When a team is on a losing streak, everybody needs to step up his/her game. Thus, I’m trying to do my part with a blog and photo gallery from Evanston, Ill. Actually, we’re staying in nearby Northbrook, but close enough.
A high school game at Welsh-Ryan Arena here on the Northwestern campus prevented the Badgers from practicing here on Friday night. So the team went through about a two-hour practice in Madison before bussing down. The team ate a meal at the Kohl Center before leaving and had a snack before bed here at the hotel. Malnutrition will not be a problem.
“Step Brothers” was the movie selection on the ride down. That movie is probably not going to win any Academy Awards, but if Will Ferrell’s in it, I’ll watch it. Let’s hope we get to watch another movie on the way back – that will mean a Wisconsin win. After a road loss, it’s nothing but dark silence and empty pizza boxes on the ride home. Make that the 3,007th reason why winning is more fun than losing.
Saturday morning the Badgers had a late wake-up call and leisurely morning at the hotel before heading over to Welsh-Ryan Arena for shoot-around. Whenever Wisconsin plays a night game on the road, the team always visits the gym to have a light shoot around. It gives the players a chance to stretch their legs and get them out of the hotel for a bit, but it also gives them another chance to “feel” the new surroundings.
At today’s shoot-around the guys did their ritual of dribbling around the floor to loosen up and familiarize themselves with the Arena. Then they worked on partner shooting and free throws. There was no full-court work or scout team practice… this is literally just light shooting practice.
A couple impressions about Welsh-Ryan Arena: It feels like a big high school gym inside. Three of the four sides are bleachers that pull out of the wall much like a high school gym. With that said it has a bit of old-school charm. They’ve added some high-dollar seats courtside this year which is not so old-school. They sit across from the team benches, much like the Kohl Center has.
The arena doesn’t seem like it holds as many as it does. It only feels like it would seat a few thousand, but capacity is listed at 8,117. They cram them into every corner possible though. Case and point… the single seats in either corner across from the benches. I don’t know if you’ll be able to see it on TV, but I’ve got a photo of it in the photo gallery below. That’s a pretty lonely existence in those single seats. We were joking about whether or not they do those halftime promotions where if a person makes a shot their whole row gets a prize. What happens if this “row of one” is called?
The Big Ten Network television commentators that will call tonight’s game (Dave Revsine and Jimmy Jackson) were on hand during the shoot-around to get a look at the guys and talk with the coaches a bit. Much of their research is already done at this point, but they like to check with Coach Ryan and his assistants and get the pulse of the team. The biggest question today was “How’s the mood around the team?” The answer: I’d say it’s pretty good. The guys hate losing, believe me, but they understand that they’ve lost to some great teams and they’ve been in nearly every game this year. The margin has been razor-thin in so many of these recent games and the guys realize that they aren’t that far away from returning to the “left-hand side” (the winning score) as Coach Ryan likes to say.
Now most of the guys are in their rooms no doubt looking over their notes for Northwestern, studying and watching Michigan at Purdue on CBS. After that: Scouting report, pregame meal and then the game.