WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Gov. Walker likes Badgers tourney chances
MADISON - Wisconsin's governor sees great things for the Badgers, as they enter the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Gov. Scott Walker says a Final Four bid for second-seeded Wisconsin is not unrealistic -- and he'd be let down if Bo Ryan's team does not at least make the Elite Eight. The Badgers open their run tomorrow in Milwaukee, when they play 15th-seeded American University. Walker also said it would be "huge" if UW-Milwaukee can upset Villanova tomorrow night in Buffalo. 'Nova lost to Seton Hall at the buzzer during the Big East Tournament. The governor says he'd love to see the Panthers pull off a similar upset. Walker said he's disappointed that Wisconsin does not have three teams in the NCAA Tournament. He said Marquette coach Buzz Williams would have to take care of that next year. Actually, UW-Green Bay had a better chance than Marquette of making the Big Dance -- and it might have, if it wasn't for Green Bay's loss to Milwaukee in the recent Horizon League tourney. Green Bay was eliminated by Belmont last night in the NIT. Marquette was not invited to that tournament. Meanwhile, President Obama has filled out a bracket for ESPN for the sixth straight year. He's got Wisconsin in the Elite Eight, losing to Arizona in the West Regional Final.
You've heard that teams with nothing to lose can be dangerous -- and American University portrays that type of underdog as it gets ready to play Wisconsin tomorrow. The American Eagles from the nation's capital are 20-12 after upsetting Boston University to win the Patriot League tournament title, and only its third-ever NCAA bid. The Eagles are seeded 15th against the No. 2 seed Badgers as the two teams get ready to face each other in Milwaukee tomorrow at 11:40 a.m. Eagles' player Tony Wroblicky says they'll have to play their best game of the year just to be competitive. But he notes that other No. 15 seeds have eliminated No. 2's in recent years. He points to Lehigh, Norfolk State, and Florida Gulf Coast as examples of how it can be done. First-year coach Mike Brennan says he'll tell his players that all the Badger red they'll see in Milwaukee tomorrow is quote, "AU Red." Brennan was an assistant at Georgetown last year, when the Number-two Hoyas fell to Florida Gulf Coast. UW-Milwaukee has a similar chance for such an upset tomorrow night in the East Region, as the 15th-seeded Panthers get ready to face No. 2 Villanova in Buffalo.
Carthage women's point guard Stephanie Kuzmanic has been named the Central Region's player of the year by D3hoops.com. Kuzmanic, a senior, led the CCIW in assists with over seven per game. She also scored close 15 points a night and made 77-percent of her free throws. Kuzmanic also made the All-Central Region first team along with UW-Superior guard Sally Linzmeier and Whitewater guard Kaitlyn Thill. Brad Fischer of UW-Oshkosh was named the Central Region's Coach of the Year. Fischer led the Titans to a 26-4 record, while reaching the Division-Three's Sweet-16 round in their first NCAA bid since 2000. Thill is helping lead Whitewater into a national semifinal on Friday night against Whitman College of Washington.
Three players from Wisconsin have been named to the men's Division III College All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon in Salem, Virginia. UW-Stevens Point guard Tyler Tillema and Platteville center Chas Cross will be on the East All-Star squad. Guard Brandon Gries of Saint Norbert is part of the West team. The game is part of the Division III Final Four weekend in Salem. UW-Whitewater made the Final Four, and will play Illinois Wesleyan in a national semifinal on Friday night.
Wily Peralta will start for the Milwaukee Brewers this afternoon when they play the Seattle Mariners in Peoria Arizona. The right-hander is 0-1 this spring, with an ERA of 4.15. Peralta opened Spring Training with a pair of scoreless appearances, but he gave up three earned runs in each of his last two starts against Cleveland and Arizona. The Milwaukee pitchers have a team of ERA of 5.42. Manager Ron Roenicke says his pitchers need to throw strikes, and get the ball down to the locations where they want. Roenicke says he's not pleased by the raw numbers, but he's generally satisfied if the hurlers are making progress. The skipper did say he wants to see better ball locations from closer Jim Henderson, who has given up six runs in five innings this spring. The Mariners will send right-hander Blake Beavan to the mound this afternoon. He's 2-0 this spring with a 2.13 ERA.
For the first time in two years, Milwaukee's Miller Park will host a Midwest League minor league game this season. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Brewers' lower-Class-"A" affiliate near Appleton, will play the Beloit Snappers on Saturday night, May 24th on the Brewers' home diamond. The Brewers are starting to sell tickets today for this contest. Beloit was a former long-time Brewers' affiliate, and is now starting its second year as part of the Oakland A's organization. Timber Rattlers' president Rob Zerjav says the Miller Park event gives Milwaukee area fans a chance to catch players they might get to see in a Brewers' uniform someday. Prince Fielder and Tony Gwynn Jr. are among the former Brewers who've played in Midwest League contests at Miller Park. Current Brewers in that group include Rickie Weeks, Khris Davis, Jim Henderson, Wily Peralta, and Scooter Gennett.
Corey Hart said he couldn't turn down six-million dollars in guaranteed money to sign with the Seattle Mariners. But the former Milwaukee first baseman said today that if even one-or-two of his ex-Brewers' teammates would have urged him to stay -- he might have considered it. Hart ended 13 years with the only organization he played for, when he accepted a one-year contract from Seattle with six-million guaranteed and the potential to net $13-million. The Brewers offered an eight-million dollar package loaded with incentives, after he missed all of last season with surgeries on both his knees. The 31-year-old Hart said that even Brewers' GM Doug Melvin wondered why he'd turn down Seattle's offer. Today, Hart said he understands why the Brewers didn't do more to keep him. He realizes Milwaukee has a high payroll, and there was no guarantee he'd return healthy for this season. At Seattle this spring, Hart is batting .129 with a double and an RBI. He said his knees are okay, but he's had a back issue. The Brewers were playing the Mariners at Spring Training this afternoon, but Hart stayed behind to get extra at-bats in a minor league game.
Milwaukee Bucks' center Larry Sanders is out for the year with the broken right eye suffered on February eighth against Houston. Sanders went up for a rebound and was accidentally elbowed by the Rockets' James Harden. He suffered orbital fractures in the eye, and he had surgery six days after the incident. Sanders, one of the NBA's leading shot blockers a season ago, only played in 23 games for the Bucks this season. He missed almost two months after he tore a thumb ligament during a night-club brawl early last November. Sanders said he'll take what he can from this season, and hope it will mold him into a better person. One of his goals is to get stronger during the summer, so he can compete better against the larger and more solid NBA centers he sees every game. Sanders promises to have his hardest-working summer since he was in college.
Former Bucks' coach Terry Stotts is confident his old team can turn things around -- but it will take patience by everyone from the management to the fans. Stotts is now the head coach at Portland, which beat the Bucks by five points in overtime last night out West. Stotts was a Milwaukee assistant under George Karl when the Bucks almost made the NBA Finals in 2001. Stotts was the head coach for almost two years in Milwaukee, before he was fired late in the season in 2007. He said rebuilding is difficult -- and it doesn't always happen that a high draft pick will result in what he called a "franchise changer." He said it's most important to keep focused on the process because quote, "You just don't know where you are in the moment, and where it's going to go." Stotts was just beginning his head coaching tenure in Milwaukee when the Bucks took Andrew Bogut with the first overall draft pick in 2005. Stotts said Bogut has established himself as a quality center on a very good Golden State team, which the Bucks will play tomorrow night in Oakland.
Kevin Vanderkolk is leaving. He's been the adventurous Milwuakee Bucks' mascot "Bango" for over a decade. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says Vanderkolk will step down at the end of the season. The team had not commented by mid-morning. Vanderkolk toiled in anonymity for years before he exposed himself on HBO's "Real Sports" program in 2010. He became an anonymous worldwide celebrity in April of that year after his Bango character climbed up a tall ladder at a Bucks' playoff game, jumped backwards, did back flips, and dunked the basketball. Those who didn't know him after that may have learned about him last October, when Vanderkolk appeared on the Hulu Internet TV series "Behind the Mask." He's had his share of injuries to prove his toughness. They include a torn ACL knee ligament at an All-Star appearance, plus injuries to both his ankles on a number of occasions.
Teams from ten states are competing in a national curling tournament in Wisconsin Rapids this week. The U-S-A Curling Mixed Nationals began last Saturday. The finals will be on Sunday. The Tri-City Curling Club of the Rapids area is sponsoring the event, in which about 40 curlers are on hand. Organizer Mike Swanson said it's been trying to get a national tournament for years, but the planning got stalled during the Great Recession. He said his group pursued the Mixed Nationals because it's a small tournament -- and they believe it will lead to Wisconsin Rapids hosting larger events in the future.