Wisconsin's next challenge: 2 weeks off

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

A lengthy break at this point in the season is probably welcomed, though Bo Ryan won't admit it.

MADISON -- To get an idea of how Bo Ryan’s mind works, consider his answer when asked Saturday if the 14 days between Wisconsin's just-completed 86-61 win over Eastern Kentucky and its next game, a Dec. 28 tilt with Prairie View A&M, was a good or bad thing.

An argument can be made either way. The No. 4 Badgers (12-0) are off to the best start in the program’s modern era. No Wisconsin team has started a season with 12 straight wins since the 1913-14 campaign. On that kind of roll, the inclination could easily be to just keep playing every few days.

On the other hand, redshirt junior Frank Kaminsky missed practice this week and played a well-managed 24 minutes Saturday. Senior guard Ben Brust said other guys are starting to get a little beat up, and with the rugged nature of the Big Ten, two weeks to get healthy might turn out to be crucial come February and March.

Instead, Ryan was not inclined to argue one way or the other.

"The way [the schedule] is set up is perfect, because we can't change it." -Bo Ryan

"I always look at it, the way [the schedule] is set up is perfect, because we can't change it," he said. "So it's perfect."

It's a refrain often heard from Ryan and many other coaches. Handle what’s next on the schedule. He sounded much the same earlier in December when UW played three games in six days. It is what it is. Still, this is a bit different since what’s next on the schedule doesn’t happen to be basketball.

With finals dominating the schedule for the next week, Ryan said the team will focus on that and make sure to get some relatively light basketball activity in as well.

"We are going to lift and shoot a little bit," he said. "There won’t be any contact, there won’t be any possessions until late in the week."

Decreased frequency of games is a common occurrence this time of year. Wisconsin has done what it can to avoid scheduling games during finals week, at least during the meat of it. The last three years, the Badgers have dealt with breaks between games of 10, eight and 10 days, but haven't had a two-week break since the 2005-06 season, when 13 days separated wins against UW-Milwaukee and Louisiana Tech.

This break is also different because the team usually fits in a game between finals week and Christmas Day. The Badgers have played on either Dec. 22 or 23 each of the last seven years.

"We need our rest, and time to study for finals since we have those coming up next week," said freshman forward Nigel Hayes, who will be going through college finals for the first time. "I would say with the way we’ve been playing, being at 12-0, it was nice for coach Ryan to give us a nice break to go home, a holiday break, so that [is] good."

Once finals are over and the players are released to head home for Christmas, the respite will be short. Players will be summoned back for practice in the late afternoon of Dec. 26 in order to get two days in to prepare for Prairie View A&M on Dec. 28. Judging by Ryan’s history, though, he likely doesn’t want his players focusing on that just yet. There are other steps to take care of in the interim.

"When the time comes to prepare for the next team, we'll get right after it like we have for these past 12 games," Brust said.

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