Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, February 18, 2016
No team in the Big Ten or the nation is hotter than Wisconsin.
The Badgers are riding a seven-game winning streak that has them fourth in the Big Ten with a 16-9 overall record and an 8-4 Big Ten mark. It looks like the program will make the NCAA tourney for an 18th season in a row, last missing the Big Dance in 1998. And the program is pushing to finish in the top four in the Big Ten for a 15h season in a row.
The Badgers will bring lots of mojo to Michigan State on Thursday coming off a huge win at No. 2 Maryland over the weekend that ended the Terps? school-record 27-game home winning streak.
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A big reason for Wisconsin?s rise has been 6-4 junior point man Bronson Koenig. He?s averaging 13.4 points, 2.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds, bringing a well-rounded skill set to the court. Few guards marshal their squad better.
I caught up with Koenig as he prepped for the Spartans.
Q: You guys are riding a seven-game winning streak. What have been some keys to the run?
A: I think we have a little better attention to detail. And we're doing all the little stuff right and paying attention to our habits every single day. That is what Coach preaches. Getting a little better every single day and not to get complacent. That is what we have been doing. We have been buying into what Coach Gard has been telling us, getting the ball inside. It?s working.
Q: Jan. 12, Wisconsin lost at Northwestern to make the Badgers 9-9 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten. What were you thinking at that point?
A: That was rough. I think we had lost to Indiana and Maryland by a few points (before that). We were pretty confident that we were gonna get a win in Evanston. And we didn?t. It was pretty disheartening. We were all pretty embarrassed. The veterans on the team put our heads together and had a team meeting, words were exchanged, people said what they needed to say and I think we all kinda came together after that and got closer as a team and did what we had to do.
Q: So that loss at Northwestern was a real turning point, right?
A: Yes, definitely. I thought everyone got all their emotions out. That is what you need to do sometimes to move forward.
Q: What is the biggest difference between Bo Ryan and Greg Gard?
A: There isn?t too much of a difference, to be honest with you, because he had been coaching under Coach Ryan for so long. They have the same philosophies, and everything like that. The biggest difference I would say is personality wise.
Q: Are you hoping he gets the full-time gig?
A: Definitely. I love him. I think everyone else does, too.
Q: How big is this game at Michigan State?
A: I don?t think Wisconsin has played there since the year before I came here. (March 2013) So we haven?t been there in a while, and I don?t know what to expect. I have heard it?s a great atmosphere, they have the student section around the court. With the last game we had against them (a 77-76 Wisconsin win), I know they will be fired up. It?s always a battle against Michigan State. And it has been the past couple of years. It will be a tough one.
Q: Who is the most underrated player on the team?
A: That?s a tough one. I would say maybe Jordan Hill. I think he has come into a lot of games and given us a spark. He has been solid, playing good defense and knocking down his open shots. When I have or others have been struggling, he has come in and made a difference.
Q: What?s it mean to be a Wisconsin kid playing for the Badgers?
A: It is great. And it?s one of the biggest reasons why I came here, to play for my home state. The past two years have been great. This year has been a change of pace but I am glad we have it rolling now with this seven-game winning streak. Hopefully we can keep getting better every day. Our first goal is always to win the Big Ten. So that?s what we are trying to do right now.
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