So Wisco looked quite solid in its double-digit victory over Florida State on Tuesday night. It was great to see Taylor shooting well, and Alando and Flowers return from scary-looking injuries. And how about Stiemsma and Chappell? Both of them made great passes, and Stiemsma played his typically excellent defense.
Nonetheless, I'm worried, because I was just watching Ohio State run up and down the floor with UNC. Yeah, we're in trouble. I was hoping that a bunch of their freshman (like Conley or Cook) weren't really that quacktastic, and that without Oden they were a bit overrated. And that still may be true. But their players are ridiculously athletic and skilled-- a bunch of them look like they can make their own offense, and they all can shoot threes. All they seem to be missing is a solid interior defensive presence. Wait, that's Oden. When did 19 year-olds grow full beards? This season's match-ups with them could be serious trouble, and if we want to win the league we may have to beat everyone else.
Luckily, as the "Challenge" proved, everyone else can be had. Minnesota and Northwestern look terrible (can we please, please win at Northwestern?), Penn State and Iowa look passable but not great, Purdue appears decent, Indiana seems talented in part but ramshackle, Illinois is solid but underwhelming, Sparty's best player is Drew Neitzel, Michigan still can't play as a team. We should beat all of them, excepting a few likely slip-ups on the road. But OSU will be serious trouble (and could be two losses) given their talent and solid coaching.
Can some bigger coaching job at a non-football school open up so the unfortunate-looking, but highly effective Mr. Matta can be hired away? UConn or Syracuse, perhaps? Boeheim and Calhoun are old. Sigh... I guess we're in troule seeing as Matta signed some ridiculously long contract extension, and has a good recruiting class coming in next year as well. (Side note-- does anyone have a theory about Matta's sudden recruiting prowess? Are they buying kids with the old Troy-Smith-hundred-dollar-handshakes?)
Barring an NCAA investigation, I'm left with the hope that Matta'll have a lot of one or two year wonders who will abandon Ohio A & M College (the OSU's original name) for the allure of the professional ranks. If this Oden gentleman is anywhere near as good as he's supposed to be, I hope to hell that he only plays half a season. If that happens, and if OSU continually recruits so well that classes are all but gone by the end of their junior years, shouldn't there be some trouble from the NCAA regarding graduation rates and scholarships? I thought there was some sort of new program going into effect. (moment of silence while hunting around the internet)
Right, after poking around, it looks like penalties will hit teams that failt to meet a particular level of an NCAA-created measurement known as Academic Progress Rate (APR). APR is currently being applied to schools, and will gain teeth (schools wil start to be penalized) in 2007. The system penalizes teams with players that flunk out or are ruled academically ineligible. It only slightly penalizes teams who have players who leave during the school year, but were academically eligible when they were there. Get penalized enough, your APR slinks below a certain rate and you lose a scholarship.
Here's an explanation of scoring under the APR from the Chronicle of Higher Education:
So an athlete who stays eligible and enrolled at the institution for both semesters of a given year gets a total of four points. An athlete who was academically eligible but chose to leave the college (to transfer or to play professionally, say) in the middle of the spring semester would get three points, while a player who flunked out in the first semester would get zero points for the year.
So in order for schools to really eat it, players have to be academically ineligible while they're there. Your school doesn't get hurt much if players were academically eligible , but decide to turn pro, so leave school and fail to graduate. Uh oh, again. I'm pretty sure that a Ohio A & M, which also operates a large semi-pro football team, will be able to keep 12 people academically eligible.
And given Wisco's men's academic/basketball meltdown last season, and depending how retroactive the analysis is, we could seriously suck it next year because Stiemsma and Landry were both ineligible and DeAaron Williams was ineligible and left school. That's not many points in the APR calcuation. Trouble.
Maybe the solution to competing with recruiting factories is what I've opined about before(perhaps too optimistically; I hadn't seen Ohio A&M play yet)-- that excellent college basketball teams are usually led by talented upperclassmen. That is, a relatively talented fourth or fifth year senior will be more successful than a more talented but greener freshman or sophmore. That theory likely depends on how wide the gap in talent is. We seem to be recruiting decently, particularly with Trevon and Bohannon this year, so hopefully, if we keep people here and keep developing them, we can compete with the teams that are chasing around uber-talented one or two year loaners. But is an all white, all Wisconsin/'Sota recruiting class (incoming next fall) a little off-putting to anyone? I'm not a prejudiced douchebag, I swear, I just like alley-oops. Maybe if UWM starts to suck, we can rehire Rob Jeter.
Yeah, so I haven't mentioned the Packers. 80 plays on offense for the Seahawks! Four turnovers in the first half, one returned for a touchdown, and we still lose by double digits? Argggh! Who knew that Mark Tauscher was so key to our offense? And don't we have a defensive play that can stop "run left behind Walter Jones"? Hodge's touchdown play was hysterical, and probably made Barnett nervous, which may be why he's trying to play this Sunday with a cast. But he shouldn't worry that much. If Jeremy Stevens could hold onto a ball, a lot of folks would be complaining about Hodge.
And I can't decide which aspect of Favre's play toward the end of the game was more depressing--his terrible "what the hell" interceptions, or the dump-down throws he made after they gave him a talking to. I really do not want him to break George Blanda's record, not only because it'd be embarassing and lead to some coronation of Brett as "the ultimate gunslinger" but also because it's currently held by a Bear. The Bears deserve all the ignominious records they can get. But after his second pick, when he reverted to making meaningless 6-yard passes, he looked like a beaten dog. Maybe without Hasselback and Alexander we could have beaten them. With those two, Seattle's a pretty darn good team, and we're getting pretty thin all over (OL, WR, DB, LB).
Finally, I must honor a request to comment on Greg Jennings' curious habit of anointing himself with blessed oil before games. What can I say here-- it terrifies me when my public officials do this (see John Ashcroft), but for some reason I'm not bothered by rookie wideouts doing it, particularly when their fathers are ministers, and they're doing it as a superstitious injury prevention rite. I'm not certain why, but it seems more logical, and obviously far less dangerous, than child soldiers in the Lord's Resistance Army rubbing themselves with cooking oil in the belief that it repels bullets. And at least he's not charming snakes.