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Ashley Scoby: Badgers mirror Wildcats' calm, but both teams know when to flip the switch

Kentucky has been a loose team during its unbeaten run this season, but when Wisconsin met the media Thursday, they didn't seem to be feeling any pressure either (Jamie Vaught Photo)

Kentucky has been a loose team during its unbeaten run this season, but when Wisconsin met the media Thursday, they didn’t seem to be feeling any pressure either (Jamie Vaught Photo)


When Kentucky unleashed a full-court press against Bob Huggins’ West Virginia team that was known for its own press, the Wildcats were giving another team a taste of its own medicine.

Now, when 38-0 Kentucky takes on Wisconsin in the Final Four Saturday, the Badgers will – unintentionally – be giving the Wildcats a taste of their own medicine. That drug? Relaxation.

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At least partially thanks to Kentucky’s dance moves, its love for the Super Smash Brothers video game and its general sense of humor, the team has attained a perfect record. The post-game atmospheres of the Kentucky locker room or interview seasons are always full of laughter and a bunch of college-aged guys acting like, well, college-aged guys.

Marcus Lee has been known to sit in Karl-Anthony Towns’ lap during an interview, Trey Lyles is constantly dancing during warm-ups and Willie Cauley-Stein is always good for a chuckle or two with his musings on superheroes or wild animals.

But the thing with Wisconsin is that the Badgers generally have the same quality of “looseness” that helps a team stay relaxed in one of the most pressurized situations in college sports.

What’s become the most famous example of Wisconsin’s relaxation has been the players’ obsession with the NCAA tournament stenographer.

At tournament host sites, a stenographer is there to transcribe post-game press conference quotes, including those from the players. Once a few of the Badgers learned what the stenographer’s job entailed, they have since had as much fun as possible with their words.

“Hello, it works now,” Nigel Hayes said in his Saturday press conference before Wisconsin’s regional final matchup. “Before I answer that question, I would like to say a few words, cattywampus, onomatopoeia and antidisestablishmentarianism.”

According to the Associated Press’s Dave Skretta, Hayes was one of three Wisconsin players who hung out with the stenographer after the Badgers’ game against Coastal Carolina, asking her several questions about a stenographer’s job responsibilities. It’s a sign of a basketball team that doesn’t revolve completely around the sport, but can find room for fun along the way.

Just take a look at what Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky and Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein talked about on their way to the podium for Thursday’s pre-Final Four press conference.

“Personality-wise, we’re talking about Super Smash Brothers on the way up here,” Kaminsky said. “So I feel like we would get along.”

The Super Smash Brothers video game has already cemented itself as the game of choice in Kentucky’s locker room, too. But the way by which the Wildcats stay loose and focused is the one that Wisconsin uses, too.

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“We played Super Smash Brothers in our hospitality room for a while last night while the barber was in there, hanging out, chilling out, having fun,” Kaminsky said.

But he continued his discussion with something that Kentucky is still familiar with, too: Turning the switch to “serious” when they need to.

“When we got on the court today for practice, all seriousness,” Kaminsky said. “We know how to flip it when we need to.”

Funny: Kentucky could probably say exactly the same thing. But come Saturday, the road will stop for one of those fun-loving groups.

Ashley Scoby is a senior journalism major at the University of Kentucky and a KyForward sports writer. She has reported on the Wildcats for wildcathoops.com, vaughtsviews.com andkysportsreport.com as well as for newspapers in Danville and Glasgow. She will begin a summer internship with Sports Illustrated magazine in New York in June.

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