March 21, 2008

Teams prepare for second-round game

OMAHA, Neb. -- The morning after arrived early for Frank Martin. Actually, the Kansas State first-year coach hardly slept a wink - a mixture of adrenaline and determination filling his head as he spent the night studying tape of 10 Wisconsin games. Michael Beasley knew the win against Southern California was no dream. He arrived for the 1-hour, 40-minute afternoon practice at the Qwest Center with aches and pains to prove it as the Wildcats prepare to meet the third-seeded and Big Ten champion Badgers on Saturday.

"The first thing I thought about," Beasley admitted, "was how tired I was."

The National Freshman of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year didn't so much as smile as it remains strictly business for the 11th-seeded Wildcats, 21-11, who busted brackets and captured the nation's attention with their 80-67 win against the sixth-seeded Trojans in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.

"Practice was just like every other practice for the past couple of weeks -- intense, running, getting a lot of shots up, going through the defenses and going through the sets," Beasley continued. "It's just a regular day."

However, Wisconsin, which improved to 30-4 with a 71-56 win against No. 14 seed Cal State Fullerton in the final game of the first round in Omaha late Thursday, is no regular team. The Badgers are currently tied for the second-longest winning streak (11 games) in the nation, only behind Davidson's streak of 22 straight wins.

The Badgers, behind the nation's No. 1-ranked defense (53.8 points per game), will seek a school-record 31st win against K-State, which ranks 22nd in scoring (78.7) and has reached 80 points 14 times this season.

Martin understands it will be a clash of styles. That's where Big 12 experience comes in for his team, which includes six freshman and seven total newcomers who, after suffering a tough late stretch in the league, against the Trojans took another collective step forward behind Beasley and Bill Walker.

"We're going to do what we've done for six-and-a-half months," said Martin, who led the Wildcats to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a dozen years and their first tournament win since 1988. "We've programmed our team to play a certain way and we're going to go out and try to instill our will and create the game the way we want it to be played. If, for some reason, Wisconsin plays the way it likes to play, well, that's why the Big 12 is so good because the Big 12 has so many different styles.

"You name the strategy."

Wisconsin seventh-year coach Bo Ryan takes pride in the Badgers' reputation for being known as a grind-it-out team that doesn't allow a lot of points and, for the most part, keeps opposing offensive weapons, regardless of style, in check.

Still, Ryan admits, "Our best-laid plans sometimes don't work out. Sometimes they do. But so far our guys have committed to what we've been doing on defense and have done a very good job. You don't know what the future is going to bring. You just prepare for it and see what happens."

The biggest question: How will the veteran-laden Badgers, whose frontcourt is led by first-team All-Big Ten forward/center Brian Butch and Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player and forward Marcus Landry, guard against Beasley?




Second Round
No. 3 Wisconsin
No. 11 Kansas St
Sat., 3:20 p.m.
Omaha, Neb.


"You can look at the schedule and ask all the other guys that have tried to stop (Beasley) -- it's pretty tough," Butch said. "I don't think you're going to stop him. He's just too good of a player for us. We really need to concentrate on playing good, solid team defense."

Wisconsin held Cal State Fullerton to 36.2 percent shooting (21 of 58) to further its defensive reputation. Its last 10 opponents have shot just 35.5 percent from the floor, including 30.2 percent on 3-pointers.

The Badgers have faced potent scoring duos before. Indiana's Eric Gordon (23 points) and D.J. White (17) combined for 40 points in a 68-66 loss to the Badgers on Feb. 13. Michigan State's Drew Neitzel (26) and Kalin Lucas (18) had 44 between them in a 65-63 loss to the Badgers in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. No other duo has recorded 40 points against them this season.

Beasley ranks third nationally in scoring (26.3 points) while Walker averages 16.0 points per game. Together, they form the most prolific scoring duo in Big 12 history (42.3 points) and had 45 against the Trojans.

"We've got to stick to our principles," Ryan said. "There are areas of help (against Beasley) that are possibilities. When we practice today, we'll go over some things. There's emphasis and there's a little bit of shadowing or extra help or hard help. There are things within our defense that we do in certain situations. But I think they have other weapons, too."

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