Ben Brust may be the only senior on Wisconsin who has played meaningful minutes in NCAA tournament games but Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson have been able to put together two solid back-to-back games in the tournament to give Brust's college career another 40 minutes.
"Being a senior, to be playing right now is a good feeling to go into the locker room on Monday morning and know I wasn't cleaning it out, and I get to keep playing," said Brust. "I'd like to have that feeling one more time."
That experience comes tonight for Brust and second-seed Wisconsin (28-7) when it takes on sixth-seed Baylor (26-11) at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Even though Wisconsin has displayed senior leadership and good guard play in Wisconsin's two NCAA victories over American and Oregon, the resiliency that they have displayed can't go unnoticed. The Badgers trailed early in both games, but were able to respond to the adversity.
"It's a testament to player development, guys who have worked really hard in the offseason to get better," said associate head coach Greg Gard. "Kaminsky is making himself a better player. Brust, Jackson, gasser, you can go on down the road. Dekker obviously came in with a lot of talent and he has a long ways to go, but he's starting to get better and better."
After trailing by seven points to American at the midpoint of the first half, Wisconsin was able to respond and go on an impressive 56-9 run to completely blow open the game.
Two days later when Wisconsin needed to register its biggest comeback win of the season, Wisconsin didn't panic despite being in a 14-point deficit and continued to play the game they know.
"We got to believe in each other and have faith and also do the things that made us successful to get the comeback, which was you get some charges, get some stops, and just take care of the ball and get good shots," said Brust. "We worked it around (and) did all the things we talked about that we should have done for 40 minutes. Luckily we were able to do a good enough job in the last 20."
It's nothing new for Wisconsin to find themselves down early against an opponent. In its loss against Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin's sluggish start resulted in a 21-point deficit, the largest of the season.
In the games against Michigan State and Oregon, Wisconsin delivered a more efficient offensive performance in the second half. But the difference between the loss against the Spartans and the win against the Ducks was the Badgers made enough defensive stops to find ways to not trade buckets.
"We've had explosions in other parts of the season, too," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "We've had some dry spells. Again, that's what so unforgiving about this time of the year. If you don't have some of those, you're going home. If you don't stay offensively in the race, you can be playing defense. We were playing hard defensively. It just wasn't good enough for their offense in the first half. Their offense was better than our defense. Fortunately, we turned that around in the second half."
Despite the loss to the Spartans, Gasser and his teammates didn't dwell long on the setback knowing there was a brand new season about to start.
"I mean, we were obviously upset at the Big Ten tournament," Gasser said. "We didn't achieve what we wanted to obviously but you know, it's a brand new season coming into the NCAA Tournament."