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Nothing but laughs for Wisconsin ahead of showdown against Kentucky

Wisconsin's players put on a show a day before their Final Four rematch against Kentucky by cracking several jokes in Friday's press conference.
Wisconsin's players put on a show a day before their Final Four rematch against Kentucky by cracking several jokes in Friday's press conference.

INDIANAPOLIS—Kentucky has eight McDonald's All-Americans on the active roster. Seven players stand 6-foot-8 or taller. The Wildcats' last loss came exactly 360 days ago, if you exclude a head-scratching summer defeat to the Dominican Republic national team.

Kentucky is 38-0, highly talented and playing with a chip on its shoulder after falling just short of a national title last year.

And apparently, someone forgot to communicate any of this information to the Wisconsin Badgers, who appeared loose and relaxed during the gymnastics of Friday's Final Four media availability.

Some teams preparing to play for a national title might tighten up. Lots of teams staring down the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament—and an undefeated juggernaut at that—might keep to straightforward answers and stay focused on game preparation.

To prove that none of the above describes Wisconsin, here is sophomore forward Nigel Hayes' response to a reporter who asked what jokes make head coach Bo Ryan laugh during practice:

Sophomore Nigel Hayes has developed into a talented post player and superstar stenographer-tester.

"See, I'm sitting here right now and I'm already thinking of one I haven't used yet," Hayes said during his individual press conference Friday. "Here it goes: Why can you not hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? Because the 'p' is silent. It's okay, you guys can laugh. We're all just having a good time here."

Hayes then joined Ryan, AP Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky and West Region hero Sam Dekker as the stars of what was easily Friday's most entertaining team presser. The Badgers did their due diligence, answering multiple questions about how the length of the Wildcats would affect their offensive game plan and rhythm.

But then the real details started to emerge.

Dekker, Kaminsky and point guard Traevon Jackson were asked about Wisconsin's use of an app called MetroFit to track their sleep and eating habits. Dekker's most recent meal: a burger—and guacamole.

"He's big on guac," Ryan added helpfully.

Breakfast of champions: Newly-minted AP Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky enjoys adding syrup to his omelettes.

Kaminsky went to great lengths to describe the omelette he ate Friday morning, which incorporated ham, salt, pepper and syrup—yes, syrup.

"I know I get a lot flack for putting syrup on top, but Nigel does it too and it's actually really good," Kaminsky said.

"He drowns it," chimed in Hayes.

Ryan doesn't see this data—he typically leaves it to Wisconsin's strength and conditioning coach to encourage players to make healthy choices—but swears by its results.

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan allows his players to keep things loose on and off the court.

"I certainly know that in the last five minutes of games, I think our guys have looked pretty fresh," Ryan said.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski preached to his players before leaving Durham to not change anything up before leaving for the Final Four. This isn't anything new for the Badgers—it's exactly who they've been all year.

Ryan admitted that he thought about using tennis rackets in practice to mimic the Wildcats' length, but decided against it because he feared his players would start hitting each other for fun. From that point on, it was difficult not to notice Dekker occasionally slapping himself in the face while listening to his teammates answer questions.

Don't think Wisconsin isn't taking this seriously. The Badgers returned nearly every player from last year's Final Four squad, which watched its season end in heartbreak on a late Aaron Harrison 3-pointer. The opportunity to face Harrison and Kentucky again one year later—and ruin the Wildcats' bid for perfection—carries plenty of weight.

But that doesn't prohibit them from enjoying the moment.

In addition to averaging 12.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, Hayes has become the unquestioned champion of NCAA tournament sound bytes. The 6-foot-7 forward took it upon himself to make life as difficult as possible for the stenographer—or transcriber—at Wisconsin's first round site, beginning his answer to a question with "cattywampus, onomatopoeia and antidisestablishmentarianism" for no other reason than to test the stenographer's spelling prowess.

Friday, no reporter asked Hayes a question during the group press conference, so Ryan took it upon himself to set his player up for another vocabulary exercise, asking him to talk about a dribbling drill he has been doing.

"I was just trying to be like Frank and Josh [Gasser] and Trae. They're great ball-handlers and I aspire to be like those guys," Hayes said, noticeably omitting Dekker, seated directly to his left. "I appreciate you letting me speak—I don't know why I show up to these things."

"Nigel, they're afraid to ask you a question," Ryan explained.

Hayes then closed the press conference with a bang.

"To continue tradition, prestidigitation—and hello, Mr. Stenographer."


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