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November 22, 2010MADISON - As a basketball coach at the collegiate level it's not unusual to spend time away from home around the Thanksgiving holiday.
Because it's such a popular time for early season tournaments to take center stage, it's become commonplace for Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan to settle down and take in the holiday meal in an exotic location, much like he will later this week in Orlando.
"We're playing all the time," Ryan told reporters at his weekly Monday press conference. "I can't tell you how many times I've had Thanksgiving on the road. Not road kill, but when we're away from home.
"We don't even address that. We're playing that day."
Unlike their football counterparts, the Wisconsin basketball team is well versed in taking its show on the road. During the past two Thanksgiving's alone, the Badgers have been to places such as the Virgin Islands and Maui for respective tournaments.
This year, Orlando and the Old Spice Classic is on tap.
"The last two years I've been to the Virgin Islands and Maui so Orlando is kind of a downgrade," senior Jon Leuer joked. "That's a good thing I guess. But it will be fun to get out there and compete against some good teams.
"We're just looking forward to the opportunity."
The Badgers open play with a game against Manhattan on Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. central time. With a win, Wisconsin will play the winner of the Texas A&M and Boston College game. Should the Badgers lose to the Jaspers Thursday afternoon, they would face the loser of the A&M-Boston College game.
Notre Dame, Georgia, Temple and California comprise the rest of the field. Regardless of wins and losses, UW will play three games in four days.
"You learn to adapt on the fly," senior Keaton Nankivil said. "With the NCAA tournament you get one day in between. That's our ultimate goal at the end of the season. In the meantime using this as a stepping-stone is very useful for us.
Usually the month of November is kind to the UW hoops squad. Since Bo Ryan landed the head coaching job, UW has only lost 11 games in the month of November. More recently, UW has compiled a 21-5 record in the month over the past five years.
Obviously one of those five losses occurred Saturday night when UNLV tripped up the Badgers by three. Though it's relatively uncommon, the Badgers will use the loss as an opportunity to correct early mistakes.
"If you were in practice you'd see the guys have been humbled before," Ryan said. "You can be humbled, but you can also be like there are some things that we can do better. If you want to hang your head and be humble that's one thing. If you want to be humble and know you still have some things to learn, that's what I want.
"So if everybody comes to practice today ready to go and ready for what's next, that's fine with me. That's how I'll go into practice."
Odds and ends:
-With the loss to UNLV, UW fell out of the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Badgers are currently receiving the 31st most votes in the country.
-UW has started the season by out-rebounding opponents by 18+ boards per game. That includes a +9.0 rebound average on the offensive glass.
-The 2010 Old Spice Classic can be seen on the ESPN family of networks. UW's opening game against Manhattan can be seen on ESPN2.
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