I can't write much today since the woman and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary. I can say, however, that the Wisco-Sparty game was good solid stuff. Especially Landry, Butch sacking up, and Flowers' decisive steal and lay up. Nietzel burned him a lot today, but on that play, and on the final try, he played hard, made a great play and it made the difference. Well done, everyone.
Also, how cool is it that Wisco got four (!) Spartans to foul out with 3 minutes still left. Morgan, the Idong-er, the Ginger, and the Turk. Hilarious. Finally, props must be given to J-Bo for fine defense on that Lucas kid from Sparty. J-Bo is officially a pretty darn good defensive player. Well done, Jason. Keep it up. (Though you should have hit those free throws at the end of the game.)
Why this all might not matter-- Wisconsin may be locked into a three seed regardless of today's win (or tomorrow's, if it happens). UNC, Memphis, UCLA and Tennessee all have continued to win. For UW to creep into the ranks of the two seeds, it appears that they would have needed at least two of the following teams to have lost early, and embarrassingly, in their conference tournaments-- Texas, Kansas, Georgetown, Duke, Stanford. It hasn't happened. Stanford, as I write this, is playing in the finals of the Pac-10 tourney. Georgetown is in the Big East final. Kansas and Texas are meeting in the Big-12 final. After an unusually poor afternoon of three-point shooting, Duke just lost to an unranked Clemson team, but they did make it the ACC semifinals. Even assuming that Duke moves down due to the loss, there's a strong argument for Stanford to be a 2 seed if they happen to beat UCLA (which is a possibility since the real national player of the year, Kevin Love, doesn't seem to be playing much.) So I don't think UW, despite beating Sparty today, will make it into the ranks of the twos. And that's not holding anything against Wisconsin. It's just that the Big Ten wasn't that strong this season, and that the teams Wisconsin beat earlier in the year (like Valpo, UWM, UWGB, Colorado and Georgia) didn't have great years. That negatively affects their strength of schedule, and puts them at a disadvantage for seeding. So it's looking like a Number 3 seed will be Wisconsin's come tomorrow night. Not the best reward for a team that won the Big Ten outright with only two losses, beat the co-champion of the Big 12 on its own floor, and has made the finals of its conference tournament. Ah, well.
Now it's time to focus on the present. Pop rolled his ankle pretty badly, apparently stepping on J-Bo's heel. The Journal-Sentinel says he's a game-time decision, but I doubt he plays. And that's too bad, because he played very well in the Badgers' first game against Illinois. Wisconsin may well need more quality minutes from Tim Jarmusz then, since that leaves UW with only two real guards in Bohannon and Flowers. Not good, although the Illini guards have struggled for most of the year. Despite their losing record, Illinois is not a bad team. Ken Pomeroy has had them in his top 50 all season. They've played very solid D all year, and their free throw shooting, and some poor luck down the stretches in close games has cost them a winning record. Given that, and their ineligibility for the NIT, you have to figure their going to be playing balls out today. You also need to remember that Indy is not that far from Champaign, which is quite close to the Indiana border. A lot of Illini fans are driving to Indianapolis as we speak. So it should be a partisan crowd in favor of Illinois tomorrow. This is really the first thing they've had to cheer about all season. So it should be a tough, tough game, with a depleted Wisconsin team running against an inspired Illinois team in a hostile environment with seniors like Randle and Pruitt who are playing for their careers. One thing to look out for-- this will be Illinois' fourth game in four days, one of which went to overtime, and the first three were all very close. Wisconsin's had a bit more rest, since their game was earlier today, and they didn't play on Thursday. Toward the end of the game, it'll be interesting to see whether legs and stamina come into play.
Anyhow, I say screw the seed. It will be what it will be. So be it. Live in the now, win the tournament to win the tournament. No Wisconsin team has ever won the Big Ten tourney and the Big Ten regular season title in the same season. Make some history, Badgers.