Wisconsin plans to stay the course, a Bohannon in enemy colors and the ‘Camp Randall 100’
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Today is Wednesday, March 1, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
If you were expecting some big change in the way the Wisconsin basketball team goes about its business in the wake of losing four of its last five games, then you haven’t been following the program for the last 16 years.
Everybody ready to say goodbye to February?
Ok, good. March is on.https://t.co/B558ip5pvx
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) February 28, 2017
Faced with their worst stretch of basketball since a 9-9 start to the 2015 season, the Badgers were peppered with questions on Tuesday about what ails them and what needs to change to snap them out of their slump in time to make some noise when the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments start in the next few weeks. Their answer? Some tweaks here and there but nothing major.
“You can’t deviate too far from your plan,” coach Greg Gard said before Wisconsin took the floor for practice. “You adjust and try to get better and fix things that need to be fixed. But also understand you stay the course and not flinch, I guess, in the moment.”
That not flinch part is a borrowed term from Gard’s boss, athletic director Barry Alvarez, who used the phrase as the title to his autobiography. The meaning, essentially, is trust what you did to be successful and don’t let the ups and downs of any particular time frame impact that.
“They understand I still have the same message and my expectations don’t change. I don’t back off of what we’re demanding and want and expect from them. Just keep pushing forward,” Gard said. “If they see a dramatic change from us as coaches, then they really start to wonder what’s going on. The best message you can send is to be consistent.”
What should help level out Wisconsin is that this isn’t the first adversity many of the Badgers’ leaders have faced. Guard Zak Showalter was a part of a team in 2012-13 that could never find a rhythm and went just 8-6 to close the regular season despite having a starting lineup featuring three seniors and a junior, while forward Nigel Hayes and guard Bronson Koenig were contributors as freshmen in 2013-14 when, after a 16-0 start, the Badgers lost five of six to torpedo their chances at a Big Ten title.
“It happens,” Gard said. “You look around the country, every team goes through it. It happens at different times, and it’s a lot on who you’re playing, and how you’re clicking. There’s a lot of different variables that go into it (and) what causes it.”
So what’s causing it for Wisconsin? The first two losses — home to Northwestern and at Michigan — were the result of poor offensive play, something that had been an issue for close to a month before the Badgers were finally tripped up. The last two have come largely because of their sudden inability to stop people, giving up 80 points in back-to-back games for the first time in Big Ten play since 1993. What Wisconsin needs, according to Gard, is a balancing act.
“We go through a stretch where we had a hard time putting the ball in the basket and defensively we were pretty good — one of the better teams in the country,” the second-year coach said. “Then all of a sudden, we’ve flipped switches. We got to try to get it as consistent as we can. We got to get back to both ends of the floor clicking.”
Wisconsin does not have your typical vocal leaders. When the poor stretch in 2014 happened, Sam Dekker, then a sophomore, called the entire team out, himself included, for what he perceived as soft play. That’s not necessarily what this team needs, but it does need guys willing to speak up when something isn’t going the way it should.
“I’ve continued to try to be positive in the locker room,” Showalter said. “Even after we’ve had a couple of setbacks, be on guys and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to figure this out. Obviously, it’s not going the right way and how we wanted right now in the final stretch of our senior (year), but we’re going to be all right.’ I think that’s what we’ve been stressing. Just figure our stuff out and play how we know how to play and take care of our business.”
Everyone was saying the right things on Tuesday, even if a few of them, including sophomore Ethan Happ, were a bit short in their answers, clearly upset with both his and the team’s struggles. Multiple times he spoke about playing together as a unit, mainly on the defensive end.
But it’s probably not a bad message for the overall team dynamic. With everyone on the outside turning against them, and some already labeling the season a disappointment, it’s time for the leaders to pull them together and not let a season with so much promise end earlier than it should.
The last name Bohannon became synonymous with Wisconsin basketball in the Big Ten thanks to brothers Jason and Zach, each of whom played for former coach Bo Ryan. Jason was the more decorated of the two, but Zach was a valuable member of Wisconsin’s 2014 Final Four team.
So when there was another Bohannon — this one being Jordan —coming up through the ranks at Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa) High School, it seemed likely that he’d end up in Madison, too. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Jordan committed to Iowa, where he’s had a standout freshman season, including hitting eight 3-pointers last Sunday against Maryland.
On Thursday, he’ll return to the arena where he watched his brothers so many times, but this time will do so wearing the black and gold of the Hawkeyes.
We think @JordanBo_3 just hit another triple.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 27, 2017
“He’s had a great opportunity there because of what they lost from last year,” Gard said. “He’s gotten a lot of experience early that your typical freshman doesn’t have a chance to get, and he’s made the most of it.”
Gard recalled Jordan running around the Bohannon household when they were recruiting Jason, and said what he’s doing isn’t a surprise. As for why they didn’t offer him a scholarship, well, that was largely because of timing.
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) February 28, 2017
Wisconsin went hard after several guards in the 2016 class, including Xavier Simpson, who ended up committing to Michigan about two weeks after Bohannon committed to Iowa. Another target, JaQuori McLaughlin, got a Wisconsin offer in May 2015 and visited in late September but ended up committing to Oregon State six days later.
“We’d had some other guys on the radar,” Gard admitted. “It worked out for him to be able to play there close to home.”
Wisconsin wouldn’t end up signing a guard in the 2016 class until last April, when D’Mitrik Trice chose the Badgers over Ohio State and others.
Bohannon will probably say he wanted to be at Iowa all along, and maybe that’s true. But it will certainly be interesting to see how he plays on Thursday and in future years against Wisconsin, and whether he feels like he has something to prove to a staff that didn’t want to continuing the Bohannon tradition in Madison.
Camp Randall at 100 years
Wisconsin kicked off the celebration of the 100th year of Camp Randall Stadium on Tuesday by announcing that it is putting together the “Camp Randall 100,’” a list of 100 individuals who shaped the first century of the facility. Though the final list will be selected by a panel of administrators, local media and former Badgers, they are asking for fans to nominate their favorites.
After 100 years, Camp Randall Stadium is Wisconsin's own time machine.
— Wisconsin Badgers (@UWBadgers) March 1, 2017
Here’s a few that we feel are a must on any list that involves Camp Randall.
Barry Alvarez, football coach (1990-2005) and athletic director (2004-current)
This one is too obvious, but the success of Alvarez had as the football coach allowed for Camp Randall to become what it is today. His three Big Ten championships, including title-clinching victories at the stadium in 1998 and 1999, put Wisconsin football back on the map and started the most successful 27-year stretch in program history.
Ron Dayne, running back (1996-1999)
From his first game against Eastern Michigan as a 260-pound freshman to the run that broke the NCAA record for career rushing yards against Iowa in his final home game, Dayne gave those that were in the stadium memories for a lifetime. His name is one of six to be permanently displayed on the stadium’s west façade, along with his retired No. 33.
Pat Richter, end (1959-62) and athletic director (1989-2004)
Richter starred at the stadium during his college days, earning All-American honors in 1961 and 1962. After a career in the NFL, he spent time in the private sector before returning to Wisconsin in 1989 to take over an athletic department deep in debt and one that wasn’t winning in the revenue producing sports — football and basketball. His hiring of Alvarez, along with Stu Jackson, Dick Bennett and Bo Ryan, changed that and put Wisconsin on the course to where it is today.