Teams: American (20-12, 13-5 PL) vs. No. 12/15 Wisconsin (26-7, 12-6 B10)
Date and Location: Thus., March 20, 2014, 12:40 p.m. – Bradley Center – Milwaukee, Wis.
Series: first meeting
TV: truTV – Ian Eagle (play-by-play), Jim Spanarkel (analyst)
Radio: Federal News Radio 1500AM - Dan Laing (play-by-play), Jeremy Huber (analyst)
For only the third time in program history, American University men's basketball is headed back to the NCAA Tournament. First-year head coach Mike Brennan's group defied expectations, being picked ninth in the Patriot League preseason poll, to win the automatic berth in to the "big dance."
The Eagles upset No. 1 seed Boston U., on March 12 holding a Terrier that had scored 91 points ppg in two tournament game to 36 points, holding BU to 1-of-17 from beyond the arc.
American's offense continues to be one of the most efficient units in the country as AU ranks seventh in the nation in field goal percentage (.495). The Eagles are also 37th in assists per game (15.1).
Defense has become a hallmark for the Eagles, especially over the past two weeks holding their final six opponents under 56 points. AU ranks eighth nationally, holding foes to under 60 points per game, allowing only 58.6 over 32 games this season.
On the court, lone senior Tony Wroblicky, the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-League selection, anchors the low post. Junior point guard Darius "Pee Wee" Gardner and sophomore guard Jesse Reed, both All-Patriot Second Team selections, along with junior guard John Schoof (Third Team) make a strong, three-headed guard combo. Gardner was named the Patriot League Tournament MVP while Wroblicky and Reed were named to the All-Tournament Team.
MORE ON THE EAGLES
American opened the Patriot League slate with at 10-0 record, its best start in program history. The Eagles were one win shy of tying the all-time best start in the Patriot League record book and the best conference start in AU history when in the1980-81 season, then head coach Gary Williams led American to a perfect 11-0 mark in ECC play and a 24-6 overall record. During this year's streak, AU twice received a vote in the AP Top 25 poll, its first votes since the 2008-09 season. AU reached 13 Patriot League wins for the second time its 13 years in the conference. Dating back to AU basketball's inception in 1926, the Eagles have only reached 13 league wins in two seasons, both coming in the past six years.
Brennan led a team picked ninth in the preseason poll to a second-place finish in the conference, tying a program record with 13 conference wins and starting the league slate a perfect 10-0, one win shy of the all-time AU record set by legendary coach Gary Williams in 1980-81. American led all teams in scoring defense (59.2 points per game), scoring margin (+6.7), field-goal percentage (50.5 percent), field-goal percentage defense (41.5 percent), three-point field-goal percentage (40.5 percent) and assists (15.9). American became one of only five teams to open the conference slate with 10-straight victories.
Wroblicky, who entered the AU record books as one of 19 Eagles to reach 600 rebounds while becoming American's all-time leading shot-blocker, is the first AU student-athlete to be named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. Wroblicky manned the middle for an American team that led the Patriot League in scoring defense both overall (60.1 ppg) and in league games (59.2 ppg). The Eagles also led the Patriot League in field-goal percentage defense both overall and in League play.
Wroblicky was also honored as a first-team All-Patriot League selection, leading the Eagles and finishing second in the league with 7.3 rebounds per game and 2.0 blocks per game. He led all players in league games with 8.6 rebounds per contest. The Harbor City, Calif., native had a career year with 12.2 ppg, 2.2 assists per game, a .594 field goal percentage and .708 free throw percentage. Wroblicky has etched his name into the American record book several times this season, recording his 500th career rebound at Holy Cross. The fourth-year center also became the fifth player ever in AU history to reach 100 blocks earlier this season and now owns the all-time career rejections record at 149. The big man is also currently second on the singe-season blocks list, swatting 59 this season – two behind the all-time leader.
Gardner keyed an American offense that is seventh in the nation in field goal percentage and 41st nationally with 15.2 apg. Gardner was AU's "iron man," playing 36.8 minutes per game, a league high, ranking 17th nationally, while scoring 11.3 ppg and pacing American with 4.4 apg -- all in his first season in Washington, D.C.
Reed is one of the most improved players in the Patriot League, finishing the regular season as AU's leading scoring with 14.2 ppg after scoring only 3.7 last season. The second-year swingman ranked fifth in the conference during the regular season in scoring, upping his average to 15.1 in league games; good for third overall. Reed was also locked in from 3-point range, knocking down nearly half of his long-range attempts, 56-of-114, ranking 12th nationally (.491).
Schoof was one of four AU players to average double-digit points this season, scoring 11.8 ppg, good for 18th in the league. American's co-captain with Wroblicky; Schoof dedicated work ethic on and off the court was a driving force for the Eagles this season, while the third-year guard also transformed his own game. Schoof went from a 3-point specialist last season, to all-around force in Coach Brennan's new offense in 2013-14. Schoof still finished third in the Patriot League with 64 3-pointers made and 2.2 3pg.
AU's program record 71.4 field goal percentage against Boston U. earlier this season just missed the all-time Patriot League record of 71.7%, while the Eagles 78.6% 3-PT would have been the record but Bucknell hit 80% against Lafayette only a week prior.
The Badgers, ranked 12 in the Associated Press poll and 15 in the USA Today Coaches Poll enter the matchup against the Eagles coming off a loss in the Big Ten Semifinal to Michigan State, 83-75. Wisconsin opened the season on a 16-game winning streak, but then lost three-straight in conference play, losing five of six after the consecutive victories. The Badgers got back on track with a eight-game span without a loss, but enter the Tournament losers in two of their last three games, falling in the regular season finale at Nebraska, 77-68, before beating Minnesota, 83-57, to advance to the conference semi matchup.
Wisconsin averages 73.5 ppg this season, while holding opponents to 64.6. The Badgers shoot .458 from the field and check foes to .432. They are also secure with the ball, committing only 266 turnovers this season while forcing 328 miscues. Against Northwestern this season (who also runs the "Princeton Offense") Wisconsin won on the road, 76-49, in the league opener, but fell at home, 65-56, in late January.
Like the Eagles, Wisconsin boasts four double-digit scorers, but none above 14 points. Seven-foot junior center and First Team All-Big Ten selection Frank Kaminsky leads the way with 13.6 ppg and 6.4 rpg, He can also shoot from long range, making 33 3-pointers on the season. Sophomore forward Sam Dekker is third on the team with 12.7 ppg and ranks second with 6.2 rpg. Second-leading scorer Ben Brust (12.9 ppg) leads the Badgers with 81 3-pointers and was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honoree along with Traevon Jackson (10.4 ppg, 3.9 apg). Junior guard Josh Gasser, a Big Ten All-Defensive Team honoree and also an honorable mention selection, rounds out the starting five. Rookie Nigel Hayes (8.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg) was named to the All-Freshman Team and was the conference Sixth Man of the Year.
Bo Ryan took over the head coaching position at Wisconsin in 2002 and was promptly dubbed Big Ten Coach of the Year in each of his first two seasons. Last year, his 12th at UW, Ryan proved he is still thought of in the same light, collecting the third Big Ten Coach of the Year award of his career. He enters his 30th season as a head coach in 2013-14.Owning the most wins in UW annals (291 entering 2013-14), Ryan is also one of just 40 coaches in NCAA history to reach the 650-career win plateau. Ryan's career winning percentage of .757 (674-216) is seventh all-time among coaches with 600 career wins. Among Div. I coaches in the 600-win club, Ryan's win percentage trails only John Wooden, Roy Williams, Jerry Tarkanian, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski.
Social Media Insider
Be sure to follow American University men's basketball on Twitter for live, in-game updates and like the Eagles on Facebook for inside looks at the team.