Badger Nation: You've seen many conferences throughout your tenure. Where does the Big Ten rank for you in terms of atmosphere, competition and everything else?
Erin Andrews: Oh, it's right up there. When you go to places like the Breslin Center or Assembly Hall, it's incredible. It is such a passion in the Big Ten for college basketball. The fans are so great. The Izzone, the Orange Krush. It really is right up there and this is coming from a girl who grew up with college football.
BN: You've followed along with the conference. How big of a surprise has Wisconsin and Purdue been, especially with where people projected that they would be at the start of the year?
Erin Andrews: I think with Wisconsin when you look at their athletes, they weren't going to have Tucker or Taylor. You always know Bo Ryan's teams are going to do well. But to see how a different person has stepped up every single night has just been phenomenal for them. I can't wait to see how they do in the tournament.
For Purdue, Matt Painter deserved to be Big Ten Coach of the Year. To work that magic with those freshman and to have them produce day in and day out has been awesome. They remind me actually, not talent level, but how much they are having fun and how they are very unselfish like the Florida Gators.
BN: Wisconsin won their first game and they are not a team that gets credit nationally because they don't win with offense, they win with defense. You don't win the sexy way but they held Michigan to 34 points. Talk about what they did that really impressed you from the defensive standpoint.
Erin Andrews: Defensively, Michael Flowers. He is just ridiculous. He is always around every where you turn. Nobody is safe when he is around. He's always all over you. Greg Stiemsma, Joe Krabbenhoft, they are always there, collecting the garbage, doing all the dirty work. Michigan coach Beilein said that is why the top team in the Big Ten because defensively, they're so sound and they showed it. I mean, they gave Manny Harris fits.
BN: You talk about losing Tucker and Taylor. What players have really surprised you in terms of them stepping up their game in the absence of those two players?
Erin Andrews: Michael Flowers. I didn't think he'd be this good. Brian Butch. I am softy and have a little spot in my heart for Brian Butch. I adore him. And Joe Krabbenhoft. He continued to get better and better. I think you have to give Greg Stiemsma credit, too. He comes off the bench with a lot of stuff off the court, academic ineligibility, depression, minutes have been limited. He's a key to them. He was (against Michigan) when Brian Butch was in foul trouble.
BN: You talk about the Izzone and the Orange Krush. Where does the Kohl Center rank for you in terms of fan experience? I know whenever you go there, you get a nice reception.
Erin Andrews: Right up there because of that. They treat you like family. People always asked it they are taunting you and is it frustrating. No, they are family. They are cheering your name, chanting your name. The Kohl Center is right up there with the Izzone.
BN: How did the ice fishing extravaganza happen with you, Greg and Joe?
Erin Andrews: Actually our producer wanted us to do it. We had to go get a fishing license and the coaches (Lavin and Musburger) wanted to be a part of us. Greg Stiemsma loves to do it so yeah, we got to be apart of it and it was phenomenal. I was so excited.
BN: Did you catch anything?
Erin Andrews: That was fake. We didn't catch anything. They already had those sigh there.
BN: How good do you think Wisconsin can be? You look at this tournament and the NCAA, if you had to give a bold prediction for the NCAA tournament, where would you put Wisconsin?
Erin Andrews: If they continue to play like they're playing, I wouldn't say a Final Four is out of reach. I think they use to playing (defensive games). I think teams that aren't in the conference may be caught off guard. (UW) will lull you to sleep, suck the venom right out of you, pump the blood out of you and put you out. Teams that aren't in conference aren't use to that.