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Albuquerque notebook

Arena may be a Pit, but the Badgers love it

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / March 15, 2012
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ALBUQUERQUE - What’s in a building? A lot if you are Wisconsin and beginning your NCAA Tournament run Thursday against Montana at The Pit in an East Regional game.

The last time the Badgers played on the University of New Mexico campus was in 2000, when they beat LSU and Purdue in the Rounds of 16 and 8 to advance to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

“I hope we can definitely carry some of that good karma,’’ said Wisconsin forward JaredBerggren. “Our coaches talked about it a little bit. Last time we played here there were some good memories made here. We hope to make more good memories and advance to the next round.’’

Montana, the East’s No. 13 seed, is riding a 14-game winning streak and posted a school-record 15-1 mark in the Big Sky Conference. The Grizzlies, however, have struggled in 11 NCAA Tournament games, going just 2-9 including a 69-56 loss to Boston College in the second round in 2006.

Guard Will Cherry could be one of the keys for the Grizzlies. He is Montana’s all-time leader in steals and is sixth in the country this season with 2.58 per game.

Cherry was a freshman in 2010 when Montana lost to New Mexico, 62-57, in a first-round game in its most recent NCAA appearance.

“I know for me as a freshman that’s probably one of the most exhilarating feelings you can have,’’ Cherry said. “One of the first things I did on the court was I kneeled and touched the NCAA logo because how many times do you get to be there as a true freshman? This year it’s more about business. I’m here to take care of business. I’m not so much star-struck that we made it to the NCAA.’’

Welcome back

Wisconsin is making its 14th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Badgers are one of only six schools with an active streak of 14 or more seasons. Kansas (23), Duke (17), Michigan State (15), Gonzaga (15), and Texas (14) are the others . . . Baylor, which meets South Dakota State in a South Regional game Thursday night, enters the tournament with seven losses this season, all to tournament teams. The Bears feature former Boston College recruit Brady Heslip, who transferred when Al Skinner was fired as the Eagles’ coach two years ago.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.

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