device. Indiana’s facility features underwater treadmills in the training room, his and hers gyms for the men’s and women’s squads and an atrium that doubles as a museum for Indiana basketball. Players’ lounges -- think college kids bonding, not “Shaft” -- are standard, too. And then, there’s Oklahoma State’s basketball facility. Is that legal?
  • Trend-setting hair: Nerlens Noel is covered. But what about the rest of the incoming freshmen? Will your hair matter? It definitely did for Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz. Stores in Madison sell wigs of his former curly-afro look. Still waiting for the cornrows version. The hair on top of St. Louis guard Jordair Jett’s head can only be described as majestic. Talk to your barber about this.
  • Beats by Dre headphones: Yes, they’re $300 headphones, but a multitude of college players wears them and, somehow, purchases them. They’re a necessity, I guess. You either have a pair of mammoth Beats by Dre headphones or you don’t wear headphones in public as a Division I basketball player. I don’t think the headphones offer a real advantage over their competitors. But, they’re the norm for college basketball players. The obsession with Dr. Dre’s headphones among NBA players has certainly trickled down. Even high school players demand them now. Put it on the shopping list.

Feel free to add on …

Even Bo Ryan wowed by Wisconsin

March, 17, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Forget the No. 4 seed. Toss out the top-20 preseason ranking.

Wisconsin again reaching the Sweet 16, after what the Badgers lost off last season’s Sweet 16 edition and certainly following an unprecedented three home losses at the Kohl Center, is a surprise.

Don’t let anyone say anything otherwise. You may have picked the Badgers in your bracket to reach the Sweet 16. I did not. President Barack Obama did and countless others did as well.

But step back and digest how far this team has come this season and you’ll realize that the Badgers have fooled the field yet again.

“This team has done some things that if you’re a real basketball person, you’ve got to go, wow,’’ said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan after the Badgers knocked off No. 5 Vanderbilt 60-57 Saturday afternoon at The Pit. “Everybody knows we have weaknesses. Jordan Taylor. Without Jordan Taylor, it’s not the same.

“I’d like to say it’s coaching but nobody would believe that,’’ Ryan said. “It’s guys working hard.’’

The Badgers lost Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankevil off last season's team.

“We have three starters that played reserve minutes [on last season's team],’’ Ryan said. “Some programs do that and put in McDonald’s All-Americans. That didn’t happen here.’’

The Badgers were dreadful in a home loss to Iowa at the beginning of the Big Ten season. That led to a 1-3 conference start. Taylor was in a shooting slump and the Badgers looked like they were going to be an afterthought in the Big Ten behind upstart Indiana and Michigan and well behind Ohio State and Michigan State.

“I had to go to practice and be up,’’ Ryan said. “It wasn’t about a lack of trying. You can’t yell at people for not making baskets.’’

But then the Badgers won at Purdue and stunned Ohio State with a win in Columbus. Taylor shook his slump. Ryan Evans became the unsung player on this team and the contributions from Mike Bruesewitz, Jared Berggren, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust and even Rob Wilson became better with each game.

When asked if this team had improved more than any other he has coached at Wisconsin, Ryan’s quick response was: “No question.’’

[+] EnlargeWisconsin
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireWisconsin star Jordan Taylor credited teammate Josh Gasser, who played ill during Saturday's win.
Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt was another example of how much.

The Badgers blitzed the Commodores with a 10-2 start as Evans made shots in and out of the lane. Vandy was in step with Wisconsin, though, and took a lead to start the second half. But just when it appeared safe for the Commodores, the Badgers, especially Taylor, would hit buckets late in the shot clock.

“Coach kept telling me in the huddle that I had to step up as a senior and take the shot,’’ Taylor said.

Gasser said, “If we get the ball to him late in the shot clock, he will make sure to always do good things. He’s been doing it all year and all of last year. He is the leader of this team and we want the ball in his hands at the end of the game. He usually makes it happen. He didn’t want this to be his last game and he definitely showed it.’’

Taylor buried a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to one second to give the Badgers a 59-57 lead. The Badgers defended Vandy well on the next few possessions and Taylor had a shot to deliver the dagger to the Dores with 19 seconds left.

But he missed. And that’s when Gasser hustled to get the loose ball rebound. Vandy’s Festus Ezeli, who was benched for the first three-plus minutes of the game in a coach’s decision, said it was a case of a long rebound that his team simply didn’t run down in time.

Taylor said Gasser was up until 3 a.m. sick. “I can’t say enough about him,’’ Taylor said. “He did a great job just coming in. He dogged Jenkins as much as he could. That’s why we’re able to have success because we have teammates like Josh.’’

Vandy had one more chance because Gasser missed a free throw. John Jenkins had a clean look at a 3-pointer to possibly win the game with four seconds left.

“It was a pretty good look,’’ Jenkins said. “I felt like I got a good chance of having it going in, just like a lot of looks I had. It just didn’t drop for me.’’

“He was wide open,’’ Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said. “He’s a great shooter, period. He’s really a great shooter going left and he was going left and he was wide open. We ran the play, ran it to perfection and got it right where we wanted him. He’s made so many that have caused us to win games, and unfortunately that one didn’t go in.’’

Those close to the Badgers are in awe of their Sweet 16 appearance and that they have won 26 games, picked up a number of wins by shooting close to 40 percent and survived shooting slumps by Taylor and Bruesewitz this season.

The Badgers will play East Region top seed Syracuse on Thursday with a chance at an Elite Eight berth.

“They’re long and we’ll have to get inside-outside stuff going,’’ Ryan said. “Hey, how close is Boston to Syracuse? Pretty close, isn’t it?’’

It is much closer than Madison. But distance and fan support shouldn’t matter. The Badgers won’t be picked to beat Syracuse. But doubting this particular Ryan edition has already proved to be foolish.

MINNEAPOLIS -- All evening, Jordan Taylor just smirked.

When his four first-half 3s found the net. As an awkward reverse layup in the second half did more damage to the hometown team he rejected after high school. When his teammates swarmed him following the No. 22 Badgers' 68-61 overtime victory against the Gophers on Thursday night.

On the postgame podium. Outside the visitors locker room. The grin never left the Minnesota native’s face.

He’d waited four years to smile here.

“I love playing. I’ve struggled a little bit from the field this year so to have the ball go through like that was definitely fun, especially at home,” Taylor said after he’d recorded 27 points (including 5-for-9 from beyond the arc) and three steals in the victory.

Taylor, a former Minnesota prep star, had never defeated the Gophers at Williams Arena.

Thursday night was his last opportunity to secure a victory over his hometown-turned-rival school.

He initially downplayed the stakes.

And then, he talked about the family members who’d come from Cleveland to watch him play. And the 16 tickets he’d personally distributed. And the 50-plus family members and friends who’d found their own.

“It means something to me. It definitely does, coming back,” he said. “I’ve got a ton of family here, a ton of friends. To be able to win at the Barn, it’s special to me.”

Taylor didn’t disappoint his fans.

He scored 14 points in the first half after going 4-for-4 from beyond the 3-point line. He hit a crucial 3-pointer with a little more than 17 minutes to play that gave the Badgers a 37-26 lead.

The Badgers, fueled by Taylor’s strong start, maintained a double-digit lead for the bulk of the second half.

And then, the Gophers clamped down defensively and the Badgers failed to score for the last eight minutes of the second half (the Badgers made seven of 11 3-pointers in the first half but just two of 12 in the second).

Minnesota ended regulation with a 10-0 run that sent the game into overtime.

Taylor’s teammates, however, came to Minneapolis bent on helping their senior star get his first victory at the Barn. They knew this was his last chance.

[+] EnlargeRyan Evans
Marilyn Indahl/US PresswireRyan Evans scored 17 as Wisconsin beat back host Minnesota in OT.
“We wanted to get him a win here. I was hitting the glass hard, and he was making shots himself. That was a big factor,” said Ryan Evans, who scored 17 points. “It’s not anything we talked about, but we kind of all knew and understood what it meant for him.”

The Badgers, who also start Minnesotans Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren, scored the first six points in the extra period and made 15 of 17 shots from the charity stripe.

The Gophers looked tired. Digging out of the hole Taylor put them in drained the young team.

If only he’d stayed home.

But before Tubby Smith arrived prior to the start of the 2007-08 season, Taylor chose Bo Ryan.

His stellar high school career at nearby Benilde-St. Margaret’s concluded in 2008 with a 3A state championship. Ryan, however, had latched onto Taylor long before his prep pinnacle.

The Gophers never had a chance or they just didn’t push hard enough, depending on whose version of Taylor’s recruitment you believe.

His success, however, still fuels the what-if tweets and message-board posts from Gophers fans who dreamed of a program that featured the state’s best preps.

But in their eyes, Taylor and the team’s other Minnesotans have joined the enemy.

“It’s different. Air smells a little bit better here when you walk off the plane. Then you get in here, it’s crazy,” Bruesewitz said about facing the hostile crowd at the Barn. “I don’t mind it. When they were making their run with about a minute and a half left, they were really getting after it, the Barn was loud. ... You can’t do anything but smile.”

It took Taylor four years to feel that way.

Mike Bruesewitz's head shaven for charity

April, 6, 2011
Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz has become known for his carrot top and as of last week had his hair styled in cornrows, but that was the old Mike Bruesewitz.

This morning, he got his head shaved by teammate Jon Leuer on WKOW-TV so he could try to raise $3,100 after his jersey number to help support the fight against multiple sclerosis.

Bruesewitz was even nice enough to give an interview with his head half-shaven, telling the television viewers, "I was going to do it anyway, and I figured try and do something good with it, and I feel like this is the best possible to do something with it...instead of sitting in an apartment while Jon makes fun of me."

For the full effect, here are the before and after photos.

So there goes one of the college basketball's most famous hairstyles, a carrot top that inspired Wisconsin fans to wear wigs.

But Bruesewitz at least found a good reason for cutting it all off.

Yes, Mike Bruesewitz has cornrows

March, 29, 2011
Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz's hairstyle became a matter of slight fascination this season. The curly red locks were always the most immediately noticeable thing on any Badgers basketball broadcast. (Second place was just ... how ... slow ... that ... offense ... was.) As Wisconsin advanced into the Sweet 16, and the media's lights focused ever brighter on Bruesewitz's trademark locks, a shocking revelation was made: Bruesewitz's mother permed his hair.

Perhaps the pressure of this revelation has forced Bruesewitz into a drastic change. Perhaps it's just time to move on. Whatever the reason, all true artistes must at various times make radical changes to the very nature of their work, and it appears that's exactly what Bruesewitz has done.

Yes, Mike Bruesewitz has cornrows. Via the official Twitter account of Badgers basketball, you can see a photo of them here. There's also this pic, in which Bruesewitz is flashing the 'rows with his awesome throwback Bill Walton jersey.

The jersey is awesome. The cornrows are ... regrettable. With all due respect, Bruesewitz looks like a 10-year-old girls soccer player. Or someone too young to be in Acapulco. Or Jamie Kennedy. Or maybe all three.

The point is, the perm needs to come back. Frankly, it never should have left in the first place.
NEW ORLEANS -- A quick glance at the Butler-Wisconsin game:

No. 8 seed Butler (25-9) vs. No. 4 seed Wisconsin (25-8), 9:57 p.m. ET (TBS)

Storyline: Butler is coming off two of the more dramatic wins of the NCAA tournament thus far, beating Old Dominion and Pitt on final possessions. The Bulldogs are attempting to make a run to their second straight Final Four.

Headline name: You can’t pick just one between these two teams. Wisconsin has two stars in Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, while Butler also has a pair in Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. Both are guard-forward tandems that can shoot and score in a variety of ways. The bigs are stocky and gritty, while the guards are like pistons who aren’t easily knocked over.

Who will blink first: Neither of the teams are turnover-prone. Wisconsin did have a rare double-digit turnover number (13) against Belmont, but had just five in the win over Kansas State. Butler had an unusual 15 against ODU, but then a more normal six in the win over Pittsburgh.

The toughest player on Butler to stop: Matt Howard.


“He’s a great player,’’ Leuer said. “He’s obviously a skilled big man that can stretch the floor and shoot it, but he’s also effective in the post. He’s physical and he moves his feet well. He does everything right, everything that you want a big to do. We’re definitely going to have our hands full.’’

The toughest player on Wisconsin to stop: Jordan Taylor.


“He’s a tough guy to guard,’’ Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “Jordan Taylor’s ability to get in the paint, to draw two guys, he’s got a 4-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. If you don’t respect him off a ball screen, you’re dead. He shoots 44 percent from 3, and he probably shoots 60 percent off the dribble from 3. You add all that together and he’s as good a point guard as we’ve played against this year.’’

Coaching value: If there is a calmer coach in the country than Brad Stevens, please give me a name. He never is rattled, regardless of the situation. As for Bo Ryan, he just continues to win, win, win, win.

Superstition: Stevens had a scare with his eyes a few weeks ago when he had a corneal edema from contact lenses that weren’t wearing well. He’s now 4-0 with his glasses on and doesn’t plan on taking them off anytime soon.

Glue guys: Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz will be a key player in this game in some form. He goes to the boards, hits a 3-pointer and gets on the floor. The Bulldogs’ big Andrew Smith is unheralded, but hit the key bucket to beat Pitt before the end-of-game chaos. Smith is a grinder inside.

Who should win: Wisconsin has been much more consistent throughout the season and is arguably a better defensive team.

But...: The Badgers can go through serious scoring droughts, even with Taylor’s proficiency and the ability of Josh Gasser and Keaton Nankivil to make shots. Butler was one shot away from losing to Old Dominion in its first tourney game and one free throw away from losing to Pitt. But the Bulldogs find ways to win games.

What should you be looking for: If Shelvin Mack has another big night, like he did against Pitt when he scored 30 points, then the Bulldogs have a great shot to win. He’s a big-shot maker.

But if this is a last-possession grinder, then the Badgers may have the edge with more rebounders on the bench.

Badgers and Bruesewitz no afterthought

March, 23, 2011

NEW ORLEANS -- There's Jimmer. And the darling, Butler. And Florida back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since winning the second of two titles four years ago.

And then there's Wisconsin.

Oh yeah, the Badgers are here, too.

“Hey, if that’s how people want to look at us, that’s fine with us,’’ Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer said. “We’ve got a good, confident group that is confident that it can win. We’ve got a shot to move on to the Elite Eight and hopefully the Final Four. There’s a lot of good teams here, and I think we could beat anybody, but we could also lose to anybody here.’’

[+] EnlargeWisconsin's Mike Bruesewitz
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesMike Bruesewitz has been the glue guy for Wisconsin in the past two games.
The Badgers are the afterthought program that doesn’t create the buzz or the natural storyline. Yet, outside of Butler’s unbelievable win over Pitt in the final frenzied seconds, the Badgers might have had the most impressive win of the four teams in New Orleans. Wisconsin beat Kansas State 70-65 despite Jacob Pullen’s 38 points.

“I think everyone thinks we’re just boring, run the swing,’’ Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor said. “But this is wide open. It’s going to be a fun weekend to see who comes out on top.’’

The Badgers might seem dull to the outside world, but they’re not without their share of characters, led by sophomore forward Mike Bruesewitz.

The redhead with the curly, floppy hair has been the ultimate glue guy for the Badgers.

“He’s been unbelievable all year, especially in these last two games,’’ Taylor said of Bruesewitz. “He hit two of the biggest shots for us. Against Belmont, he hit a 3 to push us from four to seven. And the 3 he hit against Kansas State was huge [it broke a tie with 91 seconds left]. He’s been like the Energizer Bunny for us. He never stops.’’

And he was questionable playing in the event last week after he sprained his knee in the Big Ten tournament semifinal loss to Penn State.

“I came down on it and said, ‘Oh crap.’ It didn’t feel good; something weird happened,’’ Brusewitz said. “But it was just a sprain, and once I could practice full speed by Wednesday [of last week], I knew I’d be OK.’’

Brusewitz finished with eight points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes against Belmont, and then 11 points and six boards in 29 minutes against K-State.

“We didn’t know if we’d have him for sure, but he’s given us so much energy, especially on the offensive rebounds,’’ Leuer said. “We’re glad we’re getting production out of him. It helps us out a lot.’’

If the Badgers are going to beat Butler, you can guarantee Bruesewitz will be a factor. He was a difference-maker with two significant 3s and a key offensive rebound in the Badgers’ win over then-No. 1 Ohio State on Feb. 12.

But no one on the Badgers would trade hairstyles.

“No way; I don’t think that looks good on anybody,’’ Leuer said.

“Never in my life,’’ said Taylor.

Brusewitz laughs it off. The curly locks have been a trademark for him, but they don't overshadow his effort.

The Badgers don’t have to apologize for being here one bit. They’ve earned their spot. And the respect is mutual from Butler.

“I could sit up here and flatter them all day,’’ Butler coach Brad Stevens said at Wednesday’s news conference. “Why wouldn’t you want to play a way where everybody is completely unselfish? Where if they have a good shot, they try to find a better shot for their team, where guys are diving on the floor, where guys take charges, where guys are physically and mentally tough.’’

Stevens went on to praise how the Badgers don’t lose very often and the remarkable run that Bo Ryan is on the past decade.

“They are one of the hardest teams to guard in the country,’’ Stevens said. “They’re one of the hardest teams to score on in the country, and that’s usually a pretty good combination.’’

The praise from Stevens continued with Taylor, comparing him to some of the best point guards Butler has faced this season, such as Kyrie Irving of Duke and Norris Cole of Cleveland State.

The Badgers aren’t a sexy pick to get out of the regional, but they’re more than capable with players who can star, such as Taylor and Leuer, and gritty role players who will make headline plays, in Bruesewitz.