We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
Today is Tuesday, Nov. 8, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
Fans might be thinking about who Wisconsin will play in the Big Ten title game next month after it closes out with wins over Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. And fans can.
But the players say that despite the fact Nebraska’s loss to Ohio State last Saturday gave Wisconsin control back of its Big Ten West fate, the focus of what might happen in December means nothing. For them, it’s all about a homecoming date with the Illini this Saturday.
Forever hungry! ? In. https://t.co/uEyv8YdUuq
— JP (@JazzPeavy) November 8, 2016
The “one-week-at-a-time” train of thought is boring. It is. It’s near the top of every football cliché known to man. Right up there with “We’re going to give it 110 percent” and “They left it all on the field.” And no team or coach loves clichés, or so it seems, more than Wisconsin.
But the weird thing about these guys is they actually believe them, too.
PC: The only thing you should focus on is things you can control. We all know the season is a journey. You want to enjoy that, embrace that.
— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) November 7, 2016
You get the feeling that the entire team is taking on the identity of its coach Paul Chryst, a guy who is not someone who takes a big-picture view on a regular basis. Sure, the team wants to win the Big Ten West, and the conference championship game, make the College Football Playoff and win a national title.
But none of that can be accomplished without winning the practice, the day, the week and the game. And as hokey as it sounds, the Badgers appear to be — as former coach Gary Andersen said constantly — wrapping their arms around the process and enjoying it.
Push for change
Social issues have permeated the sports world in 2016, and the campus in Madison has been no different. High profile athletes like Wisconsin basketball players Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have taken on visible roles in various movements and put their names behind issues that matter to them.
That continued on Monday as athletes from nearly every sport tweeted out an essay that was written from the viewpoint of an athlete of color on the Wisconsin campus.
— Nigel Hayes (@NIGEL_HAYES) November 8, 2016
From Wisconsin women’s basketball player Gabby Gregory to Hayes to football player Dare Ogunbowale and to softball player Mariah Watts — all of them sent the same tweet directed at the school’s twitter account.
We’re listening to our students and our student-athletes. Thanks for your honesty and commitment to Wisconsin. https://t.co/qXbPGzmxA6
— UW-Madison (@UWMadison) November 8, 2016
The message is strong and is directed at those in power — namely Chancellor Rebecca Blank. And it came just hours after news broke that Wisconsin had revoked the season tickets of two fans, one of whom dressed up for the Nebraska game wearing a mask of Barack Obama and a noose around his neck. The University took a lot of flack for the way it handled the matter, which included allowing the two to stay in the stadium.
No one has an answer to the social issues facing student athletes at Wisconsin or people of color across the country. The only way to find one is to bring people together and have open dialogue. It’s something the athletic department started doing this summer among athletes in the wake of the police-involved shootings in different parts of the country, and many felt it was constructive.
But clearly more needs to happen and there isn’t a better place for it to materialize than on a campus that was once well-known for activism and enacting change.
Redshirt? What redshirt
The Wisconsin basketball team is incredibly deep this season. It may be the deepest group the school has seen in at least the last 20 years. Very little separates the sixth guy off the bench and the 10th or 11th guy.
But coach Greg Gard can only play so many of them, so it stands to reason that at least a few that could end up redshirting. Asked on Monday, though, Gard sounded very much like a coach that expects to go 10 or 12 deep throughout the season.
Coach Gard on the prospects of any #Badgers using a redshirt before the season starts: "I don't see it being a huge number, if any."
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 7, 2016
During Bo Ryan’s tenure, the coaching staff would sit down and discuss what a fringe player might be able to expect in terms of minutes, and then let them decide on their own whether to redshirt or not, which is unlike most places where it’s the coach’s call. For Gard, it appears he’ll follow in Ryan’s footsteps.
“Those conversations will happen the week,” Gard said. “I don’t think there are very many of them that are in that position that even have the option to redshirt — (among those) that aren’t viably in the top 10 or so. We’ll work through that as the week goes on.”
There is no doubt that Gard is more willing to go deeper into his bench than Ryan. The former coach used to brush off the idea that it was bad having just seven guys in the rotation, saying all the stoppages in play allows for it. But Gard is a fan of playing the matchups, throwing a bunch of different looks at teams and keeping players fresh.
Still, at some point it seems like a waste to have sophomores Charlie Thomas, Alex Illikainen and Andy Van Vliet all splitting minutes in the front court, especially when the Badgers want Hayes and sophomore Ethan Happ playing close to 30 minutes a game. Same goes for the backcourt with sophomore Khalil Iverson and freshmen D’Mitrik Trice and Brevin Pritzl trying to fight for the minutes not taken by Koenig and fellow senior Zak Showalter.
This is a good problem to have if you’re Gard. But it’s also a juggling process, trying to keep everyone happy and involved on a team that has high aspirations. And it’s something that will be among the key things to watch early in a season that gets underway this Friday against Central Arkansas.
Injury list starts to dwindle
A big story all year has been the injuries the Wisconsin football team has had to deal with. It started before the first game, when projected starting left guard Dan Voltz had to give up football due to injury and it continued when a knee injury claimed linebacker Chris Orr on the first play of the season against LSU.
Since then, injuries have cost major pieces like running back Corey Clement and linebacker Vince Biegel parts of their season. But as Wisconsin hits the final three games of Big Ten play, the number of names on the injury list is at almost a season low.
— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 7, 2016
The list is a little deceiving. It’s missing linebacker T.J. Watt, who is playing with what some have called searing pain in his shoulder, while almost every guy that has played extensively is dealing with some sort of ailment or soreness at this point.
Still, things are starting to look up for a team that has been ravaged this year and last.
- Iowa’s passing game issues are obvious
- Can Nebraska save its season with Ryker Fyfe under center?
- Will Ohio State crack the top 4 of the College Football Playoff rankings?
- Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh takes in President Obama’s visit
- Michigan State 5-star commit set to sign national letter of intent this week