Minneapolis No need for the Wisconsin Badgers to board a plane. They just jumped on the bus for a four-hour trip to the Metrodome, a cramped but relaxing ride featuring non-stop chatter.
"We got here a different way, and we had a chance to bond on the bus ride up," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said Wednesday. "Ever watch 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11 guys sit in one of those seats on a bus? Interesting."
If the sight of a lanky basketball player looking for leg room is a tall order, imagine the one facing Wisconsin in tonight's Midwest Regional semifinal.
Somehow the Badgers must run their offense in the face of a defensive whirlwind, the Kentucky Wildcats, and put an end to a 25-game winning streak that is nearly three months old.
They have to do it against relentless pressure from a deep and athletic team that has a 17.3-point average margin of victory during its long and impressive string of wins.
"So many teams would want to be in the situation we're in right now, and we feel like, 'Why should this be the end of the road?'" Wisconsin's Kirk Penney said.
The way Kentucky has been playing since a Dec. 28 loss to Louisville, the only end the Wildcats envision is in New Orleans, where they expect to leave the court at the Superdome with a national title and victory nets dangling from their necks.
"We are going to do the things we need to do at this point in time to win a championship," guard Keith Bogans said.
That means throwing the other team's offense awry with what Bogans calls "old-fashioned defense."
"This is nothing special about what we do. We get up on that line and stop our man. And if you get beat, you have your teammates to help you out," he says.
Wisconsin's "swing" offense, which allows guards like the 6-5 Penney the freedom to go inside and bigger players to pop outside, will get its most severe test against Kentucky's superior size and speed.
The Badgers (24-7), who averaged only 10.3 turnovers this season, are deliberate when they need to be. They'll make as many passes as needed for a good shot, but won't hold the ball until the shot clock is ready to run out. And their balance is reflected by five starters in double figures.