Marquette, Wisconsin prepare for NCAA tournament
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Now that their NCAA tournament seeds are set, Marquette and Wisconsin both hope relatively early exits from their conference tournaments aren't an indication of how they'll fare the rest of this month.
The Golden Eagles are a No. 3 seed in the West Region and will face the winner of the Tuesday night game between Iona and BYU. With a win, Marquette would face the winner of the Murray State-Colorado State game.
The Badgers are a No. 4 seed in the East and will face Montana. They would meet the winner of the Vanderbilt-Harvard game in the second round. Both teams tip off Thursday.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams knows there are questions about how his players will respond to a poor performance in the Big East tournament. After earning a double-bye, Marquette lost to Louisville on Thursday.
"Again, it's all about perspective,'' Williams said. "Are they going to be fired up because we peed down our leg in New York? Or are they going to be timid because we peed down our leg in New York?''
Williams expects them to bounce back.
"I think we'll probably respond the way we have all year long,'' Williams said. "I don't think you get to this point with the success we've had unless you can respond to adversity. We were bad in New York, and I anticipate we'll be good in Louisville.''
Wisconsin fared slightly better in the Big Ten tournament but the Badgers still went home before they wanted to, beating Indiana before losing to Michigan State on Saturday.
For Badgers coach Bo Ryan, a No. 4 seed was a significant accomplishment for a team that didn't always look like it was bound for the NCAA tournament.
"I'm so happy for our guys because this is a gritty group,'' Ryan said. "I didn't know we'd be sitting here; I wasn't quite sure, at times. And there's not a person in this room that can't agree with what I just said. Let's see if we can't keep it going.''
Jared Berggren is proud of the way the Badgers fought back from a 1-3 start to Big Ten play this season, but knows none of that matters now.
"It's do or die now,'' Berggren said. "I think we've showed a lot of stuff that can help us be successful. We've had games where a lot of different guys have chipped in and helped us be successful. It doesn't matter who it is, if guys are looking to be aggressive, playing with confidence, looking for their shot and sticking to our rules defensively, we feel like we can be a tough team to beat.''
Both teams will be looking to better their tournament runs last year, when both made it to the second weekend of the tournament before bowing out. Wisconsin was a No. 4 seed last year and started off with victories over Belmont and Kansas State before losing to Butler.
Marquette was a No. 11 seed last year, but made a surprising run with victories over Xavier and Syracuse before losing to North Carolina.
To make another run, the Golden Eagles will have to shake off the loss to Louisville.
"You want to redeem yourself a little bit,'' Jae Crowder said. "We know we didn't play our best basketball, but the only chance we have is our next opponent.''
If only they knew who that next opponent is going to be.
Williams said he likes the idea of having more teams in the tournament, but said the possibility of facing either Iona or BYU - and not finding out until Tuesday night which one it will be - presents a unique challenge.
"You can't inundate kids with too much information, and then Tuesday night half the information you've given them is wrong,'' Williams said. "Because Thursday night, they'll be saying, `Well, coach, I thought you said ...' No, that was the team we potentially could have played. So we don't want to make it too much of a chemistry project.''
The Golden Eagles are led by Crowder, the Big East player of the year, and Darius Johnson-Odom. Power forward Davante Garder recently returned from a knee injury, but it's not clear how much he'll be able to help a relatively undersized team. Marquette has been uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball of late, with 17 turnovers in a Feb. 29 loss at Cincinnati and 26 turnovers in the loss to Louisville.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, has been a notoriously streaky outside shooting team this season, struggling to win when they're not hitting 3-point shots.
The Badgers have a steady point guard in Jordan Taylor and a potential breakout star in fellow senior Rob Wilson, who had a surprise career-high 30-point performance in the Badgers' Big Ten tournament victory over Indiana.
But the Badgers can struggle with interior defense against athletic big men, as they showed in the loss to Michigan State.
Ryan says his players have improved on defense throughout the season - but hitting shots helps, too.
"That's what I've always said, `If you can hit some shots sometimes in games, it helps your defense,''' Ryan said. "The two are related. Emotionally, if you're hitting some shots you're a little (more active).''
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