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March 21, 2013

Wisconsin rides the killer Bs into NCAA tourney

MADISON, Wis. — There are no egos at Wisconsin, no individual superstars carrying the team.

Relentless, hard-nosed and, yes, frustrating are the hallmarks of these Badgers — and they love it. They’ve embraced the defense-first approach and ridden it all the way back to the NCAA tournament for a 15th consecutive year, 12 straight under coach Bo Ryan.

“We’re going to be consistent, work hard, stick to our defensive principles and play as a team,” said senior Jared Berggren, who averages 11.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. “There’s no one individual that is going to have a big ego or try to do too much by himself.”

Wisconsin is a trendy pick for some as the Badgers (23-11), a five seed in the West Region, prepare for Friday’s game against 12th-seed Mississippi (26-8) in Kansas City, Mo. They beat both Indiana and Michigan last week in the Big Ten tournament.

Wisconsin currently ranks fourth in scoring defense (55.9 points per game) among Division I teams, finished first last season (53.2 ppg) and has ranked among the top 10 in the category for seven straight seasons.

Making the most of defensive assignments is one reason why Wisconsin has won seven games against teams ranked in the top 15 this season, including those league tourney wins last week.

“I think we’ve shown we’re a group that’s going to persevere no matter what the adversity is that we’re facing and just find a way to grit out some wins, and hopefully we can show that going into the tournament,” Berggren said.

Mike Bruesewitz has persevered through an injury-filled season and is looking to make an impact in the tournament. The senior missed the entire preseason after a severe laceration to his right leg, and a concussion forced him to miss two non-conference games.

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