UPDATE: Sea of red as Badger fans fill Bradley Center for practice

By: Max Hess - Email
By: Max Hess - Email
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UPDATED Wednesday, March 19, 2014 --- 10:10 p.m.

It was a busy day for Badger fans.

It all started with an open practice at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

That's also where the Badgers will play their first NCAA Tournament match-up against American University tomorrow.

The stands filled up quickly as fans cheered on a team that many fans say will go far this year.

Cassie Benfield went to the open practice. She's a senior at UW Madison expecting to graduate in May.

"I've never actually been to one of their practices, so this is cool," Benfield said.

It's one of her last chances as a student to see the Badgers on the court.

"It's really nice they're in Milwaukee, close to home," Benfield added.

This is the first time since 2004 that the Badgers opened in Milwaukee for an NCAA tournament match-up.

Michael Leising took a break from work to watch the open practice.

He's optimistic not only for the Badgers, but about the tournament as a whole.

"I hope it's a great tournament, no injures, and lots of smiles," Leising said.

Leising is a also a referee and said he enjoys seeing a different angle of basketball every once in a while.

After the open practice at the Bradley Center, many fans headed across the street to the Milwaukee Theatre for a pep rally.

That's also where the Toth family made sure not to miss out.

For John Toth, it's a family event.

He has a daughter who is a student at UW Madison and son who is soon-to-be.

When I asked him why he was at the pep rally, his answer was clear.

"Are you kidding me?," he asked, adding that "It's the Badgers, we're in the NCAA tournament!"

John is a huge Badger fan and very optimistic about tomorrow's game.

"We're just here to have a great time," he said.

His son, Alex Toth, says this tournament is a special one.

" I just got back from being stationed in Washington state for seven years," Alex said.

For him, it just feels good to be back home in Wisconsin -- and he's confident he picked a good year to come back.

"We're going to win," he said, adding that he has Wisconsin going all the way in his bracket.

It's evident that most fans have the confidence they need.

The Badgers tip-off against American University tomorrow at 11:40 a.m. in the Bradley Center.

Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2014 --- 4:40 p.m.

From our news partner WITI in Milwaukee:

MILWAUKEE (WITI) – Badger fans are gearing up for the NCAA Tournament! The Badgers play on Thursday afternoon, March 20th at 11:40 a.m. at the BMO Harris Bradley Center — and on Wednesday, Badger fans had the opportunity to take in practice. On Wednesday evening, they’ll get pumped up in a pep rally at the Milwaukee Theater.

Thousands of Badger fans filled the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Wednesday afternoon to watch practice. It was a sea of red to welcome the young men from Madison.

Among those watching practice Wednesday was Aaron Hardt of Brookfield, who is happy to tell you how long he has been following the Badgers.

“1948 — when I discovered them on my brother’s crystal radio and became a Wisconsin Badger fan. Didn’t even know what basketball was,” Hardt said.

Hardt was among the first to take a seat in the arena on Wednesday. He said he wanted to get a good look at American University — the Badgers’ opponent for the first round.

“The Badgers better be ready because they can shoot. They count out — when they do their three-point exercise, they count out how many they got in a row and they got to nine in a row one time,” Hardt said.

Sasha Albrecht graduated from UW-Madison last year. She says she’s pumped for the big game.

“I was so excited they’re gonna be in Milwaukee. I go to grad school in Milwaukee so it`s convenient. I’m trying to go to a game this weekend but if not, this would be a great opportunity to see them,” Albrecht said.

While Wisconsin fans made up the majority of those who filled the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Anna Hassell was on hand Wednesday. She’s a BYU alum, there to support Luke Worthington, a graduate of Homestead High School and a freshman forward for the Cougars.

“He spoke in our ward, or parish, a couple months before he left for BYU. He came and spoke and did a great job so it’s really exciting for him,” Hassell said.

Should both Wisconsin and BYU win on Thursday, the teams will meet on Saturday for the chance to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Badgers' pep rally is set for 6:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Milwaukee Theater.

Playing in Milwaukee on Thursday are:

--University of Wisconsin Badgers vs. American University Eagles (11:40 a.m.)
--University of Oregon Ducks vs. BYU Cougars (2:10 p.m.)
--University of Michigan Wolverines vs. Wofford College Terriers (6:10 p.m.)
--University of Texas Longhorns vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (8:40 p.m.)

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