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Sleeping With the Enemy: The Badgers of Wisconsin

What, did you think we weren't ready for Wisconsin? Let's do this, Bucky's 5th Quarter!

This year's Badgers squad has been picked by many to reach its second consecutive Final Four.  What's it like to deal with such lofty expectations?

Personally, I've been doing yoga to calm myself down, trying to limit my media exposure and sticking to the basics like food and water. That seems to be working. Oh. As for the team? They're a tight-knit group and have been for the last year. Losing only one rotation player kept continuity high and the stinging motivation from the last-second loss to Kentucky kept the guys focused over the offseason. A team usually takes on the characteristics of the man in charge, and Bo Ryan isn't one to get too excited about where someone ranks him.

Please describe in detail what you were doing during that final play in the Arizona game and what your reaction was after.

That delay was the worst. Flashbacks to bad football memories where instant replay has not been kind. Anyways, I was at a packed bar (The Red Zone) in Madison with friends, staring up at the screen with one hand over my mouth. When the buzzer sounded, I looked to my buddy who I've been sharing season tickets with for years and I think the reaction was very similar: the knees gave a little bit momentarily, then we embraced like old war buddies, speechless. I passed out another bear hug to my brother then joined the impromptu mosh pit next to me. My fiance and I headed up to State Street to take in the scene after that. A great night.

You may not recall, but the Hoyas would likely have faced the Badgers in the 2008 NCAAs if not for a little birdie named Stephen Curry (aka He Who Shall Not Be Named).  Looking back, how do you feel about losing to Davidson that year?

It still totally sucks, but I get it. Everyone seems okay with it now because Curry is now this shooting savant in the NBA, but it was the role players that tore Wisconsin apart. I actually just rewatched that game before this season and it ticked me off how Brian Butch never even tried to go inside that game. So many missed opportunities in that first half. Trevon Hughes got hurt (though he wasn't doing much anyway) and Wisconsin settled. Curry smelled blood in the second half, but UW was cooked at half just by being tied.

Football question: Wisconsin always seems to be one of the better teams in the B1G but hasn't really broken through to the elite ranks.  Other than ‘don't lose to LSU to open the season', what's the solution?

Get a quarterback and win some of their close games. That's really it. Under this new regime, I think they can sustain this crazy defense of theirs, but they need to be more balanced on offense. Can't do that when you basically cannot pass the ball. The Russell Wilson-led Badgers might have been the best team I've ever seen, but they lost on two hail marys, then fumbled (and spiked) away a chance to beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein seems to enjoy tweeting ‘Death. Taxes. Bo Ryan.' After every Wisconsin win.  Does this make you happy or do you want to push his face into a heaping plate of pasta?

Fine with me; it's a compliment and more exposure for the Badgers. Even the haters seem to begrudgingly respect that Ryan has built a legacy on consistency and Badger fans wouldn't trade it for anything. Well, probably for a national title.

Bo Ryan is undoubtedly one of the best coaches in college basketball.  If you could hand pick his successor, who would it be?

Good question. I think the popular consensus pick would be Virginia's Tony Bennett. He has such deep ties in the state, from playing at UW-Green Bay for his dad, Dick, to being an assistant coach for his dad (and Bo Ryan) in Madison before taking his ACC job. He's got a great rapport with recruits so he could potentially push Wisconsin to the next level in that area while maintaining some similar root philosophies about how to play the game.
Certainly Shaka Smart would be a great pick too and would bring a bit more exciting defensive philosophy.

Are you as excited for this as I am?

Man, I still remember being jealous of my cousin getting to see the original Jurassic Park over 20 years ago on opening weekend. I know CGI has improved, but seriously the original was MIND-BLOWING for it's time. So yeah, it looks cool.

If I am in Madison for a weekend, tell me where I am eating and where I am partying.

For grub, you have many options. I'd recommend the Old Fashioned for some traditional Wisconsin fare and taps, Tornado Room for a delicious steak, and Dotty Dumpling's Dowry for burgers. You do eat meat, right? (Phew.) Madison is famous for Ian's Pizza on the late-night tip, but skip it and get the Russian dumplings at Paul's Pelmeni or try the new all-night breakfast place, Short Stack Eats.

Why are you eating at all those places? To soak up all the alcohol you are going to consume. On non-football weekends, start out with some cocktails at Graze on the Capital Square, hit up the Great Dane for some pool, shuffleboard and beers. Around the corner is a cool little Asian fusion/woodfired oven pizza haunt called Natt Spil. Usually you'll find a DJ and don't have to wait for craft cocktails like you would at Merchant. The college set is going to congregate either at places like Chasers, MadHatters, maybe Red Rock Saloon off of State Street or at a night spot on the famous pedestrian mall itself. It's a stroll you can't miss. State Street Brats or Kollege Klub are two more renowned places to check out. Or if you want to get lost and never see your group again, wander to Monday's for two drinks .. that's all you'll need there. I hate the place, but I thought I'd at least point it out.

What makes a good cheese curd?

Fried or non? Regular curds have to be squeaky and fresh from the farmer's market. But I have a confession: I only eat the fried ones -- and even then, only on a limited basis. A fried cheese curd must melt in your mouth. I prefer very light breading. Bonus points for places like midwest fast food joint Culver's that actually mix different kinds of cheese into each order.

How do you see this game playing out? Final score prediction?

I like Wisconsin here. On offense, Frank Kaminsky and friends will pull Josh Smith out of the lane and defensively, they'll play him straight up. The Badgers won't be sending Smith or a guy like LJ Peak to the line very often, because they simply don't foul much, period. I'm really looking forward to the (potential) matchup between Traevon Jackson and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera because of the similar body types and roles as lead guards. Might need some football pads for that one.