By TOM LEA
MADISON – Wisconsin senior guard Jordan Taylor has been a part of Bo Ryan’s basketball program long enough to understand the overwhelming national sentiment regarding his team.
It’s boring. It’s slow. It’s dull. And it’s not the way basketball is meant to be played.
Taylor has heard it all.
So when the Badgers earned yet another bid to the NCAA tournament— UW’s 14th-straight appearance — the first-team All-Big Ten player ventured to guess what opposing teams might think when they see the Badgers in the same bracket.
“I can imagine some teams get excited,” Taylor, gearing up for his fourth-straight NCAA tournament, said. “A lot of those guys like Jay Bilas and Dan Dakich tend to pick us to lose. I’m sure guys on other teams like to hear that. They’re saying (No. 13) Montana is going to upset Wisconsin.
“I don’t watch every hour or every second of SportsCenter. I just know that you hear certain stuff. I know (Doug) Gottlieb picks us to lose. I think he would pick us to go 0-32.”
That’s the type of national discourse and opinion generating the excitement Taylor talked about. But that hasn’t necessarily translated into opposing success, at least not for team’s playing UW in its opening round game.
Since Ryan took over the team in 2001, UW has lost just one opening round contest — a 2006 loss to Arizona — compared to nine wins.
When asked for his opinion regarding what opposing teams thought of his Badgers, associate head coach Greg Gard had to take a second to think of a response. It was an angled question he didn’t seem to be prepared for.
“A team that will play hard,” Gard said. “A team that will come after you that’s physical and tough. A team that hopefully won’t beat itself and a team that has consistently been there.
“That’s the one thing that jumps out.”
The Badgers currently boast the fourth-longest consecutive NCAA tournament appearance streak. Only Kansas, Texas and Michigan State have qualified for more consecutive national tournaments than Wisconsin.
Gard, a coach that has been a part of 11 of UW’s 14-straight appearances, said he was still in college before UW finally broke through and qualified for a NCAA tournament. He also said his three kids have never experienced a national tournament with Wisconsin not involved.
One can’t argue with the sustained success Wisconsin has had during the Ryan era.
“Sometimes you’re so close to it and around it all the time,” Gard said. “So you lose the appreciation for it. Step back and talk to some other people around the country and it’s basically jaw dropping.
“I know a lot of other programs, even at our level, celebrate when they go.”
Sophomore guard Josh Gasser is preparing to partake in his second NCAA tournament. He said he was unsure what teams would think when they saw a potential matchup with Wisconsin looming, even though he admitted how some might get lulled into UW’s lack of flare.
“Obviously they know we’re a really good team and really capable,” Gasser said. “I’m sure they’ve seen us on TV a couple of times on ESPN just like we’ve seen Vanderbilt and teams like that. We might not be the flashiest team to watch. When you watch us you might not think we’re all that great.
“But it might be a good thing for us.”