The Wisconsin Badgers lost the Big Ten Tournament final, lost again when the NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed, and now have to make sure they don’t lose again Thursday against Virginia Tech.
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard spoke to the media for the last time Monday afternoon before heading to east to Buffalo, N.Y. He talked about the team’s shockingly low seed, the Big Ten Tournament and the Badgers’ matchup with Virginia Tech.
“Extremely happy and excited for our guys to make the program’s 19th straight NCAA Tournament, which is astonishing when you think about it and really look at it in the big picture,” Gard said. “You get to this time of year, as I’ve said, all the average to poor teams are on spring break. So any opponent you’re going to see, regardless of when you see them, where you see them, what seeds everybody is, it really doesn’t matter. The only teams left are the ones who have really good years.”
Here’s what else Gard had to say.
On what he sees against Virginia Tech
“Any team you face is going to present issues or opportunities for us. Obviously, knowing Buzz (Williams) for a long time, how his teams played at Marquette, how they play at Virginia Tech. They have some differences from how they were doing at Marquette. Very good players. They’ve had to overcome an injury in the last month with Chris Clarke tearing an ACL. But a team that has played well and obviously well-tested in their league. It’ll be a lot more about how we play vs. any type of matchup. They’re a little smaller, in terms of across the front line, but they do different things to compensate for that. Like I said, they’ve had a really good year, too. I think this is the first time that program is back in the NCAA Tournament since 2007. So they’re excited about. We’ll learn about them as we go through the week and understand what we need to do to be successful Thursday night.”
On what went wrong in the Big Ten championship game
“We missed some shots around the rim, but we were also in position when we cut it to six and the three 3-pointers they got in the second half were all with the shot clock … Those were all timely with where we were, in terms of making a run, but I thought we had several opportunities in the paint, some decent looks.”
On his reaction to being an 8 seed
“You never know what’s going on in the room, so I don’t get too wound up in that. There’s all types of different factors, from where else you could have been, what’s the next opponent, they can’t put you in a pod where you could see somebody you’ve already seen, or see a league team. There’s a lot of things that go into it, RPI, strength of schedule, all kinds of things go into it. Playing in March is a privilege. It’s not a right, it’s not something that automatically happens. You’ve got to work for it and once you get there, you understand it is what it is and you’ve got to be ready to play. Any opponent doesn’t care about where you felt you should have been seeded. They’re all good teams.”
On playing at 9:40 ET
“It helps us. We get more rest, from playing on Sunday to playing later on Thursday. The more time we have, the better. Maybe it’ll be really late for Virginia Tech. They’re on the East Coast and be ready to go to bed by that time. It’ll be 8:40 on our clocks (laughter). It doesn’t matter. Play tomorrow, play Thursday, we get too wound up in some of the frivolous things that really don’t matter.”
On the snowstorm expected to hit Buffalo during tournament time
“I think we’re going to be fine. We’ve got some snowmobiles rented in case we need them. Some snowshoes. Won’t be a whole lot different from being in Wisconsin, maybe it’s an advantage. They don’t have snow in Blacksburg right now, right? A little different temperature. Buzz hasn’t seen the snow in a while since he left Marquette.”
On Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams, who coached for in-state rival Marquette for six seasons
“Buzz has always been good to me. We got a chance to talk last summer; I haven’t seen him since last summer. We text sometimes during the year, specifically last year when we were going through our season and he knew the situation I was in. I haven’t seen him really since July. I think we stood together watching the game, and I had to give him the history. Buzz always has a lot of questions. Buzz is very inquisitive. He wanted me to walk him though how our whole year came about, from the interim standpoint to more of my background. Buzz has had to work his way up. He swept floors as a junior college coach just like I had to sweep floors as a junior high coach. He didn’t have anything given to him in the college ranks. Anything he’s earned has been through his dedication and hard work.”