MADISON -Bo Ryan has never lost on Senior Day at Wisconsin. His winning streak extended to 11-0 last season with a 70-56 win over Illinois last season, when the Badgers sent off Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson with one last win in the Kohl Center. And with five seniors set to play their final home game Sunday afternoon against Purdue (13-15, 6-9 Big Ten), the No. 16 Badgers (20-8, 11-4) hope they can extend that streak to 12 games with a win over the Boilermakers.
"We haven't experienced that, and I don't want to walk off with an 'L,'" senior Mike Bruesewitz said Friday. "So I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure we walk off with a 'W' and end on a good note at home. I think we've got guys in this room that will play hard and make sure we get it done."
The Badgers will bid farewell to five seniors on Sunday: forwards Bruesewitz, Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, and walk-on guards Dan Fahey and J.D. Wise. Fahey and Wise walked a different path during their Wisconsin careers, but they'll all go through the same emotional send-off at the end of the game, and Berggren said he doesn't really know what to expect once his Kohl Center career shifts from present to past tense.
"I don't think you ever really know what to expect and what you're going to feel until you get there," Berggren said. "You've just got to treat it like another game as far as basketball goes. All of the emotional aspect with being your last time playing in the Kohl Center here, it's going to be a little emotional but you've just got to set that aside and go play the game."
And unlike several other Big Ten teams, the Badgers still have a lot to play for. As of Saturday night the Badgers were just a game out of first place in the conference, with three games to play to try and claim their first regular season Big Ten title since the 2007-2008 season. They'll need some help to tie or pass the Indiana Hoosiers, along with winning out against Purdue, No. 9 Michigan State, and Penn State.
Bruesewitz said he has already reflected on his career a little bit, and said he was fortunate and blessed to have played so many fun games with his teammates in the Kohl Center.
"There's too many to count," Bruesewitz said. "I could give you a list if you wanted, and that's a good thing- Getting to play in front of this many people and not having one very specific thing where you're like 'Oh yeah, that game was particularly awesome.'"
"You just get the sense of what it's like to be a Badger, and I think that's part of why we have so much success at home. We have so many moments where it's like 'Oh yeah that game was crackin'. That was fun.'"
When asked if Berggren and the other seniors are leaving a better program now than the one they came into, the lanky senior thought for a second and then said he hoped they did.
"We have a lot of basketball left to play here," Berggren said. "We're in a position where we're fighting for a chance at a share of a Big Ten title. Obviously we need a little help with some people to lose and we need to win out to have a chance.
"We'll see what happens here down the stretch, but if we finish strong I think we definitely have been able to at least carry on the tradition of a successful program."
And even though it'll be senior night on Sunday, the soon-to-be graduates won't be able to beat Purdue by themselves. Evans is questionable to play with a knee sprain, so other underclassmen like Sam Dekker might have to step in and take some of Evans' minutes. It'll be their turn to be in a slideshow and have their parents join them on the court eventually, so Dekker said he and the rest of the team want to make sure the seniors' last game in the Kohl Center ends the right way.
"You don't want to end a senior night with a loss. That didn't happen ever in high school for me and I hope it never happens for these guys in college," Dekker said. "They've done so much for our program, and they've been here every summer running hills, sled pulls, all this stuff.
"You want to give them a special night, you want to give them laughs at the end, and you want that night to be all smiles for them."