Preview: No.13 Montana vs. No.4 Wisconsin

Earning at least a No.4 seed for the fifth time in the last six years and extending its program-record NCAA Tournament streak to 14 years, fourth-seed Wisconsin begins its road back to New Orleans when it takes on Big Sky champion Montana Thursday.

No.13 Montana (25-6, 15-1 Big Sky) vs. No.4 Wisconsin (24-9, 12-6 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Thursday, March 15, 1:10 p.m. Central

Arena – University Arena, aka The Pit (15,411)

Television - TNT (Spero Dedes and Bob Wenzel)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas); Westwood One (Dave Sims and Michael Cage)

Series – Wisconsin leads 2-0 (Wisconsin leads 1-0 in neutral sites)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 78-61, on November 30, 1997 in the Big Island Invitational in Hilo, Hawaii

Wisconsin Probable Starters

5 Ryan Evans (6-6 Junior Forward, 10.7 ppg)

11 Jordan Taylor (6-1 Senior Guard, 14.5 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 7.9 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (6-6 Junior Forward, 5.7 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (6-10 Junior Forward, 10.6 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Sophomore Guard, 7.5 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Freshman Guard, 1.3 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (6-4 Senior Guard, 3.9 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (6-11 Freshman Forward, 1.9 ppg)

Montana Probable Starters

1 Art Steward (6-4 Senior Forward, 9.2 ppg)

5 Will Cherry (6-1 Junior Guard, 16.0 ppg)

24 Derek Selvig (7-0 Senior Forward, 8.9 ppg)

32 Kareem Jamar (6-5 Sophomore Guard, 13.8 ppg)

40 Mathias Ward (6-7 Junior Forward, 11.1 ppg)

Off the Bench

20 Keron DeShields (6-2 Freshman Guard, 1.8 ppg)

22 Shawn Stockton (6-0 Senior Guard, 3.6 ppg)

45 Erik Hutchinson (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 1.9 ppg)

Last Time Out

INDIANAPOLIS – No. 14 Wisconsin struck out in its third crack at No. 8 Michigan State, falling 65-52 in Saturday afternoon's Big Ten Tournament semifinal at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Badgers (24-9) shot 34.7 percent from the field despite making eight of their first 13 shots, opening up a 20-9 lead that lasted about as long as an intentional walk.

"You've got to be opportunistic. When you get (looks), you've got to make them if you expect to compete," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "You don't have to make all of them, but you've got to go a little better than the guy that won the batting crown."

Spartans guard Austin Thornton (12 points), who has started the last 10 games after spending most the year as a sixth man, splashed three consecutive 3-pointers to cut UW's lead to two.

Spanning 12 minutes, mostly the latter part of the first half, Michigan State enjoyed a 28-5 run that did not include a successful Wisconsin field goal.

Senior point guard Jordan Taylor and junior forward Ryan Evans combined for 37 of UW's 52 points, as their teammates shot 4-for-20. Two Wisconsin starters, Mike Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser, were scoreless.

"They just outworked us for that time span when they took the lead," Taylor said. "They're a good defensive team – they do that to a lot of teams. But we didn't do a good job moving without the ball. We just have to correct that for the (NCAA) tournament."

Wisconsin senior reserve Rob Wilson, after trending worldwide on Twitter with his 30 points in the Badgers' quarterfinal defeat of Indiana Friday, was hounded on the perimeter, finishing with six points on five shots.

MSU became just the second team to defeat the Badgers three times in a season in Bo Ryan's 11 years on the UW sideline, following NCAA runner-up Illinois (37-2) in 2004-05.

"It's almost impossible," Izzo said. "He's beaten us more than anybody that we've played. He's had our number, and still does in a lot of ways. Like us, they've had a heck of year. For some reason, we've been able to check pretty good against them."

Big Ten player of the year Draymond Green filled up the Spartans' stat sheet with 14 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, amidst seven turnovers. Keith Appling chipped in 13 points and five helpers.

One of the country's premier rebounding squads, MSU was equaled on the boards 29-all by Wisconsin, but the Spartans shot 50 percent from the field, including 6-of-9 threes.

- By Aaron Brenner –

Series Notes:

UW is 5-1 all-time vs. members of the Big Sky Conference.

Montana assistant coach Freddie Owens played at Wisconsin from 2001-2004, including his final three seasons under Bo Ryan ... Owens tallied 778 points, 223 rebounds and 108 career assists at UW ... Owens made the game-winning 3-pointer with one second left to give Wisconsin a 61-60 win over Tulsa in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

Wisconsin Notes

UW's 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments rank as the 3rd-longest streak in Big Ten history. Only Indiana's streak of 18 straight (1986-2003) and Michigan State's active streak of 15 consecutive are longer.

UW has advanced to four Sweet 16s since 2003. Only 5 schools - Duke (7), Kansas (6), UConn (5), Michigan State (5) and North Carolina (5) have made more trips to the Round of 16 than Wisconsin over that span.

Wisconsin has won 5 consecutive opening-round games and is 9-1 in the opening round under Bo Ryan. That 5-game win streak in opening games is tied for the longest active streak among teams in the Field of 68.

The Badgers earned a No. 4 seed for the 3rd-straight year and are 3-0 all-time vs. No. 13 seeds in the NCAA tourney after defeating 13-seeded Tulsa (2003), Wofford (2010) and Belmont (2011).

UW played in The Pit in Albuquerque during the 2000 NCAA Tournament ... the No. 8 seed Badgers defeated No. 4 LSU, 61-48, and No. 6 Purdue, 64-60, to advance to the 2000 Final Four.

Montana Notes:

Montana is making its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance, and is 2-9 in 11 tourney games (Montana went 1-2 in the 1975-76 NCAA Tournament). The Grizzlies haven't won a tournament game since 2006.

Montana's 15-1 Big Sky record set a school record. The 1974-75 team went 13-1 en route to the league title. Just two Griz teams have won 25 or more games (the 1949-50 and 1991-92 squads won 27) at UM. Montana's current 14-game winning streak ties the Griz for the longest active streak in the nation with Belmont.

Cherry's 221 career steals are the most ever at Montana and the fifth most in league history. He is ranked sixth in the nation in steals per game (2.58 pg). He has 81 steals in 31 games this season.

Wayne Tinkle is in his sixth season as the head coach at Montana and has an overall record of 116-70 (.624) and is making his second trip to "The Dance" as UM's head coach, and his fifth overall with the Grizzlies. He is 66-30 (.688) in Big Sky games. His teams have won 20 or more games the past three seasons in a row. "Tinks" is ranked fourth in school history with 116 wins at his alma mater.


When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, the style points go out the window, especially with senior guard Jordan Taylor admitting that none of the seven tournament games he has played in have been easy. For most of this season, nothing has been easy, or looked easy, for the Badgers, especially when it comes to shooting, scoring droughts or other head-scratching moments.

UW associate head coach Greg Gard called Wisconsin's margin of error ‘paper slim' this season, and it has shown at points. Against Michigan State, the Badgers started out like gangbusters, but turnovers, missed layups and questionable shot selection allowed the Spartans to get back in the game and seize control. UW gets to bounce back with its game against Montana. Should UW make those mistakes again, it'll have to wait until next year for the rebound.

"When you get to this time of year, tournament play, … you can't pull a lot of mulligans out of your pocket," said Gard. "You have to cash in any time you can. You can't waste opportunities. The more efficient you can be, the smarter you can play … the better you will be."

When it comes to playing smart, the Grizzlies do it very well. Of the 763 made field goals for Montana this year, 428 have had an assist attached to the bucket (56.1 percent). Since losing by six to Nevada on Dec.10, the Grizzlies have lost once and haven't been defeated in their last 14 games.

"Our guys have been doing a great job playing off one another and feeding off each other," said Montana assistant coach Freddie Owens. "Guys are trying to create for each other and when you have all five guys on the floor capable for doing that, it makes for a tough matchup."

Montana likes to play an up-tempo style of basketball with a mixture of toughness added in. To a lesser degree, it's the same way Michigan State plays; a team that took the Badgers out of their comfort zone three separate times.

"We'll try to learn from our mistakes and do better next time," said Berggren.

What UW learned is that if it wants to win, it needs to play smart and efficient but still be aggressive. UW coach Bo Ryan has had better teams in his tenure, but it'll be hard to find a team that is as gritty as this year's bunch. With many people counting them out after a 1-3 start to the Big Ten play, Wisconsin won at Purdue, at Illinois and at Ohio State in the same season for the first time in almost 90 years.

"We've done a lot of things … but look now, none of that stuff really matters," said Berggren. "That part of the season's over, and now it's one game at a time. It's do or die now, and I think we've shown a lot of stuff that can help us be successful. We've had games where a lot of different guys have chipped in and helped us be successful."

If Wisconsin wants to make a deep run in this tournament, it needs the team that beat Indiana in Indianapolis to show up, not the team that lost to Michigan State. No game is easy in the tournament, but Wisconsin gets one step closer to its goal with an 11-point victory over the ‘Fighting Freddies.'

Worgull's Record: 26-7

Points off Prediction: 295 (8.94 per game)

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