"We lost our two leaders and two good guys last year," Bohannon said of Joe and Marcus. "We've tried to push them as much as we can and make strides from last year. It's our senior year. It's our last go-around. We're giving it every ounce of heart we have because we want to make the most of this season."
The confidence that can be seen on the two sitting together at Chicago's Crowne Plaza Hotel at Big Ten Media Day was one of stoic confidence. After a 10-8 conference finish and a second round birth in the NCAA tournament, the Badgers find themselves in the middle of the conference pack.
Not picked among the top three preseason favorites (only the top three are announced), the Badgers also don't have one of the five preseason first-team All-Big Ten selections on their team. Either of Wisconsin's two representatives could care less, especially since the captains know the talent that lies on its roster compared to last season.
"We didn't have a lot of experience with 11 freshmen and sophomores last year," Hughes said. "We were lacking in that category. This year, we return a lot, lose just two senior starters and have a lot of upperclassmen ready to fill those shoes and show what they got."
Thanks to Bohannon and Hughes, the Badgers haven't let time slip by since the season ended. In addition to the annual summer pick-up games, the two seniors have been the ones steering the ship, working on getting stronger and more agile in the weight room, perfecting their open shots, even going so far as to take a trip out Elver Hill to get some practice conditioning runs in before the season started.
"Pop and Jason led the charge," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "Guys always play pick-up games and do different things and if you don't have good leadership, that summer can be wasted. Pop and J-Bo made sure that they worked."
The public message is different, too. Bohannon's Midwest background tends to make him stay more on the positive when addressing the past, talking about finishing and not taking possessions off. Hughes, a native New Yorker, doesn't sugarcoat anything, calling out his team, including himself to, "be more consistent, hungrier, not be slacking and play as a team every play."
With the duo pushing each other and the team to accept the challenge to get better, the Badgers enter the 2009-10 college basketball season under the radar. Sitting quietly at their table, it doesn't appear the duo is planning on spreading the word.
"We have a lot of guys that can play basketball and play ball the right way," Bohannon said. "People don't necessary know our team as well as we do, and say we don't have experience. Looking at our team, even though we lose Joe and Marcus, we've got guys that came off the bench and played a lot of huge minutes last year. That's going to pay huge dividends."