West Regional Notebook

March 22, 2000

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett said his basketball philosophy was influenced by one of football's greats - legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi.

"I was influenced by a very famous football coach because I was right there," Bennett said. "I watched his practices and went to every game during the Lombardi years. Yeah, I've been influenced heavily by that stuff."

On offense, the eighth-seeded Badgers rely on balance and depth to win games. On defense, Wisconsin is physical, just like Lombardi's Packers.

"His method of teaching was repetition, simplicity. Do a few things, but do them well" Bennett said. "I value possession of the basketball. I value eliminating mistakes. We try to play as physical as we can within the rules."

Wisconsin's leading scorer, Mark Vershaw, is averaging 12.2 points. No one else is in double-figures. That's how Bennett likes it - team ball in which everyone contributes.

"We have managed to substitute and change lineups," Bennett said. "Everyone gets quality minutes, and everyone, except for Vershaw, gets a consistent number of shots. It's a blessing in disguise because everyone is ready to go."

How simple is Bennett's game plan?

"We value each possession. We don't take a lot of shots. We run only after turnovers," he said.

It doesn't get any simpler than that.

SEEDS OF DOUBT: Purdue forward Brian Cardinal says you can throw out the seedings when the NCAA tournament begins.

The sixth-seeded Boilermakers proved that by knocking off third-seeded Oklahoma last week in the second round. Their opponents in the West Regional semifinal, 10th-seeded Gonzaga, has made a living of knocking off better teams.

"You can throw that out the door," Cardinal said. "Top to bottom, there are all kinds of great teams. Gonzaga has shown that. We're just going to go out (today) and play as hard as we can, regardless of seeds.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Gonzaga senior guard Matt Santangelo knows the pressure of playing in front of a big crowd. After all, he comes from a family that's large enough to fill up an entire section of the stands.

"I'm the youngest of nine children with 15 nieces and nephews, so my family spans a few generations and a lot of people," Santangelo said Wednesday. "I have 14 (people) coming this weekend to Albuquerque."

Santangelo will play before another raucous crowd today when the Zags face Purdue at The Pit in the West Regional semifinal.

"To be able to play in front of people you love and that love you and care about you, it just doesn't get any better than that," he said.

BACK IN THE DANCE: LSU is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993. That doesn't faze forward Stromile Swift.

The Tigers' tough schedule this year has prepared Swift for the best the NCAA tournament has to offer - including Wisconsin.

"We've been playing ranked teams all year," he said. "Just because we are in the NCAA tournament doesn't mean anything. They (Wisconsin) are a good team and that's the way we are going to approach it."

The seven-year absence has the Tigers lacking in big-game experience. But Swift remains unconcerned.

"I guess it makes a difference, but then again it doesn't," Swift said. "It's all about survival and that's the type of basketball we've been playing all year."

SCAREDY CATS?: Gonzaga coach Mark Few said his team has done so well the past two years in the NCAA tournament that big-name teams are doing their best to avoid the Bulldogs during the regular season.

The 10th-seeded Bulldogs, in their third NCAA tournament, have again made an impression by toppling the likes of Louisville and St. John's. This is their second straight trip to the regional semifinals.

Oddsmakers in Las Vegas list the Bulldogs as a one-point favorite over No. 6 seed Purdue in the West Regional semifinal. The Boilermakers have been to the tournament 16 times and the round of 16 four times under coach Gene Keady.

"Scheduling is probably harder than recruiting at Gonzaga," Few said. "We don't get to play Purdue on our home floor, we never get to play Louisville on our home floor, or St. John's on our home floor. For us to play those games, we have to go on the road."

By CHAKA FERGUSON
Associated Press Writer


 

 

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