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 Friday, Oct. 14, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
It’s going to be loud
Expect Saturday night to be one of the loudest in Camp Randall Stadium history. A day full of partying, and for some, a large number of adult beverages, will add a little something extra to the mix of a top-10 matchup between Wisconsin and Ohio State.
We’ve seen it before in 2003 and 2010 – a highly-ranked Buckeyes squad comes to Madison and walks right into a hornet’s nest that has taken up residence in the fourth-oldest FBS stadium in the country. As Jesse Temple of ESPN.com illustrates, the history of night games at the one-time Civil War training camp is littered with some of the most memorable nights in stadium history. It’s something special, no doubt.
But it guarantees nothing. It didn’t when Colorado came in 1995 for the season opener and pounded the Badgers 43-7. Nor did it matter when, on back-to-back weeks in 2008, Wisconsin lost to Ohio State and Penn State under the lights.
The idea that Wisconsin is somehow invincible at home because of the atmosphere is a disservice to the program. The Badgers’ wins over Michigan in 2005, Ohio State in 2010 and Nebraska in 2011 happened because Wisconsin was the better team.
Did the crowd help on those nights? No doubt. But the 80,321 that are in the stands can only do so much. They can give energy and spur confidence in the players. But at some point, the Badgers will have to lock in, step out onto the field and play at an extremely high level to have a chance.
Loud crowds are fantastic. A great team performance is even better.
National title or bust
If you think expectations for the Wisconsin basketball team are high outside of the program, then you’ll be surprised that they don’t come close to matching those inside coach Greg Gard’s locker room.
A year after coming within 19 seconds of going to a third-straight Elite 8, the Badgers stated plain and clear on Thursday at Big Ten basketball Media Day what their intentions were for this season.
Q: "This season, Wisconsin will…"
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) October 13, 2016
There’s only one way to make it the best season Wisconsin basketball has ever seen, and that’s doing something that the the 2014-15 Badgers couldn’t – win the NCAA title. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when asked his goals for this season, senior Bronson Koenig called his shot.
— Jake Zimmermann (@Jake_Zimmermann) October 13, 2016
This Wisconsin team isn’t as good as the group from two years ago – yet. If Nigel Hayes and Koenig play like they’re capable of, and players such as senior Vitto Brown and Ethan Happ make the leap most second-year starters do, then the group has a chance to cut the nets down in Phoenix.
But by putting it out there as national title or bust, you’re also saying that anything less is a failure, which shouldn’t be the case. Sure, losing the title game to Duke in 2015 was a bitter ending, but that Wisconsin team will be remembered for winning Big Ten titles, making it to the Final Four and ending Kentucky’s unbeaten season. They savored the journey to March and April, taking everything in and realizing it was something special.
It would be a mistake on the part of the team this year not to do the same. And it’s likely that Gard, whose motto this offseason has been “check every box,” will remind them of that on a regular basis.
Much was made of Hayes being named the Big Ten’s preseason Player of the Year earlier this week. It seemed like a nice honor but rather inconsequential. When the senior was asked about it on Thursday, he was less than enthused.
Hayes to BTN on being preseason B1G Player of the Year: "It's not a real award. It's almost worse than getting a participation ribbon."
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) October 13, 2016
Hayes’ reasoning was that it just puts another target on his and the rest of the team’s back in a year where everyone is already hunting them. And it’s a fair point. But Hayes opining on the notion that it’s going to be tougher for him now goes against his history as the ultra competitive guy. Keep in mind he once went through a handshake line after a game telling anyone that would listen that there was no one on the opposing team that could guard him.
In the end, it matters little. Absolutely no one remembers who the preseason Player of the Year was. Postseason awards are the things that actually mean something, and even with an extra layer of expectations to wear, Hayes will be in the running for a bunch of them.
More than just a game
With all eyes on Madison this weekend for the biggest home game the Badgers have played in at least five years, Wisconsin is trying to take full advantage of what could be a special day in the school’s athletic history. The football and basketball programs have made the next 48 hours perhaps the most important of the year in terms of recruiting.
badger fans give @HurtMatthew some love.
madtown with my boy this weekend.
— Tyler Herro ++® (@raf_tyler) October 12, 2016
As Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal lays out, basketball coach Greg Gard will have all three of his commitments in the class of 2017 in for their official visits, along with the lone commitment in the class of 2018. They’ll be joined by several high priority targets for Gard in the 2018 and 2019 classes.
“There’s a lot of hype around this weekend,” Gard said. “It’s a great opportunity for us. They’ll be able to see Wisconsin in full force. They’ll get a taste of everything that day.”
On the football side of things, Badgers247 has four players making official visits, including running back Jonathan Taylor, a Rutgers commit.
With all that’s going on this weekend on and around campus, trying to play it up and showing Madison at its best is an obvious move. Former wide receiver David Gilreath, who returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in the 2010 matchup with Ohio State, actually flipped his commitment from Minnesota to the Badgers because of a night game visit when he was a senior in high school. The environment has that much pull, and Wisconsin couldn’t afford not to take advantage of it.
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