The NCAA tournament and spring break is ahead of them and the Big Ten Conference season is behind them.

"It's probably better than Christmas for a lot of us," Jordan Taylor said after the players from the University of Wisconsin men's basketball learned Sunday that they will play Belmont in an NCAA tournament second-round game on Thursday in Tucson, Ariz.

UW coach Bo Ryan one-upped Taylor. "It's Christmas, birthdays, Easter Bunny all wrapped in one," he said.

The Badgers (23-8), who earned their 13th straight NCAA tournament bid, are the No. 4 seed in the Southeast regional while the Bruins (30-4), who are the champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference, are the No. 13 seed.

You couldn't find anybody in the Kohl Center complaining about the site or the seed.

"Regardless of what the draw was and where we were going and who we were playing, the main thing is that we focus on ourselves and what we do well. If we stick to that we usually have a chance to be successful," senior forward Jon Leuer said.

Leuer said the Badgers aren't dwelling on their 36-33 loss to Penn State in a second-round Big Ten tournament game Friday night in Indianapolis, which marked the worst offensive showing in Ryan's tenure and the program's leanest output in 12 years.

That followed their 93-65 loss at top-ranked Ohio State in their regular-season finale on March 6 in which the Buckeyes set an NCAA record for accuracy from 3-point range by hitting 14-of-15 attempts (93.3 percent).

"We've moved on and are definitely trying to learn from that and correct our mistakes that we had in that game," Leuer said of the Penn State game. "All our focus is on the (NCAA) tournament. You can't win the next one without the first one, so we're just focusing on Belmont right now. That's where all our energy and attention is."

What should help the Badgers is a lack of distractions from academics or other student life because of spring break. Taylor said it's similar to Christmas break.

"It's just straight basketball; for a lot of us it's kind of like a dream," he said. "You have nothing else to worry about but coming to the gym and getting better."

They learned that sophomore reserve forward Mike Bruesewitz suffered a right knee sprain. No timetable has been set for a return and his status is day-to-day.

Ryan didn't know much about Belmont when he talked to reporters right after the tournament brackets were announced. But he knew the Bruins' history back in the days when they were one of the best teams in the NAIA.

He did laud them for winning 30 games and nearly beating Tennessee twice, as well as Vanderbilt. Both of those teams are in the NCAA tournament, too.

"It's not like Belmont is a team that only plays one way or has one guy. I'm sure they've beaten teams in a lot of different ways to get 30 wins," Ryan said. "And half of their losses were to Tennessee. What does that tell you? I'm sure they have a lot of different parts."

The Badgers aren't bad, either. The NCAA selection committee gave them a good seed after they won eight of their last 10 regular-season games. Seven of those 10 games were against teams that are going to the NCAA tournament and five were on the road. The two losses were at Ohio State and Purdue.

They didn't have a bad loss because all eight teams that beat them are in the NCAA tournament.

Each step of the way the Badgers kept learning and getting better. That's why Ryan is so optimistic this team can make a deep run this March.

"Our season, we played good teams, tough places," Ryan said. "Vegas (UNLV) and Marquette on the road. (Five) of the eight teams from the Old Spice (Classic) were in the tournament. So we played some very good teams and this is a good group of guys who know how to get things done.

"Now you have to man-up and play. These guys know what they are responsible for. They know what they have in them. They will do it on the court and that's what they're anxious to do."

Leuer said the team's six seniors are ready to help the Badgers start a memorable run.

"This is our last go-around and we're going to do everything we can to make it special and last as long as we can," he said. "We felt like we worked too hard and been together too long for it to end soon rather than later."


What: NCAA men's basketball tournament

When: Thursday, 6:27 p.m.

Where: Tucson, Ariz.

TV: TruTV (Charter Ch. 56)

Radio: WIBA-FM/101.5 and AM/1310 with Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas

Wisconsin: Stats | Roster | Schedule

Belmont: Stats | Roster | Schedule

Wisconsin Kansas

What: NCAA men's basketball tournament

When: Saturday, 7:40 p.m.

Where: Tucson, Ariz.


Radio: WIBA-FM/101.5 and AM/1310 with Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas

Wisconsin: Stats | Roster | Schedule

Kansas State: Stats | Roster | Schedule

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