Badger Basketball, what do you make of it? This guy looks harmless enough...right? (Photo by Brian Speers)
Tonight, we'll see the Nebraska Cornhuskers make their first appearance in league play as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Wisconsin is on the slate, first in a slew of games versus ranked opponents (6 of 8), to start things off.
Those Big Ten folks sure do want to show us some hospitality, don't they?
Phil Mitten, from Bucky's 5th Quarter, was kind enough to do a quick exchange for us prior to this evenings game.
Hopefully with some good Q+A's, we'll start to get some idea of these shiny new opponents we're up against on the court. Although, Wisconsin isn't exactly a new foe for the Big Red. Read more on that later today (god willing, and provided that my toddler lets me have more than 12 minutes of "me" time), in our season update article.
CornNation: As the new kids on the block, Nebraska will be giving Big Ten fans their first glimpse of what makes up Husker Basketball. How do you think Wisconsin fans are looking at Nebraska? Competitive? Pushover?
Phil: A segment of the population is wary of over overlooking any foe on the road and hopes that Nebraska can be a competitive addition to the league. But on the whole, I think most Badger fans consider the Huskers two wins on the schedule at this point.
(..more after the jump)
CornNation: Give us Husker fans a brief description of what Wisconsin basketball is all about? NCAA Tournament history?
Phil: Wisconsin basketball under Bo Ryan has been about efficiency, plain and simple. Stout man-to-man (and help) defense always comes first however, which is the biggest reason why the Badgers have come to be known for their slow pace. Ryan's 10+ years on the job have brought unprecedented success and consistency, even if its mostly during the regular season. He simply continued the foundation laid by Dick Bennett, a state hero who led the team to its only Final Four of the modern era in 2000. Just like in football, the program was pathetic for decades until a re-commitment to athletics under A.D. Pat Richter in the 1990s. The school has one national championship from the dark ages (1941) to its name.
CornNation: You have to get rid of either the football team, or the basketball team. Which one?
Phil: Obviously I am biased towards basketball, but the clear-cut choice would be to keep football because it pays the bills. As I'm sure Husker fans understand, football is on a whole 'nother level at Wisconsin. It is a football state, starting with Green Bay Packers and followed closely by the Badgers. Plus, in recent years, the football squads have been much closer to competing for national championships and actually feature an exciting, high-scoring offense. The basketball team? Not so much ...
CornNation: Who should we be worrying about come Tuesday? Who is the "go-to" guy on the floor for Wisconsin?
Phil: Jordan Taylor
is the leader and go-to guy in crunch time, but he has really struggled with his offense in 2011. Luckily the recent holiday layoff has Taylor looking refreshed (he had off-season ankle surgery). But the guy that might kill the Huskers is sophomore reserve Ben Brust
, the Badgers' sixth man. The 6'1" guard barely has any conscience when it comes to shooting range and has already made seven 3s in a game on two separate occasions.
CornNation: What kind of presence should we expect at the Devaney Center on Tuesday? Do Badger fans travel well to hoops games?
Phil: Hard to say. Wisconsin travels pretty well to destination tournaments (Maui, Paradise Jam, etc.) and to places where they can easily take over arenas (think Northwestern). It's nothing like football games though. With one of the largest alumni bases (~400,000) in the country -- including an association chapter in Omaha -- there should be pockets of Badgers around Lincoln, especially after the good time we had with your folks up in Madison for football.
CornNation: Any Wisconsin players make it to the NBA in the last 30 years?
Phil: Sure a handful have made it during that span and several more are enjoying their cups of coffee in the league right now. But the two to have made any impact recently are Michael Finley
and Devin Harris
. Finley was UW's leading scorer until Alando Tucker surpassed him a few years back and is generally regarded as the best player in school history, although Harris made a great case during his three seasons before being drafted No. 5 overall in the 2004 NBA Draft.
CornNation: Score Prediction?
Phil: I'll go with Wisconsin 61, Nebraska 52.