MADISON - Every year around this time as the Wisconsin basketball team gears up for its exhibition opener, it seems as though Bo Ryan gets asked the same question.
And the answer is always the same.
"Exhibition games decades ago were against foreign teams," Ryan said. "Then the AAU programs started having graduates of their AAU programs playing and they wanted a lot of money for these games. We got together on the board of directors and a voting panel and we recommended that we play college teams in the exhibition games.
"Here's the thing about playing a UW-La Crosse as opposed to the teams that were thrown together, the AAU teams. They run an offense they've been running for years. They have a system and they play together. There's nothing on their agenda other than they're bringing their program, their team into the Kohl Center which is still the place in the state of Wisconsin where people want to play."
La Crosse, the seventh Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Conference (WIAC) member of the nine-year agreement with the state school's, opens the Badgers' exhibition slate this Saturday night.
The game can be seen live on BigTenNetwork.com.
Thoughts on the first year guys:
With not much to talk about since there haven't been any games played and just a handful of practices have been opened to the media, Ryan was asked about his thoughts on the first-year players. He lent some pretty insightful analysis about each of them.
-On Evan Anderson:
"He's more physical than we realized which is great. We still do not know if he's going to redshirt or not. He'll let me know that. Now they changed the rule and he can play in the exhibition games and decide after those whether or not you're going to redshirt."
-On Ben Brust:
"Ben Brust is the fastest guy coming off screens that I've ever coached. I've had some guys with a little bit of speed but he's like a bullet."
-On Josh Gasser:
"Josh Gasser is not 18 or 19. He's 21 or 22 the way he sees the floor and his maturity."
-On Duje Dukan:
"He's just a colt. He's going to be a very good player. Physically he's a little stronger than he was coming out of high school."
-On all four of them:
"The biggest thing all four of them have to learn is what we do defensively. Offensively you can always go to the playgrounds, to an open gym or go places. Offense you find. Defense is what's going to make the difference."
The secret weapon?
Like Bret Bielema does with the football Badgers, Bo Ryan decided to bring in a few officials for a pre-season scrimmage over the weekend. Apparently Jared Berggren was the star of the show as a member of the team that defeated Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor's by 20 points.
"He had like 30 on Saturday," Ryan said. "He couldn't miss. He had a couple three-point plays and hit four threes. He's the young man we thought he was going to be. But it's still in flashes."
But those flashes seem to be happening more often than not. So much so that Ryan says teams are going to have to take notice of the sophomore center.
"He's an element that people are going to have to get ready for," Ryan said. "People know about Keaton Nankivil but Jared can score in the post more so than what we've been able to get the past few years in the post. Marcus Landry was our best post offensive player but we didn't have Marcus last year. We were a little shy scoring in the post.
"Some guys it was kind of recommended to them that they come back a little bit better in regards to scoring in the post. But Berggren, it will be hard to keep him off the floor, I think."
Odds and Ends:
-UW debuted as the No. 24-ranked team in the preseason Coaches poll. The Badgers came in at No. 26 in the Associated Press poll.
-UW opens the exhibition slate against UW-La Crosse Saturday night inside the Kohl Center. That game can be seen live on BigTenNetwork.com at 7:00 P.M. central time.