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February 25, 2013

Evans retools approach





MADISON - Ryan Evans' poor free throw shooting has been well documented this season. The senior forward is shooting just 40.5 percent from the line this season after shooting 74.4 and 72.6 percent during the last two seasons. What started as a bad string of games has morphed into a season long slump for Evans, who is running out of time to find an answer before postseason play begins next month.

Now Evans has turned to an unorthodox solution in his desperation to fix what's normally an overlooked skill for the Badgers. During practice Sunday Evans used a jump shot at the free throw line instead of his usual form, and it was pretty successful. After practice Evans said he hadn't made up his mind whether to use the new jump shot or not, but in his weekly press conference head coach Bo Ryan said he's ok with whatever Evans wants to do in their next game against Nebraska.

"He shot it pretty well that way," Ryan said Monday. "Hal Greer had to learn to shoot that way. He did it because he felt it was his best chance of making the shot. Ryan's tried that method and feels right now that that's the best way to make the free throw."

But while Evans has struggled at the line this year, the Badgers as a whole haven't lived up to their performance during the last few seasons. The Badgers made 73.9 percent of their shots from the line last year, and led the country in 2010-2011 with an 81.8 percent mark.

But this year the Badgers are shooting just 62.2 percent as a team. That's not great compared to the last few years, but Evans has a good deal to do with it. If you take Evans' stats out of the team's free throw numbers, the rest of the Badgers are shooting 70.1 percent on free throws. That's good enough to move the Badgers up to sixth in the Big Ten instead of last place.

The Badgers haven't seriously considered benching Evans for another player like Sam Dekker because of Evans' defense and rebounding, but poor free throw shooting has already cost them games against Michigan State and Minnesota this season. So if Evans' new free throw motion helps the Badgers down the stretch, Ryan said he's ok with it.

"It's not that unusual to have a different style," Ryan said. "Whatever works- as long as he believes it."

In the Rankings

-- The Badgers moved up to No. 17 in the Associated Press' weekly poll from No. 19 last week. That puts the Badgers fifth of the five ranked teams in the Big Ten. No. 1 Indiana, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 9 Michigan, and No. 16 Ohio State are all ranked ahead of the Badgers.

-- The Badgers also moved up one spot in USA Today's Coaches' Poll. The Badgers are now No. 16. Like in the AP poll, the Badgers are fifth of the five ranked teams in the Big Ten. They were ahead of Ohio State last week, but the Buckeyes jumped the Badgers after beating Michigan State on Sunday night.

The week ahead

-- The Badgers have their final home games of the season this week- a Tuesday night contest with Nebraska and a Saturday afternoon game with Purdue. The Badgers beat the Cornhuskers 47-41 in their previous meeting this year on Jan. 6, but they gave Wisconsin fits for most of the game. Tuesday's game is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. CST, and will air on the Big Ten Network. The Purdue game is scheduled for a 12 p.m. start.

Tournament Watch

-- If the season ended today, the Badgers would still earn the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament thanks to their head-to-head tiebreaker with the Michigan Wolverines. Wisconsin currently sits two games out of first place in the Big Ten with four games to play.

The Badgers would then earn a bye for the first day of the tournament, and would face the winner of the No. 6 vs. No. 11 game on Friday evening. Right now, those two teams would be Illinois and Northwestern, who the Badgers have a combined 3-0 record against this season.

-- ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Badgers as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and has them slated to play No. 13 seed Valparaiso. Lunardi also has the Badgers in the South part of the bracket, and has the Badgers playing in the San Joese regional for their first two games.

-- CBS Sports' Jerry Palm has the Badgers as a No. 5 seed in his NCAA Tournament prediction, and has the Badgers playing the winner of a first-round game between potential 12-seeds Boise State and Charlotte.

Quotable

Bo Ryan on Mike Bruesewitz's new haircut when asked if the team needs a barber:

"What are you referring to- the coach or the players? I thought Gary Close's haircut was pretty good. I'm a product of the 60s, when everybody expressed themselves. There were grooming issues then. Probably a lot more than now. The Beatles hit the scene and some other things with Shaft. Different hairstyles."

"I don't know. They can express themselves that way, as long as they're not taking their hands to their eyes. That takes away from their concentration on the play. That's the only rule that I've ever had."

Bo Ryan, Presser (2/25/13)

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.


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