The Wisconsin men's basketball team is traveling to East Lansing, Mich. for a much-anticipated battle with the Michigan State Spartans Sunday at 2 p.m. (central). Patrick Herb is traveling with the team and chronicling the voyage.
Check back regularly for updates
Click here for the preview of Sunday's game
Saturday, Feb. 21
11:35 a.m. – The first souls arrive in advance of the team bus and snowplow their way down the tarmac at Wisconsin Aviation. Between the driving winds and blowing snow it was a minor miracle nobody went down on the walk out to the plane. The crew at Wisconsin Aviation was nice enough to offer us a ride out to the plane, but somebody (not mentioning names – Matt Lepay) was too macho enough to take the ride, turning it down for all of us. Yeah, who would have wanted a heated ride out to the plane anyway? Thanks.
11:45 a.m. – We board the plane and the flight attendant informs us that they’re trying to get more bottled water because the bottles they have are frozen. They’ll either get more or try to thaw what they have. Let’s just hope the wings thaw out better than the water.
12:12 p.m. – The team bus arrives at Wisconsin Aviation. Only 12 minutes behind schedule, not too bad considering the glacier that has formed in Madison. A snowplow escorts the bus to the plane making a clear path. It looked like a water skier trying to stay inside the wake.
12:25 p.m. – Joe Krabbenhoft gets a text message from his Dad, who is already in Lansing, telling him to check out the Lansing State Journal. Michigan State’s Goran Suton had some interesting comments about the Wisconsin-Michigan State rivalry in the paper today. Among other things, he said:
"I don't like Wisconsin, I don't think it's any secret. I don't think they like us either. I like Michigan more than Wisconsin. That's pretty bad ... Yeah, they're dirty," Suton added. "They push, they hold."
Should be an interesting game tomorrow. For the full article, click here.
12:32 p.m. – De-icing… wheels up hopefully any minute. Short, 42-minute flight to Lansing, where the weather isn’t supposed to be much better.
2:33 p.m. – (Eastern time now) We touch down in Lansing, Mich. Heck of a job by our pilots I might add. The weather coming in was not what you would call ideal. Cloudy, snowy, windy… same story, different zip code. We wait for a moment while a snowplow clears a place for the plane to park. Gotta love winter.
3:20 p.m. – The team bus pulls up to our hotel. Seems like we just checked out of our hotel in Bloomington, Ind. Tis the season I guess. For security purposes and hoping to prevent any crazy Spartan fans from crank calling Marcus Landry and the guys at all hours of the night, I’ll keep our location private. I’ll just say we’ve got a nice cozy spot in beautiful central Michigan. The guys will settle into their hotel rooms now before getting prepared for practice.
Team athletic trainer Henry Perez-Guerra will start taping ankles in about 25 minutes and the bus rolls out for the Breslin Center at 4:45 p.m.
5:03 p.m. – We arrived at the Breslin Student Event Center for practice. The court is ours for the next two hours. During this period the team will loosen up and stretch, run possessions against our scout team and then shoot around for awhile to get a feel for the Arena.
5:22 p.m. – First impressions of the Arena are that it’s definitely a basketball facility. They have concerts and events here too, but it is best-suited for hoops. The first 10 rows that ring the court are all bleachers upon which the students (“The Izzone”) stand. After that there are about 15 rows of seats, then another deck with another 15 rows of seats, followed by six rows of bleachers at the top. Probably not a bad seat in the house.
After Michigan State won the National Championship in 2000, they purchased the floor that they won the title on and transported it to East Lansing. They repainted it Green and White and a plaque in the corner commemorates the Championship (photo coming). The Badgers also played on this floor in that Final Four you’ll remember, losing to MSU in the semifinals.
5:40 p.m. – Just took a walk around the concourse to check out the rest of the arena. They have a nice big display case with the team picture in it and several of the awards the team and players have won over the years. They have Big Ten Player of the Year trophies for Magic Johnson, Steve Smith and others. They also have one of the bench chairs from each of the last four Final Fours the team has played in.
The display case features the 1979-80 National Championship trophy, but not their 2000 title. I’m guessing that one is in the basketball offices somewhere. Speaking of the 1979 National Championship team, apparently they will be honoring them at halftime tomorrow with a 30th anniversary celebration. Magic, Greg Kelser and company will all be in attendance which should be cool.
6:02 p.m. – As a tradition, Matt Ryan, the team’s video director, always shoots half-court shots at the end of practice. There isn’t much time usually, because we’re in a hurry to leave the arena. So he usually only gets a chance to fire up a few bombs. No lie, the road trips this year that he has made a half-court shot at the end of practice: Virginia Tech, Michigan, Penn State and Indiana. All wins. It’s safe to say he’s feeling a little pressure for his first shot after practice tonight.
6:15 p.m. – In the bowels of the arena near the locker rooms there is a cinder block wall with signatures from various artists and celebrities that have visited the Breslin Center. It’s pretty cool to spend a few minutes looking at what each one wrote on their block. There are messages from Ringo Starr, the Dixie Chicks, Def Leppard and in the picture below you can see former President Bill Clinton’s signature. Gavin Rossdale, front man for the band Bush simply wrote “High in Michigan… Gavin Rossdale”
6:59 p.m. – Update… Matt Ryan made his half-courter on his second attempt. The streak is alive.
I’m not saying… I’m just saying.
7:19 p.m. – We’re back at the hotel now. The guys will have dinner and then retire to their rooms for the night. The safe bet is they’ll gather in somebody’s room and rent a movie or two. I’m sure the couple guys who are a bit under the weather will be under strict instructions to get to bed early.
Until tomorrow… good night from East Lansing.
Sunday, Feb. 22
9:15 a.m. – Wake up call. The Badgers travel three team managers on each road trip and one of them is assigned to calling everyone on the travel party roster to make sure they are up, today its Roman DiPasquale. For most of the guys who have early classes and early morning lift sessions on a daily basis, I’m sure they’re up by 9:15 a.m. anyway… but not this guy. Wake up call in the truest sense for me. But hey, it’s only 8:15 on our body clocks right?
10:00 a.m. – Scouting report begins in one of the hotel ballrooms. Coach Ryan and assistant coach Greg Gard (who had the scouting report for Michigan State), walk the team through what to expect from the Spartans today and outline how the team will try to attack them. This is the first and only scheduled match-up between these two schools, so there is no previous game to use as a teaching tool. Instead, the coaching staff uses video clips of earlier Michigan State games and sometimes previous Wisconsin vs. MSU games. They will try to highlight tendencies and explain what the Badgers should do when they see X, Y and Z from the Spartans.
11:04 a.m. – With the one-hour scouting report just completed, the Badgers wander into another ballroom for pregame meal. After an hour in the dark, it takes a minute for their eyes to adjust. What doesn’t take a minute is jumping into the buffet line. Like a moth to a flame.
Today’s pregame meal menu is primarily breakfast food: eggs, french toast sticks, bacon, sausage, grits, fresh fruit, cereal, etc. Scattered around the room at six large round tables, the players and staff spread out in the room eating, talking, reading the newspaper or looking through their scouting report binders.
12:03 a.m. – Tucked away in his hotel room, Henry Perez-Guerra begins taping the players’ ankles. One-by-one, Otto Puls calls them in to the room and Henry gets them taped. Bus leaves in a little over an hour. Getting close now!
1:20 p.m. – The team rolls into the Breslin Center for Gameday! I only noticed one snowball thrown towards the bus, but the long line of students waiting to get it was unmistakable. Once we got inside the building you could feel the energy almost immediately. The student section (which rings the court) was about half-full over an hour before tip-off. Impressive.
2:00 p.m. – What a contrast in styles the teams’ warm-ups are. Both teams are on the floor, for more or less a shoot-around and loosening up period. They will go into the locker room shortly and return in about 20 minutes for their official, structured warm-ups.
Anyway, the Badgers used this period to work on shooting and generally just loosening up and getting their minds right, if you will. The Spartans, on the other end of the court, used the time to hold a dunk contest for the fans. Every player on the roster took turns trying to one-up each other with bigger and better dunks. It’s got to be intimidating for the smaller guys on the roster who don’t have the hops of the high-flyers. There is no question it got the students hyped though. In fact they were jumping and chanting and we’re still an hour before game time. I’ll admit, there were a few dunks that would gotten me jumping if I were a student too, but it was just interesting how different the two teams treated the warm-up session.
2:21 p.m. – The Badgers take the floor to a healthy chorus of boooooos. Gotta love being the villain sometimes. Shortly after Bucky ran out to begin passing and shooting drills, the band struck up the “Copa Cabana.”
2:27 p.m. – The Spartans take the floor as do the officials and we’re getting close now.
Switch over to the live blog beginning at 2:45 p.m. to get all the courtside action.