JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoAs the No. 3 University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team readies for the onset of the postseason, it does so knowing Brian Butch will be watching the entirety of it from the sidelines.Butch, who will remain sidelined after a gruesome injury to his right elbow against Ohio State Feb. 25, will miss this weekend’s conference tournament, as well as most of Wisconsin’s NCAA tournament run.UW head coach Bo Ryan acknowledges that unless the Badgers find someone to fill his shoes, the team’s historic season might not have a storybook ending.”[Butch] is still the big with the best touch,” Ryan said. “So what you have to make up for is in stretching the defenses. That’s not a strength of our other bigs, so you deal with that and just get it elsewhere.”Two players who should be able to carry the additional workload are junior center Greg Stiemsma and sophomore forward Marcus Landry.Stiemsma, who stands 6 feet 11 inches, has been a key contributor off the bench all season. His play down low will be crucial to Wisconsin’s postseason run, as will his ability to sink open shots from the perimeter.Landry, also known more for his post play rather than his outside shooting ability, seemed to have found his stroke from beyond the arc when he connected on four of six 3-pointers against Michigan State Feb. 20. He has cooled off since then, however, going zero for four in UW’s last two contests.”Marcus is tough around the basket,” Ryan said. “He’s hit some threes, but as far as consistently, let’s face it — Brian’s ball rotation and his touch for his size is something that creates problems for other teams.”A lesson in defenseOn Feb. 17, in Wisconsin’s 75-49 trouncing of Penn State, senior guard Kammron Taylor was four of six from 3-point range and finished with 18 points. Since then, Taylor has connected on only four of 14 treys and is averaging less than seven points per game. Taylor’s offensive struggles have affected UW’s play, as it hasn’t cracked 60 points in the time Taylor has been cold.While the offense, with Taylor at the helm, has sputtered as of late, the Badgers’ defensive play has made up the difference, holding opponents to 55 points per game in their last three games.”Our momentum right now has been pretty much on the defensive end,” Ryan said.”We might be having some struggles in scoring, but we’ve also made it tough for other teams to get a lot of points per possession. It’s been some pretty physical battles in the last three games.”Familiar FaceDepending on the outcome of Thursday afternoon’s matchup between Michigan State and Northwestern, Ryan’s first round game plan could look very similar to Wisconsin’s last few games.If the seventh-seeded Spartans defeat the 10th-seeded Wildcats, the Badgers would have to face Tom Izzo’s squad Saturday for the third time in 18 days.”Michigan State we know a little bit about,” Ryan said, “Northwestern we haven’t [seen for a while], so we’ve got to do some Northwestern stuff to prepare for the backdoors and the different things that they do.”Wisconsin is projected to be a No. 2 seed for the NCAA tournament but could make a case for a No. 1 with a Big Ten tournament title.Asked if he was concerned about Wisconsin’s NCAA tournament seeding, Ryan tersely responded.”No, I’m not,” Ryan said. “It’s not a one-game thing. It isn’t as if you had a bowl-type situation, and you’re going to play one team. You’ve still got to win six.”For now, Ryan and the Badgers will concentrate on winning three games to capture the conference tournament title.
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersLast week veteran center Andrew Bogut revealed following a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers that he would be“lying to say that there are guys that are not frustrated on this team.”Plans to chase two maximum-level free agents next summer have not been lost on the players who would need to depart to clear the way for LeBron James and Paul George. Julius Randle, before being thrust into a starting role Friday, had watched his minutes plummet in recent weeks.Oh, and the Lakers had lost four straight going into Friday’s matchup with the Clippers.“I think it was well-needed at the point in time that we were at,” Ingram said. “I think in these last two games, very winnable games, I don’t think we played up to our potential.”Recognizing the need to clear the air, Walton said he even considered burning sage, a la Phil Jackson. “There’s some frustration,” Walton said. “But there’s frustration on every team unless you win every game. Whenever you lose games, there’s frustration, people want to play more as everyone in the league should want to play more.”The situation with Randle has been perhaps the most difficult to read. The fourth-year forward played just 11 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to Memphis and was held to just eight minutes one week earlier in a victory against the league-leading Houston Rockets.Then on Friday he made his first start of the season.“Julius has shown us how great he can be,” Walton said. “And I believe in Julius and I continue to challenge him and some nights when he doesn’t play big minutes, is because other guys are rolling.“And some nights it’s because I don’t believe he is playing up to the standard that he set for himself. I want him to feel and realize the difference in those nights as part of his growth as a player.”BALL ALONELonzo Ball is likely to miss at least two more games before returning to the court, with Walton saying Friday that the rookie point guard is unlikely to play Sunday in Houston or Monday in Minnesota.Ball suffered a sprained left shoulder against the Blazers.“His shoulder’s feeling better,” Walton said. “It’s something we’re just going to keep treating and if he feels good enough to go we’ll get him on the court for shooting. After that we’ll et him to practice and then we’ll get him back on the court.”The Lakers will practice Tuesday before facing the Thunder a night later, potentially creating a window for Ball to get back on the court. What remains unclear is whether Ball will travel on the upcoming back-to-back.“We’re still deciding that,” Walton said. “Normally I would tell you yes but because of the travel, the back to back and flights like that it might be more beneficial for treatment purposes to leave him home. We’ll have a decision by the end of the night on that.”CONFIDENT KUZMAKuzma shot 4-for-24 against the Grizzlies, but that didn’t seem to faze him once the Lakers finally got back on the court two days later.“He’s a confident young man,” Walton said. “He hit his first 3 in shoot around and said he was back.“With people that can score like that and have the confidence he has in himself it normally takes the ball going through the net one time and they feel like they’re the hottest player in the gym again.”Kuzma was listed as questionable to play against the Clippers but started and did not seem to be limited by the bruised quadriceps that landed him on the injury report in the first place. EL SEGUNDO – With players grousing about playing time and the offseason strategy seeping into the locker room, the Lakers on Thursday canceled practice and instead gathered for an airing of grievances.Kyle Kuzma called it a “heart-to-heart,” while second-year forward Brandon Ingram said the team meeting was the first of his kind since being drafted two summers ago.“Hopefully we think about what we said to each other,” Ingram said. “What we said to the coaches and that the coaches have listened to what we said. Hopefully we can take it into practice, into games and just get better.”Coach Luke Walton downplayed the significance of the impromptu summit, saying “every team has issues” and “this is nothing new in sports and I think every athlete knows that.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error