February 28, 2009

UW prepared for bubble game against Michigan

MADISON, Wis. - Since the Wisconsin men's basketball team left Michigan with a conference opening win two months ago, plenty has changed. UW would start league play with three wins, follow it with six straight losses only to rebound and win five straight before losing to Michigan State in its most recent tilt.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines have ridden their own roller coaster throughout Big Ten play. After splitting the first two league games, Michigan proceeded to suffer three losing streaks of three games, and two games twice.

With UW sitting at 8-7 and Michigan at 8-8 in conference play, it becomes needless to say that Sunday's match-up is of extreme importance, especially with minimal games remaining before the Big Ten tournament.

"They've beaten Duke and UCLA already this year," UW sophomore Tim Jarmusz said. "They are a very athletic team and when they have everything going, they can be one of the best teams in the conference.

"We've got to come ready to play, do what coach asks and get the job done."

After the six game losing streak, the Badgers have been getting back to its basic principles. During its recent five game winning streak and subsequent loss to MSU, Wisconsin has been holding opponents to 51.3 points per game.

In addition to the low scoring outputs, the Badgers have also forced opponents into committing 81 turnovers over the six-game stretch.

It's that defensive mantra that has granted the Badgers success during the recent portion of the schedule, and seemingly has them playing at a high level when it matters most.

"(With) All the things that go on with 18-22 year olds," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "What I want at the end of the year is to have all those issues resolved, if there are any, and that everybody is at the same page at the end of the year and we're all going the same direction."

As many expected, the Big Ten conference has been ultra-competitive throughout the year. Currently, three teams are tied for fourth in the league with 8-7 records and two more sit a half game behind at 8-8, including Michigan.

For UW and its post-season tournament chances, the final three games are must wins, especially the two at home. If the Badgers were to win the games against Michigan and Indiana at home, it would secure a winning record in the league and a likely tournament bid.

But in a game against a team like Michigan who is just as desperate for a win, anything can happen. And this deep in the season there is no questioning that teams have improved since the first meeting.

"They've (Michigan) become more confident," Jarmusz said. "They're getting to know their offense better and better. I think we just need to have them come in here and we need to knock them out and play our basketball."

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