Badgers not satisfied with Sweet 16 spot
UW senior guard Jordan Taylor and his teammates hadn’t had much time to celebrate their three-point victory over Vanderbilt when Taylor was asked whether UW could be considered an elite program without a Final Four appearance under Bo Ryan.
“I think every year we take the approach ‘never satisfied,’” Taylor said after his 14-point effort. “The beautiful thing about the NCAA Tournament is we’re going to enjoy that win for about 45 minutes.
“Some guys might be done enjoying it already because we’ve got to get ready for a really good Syracuse team.
“But we’re ready to go. We’re enjoying our experience this year and just trying to make it last as long as we can, just trying to play hard every possession, every game.”
Fourth-seeded UW (26-9) faces No. 1-seeded Syracuse (33-2) Thursday at TD Garden in Boston in the East Region semifinals.
Syracuse has four Final Four appearances, including three under Jim Boeheim. The Orange under Boeheim was national runner-up in 1987 and ‘96 and won the national title in 2003.
UW’s deepest tournament run in Ryan’s first 10 seasons came in 2005, when the Badgers reached the Elite Eight before losing to eventual champion North Carolina.
Ryan, who won four Division III national titles at UW-Platteville, was asked if he believed the Badgers had something to prove.
“What is your highest award as a writer?” Ryan asked the questioner. “Have you won the top award?”
The questioner responded he had not.
“Are you still trying?” Ryan asked.
The questioner responded he was.
“That’s our guys,” Ryan said. “We love this game, and we really don’t care about the peripheral thing… . I would think that people have learned that over the years. There are just some programs that have a way of doing things.
“They keep working hard, and then sometimes every once in a while things fall into place. Guys get hot. That’s what the NCAA Tournament is. We’re not anything but who we are, and people can dissect that any way they want.”
Asked who UW is, Ryan said:
“We’re going to the Sweet 16 in 2012 to play a very good team. That means we survived and advanced. Gets harder. Everybody wants to win.”
UW is a team that has several players back from the team that fell to Butler, the eventual national runner-up, in the Sweet 16 last season in New Orleans.
Junior forward Mike Bruesewitz hasn’t forgotten the feeling of seeing Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil and Tim Jarmusz play their final college game in the loss to Butler.
“I kind of thought about it, how crappy that feeling was letting those guys go after the Butler game,” he said. “I don’t want to have that feeling again. I think we’ve got to make a run here in order to not have that feeling again.”
Taylor didn’t like the feeling, either, even though he knew he had one more chance to help UW reach the Final Four for the first time since 2000.
He was asked when he knew UW had the chops to return to the Sweet 16.
“Last summer, before the season started, we knew we what we had coming in,” he said. “We had a pretty balanced scoring attack. We felt like we had guys that could put the ball in the hole.
“Any time you lose guys like Jon and Keaton and Tim, it’s going to look like you might not be much coming in next year, but I think that’s a credit to coach, too.
“It seemed like year in and year out we lose guys but just replace them.”
Ryan appeared emotional addressing his players, particularly seniors Rob Wilson and Taylor, in the locker room moments after the victory over Vanderbilt.
“Guys, we get to keep playing,” he said, rubbing his hands together.
Then he looked directly at Taylor and Wilson, sitting in adjacent cubicles.
“And there’s no way you are being done,” he said, “or you.”