UW will rest, study up on opponent

Badgers are not familiar with Northern Iowa's basketball team, or Oklahoma City

CHICAGO — Less than an hour after the Wisconsin men's basketball team lost to top-ranked Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament championship game, the Badgers received word that they will open up play in the NCAA Tournament against Northern Iowa (21-10) on Friday at 6:20 p.m.

The Badgers (22-8) received the No. 6 seed in the Syracuse region to set up the matchup against the No. 11 seed Northern Iowa in Oklahoma City. Playing on the second day of the first round will allow UW to have an extra day to recuperate from playing three tough games in as many days at the Big Ten Tournament this weekend.

"We will get some time off and actually get some time to prepare for Northern Iowa," senior guard Clayton Hanson said. "It's a new team and a different look then you get in the [Big Ten] conference, so now it will be nice to get a fresh team."

Northern Iowa received an at-large bid after finishing tied in third place in the Missouri Valley Conference. It is Northern Iowa's third NCAA tournament appearance and first at-large berth. But if Wisconsin was looking forward to playing a team that they were familiar with, the Panthers do not fit that description.

Asked what they know about Northern Iowa, the UW players had similar responses.

"Not much, not right now," senior guard Shariff Chambliss said.

"Not much, we will learn a lot more by this time next week," senior forward Mike Wilkinson echoed.

"I have seen them play on TV, but I don't really remember their style of play or anything," added senior forward Zach Morley who went to junior college in Iowa at Indian Hills.

The Badgers also appear to have little connection to their opening-round site, Oklahoma City.

"I have never been there, so I don't know much. I have heard its fun, but we are going there to play ball," Wilkinson said.

"I drove through it once, but I have not been there," head coach Bo Ryan said.

Perhaps the only connection that Wisconsin has to its opponents is that Bo Ryan once coached against current Northern Iowa head coach Greg McDermott when McDermott played at UNI. Ryan's Division III UW-Platteville squad upset McDermott and the Panthers in that game.

Either way, the Badgers are well aware that Northern Iowa will be more than a formidable opponent. Last year, the Panthers took eventual NCAA runner-up Georgia Tech down to the wire before falling 65-60 in the opening round.

"They have done some really good things the last four years so I am looking forward to playing a quality team, a quality coach and that is all I know," Ryan said.

"They are fundamentally sound, they play hard, great match-up for us," he added.

If Wisconsin wins Friday they will play Sunday against the winner of the game between third-seeded Kansas (23-6) and No. 14 seed Bucknell (22-9). With the opening two rounds being held in Oklahoma City, which is only a short drive from the Kansas border, a second-round matchup with the Jayhawks could be like a home game for Kansas, similar to what the Badgers had to deal with this weekend when they played Illinois in Chicago.

"I have been there before," Morley said of Big 12 country. "But it will be a lot of Kansas fans there at all the games no matter who is playing. It's a Big 12 city and they are going to have a lot of support."

Big Ten grabs five spots

Despite the fact that many people around the country feel the Big Ten was down this year, the conference will have five teams in action when the NCAA Tournament begins this week.

"That's good and which I thought we were going to get, it worked out that way so I am happy for the league," Ryan said.

Aside from Wisconsin, Illinois received the No. 1 seed in the Chicago region, ensuring the Illini that they will not have to travel out of the Midwest in their quest for a National Championship. The Illini open up play Thursday at 8:40 p.m. against Fairleigh Dickinson.

Rounding out the Big Ten selections are No. 5 seed Michigan State and No. 10 seed Iowa in the Austin region and No. 8 seed Minnesota in the Syracuse region. The Spartans will take on Old Dominion Friday at 8:40 p.m., the Hawkeyes will battle Cincinnati Thursday at 1:50 p.m. and the Gophers will take on Iowa State at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

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