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Jared Berggren has an average of 10.6 points per game with a season total of 234 points, second on the Badgers, behind offensive star Jordan Taylor.[/media-credit]Where the Wisconsin men’s basketball team once peered up from near the bottom of the Big Ten standings, it now finds itself looking down on most of its peers after just three weeks’ time.The Badgers (17-5 overall) went from 1-3 in conference play to a 6-3 mark that leaves them tied for third place with Michigan and just one game outside first-place Ohio State.No. 20 Wisconsin has had the luxury of four full days of rest after pulling off a well-played 57-50 upset over then-No. 16 Indiana at the Kohl Center last Thursday.Mix that with a 3-1 conference road record, and don’t be surprised if you find a little spring in the step of Badger players as they prepare to meet with Penn State (10-12, 2-7) Tuesday.“We’re sitting pretty good,” guard Josh Gasser said. “We had a couple days off after the big win to kind of reenergize ourselves, rest our bodies a little bit.“We got a lot of time to regroup and stuff, and we know we have a big stretch coming up with traveling to Penn State and Ohio State later in the week. We just like where we’re at right now.”The Nittany Lions may find themselves at the very bottom of the Big Ten standings, but in what may be the nation’s deepest conference, a loss can emerge from anywhere. Both of Penn State’s two victories in the league came against teams with winning records, while one of them – Illinois – has consistently been ranked.Fans of either team may cringe at the thought of UW and PSU matching up again after the last time they met – in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament last year, the two teams battled it out in a game where the final tally read more like a halftime score.Penn State shot 33.3 percent from the field while Wisconsin managed 29.4 in a 36-34 decision.But much has changed for PSU’s men’s basketball team since. The Nittany Lions introduced a new head coach, Patrick Chambers, in the offseason and waved goodbye to four senior starters.The Badgers, meanwhile, also graduated three starters themselves.“They have pretty much a completely different team; they had a lot of seniors last year so they have a lot new faces now. We have some new faces as well,” center Jared Berggren said.But the lone PSU starting returnee just happens to be one of the Big Ten’s most impressive guards. Junior Tim Frazier – at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds – is second in the conference with 19 points per game in league play and first with 5.1 assists.His numbers have made quite a leap from last year, when he started 33 games and averaged 6.3 points per game.UW guard Jordan Taylor and associate head coach Greg Gard both said one reason for Frazier’s leap in production has to do with the fact that last year he was a sophomore starting along with four seniors, and the burden of scoring was placed more heavily on his teammates.With so much experience leaving, Gard believes that, in a way, Frazier had no choice but to step in and take charge. Either way, Gard praised Frazier’s development and nearly called him the conference’s most improved player.“They lost a lot, so [Frazier] had to take a jump or he has to stand out because he’s one of the few returning,” Gard said. “But … I don’t know if there’s anybody in the league that’s made the jump he has in what he’s added to his game.“He’s made himself a better shooter. Very similar to Jordan, when he came in, his shooting was not – you know, you’d like to have him shoot it from out there – and he was just a driver, just a penetrator. Now he’s added [shooting] to his game.”In all likelihood, it will be Gasser who will be assigned to defend Frazier Tuesday, as he did last season as well.But Gasser has already had success against some of the Big Ten’s best. More recently, against Illinois Jan. 22, he was primarily responsible for Brandon Paul, now currently the only person averaging more points per game (20) in Big Ten games than Frazier.Paul had a forgetful game, scoring 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting.But even last year, as a sophomore that didn’t pose much of a scoring threat, Frazier made so much of an impression on Gasser that he now calls the PSU guard one of the three toughest foes he’s ever had to defend.“He’s up there, top three for sure,” he said.
The No. 1 USC women’s water polo team will begin its search for another national title with opening tilts against California Baptist and Concordia at the CBU Mini Invitational Saturday. The team will have to accommodate the loss of the four Trojans taking the season off to join their respective countries’ 2020 Olympic campaigns. The returning group will consist of All-American senior drivers Denise Mammolito and Kelsey McIntosh, who racked up 29 and 34 goals last season, respectively. Along with MPSF All-Newcomer sophomore utility Bayley Weber, sophomore utility Mireia Guiral and sophomore driver Grace Tehaney will be the returning players from last year’s NCAA title match against Stanford. But even with sophomore driver Alejandra Aznar, junior driver Paige Hauschild, senior utility Maud Megens and sophomore 2-meter Tilly Kearns sitting out, Pintaric has seen the remaining players step up to fill the gaps. “We are lucky that our senior group is again very, very much team-oriented,” Pintaric said. “They’re great leaders, they’re [the] coaches’ voice in the locker room, same as we had on the boys’ side. And I’m very pleased as a coach and happy and lucky.” All three tallied 20 or more goals last season over 20, 18 and 14 games, respectively. “I think this is the resilience, [the] determination of the team, the culture and the program that we stand for,” head coach Marko Pintaric said. “And I didn’t see things change even though our senior class graduated. Even though we didn’t win a national championship, we didn’t achieve our goal … we just started a new season, exact same goals, exact same ideas to keep building the same culture.” After finishing 2019 with a nail-biting 1-point loss to Stanford in the NCAA Championship match, USC will have to continue its historic winning ways to maintain the No. 1 preseason ranking in the coaches poll ahead of MPSF rivals like No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 California. The group will form the backbone of the defensive effort that has shaped much of USC’s philosophy. “For us, it’s always defense and we try to be that team,” Pintaric said. “Amanda graduated, [an] All-American goalie. So, [Parker], you know, she’s stepping into a role. A couple of younger goalies [are] pushing her under and everything is going backward from defense into offense.” Although the team faces an additional loss with goalie Amanda Longan having graduated this past year, there is no shortage of talented players that have been working to fill her place. Redshirt junior Holly Parker is the most senior of the goalie group and tallied 8.2 saves per game over 13 appearances last season. After redshirting her first season, freshman Erin Tharp will aim to get some time in the cage along with freshmen Carolyne Stern and Avrey Larson. Sophomore utility Bayley Weber scored 34 goals last season as a true freshman while earning MPSF Newcomer of the Week honors three times. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan) This weekend and the majority of February will be filled with invitational games, as the Trojans will head to Riverside, San Diego and Irvine for the CBU, Triton and Barbara Kalbus Invitationals. Pintaric said other games will be added to bulk up the team’s schedule before facing more of its ranked rivals later in March and April. “We are adding more games as we go,” Pintaric said. “As you know, same as with the boy’s season, the situation we found ourselves [in] didn’t allow us to work on a schedule to fill up potentials like in the past.” USC’s opening match against Cal Baptist Saturday at 12:45 p.m. will kick off what looks to be a promising season for the Trojans.