On the road again

Badgers will try to end Iowa's 17-game home winning streak

MADISON—The University of Wisconsin men's basketball team has little time to lick its wounds. Roughly 17 hours after returning home from their trip to East Lansing, Mich., where UW lost to Michigan State 74-65 Thursday night, the Badgers boarded their bus for a trip to Iowa City.

In the regular season finale for both teams, Wisconsin visits Iowa Saturday afternoon.

It is a game with major implications for both teams. With a win, the Badgers would end up with the No. 2 or 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. With a loss, UW could finish no better than No. 4 and could fall to the No. 6 seed, which would force the team to play an opening-round game Thursday in Indianapolis.

If Iowa wins it will at worst tie for second place and receive the No. 2 seed, and the Hawkeyes would earn the No. 1 seed with an Ohio State loss Sunday against Purdue.

Even before their loss to Michigan State, the Badgers were emphasizing the need to maintain crisper focus on the road. That theme was reiterated following Thursday's game.

"Our focus has to be there if things aren't going our way, especially when you are on the road," junior forward Alando Tucker said. "You get the fans chanting and ranting and they were jumping up in their seats. And we can't get bothered. We have to stay strong and stay tight as if we were playing in the Kohl Center."

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, however, said he was not concerned with the team's focus.

"Our guys are pretty focused," he said. "Sometimes the other team is taking you out of sync. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's out of focus… Kids will say anything."

A real concern, however, is the scheduling-mandated quick-turnaround for the Badgers. After playing at Michigan State Thursday, Wisconsin flew back to Madison, arriving at about 10:45 p.m. The Badgers practiced in Madison Friday afternoon and departed for Iowa soon thereafter, at about 3:30 p.m.

One way to look at the stretch—two road games in three days—is as high-quality preparation for the forthcoming postseason.

"You could call it that but it certainly isn't something that you do to your players," Ryan said. "That is not something that people should ever do to athletes, is to put them into that position. Traveling, two in a row on the road, and not even the normal break time in between. But that's the way they are scheduled. So when you say, ‘Is it preparation?' Every day you are practicing should be preparation for anything at the end of the year."

Though UW would certainly prefer more of a break between games, the message Friday was about preparing for Iowa, rather than lamenting circumstance.

"I don't even talk to them about the day," Ryan said of the short turnaround. "We just practiced today like, hey, we are getting ready for the next opponent. I didn't say to them, ‘Hey guys, look, I know you are a little tired. I know you are this, I know you are that.' I don't get into that."

Preparation is one thing. Execution is another. And playing in Carver-Hawkeye Arena is not a place conducive to the latter. The Hawkeyes have won 17 consecutive at home, including all 16 games they have played in Iowa City this season.

Further pumping up the partisan crowd will be the fact that it will be senior day, celebrating Big Ten player of the year candidate Greg Brunner, point guard Jeff Horner, center Erek Hansen and reserves Doug Thomas and Justin Wieck.

The Badgers will be looking to sweep the season set from Iowa. UW topped the Hawkeyes 66-52 in the Big Ten opener for both teams, Jan. 5.

What: Wisconsin (19-9 overall, 9-6 Big Ten) at No. 24 Iowa (21-8, 10-5)
When: Saturday, March 4 at 3:40 p.m. Central
Site: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,500) in Iowa City
Broadcasts: Televised live on ESPN Regional (Broadcast channels in Wisconsin include WISC in Madison, WMLW in Milwaukee, WFRV in Green Bay and WLAX in La Crosse). Wisconsin Radio Network will also carry the game live.
Series notes: Iowa leads the all-time series 74-70… Wisconsin has won the past six meetings between the teams and 10 of the past 12… Iowa leads the series 44-23 in Iowa City, but the Badgers have won five of their last six at Carver-Hawkeye.

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