Badgers Readying For NCAA Tournament

Under coach Bo Ryan, the University of Wisconsin has avoided an opening-round upset in the NCAA tournament.

The Badgers are 9-1 in their opening-round games, as they get ready for 13 seed Montana Thursday in Albuquerque.

The team leaves early Tuesday morning for New Mexico, where the Badgers practice at a local high school gym to get used to the elevation. This is the 14th straight season Wisconsin has made the NCAAs, but senior guard/forward Rob Wilson said being a part of March Madness never gets old.

“It’s an experience you remember for the rest of your life. A lot of people want to be there, and I had the chance to get there every year, so far. It’s a blessing,” Wilson said.

“Obviously, as a fan, you love filling out brackets and look forward to tournament time and March Madness. As a player, last year, experiencing it for the first time, it’s really fun. You look forward to it all year, and when it’s finally here, you just try and take advantage of it and extend the season out as long as possible and hopefully make a run,” said Josh Gasser, a sophomore guard for the Badgers.

There’s a familiar face at Montana.

Milwaukee native and former Badger Freddie Owens is in his second year as assistant coach for the Grizzlies. Owens hit one of the biggest shots in tournament history in 2003 — a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the Badgers’ second round matchup with Tulsa. Owens’ 3-point shot gave Wisconsin a 61-60 win over Tulsa, sending Ryan and the Badgers to the Sweet 16.

“(Owens was a) hard worker, always did what we asked. Probably changed his hairstyle more so than most players that I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, one time I accused him of having his hair so tight it affected the way he was thinking on the basketball court. I didn’t tell him he had to change his hair. The next day, he looked differently. We still laugh about it. But just a guy that bought in. ‘OK, what do I need to do?’ And he did it for three years, and now he’s working his way in the coaching profession. I’m really happy for him,” said Ryan.

The Badgers are a No. 4 seed in the East and will face Montana, the Big Sky champion, on Thursday. They would meet the winner of the Vanderbilt-Harvard game in the next round.