Men's hoops: Quick turnarounds

Wisconsin and Indiana face each other on short rest; Hoosiers building momentum

MADISON – After winning at Ohio State Sunday, the 23rd-ranked University of Wisconsin men's basketball team faces Indiana on just one day's rest at 8 p.m. here Tuesday.

It is not a common quirk in the Big Ten's scheduling, but it is something the Hoosiers also must deal with after topping No. 14 Michigan State at home Sunday.

This is Indiana's second straight week with a Sunday/Tuesday set. The Hoosiers won at Michigan Feb. 20 then returned home to beat Purdue two days later.

So with third place in the Big Ten on the line Tuesday, Indiana (9-5 Big Ten, 14-11 overall) and Wisconsin (9-5, 18-7) do not expect lack of rest to be detrimental to their performances.

"It shouldn't make a difference because if you play in the Big Ten Tournament you can have three games in a row," IU coach Mike Davis said in a conference call Monday.

Wisconsin, which lost a game at MSU Thursday night, will effectively play three games in five days when Tuesday's tilt tips off at the Kohl Center.

"What we do is we don't worry about it too much," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "We just have to make sure we've got our legs for tomorrow night because Indiana's so athletic. For us to get some things done we feel we need to stay fresh."

As a result of its brief layoff, UW closed its practice to the media Monday and planned a less physically intense workout than usual.

"I don't think fatigue will be a factor as long as we are using our time correctly, staying off our feet as much as possible," UW sophomore forward Alando Tucker said recently.

The arrangement can be viewed as good preparation for the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

"You only have so much time to bounce back from things," Tucker said. "You have to play, you may get a day of rest and play again. It prepares you [for tournament play]."

Ryan, though, pointed out that in tournament play, each game takes place in the same venue, removing travel considerations from the equation. He stressed the important thing was not to dwell on the quick turnaround.

Davis agreed that the short break between games should not be a factor.

"If you are a basketball player and you love playing basketball, you should look forward to going the next day playing a game," he said. "I look forward to it and I hope my players feel the same way."

Hoosiers building momentum

Indiana rebounded from a grueling non-conference schedule to open the Big Ten season 4-1, including a 74-61 win over UW in Bloomington. But after losing two of three games while Bracey Wright, the Big Ten's leading scorer, was out with an ankle injury, IU dropped to 6-5 in conference play and 11-11 overall.

Since Wright's return last week, however, the Hoosiers have won three straight games. Wright, who has scored 59 points over his last two games, was named Big Ten Player of the Week Monday.

The extremely young Hoosiers have improved in fits and starts this season but look to have the ball rolling now, just in time to make a push for an NCAA Tournament berth.

"If you've watched us play over the last three or four games, we looked like a tournament team right now," Davis said.

IU's regular eight-man rotation includes four freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors.

"Probably the best time to play well is late in the season," Davis said. "Right now our team has taken off from a confidence standpoint and just understanding the system and getting used to each other."

IU's two freshman starters – center D.J. White and forward Robert Vaden – are each scoring in double figures this season, and carried the offensive load while Wright was sidelined.

Now that Wright – who averages 19.0 points per game – has returned, the Hoosiers have a variety of offensive weapons at their disposal.

"I think they can hurt you in so many ways so you can't just concentrate on Bracey Wright," Ryan said.

Is 10 the magic number?

Only a few seasons ago, simply finishing .500 in the Big Ten was good enough for an NCAA Tournament berth. Not now, however, when, whether fair or not, national esteem for the conference has shrunk.

Indiana enters Tuesday's game tied for third place with a 9-5 conference mark, but at 69th in the Rankings Percentage Index, the Hoosiers likely still have work to do to secure a tourney berth. Minnesota, another Big Ten bubble team, is 9-6 (19-9 overall) with a 47 RPI.

The Gophers wrap up their conference season at Penn State Wednesday. After taking on UW, IU plays at Northwestern Saturday.

Should 10 conference wins stamp a ticket to the Big Dance?

"I have no idea how people look at it but when you get to 10 wins in this conference, and it is a good conference, you should be in," Davis said.

"You get 10 wins in our league I think you're having a great season and have a great chance to get to the NCAA Tournament," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said.

"I still think for those two they have to finish out with at least 10 wins and then at least get a game or so in the [Big Ten] Tournament to solidify it and give themselves a chance to get in the [NCAA] tournament," said Illinois coach Bruce Weber.

House of horrors

Indiana has not had pleasant stays at the Kohl Center. The Hoosiers have lost their last four games in Madison, including a 79-45 thrashing last season. IU, though, held the lead at halftime in the first three games in the streak.

Five years ago, when Bob Knight was still coaching the Hoosiers and Dick Bennett was at the helm of UW, the Badgers trailed 31-22 at halftime but won a thrilling 56-53 decision. In 2001, the Hoosiers led 28-19 at the break before losing 49-46. IU had an 8-point edge in 2003, but lost 71-59.

"They just jumped on us in the second half," said Davis, who was an assistant at IU in 2000 before taking over for Knight, first as interim coach, in 2001. "So it is just tough to play on the road in the conference. A lot of times if things start going bad you have to have a really, really focused basketball team to keep it going."

Last season was a different story. The Badgers jumped all over IU in the Jan. 2004 matchup, taking a 15-4 lead early and going up 37-15 at halftime.

"Last year we just kind of had a meltdown in the first four minutes of the game," Davis said.


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