Seeing Orange

Wisconsin will likely play in a road game atmosphere in Oklahoma City Sunday

OKLAHOMA CITY — Orange, orange, orange. If you are a fan of the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team, you have seen enough orange.

Wisconsin saw orange this season in the form of top-ranked Illinois, who beat the Badgers three times, including last Sunday's Big Ten Tournament championship game at the United Center in Chicago, before a packed house teaming with Illini orange.

The sixth seeded Badgers (23-8 overall) will be greeted by another sea of adversarial orange Sunday afternoon, when they face 14th seed Bucknell (23-9) in a second round NCAA Tournament game here.

The winner will advance to a regional semifinal at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., the regular home of the Syracuse Orangemen.

That is the orange the Badgers want to be a part of, but to get there, they have to get through Sunday's orange affair.

"We just saw a sea of orange last Sunday against Illinois and we didn't handle that too well," UW guard Kammron Taylor said. "Now, we're used to it. We're going to be used to not being at home. But I know we have our section of fans that are going to be there cheering hard for us."

Orange is the primary school color favored by fans of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the No. 2 seed in the Chicago Regional, who face No. 7 seed Southern Illinois in the game that precedes the Wisconsin/Bucknell Syracuse Regional matchup at the Ford Center.

The majority of Oklahoma State's fan base is expected to stick around for game two, and will likely lend their support to the underdog Bison, creating a road game atmosphere for UW.

"We would really embrace it if they did," Bucknell forward Charles Lee said Saturday. "That would be a really good feeling."

"Whether we are the road [team] or not it's still a game that's going to be decided out on the court," UW guard Clayton Hanson said.

Incidentally, orange is one of Bucknell's school colors. And as the Bison were busy upsetting No. 3 seed Kansas Friday night, the orange-clad Oklahoma State faithful lent Cinderella comfort.

"[Friday] night I seen a lot of orange T-shirts, it made me feel like I was back in Sojka [Pavilion]," Lee said. " It was a real good feeling for our team. Any fan support is welcome and we really appreciate it."

The compliment of cardinal-clad Wisconsin fans at the Ford Center were also cheering on the Bison Friday night, emphatically voicing the opinion that Bucknell was a more suitable opponent for their Badgers than Kansas.

"We knew coming in here that we wouldn't have too fans [of our own] but [we] thank the Badger fans a lot," Lee said Friday.

Wisconsin's players and coaches watched the first half of the Bucknell/Kansas game in person, before retiring to their hotel rooms to watch the rest on television. Through it all, they maintained they watched the game as disinterested observers, concerned only with preparing for whomever came out on top.

"Fans look at it like if we play a team that doesn't have the biggest name as Kansas has it is going to be easier for us to win," Taylor said. "That's what makes the fans, fans… Here in this locker room we know about the upset teams and we're not going to overlook them."

"Once that jump ball goes up it is anybody's game. Whoever bring that intensity, whoever is working hard, is going to pull it out. Bucknell did that [against Kansas]."

"I'm just excited we have another opportunity to get out on the court," Hanson said. "We are going to try to advance one game at a time. We treat all our opponents the same and have the same amount of respect for them."

Saturday, the underdog dynamic may work against Wisconsin.

"That's not going to do anything but get us fired up," Taylor said. "They might be the Cinderella but I know coming into the game tomorrow that we're not going to have as many fans as they are. We know that people are going to be cheering against us. So we're kind of going to be the underdog tomorrow because people are going to want us to lose. We just have to bring the intensity from the jump."

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