Wisconsin preps for round 2 with Michigan

Badgers refine game plan after facing Wolverines last month

MADISON – When playing a team for the second time in a season, it is not a matter of changing, but rather refining.

That is what the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team has in mind in preparation for Michigan as the teams meet up Wednesday at the Kohl Center for the second and final matchup between the two teams this regular season.

For two squads that know each other as well as the Badgers and Wolverines do, altering the game plan in two days time is not the way to prepare. According to the Wisconsin coaching staff, it is a matter of studying film, remembering tendencies and maintaining the integrity of their system.

"We don't change; very little," UW assistant coach Greg Gard said. "I'd say on the average both teams don't change. They maybe tweak minor things, making minor adjustments, but as far as the whole package, you try to stay with what you've been working on since Oct. 15."

"So we stay primarily with the basics of what we want to do and reinforce those rules on how we are going to play different screens and how we are going to play different scenarios and just do a better job of executing than maybe what we did the last time," Gard added.

Sophomore forward Alando Tucker agrees.

"It is pretty much the same stuff," Tucker said. "You learn from what you do and what you did wrong but we don't really change too much of our team concept and offensively we just, you know, you learn different spots that you can pick and score from and from looking at tape and film of what you did the last game. It is basically just adding on; it does not really change anything."

The first time the two squads met this season — Jan. 22 in Ann Arbor — the Badgers came away with a hard-fought 11-point win in large part because of good execution and a solid game plan. The Badgers got to the free throw line 33 times and connected on 26, including 8 of 10 from senior Mike Wilkinson. Wilkinson finished the game with 28 points.

The success Wisconsin had in the first meeting is another reason the Badgers plan to stay the course. And to prepare for Michigan, UW not only studied game film from the head-to-head match up, but also from the games the Wolverines have played since then.

"It doesn't change a whole lot because of their system of what they do and how they try to play stays primarily the same," Gard said. "In terms of our preparation, we'll take from our game on and look at every game in between. So we do, in terms of bridging the gap, that's what we'll look at everything in between the last time we played them."

Since the last meeting, Michigan has lost six straight games in conference play. Nonetheless, because of the system and the athleticism of the Wolverines, the Badgers expect the best from head coach Tommy Amaker's team.

"In terms of the general foundation of what they are doing offensively and defensively, things have primarily stayed the same," Gard said. "They've struggled in terms of the games that they haven't been able to get but talent-wise there is still the same amount of talent is there. You just hope it doesn't come burst out when you happen to play it.

Michigan has struggled to overcome injuries and guard Daniel Horton's legal troubles, but there is still talent in guard Dion Harris and a deep front court led by juniors Graham Brown and Chris Hunter and sophomores Brent Petway and Courtney Sims.

"Obviously with the four bigs and Dion Harris and some other guys that have been able to step up at times, we are going to have our hands full in terms of athletically and the problems and the challenges they present," Gard said.

Even though it seems natural to consider changing things up a little and throw a curve ball to the opponent to catch them off guard, do not expect anything extraordinary from the Badgers.

"We are pretty much straight up," assistant coach Gary Close said. "We have certain basic things that we want to do, regardless of what the other team is doing to combat it. I think what you find is the good teams don't change up much. They just stick to what they've been doing really good and just try to get a little better at it."

Who: Michigan (3-8 Big Ten, 12-13 overall) at Wisconsin (7-4, 16-6)
When: Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2005, 8 p.m.
Where: Kohl Center (17,142), Madison, Wis.
Broadcast: The game will be televised on ESPN Plus (WISC in Madison) and can be heard on the Wisconsin Radio Network (WIBA in Madison).
Series Notes: This will be the 142nd meeting between the two teams. Michigan leads the series 85-56, but Wisconsin holds a 39-32 advantage in games played in Madison.

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