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March 13, 2011MADISON - Just two days removed from yet another quick exit at the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan and his team learned its NCAA Tournament fate Sunday evening.
And the news wasn't horrible as far as seeding purposes go.
Though it's lost back-to-back games to similar extremes, the Badgers landed a No. 4 seed in the Southeast regional, marking the second straight season UW has earned such high marks.
Wisconsin opens tournament play Thursday (time is to be announced) against No. 13 Belmont.
"It is exciting that we get to still play," UW senior forward Jon Leuer said. "We're just looking forward to getting back on the court. Even though it's my fourth time going through it Selection Sunday is still an exciting time."
Leuer's teammate Jordan Taylor echoed several of the same notions.
"It's definitely exciting just to be in the tournament and in the field of 68," Taylor said. "Not everybody gets to participate in this so this is one of the best times of year. It's probably even better than Christmas for a lot of us.
"It's always fun."
As far as UW's opponent, Belmont has had quite the year. The Bruins finished the season as the Atlantic Sun regular and conference tournament champions. They went 30-4 on the year with losses coming at No. 23 Tennessee, at Vanderbilt, at No. 18 Tennessee and at Lipscomb.
They average 80.4 points per game, the 11th highest total in all of college basketball. Several analysts tabbed Belmont the cream of the crop as far as small-conference teams are concerned.
"It's not like Belmont is a team that only plays one way or only has one guy," Bo Ryan said. "They've beaten teams in a lot of different ways to get 30 wins and half of their losses were to Tennessee. What does that tell you? I'm sure they have a lot of different parts, but again, to comment now wouldn't do justice."
Pittsburgh landed the No. 1 seed in the Southeast regional while Florida, BYU and Wisconsin round out the rest of the top four seeds. The winner of the Wisconsin-Belmont game would play the winner of the No. 5 Kansas State-No. 12 Utah State matchup in the round of 32.
The Badgers will head to Tuscon sometime Tuesday and prepare for their opening game set for Thursday.
"The six seniors on this team know that this is our last go round," Leuer said. "We're going to do everything we can to make it special and make it last for as long as we can. We felt like we've worked too hard and been together too long for it to end soon rather than later."
BIG TEN FARES WELL:
Starting with the No. 1 overall seed Ohio State, the Big Ten was able to secure seven berths in the NCAA tournament. Ohio State anchors the East region and will open play against the winner of the No. 16 play-in game of Texas-San Antonio and Alabama State.
In the Southwest region, Purdue earned a No. 3 seed and will open play against No. 14 St. Peter's. In the same bracket, No. 9 Illinois will play No. 8 UNLV in the opening round.
The Southeast region of course features No. 4 Wisconsin, but it also hosts No. 10 Michigan State. The Spartans, a Final Four team from a season ago, will open play against No. 7 UCLA.
Finally, the West region pits No. 8 Michigan against No. 9 Tennessee. No. 10 Penn State will open tournament play against No. 7 Temple.
"That's pretty impressive," Ryan said. "Eight of our last 10 wins in the regular season, we had two bumps against Ohio State and Purdue on the road, so that's pretty good basketball. We played pretty much every one of those teams except for Illinois down that stretch. We won one against an NCAA tournament team on the road against Michigan. That's who the Badgers are collectively. Our season, we played good teams at tough places including Vegas and Marquette on the road. Six of the eight teams from the Old Spice Classic were in the tournament.
"We've played some pretty good teams and this is a good group of guys who know how to get things done. Now, as I've said before you've got to man up and play."
Overall, the Big Ten's seven bids were the second most of any conference. As expected, the Big East landed 11 bids, including the No. 1 seed in the Southeast, Pittsburgh.
Having left the game with just under 10 minutes to play in Friday's loss to Penn State, sophomore forward Mike Bruesewitz has been listed as day-to-day. There has been no timetable for his return.
The UW Sports Medicine Staff tabbed the injury as a right knee sprain. Bruesewitz is expected to continue to work with the training staff throughout the week before determining whether he'll be able to play come Thursday's tournament opener.
Jon Leuer on UW's tournament prospects:
"There's not a team out there we can't be and then there's not a team out there we couldn't lose to. You take that for what it is and you know that it's one shot and you're done. So bring it every night regardless who you're playing, what seed you are and what seed the team you're playing against is. It's just a matter of who brings it for the next 40 minutes."
Jordan Taylor on UW's tournament prospects:
"We competed with the No. 1 overall seed. We beat them and then they obviously beat us pretty good, but they played well to do it. There are a lot of good teams out there. Every team we can beat and every team can beat us, probably. We've just got to come ready to play and take nothing for granted and have a new confidence about us."