MADISON -- Wisconsin missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998 last season in large part because of a poor start.
The Badgers opened the season with a 3-5 mark in non-conference play and stumbled as the year went on, plagued by a rash of injuries an inexperience.
Now healthy and close to full-strength, Wisconsin has learned from its struggles of a year ago and brings a perfect 3-0 record -- including an impressive road victory at Xavier last week -- and it's first Top 25 ranking (No. 25) in over a year to the Bahamas where the Badgers will open the Battle 4 Atlantis Wednesday afternoon against Stanford (2-1).
"A road win like that gives you so much confidence," sophomore forward Nate Reuvers said of winning at Xavier. "We didn't win those games last year. This year we're thinking we should beat everybody.
"There is no reason ... we're not going into a game thinking we're going to lose."
Senior forward Ethan Happ has led the way so far and picked up his second Big Ten Player of the Week honor after average 22.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in to games last week.
"We have, in our opinion, the best player in the country," sophomore guard Brad Davison said. "And when you put pieces around the best player in the country and he is willing to drive in and kick, there is no reason not be confident because you're getting good looks."
But unlike a year ago when Happ had to bear most of Wisconsin's scoring burden, he's had plenty of help so far. Sophomore guard D'Mitrik Trice, who missed the Badgers' last 23 games with an injury last season, is knocking down 65 percent of his 3-point attempts while averaging 18.3 points per game.
Brvin Pritzl is off to a good start, too, averaging 11.0 points on 42.9 percent shooting while Davison is averaging 11.7 points on 40 percent shooting.
"We have strength in numbers," Trice said. "We have a lot of shooters and people that can make plays. I think our assist numbers will go up because of that. We have a lot of guys who like to share the ball. And we're focused on taking care of the ball a lot more."
The Cardinal opened the season with a pair of victories before a blowout loss to North Carolina last week. Stanford hit 7-of-22 3-pointer but shot 40 percent overall in the contest while committing 15 turnovers and allowing the Tar Heels to connect at a 49.3 percent clip, including a 6-for-13 mark from distance.
"My goal going into this game was just to see our guys compete," head coach Jerod Haase said. "Offensively and defensively, especially in the first half, I didn't feel that we did."
Sophomore KZ Okpala led Stanford with 16 points and nine rebounds in the loss and leads the league in scoring with 22.7 points per game.
Tuesday's contest marks the tenth all-time meeting between the two programs but just the first since Stanford's 95-78 victory on Dec. 27, 1994. The Cardinal lead the series, 6-3.
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