Men’s basketball: Wanting even more, Wisconsin seeks second championship with Big Ten tournament title

first_imgAfter a 28-3 record and the program’s first Big Ten regular season championship since 2008, the Wisconsin men’s basketball team is out to accomplish their next goal: a Big Ten Tournament title.The tournament kicks off Wednesday afternoon, but the Badgers will have a double bye as the No. 1 overall seed. The double bye comes as a result of this Big Ten Tournament being the first with 14 teams.UW’s first game will be Friday morning against the winner of No. 8 Illinois and No. 9 Michigan.This tournament not only serves as a final tune-up for Wisconsin as they head into the NCAA Tournament hoping for a return trip to the Final Four, but also as a way to secure their position as the best team in the Big Ten.A regular season championship is nice, but for redshirt senior guard Josh Gasser, it is not enough to be considered the best team in the conference.“There are two champions, so you don’t really want to split it,” Gasser said. “We would like to win this one by ourselves, but that’s a tough thing to do. It’s going to be a tough journey.”But tough may be an understatement. Since senior guard Traevon Jackson went out with a foot injury, Gasser and the rest of the UW starters have had to log plenty of minutes as a result of the lack of depth and production off the bench.The starters for Wisconsin have all played at least 30 minutes each in 11 of the team’s last 13 games. The two games they didn’t were double-digit wins over Ohio State last Sunday and Northwestern on Feb. 7.Now, with postseason tournaments and playing multiple games in a short amount of time, those minutes may start to catch up to the players. However, Gasser, who holds the Wisconsin record for most minutes played at 4,411, says this team knows how to take care of their bodies and will be ready for the challenge.“The national championship is in four weeks, so if we can’t handle four more weeks, then we don’t deserve it,” Gasser said. “We’re young kids, and we can play hard every night if we need to. We are taking care of our bodies, resting a lot and doing all the little things like that to make sure we are okay.”An impressive showing in the tournament, with a little bit of outside help, could assist in Wisconsin landing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The No. 1 seed would be the first in UW basketball history and help the Badgers avoid a potential matchup with undefeated Kentucky in the Midwest Regional Final.However, according to senior forward and Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky, that No. 1 seed is not exactly what is on this team’s mind.“We are just trying to go out there and win,” Kaminsky said. “We are not playing for a No. 1 seed, we are playing to win a championship.“We just want to make the tournament,” he joked. “I think we have made a strong case to make the tournament so far.”The Badgers have made quite the case, as their 2014-15 campaign could end up as the best campaign ever by a Wisconsin team.A majority of the players on this team have played and grown together over the years, and to be the best Wisconsin team ever is something that is definitely on their minds.But this team isn’t going out and playing well just to be considered the best.“We just want to be good for each other and we take good pride in that,” junior forward Sam Dekker said. “We want to win for each other, and if we end up doing that, then I think we could be regarded as the best team ever at Wisconsin. But we aren’t going to look right now at ourselves as the best ever. We still have a lot of work to do.”Dekker ended up putting it even more simply, as nine straight wins and a national championship will be the ultimate criteria if this team is going to consider themselves the best.“You’re not the best ever if you lose,” he said.The Badgers will continue their journey to be the best Friday, with tip-off for their first Big Ten Tournament game scheduled for 11 a.m. at the United Center in Chicago against either Illinois or Michigan.Potential matchups for Wisconsin:Quarterfinals – 11 a.m. Friday, ESPN: (8) Illinois, (9) MichiganSemifinals – Noon Saturday, CBS : (4) Purdue, (5) Iowa, (12) Nebraska, (13) Penn StateFinals – 2:30 p.m. Sunday, CBS: (2) Maryland, (3) Michigan State, (6) Ohio State, (7) Indiana, (10) Northwestern, (11) Minnesota, (14) Rutgerslast_img

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