November 15, 2009

Badgers open season against IPFW

MADISON - Over the past week and a half, the Wisconsin men's basketball team has been fine-tuning itself in preparation for the regular season. Now, when the Badgers tip off against IPFW (Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne) Sunday afternoon in the Kohl Center, everything counts.

The game will be the second time in the past three seasons that the Badgers open the season by playing against the Mastodons. In 2007, Wisconsin cruised to an 83-55 win led by Trevon Hughes 25-point, five-rebound and five-assist performance in his first career start.

With both Hughes and Jason Bohannon back for one final season at UW, the Badgers have two senior leaders poised to lead them back to the school's 12th consecutive NCAA tournament and ninth consecutive under Bo Ryan.

"They've been solid," Ryan said in regards to the two senior guards play in the exhibition season. "But now you've got to get to the next part of the schedule. You've got to continue to do the same things. You can't be a guy that picks up the stat sheet and goes. 'Oh, wow, look at that.'

"You point it out and say this is what you're trying to do and go to the next one."

The next one is against an IPFW team that went 13-17 a season ago and is coached by Dane Fife. In his four previous years at the helm, the Mastodons have compiled a 48-70 record overall. And they are one of two Summit league teams the Badgers will see this week. In Wednesday's game, the Badgers host Oakland, a team many have predicted to win the league.

After losing Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft to graduation after last season, the Badgers will have a few new faces seeing game action this season, particularly in the frontcourt.

Leading the charge will be returning and experienced players Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil. Both post players averaged well over double-digit scoring in the exhibition season.

In addition to them, young players such as Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans will likely see plenty of time in the rotation in 2009-2010.

"I think this year we've just come so far from where we were last year," UW junior forward Jon Leuer said recently. "Just as far as me and Keaton and Jared Berggren and even Ryan Evans stepping in as a big guy. We just have more of a post presence."

"Last year Marcus and Joe were great all-around players. They did tremendous things for this program, but we lacked that inside presence, that can dominate inside when they get the ball. We're not there yet, obviously…but we're getting there. I think that's the biggest difference from last year to this year."

Pre-Game Notes:

-Wisconsin has never lost a home opener under Bo Ryan and have won 11-straight home openers overall. UW has never lost a home opener in the Kohl Center.

-Under Ryan, UW has compiled a 90-31 record in non-conference games and a 58-5 mark at the Kohl Center. The Badgers have never lost a home game during the month of November under Ryan, a streak of 22 consecutive games.

-UW brings back three starters from a season ago and brings back 64 percent of its scoring, 61 percent of its rebounding and 63 percent of its assists from last year.

-Five players on the current roster played in the 2007 season opener against IPFW. Hughes, Leuer, Nankivil, Bohannon and J.P. Gavinski.

-IPFW head coach Dane Fife played his college ball at Indiana. His teams went 4-3 against UW teams, but he wasn't able to beat the Badgers when Ryan was at the helm.

Game Information:

-Date: Sunday Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. central standard time.
-Location: Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.
-TV: Big Ten Network (Jay Wilson and Shon Morris)
-Radio: Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
-All-time series: UW leads 1-0
-Last Meeting: UW won 83-55 (11/11/07)

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