Tim Jarmusz says he never looked at the Internet message boards that included vitriolic comments about him from anonymous “fans” of the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team.
Jason Bohannon says none of the Badgers ever discussed those message board comments with their teammates.
Associate head coach Greg Gard says that’s about par for this season’s Badgers.
UW (23-8) heads to the NCAA tournament as the No. 4 seed in the East regional, with a first-round game in Jacksonville, Fla., Friday against 13th-seeded Wofford (26-8), partly because of how it has handled adversity this season.
Junior forward Jon Leuer’s surgically repaired wrist that cost him nine games was the biggest dose of adversity the team has overcome. But the Badgers count the message boarders’ wrath toward Jarmusz as adversity, too.
“You know there’s always going to be the Monday morning armchair quarterbacks,” Gard said. “So you have to continue to improve and support each other and play together. I think this group has done that.”
No one has handled it better than Jarmusz, the junior who has been criticized for, among other things, not scoring enough (2.7 points per game) or being athletic enough as a starting forward.
“I just stayed away from the media. I stayed away from that stuff,” Jarmusz said earlier this week.
The discussion quieted somewhat after Leuer replaced him in the starting lineup six games ago, instead of Jordan Taylor, who had stepped in for Leuer. Jarmusz handled the move with his usual aplomb.
“I still have the same job. Play good defense, get rebounds, hit the open shots. My role really hasn’t changed with the team,” said Jarmusz, who started the first 27 games this season. “Jon is one of the best players, I think, in the Big Ten. He’s a great player, a great scorer, you have to put him in there.”
Bohannon said the Badgers understand there will always be critics of their play. He added that the players also know how they handle that criticism can make or break a team’s season.
“Why let something like that infiltrate the kind of atmosphere we have with this team?” Bohannon asked incredulously. “We know the positive things we have going for us. There is no need to bring a player down for anything unnecessary like that.”
Bohannon said the Badgers don’t need to look outside the locker room to figure out what’s going on with the team or what is best for it.
“Tim is doing a lot of things that he maybe hasn’t been getting statistical credit for,” Bohannon said. “He does the little things: diving on the floor, checking people out, keeping guys out of the lane and stuff that helps us out tremendously. You can be a player and not get statistical points.”
Gard said Jarmusz has a big role in the postseason because he solidifies the Badgers’ bench. That’s key, especially against Wofford, a team that goes 10 players deep.
“He’s reliable because you know you can you trust him, you know he’s going to play within himself. You’re not going to dip. You will maintain what you’ve got going,” Gard said.
Gard believes the mentally tough Jarmusz is looking more comfortable after struggling through a shooting slump.
“He’s looking more at ease,” Gard said. “He just understands his role. He doesn’t care about his personal accolades. He just wants to do whatever he can do to help the team win.”
Jarmusz, whose teams have done nothing but win since his high school days at Oshkosh West, is focused on making sure all the Badgers are focused on the task at hand.
“Everybody is getting excited about playing in the tournament, going down to Florida and stuff. We have to be ready to play,” he said. “Have fun while you’re doing it. But we’re down there to win and that’s what we’re going to do.”