Paradise Jam Travelog
Day 1 - We made it to St. Thomas
Day 2 - Eat, study, beach, repeat
Day 3 - Gameday!
In-game blog: UW vs. Iona
Day 4 - And on the fourth day, the Bo hardly rested
In-game blog: UW vs. San Diego
In-game blog: UW vs. UConn
SECOND ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH, THANKFULLY
Well, the Badger men’s basketball team made it back to Madison in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. What a welcome sight it was to see frost covering our windshields. Or not.
It’s time to reflect on the seven-day, three-game trip to the Virgin Islands. There is no question the trip ended on a disappointing note, but much was gained even from the loss to UConn. As you all know by now, Wisconsin struggled in the Paradise Jam championship game with a, 76-57, loss to No. 2 UConn. Click here to read the game story and in-game blog from Monday night.
There are several lessons to be learned from that loss, but perhaps most importantly was what I witnessed after the game. Moments after the buzzer officially announced Wisconsin’s first loss of the year, the tournament committee presented the Badgers with a runner-up trophy. There are six other teams at the tournament who would have been happy to receive that plaque, but not our guys. The way the UW players reacted, you would have thought they were trying to inject our team with the ebola virus (you can read it on their faces in the photo above). It’s not that the Badgers are ungrateful… it’s that they weren’t satisfied with second-best.
Finally, the seniors accepted the award, but they weren’t happy about it. In a deathly-quiet locker room after the game it was difficult to tell whether UW had lost an early season non-conference game or a season-ending NCAA tournament game. As uncomfortable as it was to be in that locker room, I liked what I was seeing. There were no excuses. To a man, the guys were upset at what transpired and had that look in their eyes.
There was an era in Wisconsin basketball history when just getting to play against the second-ranked team in the country was good enough. Those times are long gone.
Senior leader and definition-of-Wisconsin-basketball, Joe Krabbenhoft, told his teammates to remember the similarities between this game and last season’s game at Duke. You’ll remember, Wisconsin got run out of the gym at Duke a year ago and rallied from that loss to win a school-record 31 games and two Big Ten titles. Time will tell whether this year’s young squad can reach similar heights, but based on the attitude in the post-game locker room, they’re going to die trying.
We can’t let the loss in the championship game shroud what made this trip worthwhile (aside from 80-degree heat and beach time, that is). The Badgers took their young team into a foreign environment where your normal comfort zone is a distant memory and emerged with two solid wins and a library’s-worth of video tape to learn from. Five freshmen made their first road trip. Two of the three sophomores (Keaton Nankivil and Tim Jarmusz) played about as many minutes in St. Thomas as they did all of last season combined.
Not only that, but you can’t measure the team-building a trip like this can spawn. The Badgers weren’t doing any rope courses or closing their eyes and falling backwards into a teammate’s arms, but there is no question they got closer as a team. Young guys were rooming with veterans like junior Trévon Hughes living with freshman Rob Wilson or senior Marcus Landry rooming with freshman Jared Berggren.
A week with your brothers doing everything together (eating, sleeping, swimming, studying, etc.) is only going to make the sum greater than the parts.
With that said… Milwaukee, Virginia Tech and Marquette certainly won’t take pity on Wisconsin.
Let’s move on… “On Wisconsin” that is.