UW not concerned with pressure of the moment

Wisconsin's 2014-2015 basketball team captured a Big Ten championship title, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and is set to play Kentucky Saturday night in the Final Four. But the team's unique blend of personalities that has built a chemistry even obvious to the casual bystander is a story line not to be ignored.

INDIANAPOLIS - Moments of momentous opportunity conjure expectations. With expectations comes the pressure to succeed.

Wisconsin sophomore forward Nigel Hayes acknowledged that pressure during interviews with the media less than 30 hours before tip of the Badgers' Final Four game.

"There's definitely a lot of pressure that comes with it, but we try not to pay attention to that pressure," Hayes said. "I know it's cliche, and everyone says it, but that's really the mindset we have to have. If you go in there uptight, you definitely won't play well, and that's another cliche response, and everyone will tell you that.

Hayes concluded that the team has one of two options when it comes to dealing with the task at hand Saturday night.

"We have a little team motto - 'Pressure cracks pipes or builds diamonds,' and we have to figure out which one we want to be this week," Hayes said.

Playing loose against a favored Kentucky will likely be one of the key factors if Wisconsin is to pull off the win. If Friday afternoon's media session with the Badgers is any indication of the level of the Badgers nerves, then consider Wisconsin in good shape in that department.

Wisconsin featured Hayes, Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser at the podium. Instead of stoic responses on the national stage, laughter and inside jokes among the teammates were constants throughout.

"It's just us being who we are," Hayes said. "It didn't start off this way. Last year, we were not as close as we are now. But, at the beginning of the season, we started joking with one another and allowing our personalities to come out. I think each team has a different personality as we know, but the class I came with, our guys we had such outgoing personalities that the team has turned into what it is now. Our six guys the way were outgoing, engaging, friendly, over the top, I think all those things made it impossible for our team not to fulfill that (closeness)."

Even Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has allowed his team's persona to morph into what it is.

"You know, I'm a serious guy," Ryan said. "As far as understanding that this is a lifetime experience, a small time frame of four years, three, whatever the years are, you may as well enjoy it with the personalities that are there. You can either try to stifle certain things or you can feed the certain things, you can enjoy certain things. But the fun that our guys have is all about their relationships and the things that they're interested in, the things they're competitive about. So they have their fun. Believe me, when they get on the practice court, they're looking at film, they're playing in the games, they understand what competition is about."

Kaminsky echoed Ryan comments, saying the team understands there's a time and place for everything.

“I mean, we played Super Smash Bros in our hospitality room for a while last night while the barber was in there, hanging out, chilling out, having fun,” Kaminsky said. “When we got on the court for practice, all seriousness. We know how to flip it when we need to.”

Hayes in particular has become a favorite with the media for his candid responses.

"I've always been this way," Hayes said. "You can ask anyone back home. It's just now there's more cameras pick up what I do, and the world perceives that as entertaining, funny or interesting or anything else they can. As Kevin Durant's Twitter account says, 'I'm me, I do me, and I chill.'"

True to form, Hayes and Ryan had the last words of the day in an exchange on stage.

RYAN: Nigel, what is that little drill that I caught you doing at 3:00 in the morning at the Kohl Center when you didn't know I was in there with the tennis ball and the basketball ball? What were you working on?

HAYES: I was just trying to be like Frank honestly, and Josh, and Trae. They're great ball handlers. I aspire to be like those guys. They're great guys. I appreciate you letting me speak. I don't know why I show up to these things. No one ever talks to me.

RYAN: Nigel, they're afraid to ask you a question anymore.

HAYES: Sticking to tradition, prestidigitation and hello, Mr. Stenographer.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Wisconsin.


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