Badger fans welcome hoops heroes home

March 30, 2014

by Greg Bump

As Badger fans cheer on, coach Bo Ryan and members of the men’s Badgers basketball team speak on stage at the Kohl Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the welcome home event Sunday.

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A red-clad crowd of rabid fans gave the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team a thunderous welcome as they returned to the Kohl Center Sunday afternoon, victorious from their run through the West Region of the NCAA tournament.

Singing, dancing and cheering fans piled into the Kohl Center on Sunday afternoon to welcome the team back to campus. The Badgers next play Kentucky at 7:49 CT Saturday in the Final Four in Dallas, after the Wildcats won a thriller against Michigan, leaving Wisconsin as the sole Big Ten team in the Final Four.

The players, led by senior guard Ben Brust hoisting the West Region championship trophy, looked just as thrilled by the reception as the fans were to give it to them.

“We couldn’t have done this without you, but we’ll need you for two more games,” said junior guard Josh Gasser.

Fans sing Varsity

UW fans sing Varsity following an appearance by coach Bo Ryan and members of the men’s Badgers basketball team at the Kohl Center.

The loudest reaction came when Frank Kaminsky, whose 28 points powered Wisconsin’s victory over top-seeded Arizona Saturday night, took the mic. Kaminsky, a junior center who was selected as West Region’s most valuable player.

“I hear things are bigger in Texas,” Kaminsky said. “Hopefully we’ll be coming back with a bigger trophy.”

Coach Bo Ryan said the trophy should be broken into “a 100,000 pieces” and shared among all the fans who helped inspire the team.

Ryan said the team’s success is due in large part to the unselfish attitude of the players.

Players arrive at Kohl Center

The Final Four Badgers enter the Kohl Center, holding their regional trophy aloft for fans to see.

“One of the things we always talk about is it is amazing what you can do when you’re not worried about who gets the credit,” Ryan said.

Dan Fisher, a graduate student at UW-Madison, said while the Badgers have had talented teams in years past, this team had more offensive fire power than most, and he thought they’d go far.

“I had faith. I knew it would be tough to win all those games in a row against really good teams, but I had faith,” Fisher said.

“It’s a successful when you just make the Final Four, but you always want to win once you get there,” Fisher said. “I certainly think they can win it all.”

Bucky celebrates

UW mascot Bucky Badger works the elated crowd at the Kohl Center.

Brenna Ellis, a junior, said she picked the Badgers to make the Final Four in her bracket.

“I thought Oregon would be the toughest game, but if we got past them we could make it,” said Ellis, who is heading to Dallas next weekend to support the team.

Ellis said she was working Saturday night at a downtown restaurant during the game.

“It was absolute madness,” she said of the fans’ reaction as the clock expired and Wisconsin held on for a 64-63 win over the University of Arizona. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Chad Kaufman, of Sun Prairie, came to the rally Sunday with his 5-year-old daughter Aubrey.

“I absolutely think they can do win it all,” Kaufman said. “They have as good a chance as anybody at the Final Four.”