Senior center Greg Stiemsma could have been frustrated or depressed like the rest of his teammates.
But unlike his teammates, Stiemsma has already faced depression and beaten it.
Missing the first six weeks of his 2004 freshman season with a right foot injury, Stiemsma was poised to rebound and lead the Badgers back to the Elite Eight. Through Wisconsin's first 16 games, the Badgers – entirely young and inexperienced – had a 14-2 record and Stiemsma was a big factor – leading the Badgers in blocked shots and being an irreplaceable cog in the post.
But at the same time, the walls were closing in on Stiemsma. Unable to focus in school or on the court, Stiemsma slipped into depression and, as a result, his schoolwork suffered and the then-sophomore was ruled academically ineligible for the rest of the season.
"It is tough without Greg playing right next to you," then-sophomore Brian Butch said at the time. "But at the same time, basketball takes a back seat when personal things get in the way."
Wisconsin stumbled in its last 15 games, going 5-10 and losing in the first round of the national tournament, but all that was a mute point in Stiemsma's grand scheme of things.
"It was hard not being able to play and be around my teammates," Stiemsma said at the start of the 2006 season. "At the same time, my teammates supported me and helped me get through (the depression)."
Stiemsma rebounded last season – splitting time with Butch and then-senior Jason Chappell. He played in 34 of 36 games with his best game being a 21-minute, 12-point performance at Illinois.
That's why Stiemsma chose to focus on all the positives from last season, instead of being dejected about the couda, woulda, shouldas.
"We try not to focus on what we could have or should have done," Stiemsma said. "If you go through thinking like that, it's going to be a long season. We don't try to focus on the negatives. We did so many good things last year that we don't want to put a damper on it."
Now in his senior season, Stiemsma has elevated his level of play. In Wisconsin's first four games of the season, the Randolph, Wisconsin native has set career-highs in rebounds (eight against Savannah State) and blocks (five against Colorado) and is a perfect six-for-six from the free throw line – improving from a career 71 percent free throw percentage.
"Greg feels this is his time and he doesn't have to have 30 minutes on the court, but knows that he has to feel that he is a better player this year and has learned some things," head coach Bo Ryan said. "It's his last year, so you don't want to go out there and get overly physical, put fouls on you and get on the bench too many times. He does have presence in the middle."
Having beaten depression along with the 30 college teams his Badgers beat last year, Stiemsma is looking to play a big part in surprising a lot of people with his play and the play of his teammates.
"We set our goals higher than anybody else. We want to win and nobody comes in here without that mentality. We have a group of guys that are willing to put the work in. We want to have the success we had last year"
At 6-foot-11 and 260 pounds, how could he not?
Upcoming on the Schedule:
Georgia (3-0) at Wisconsin (4-0)
Date/Time - Saturday, Nov. 24 at 5:30 p.m. CST
Arena – Kohl Center (17,190)
Television - Big Ten Network (Dick Bremer, Tim McCormick)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas)
Series – Georgia leads 2-1
Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 64-54, on Dec. 31, 2006 in Athens, Ga.
This will be the fourth meeting between Wisconsin and Georgia and the first in Madison.
The Bulldogs lead the series 2-1 but UW won the last meeting when Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor combined for 43 points in last season's victory.
The Badgers are 13-11 all-time against teams from the Southeastern Conference and have faced an SEC team in eight of the last nine seasons.
Wisconsin has won 26 consecutive home games, the fourth-longest active streak in the country and the third-longest streak in school history.
Georgia's three wins are over Jacksonville State (107-65), Grambling State (83-70) and Elon 76-65.
Georgia's senior center, #44 Dave Bliss, is a Wausau, Wisconsin native.