Badgers get No. 4 seed, face No. 13 Montana Thursday

MADISON, Wis. -- The Badgers were one of three Big Ten teams to earn a No. 4 seed when the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee revealed its seedings Sunday. The Badgers will travel to Albuquerque, where they will face the No. 13 seed Montana Grizzlies, winners of 14 straight and 20 of their last 21.

Indiana and Michigan also earned No. 4 seeds, while Ohio State received a No. 2 and Michigan State, fresh off a Big Ten Tournament title, picked up a No. 1 seed.

Montana (25-6) lost only one Big Sky Conference game all season, but have only one win against an NCAA Tournament team, a 73-71 home victory against Long Beach State, the No. 12 seed in the West. The Badgers, meanwhile, are 9-1 in the first round of the NCAA tournament under Bo Ryan.

Former Wisconsin player Freddie Owens is an assistant coach at Montana under head coach Wayne Tinkle. Ryan said Owens' knowledge of Wisconsin's system could give the Grizzlies an competitive advantage any other non-conference opponent would lack.

"Look at the Big Ten, how much we know about each other. But you expect that. Out of league, it's a little different," Ryan said. "Freddie might be the most popular guy with Coach Tinkel right now."

The Wisconsin players and coaches didn't know much about the Grizzlies yet, but all parties stressed the importance of focusing more about how they play than anything their opponents do.

Although the Badgers are coming off a loss in the semifinals of Big Ten Tournament, they did win their final three games of the regular season. Jordan Taylor likes the mindset his team headed into the tournament.

"We feel confident. We feel like we've been playing well over the past month and a half," Taylor said.

Ryan said he was proud to represent the university with another NCAA Tournament appearance, but admitted he sometimes questioned if his team would get a chance to make it back after losing several key contributors in the offseason and going through a few rough stretches during the season.

"I didn't know we'd be sitting here, wasn't quite sure at times," Ryan. "We've had some players on our team who became a lot tougher throughout the season, defensively. Became more involved."

Regardless of their path to the tournament, Wisconsin is now officially in. Let the madness begin.

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