MADISON -- Monday, Wisconsin went through its final open practice before heading to Dallas for the Final Four. In the 30 minutes that were open to media, the Badgers spent 20 minutes on offensive sets before pairing up for a three-point shooting drill and then taking free throws.
All in all, a standard practice for Bo Ryan's team -- despite the fact that UW's first Final Four trip since 2000 looms ahead.
During a press conference earlier Monday, Ryan elaborated on his team's preparation going into this week and how it differs from earlier in the NCAA tournament. He said the Badgers will try to practice every night in Dallas at the same time as Saturday's game will be played (7:49 p.m. CT). This is different from earlier in the tournament, because the times switched with every round.
"The toughest part right now is getting our guys caught up with the classes that they missed and the classes that they're going to miss this week," Ryan said. "We've been spending more time getting that squared away than we have probably with basketball. Hopefully by the time we leave Wednesday, they'll be all caught up."
Ryan added that everything is structured as it pertains to meals and practices. He said the NCAA does a good job of making sure they are able to do so.
Meanwhile, touching on the Badgers' Elite Eight win over Arizona unsurprisingly brought some humor out of Ryan. Asked about the differences between being on the ladder for his first national championship at UW-Platteville in 1991 and Saturday night's win, Ryan was quick with a quip,
"For Division III, they have a sturdier ladder. Division III, it was tough at Wittenburg [University, the venue for the championship]. Budget cuts," Ryan said. "Actually, I was a little more stable going up and down [on Saturday]. I was so excited, I don't even remember going up the ladder or coming down.
"You just always make sure you don't poke your eye out with the scissors or stab yourself with the scissors. That's the key. I think we had one guy cut his finger either in ‘98 or ‘99 when we won in Salem [Mass.]. I can't remember who that was, but I think there was blood."
Ryan also talked about length of the season, and whether it's been a drain on the players or coaches.
"Well its another week of practice," he said. "That's great. This has been a really long season starting with Canada in August. Boy, this is quite the journey. We've had more practices and we've been together longer than any team I've ever coached.
"If you take the hours this squad's been together, we still get along. We still talk to each other. So that's not bad. It's been very enjoyable."
Ryan lightheartedly talked about how the scout team tries to simulate the length of Kentucky. He mentioned that the Badgers have done it before, but a team with such length is never something easy to mimic.
"We just ask them to be like Go-Go-Gadget," Ryan said."If your arms go this far, then get them to go this far. So that's how we ask them to play. We just do what we do.
"We can't simulate Kentucky"
Ryan said he even though the Wildcats' Willie Cauley-Stein is doubtful, the Badgers are preparing as if he's going to play. Ryan also mentioned that he talked to John Calipari on the phone Sunday, but the two have been friends for years and it was a casual conversation. He was then asked for his expertise on what fans headed to the Final Four should make sure they do while in Dallas.
"One thing you never have to do is tell a Badger fan is how to socialize," Ryan said."I am pretty sure of that one.
As far as how the tournament's changed, Ryan said, "Tickets were a lot easier to get. The facilities were not as big. They were 10,000, 15,000, 20,000."
When told 77,000 would attend the Final Four he responded, "77,000? How about that. How many are going to be good seats? It's a lot more corporate tickets. It has become the event. I mean I know people talk about the Super Bowl; they can talk about whatever. The NCAA tournament sure pays a lot of bills, I know that."