Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Badger Basketball is picking up

Just two weeks ago it appeared the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s (5-3 Big Ten, 16-5 overall) season was headed for disaster. With three straight losses, including a rare stretch of back-to-back home losses the Badger’s streak of 12 consecutive NCAA tournament births was in jeopardy. Fast forward just sixteen days later and Wisconsin suddenly finds itself only a half game out of first place in the conference after an impressive four-game Big Ten winning streak.
“So much of the schedule is who you play, when you play, who you played before, how many days off you get,” head coach Bo Ryan said.
Indeed the fickle nature of college basketball scheduling can sometimes either emphasize the struggles of a team, causing a team to quickly pile up loses, or trigger a win streak in a similar stretch if a team is hot.
“Because of the popularity and media coverage of college basketball, no sport is as controlled as college basketball,” Ryan said.  “Some weeks you could be playing on Monday-Tuesday, or Tuesday-Thursday, Thursday-Sunday, or you could have nine days off.”
Right now the schedule is working for the Badgers, as a combination of hot shooting and improved defense has allowed Ryan’s group to pull out a string of quality conference wins, including impressive road wins over Purdue (4-3, 14-6) and Illinois (4-3, 15-5).
“Anytime you have an object that you are trying to put in a target, you will have some nights that are better than others,” Ryan said. “In basketball you have the defensive end, which can allow you to fight through slumps and give you a chance to win.”
Improved quality and consistency from All-American senior point guard Jordan Taylor has elevated the Badger’s play during the win streak. During conference play, Taylor has taken more control of the offense, which at different points has yielded mixed results. During the four-game winning streak, Taylor’s play has brought the team out of shooting slumps and has kept them in close games.
“Jordan is always going to find a way to make the team more successful; which is what all players will do. It’s just he’s better at it,” Ryan said.
The Badgers look to continue their streak this week against No. 17 Indiana (4-4, 16-4) who come in as a surprising contender for the Big Ten title after finishing in the conference’s bottom tier for two consecutive seasons. After posting wins against the likes of No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio State, the first time in Indiana’s prestigious basketball history that the basketball team beat a No. 1 and a No. 2 team in the same season, many are projecting Indiana to make a run deep into March. The credit goes to Indiana head coach Tom Crean, who has been able to attract talent back to Indiana with the likes of freshmen forward sensation Cody Zeller (15.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Combining young talent with the veteran presence that has learned Crean’s system has gotten the Hoosiers back into college basketball’s elite programs.
“There’s a lot of the same players, they have the experience and have played in the toughest environments,” Ryan said. “90 percent of [Indiana] players have been there for a long time. Everyone in the conference expected them to be good this year.”
Finding a way to contain Zeller will be key for Wisconsin. In addition, limiting Indiana offensively as a team will be key, as the Hoosiers shoot 50 percent from the field, which is sixth in the nation. The Badgers are up for the challenge, as they lead the conference in opponent field goal percentage. Wisconsin has been especially stifling from behind the arc, as it is allowing opponents to only shoot 26 percent from three-point range.
“There are a lot of things that go into that. Like other teams we look at a scouting report and try to stay consistent with our roles,” Ryan said. “There’s no magic formula, just a lot of hard work from our players who try to limit our opponent’s looks.”
Let's hope the Badgers can return to the NCAA tournament and make some waves.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Matt Canada named offensive cordinator

The shape of the Wisconsin football team’s coaching staff continues to take shape as head coach Bret Bielema announced the hiring of Matt Canada as the squad’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tuesday afternoon.

Canada spent the 2011 season in an identical role with Northern Illinois, although he has a total of seven years of experience as an offensive coordinator at NIU, Indiana and Butler as well as 11 years as a quarterbacks coach. He faces the task of replacing Paul Chryst at both positions, who led record-breaking offenses at Wisconsin that averaged 31.9 points and 408.6 yards per game over six years.

“Matt has a terrific history as an offensive coordinator and has excelled at developing quarterbacks throughout his career,” Bielema said. “I know he is very excited about running a pro-style offense and handling a game the way we typically have at Wisconsin. I think this is a great hire for us and I can’t wait for him to get to work with our coaches and players.”
While working underneath former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren at Northern Illinois last season, Canada lead a formidable offense that finished within the top 12 in the country in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense. Both NIU and UW were two of five teams in the nation to average at least 230 yards rushing and passing last season.
Huskies’ quarterback Chandler Harnish finished ninth in the country in total offense, averaging 328.2 yards per game 2010. And in his four years at Northern Illinois, Canada has also coached two-time NFL All-Pro running back Michael Turner as well current UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock.
Canada employed the spread offense at Northern Illinois and at Indiana, although it appears he is willing to adopt a more traditional scheme to fit Wisconsin’s usual brand of offense.
“I’m truly excited for the opportunity to come to Wisconsin,” Canada said. “It’s a program that I’ve followed closely for a number of years. I’ve always been impressed with their tradition, especially offensively with their style of play, and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Canada began his coaching career at Indiana, where from 1992-95 he acted as a student coach and graduate assistant for running backs, quarterbacks and tight ends. In 1996 he coached quarterbacks and wide receivers at Butler but was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1997. From there he joined the staff at Northern Illinois from 1998-2003, taking the reigns as offensive coordinator in 2003.
Canada then returned to Indiana in 2004 to coach quarterbacks and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2007, remaining in that position until after the 2010 season. Afterward, Canada rejoined Northern Illinois for one last season before making the jump to Wisconsin.
The three quarterbacks Canada oversaw at Indiana - Ben Chappell, Kellen Lewis and Blake Powers - hold the school’s top three spots in single-season touchdowns, yards, completions, attempts and completion percentage. Chappell led the Big Ten in passing yards, completions and attempts in 2010 while setting single-season records in all three categories.
After announcing the hiring Zach Azzani to coach wide receivers Monday, Bielema now has three vacancies along the coaching staff, with openings for tight ends, offensive line and linebackers.
“In this process, I’m putting together a staff that will come from different directions to come together to play football the way Wisconsin has traditionally played,” Bielema said.
Let's hope he has much success.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Konz goes to the NFL

Junior center Peter Konz officially announced he will make himself eligible for the NFL draft.
Konz, from Neenah, took 18 credits in the fall — 12 is a full-time load — so he would graduate in the spring and fulfill a promise he made to his mother, Margaret.
"As you've probably heard, I have decided to forgo my senior season and enter the NFL draft," Konz said in a statement. "Because of the support I have received, the degree I am so proud to leave with, the football legacy I helped leave behind, and more reasons than I could even remember, I would simply like to say thank you. "Every last person has made my experience at Wisconsin far beyond what I could have imagined and without you I could never be where I am today."
Konz wrote this letter to UW fans.
He started 31 games at center over the past three seasons. He was a finalist this season for the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's top center. He was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches' Association and Pro Football Weekly.
"I knew when we received the information back from the NFL that Pete would have a tough decision ahead of him," UW coach Bret Bielema said in a statement. "He has been one of the most enjoyable players I have had the pleasure to coach."
"I know being a Badger meant the world to him and his family. I want to thank him not only for all his hard work and effort on the field but for also representing our program and the University of Wisconsin in a first-class manner throughout his career."
Some draft projections have Konz being taken late in the first round or early in the second.
His departure means the Badgers must fill three starting spots on the offensive line since they're also losing two seniors: right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Josh Oglesby.
Let's hope that he is successful in the NFL.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Badgers lose another Rose Bowl

After a roller coaster season that included some of college football's most memorable finishes, Wisconsin's 2011 football campaign has come to a close after a heartbreaking 45-38 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game. And just as it did with the first loss back in October, the Badgers' final contest ended with a replay, this time confirming the call that senior quarterback Russell Wilson's spiked pass did not hit the ground before the clock hit zero.
This Rose Bowl Game was one for the ages even before the frantic finish. The Badgers (6-2 Big Ten, 11-3 Overall) and Ducks (8-1 Pac-12, 12-2 Overall) traded scores throughout the first half, with Rose Bowl records set for highest scoring first quarter (28) and half (56). But after leading throughout the first half and having to kick to begin the second, the halftime draw at 28 felt like a certain deficit.
Even while it was turning into a shootout, this game looked like it would end, as it did, with the Badgers regretting two consecutive red zone possessions that ended with a combined three points.
Late in the 2nd quarter, Wisconsin drove to the Oregon 17 yard line facing 3rd and 1. After junior running back Montee Ball was stopped for no gain, Wisconsin shunned a field goal attempt in favor of a fourth down try, remembering a similar situation last season that ended with kicker Philip Welch missing a crucial field goal. Instead of trying to run up the gut again, UW tried to roll Wilson out on a play action fake but Oregon's defense was ready, sacking Wilson for a three-yard loss and a huge shift in momentum.
Let's hope they return to Rose Bowl next year and win.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!