Monday, March 31, 2008

Swing Aptitude

We have raised our expectations, as all successful people do. We have won the Big Ten Regular Season AND Tournament Titles (we have the nets to prove we were there) and cruised to the Sweet 16. We got bumped by an insanely hot playing/shooting school of filthy rich bastards with filthy rich parents (god bless em). And the flags go up. Are we inherently disadvantaged by our Swing offense? Are we shackled by its principles? Not enough points to win against great teams? Standards get raised and new questions get asked. This is our most salient characteristic and the foundation of science, so let's explore the question. 

Watching the other elite teams this year you notice what they do and the Badgers don't. They pressure the inbounds like crazy (TN's only strength), they press, they get handsy out on the perimeter and they push the pressure well past the 3 point line, they look to fast break on misses and blocks (UNC will beat your ass down floor even on makes), they have atleast 2-3 guys who are NBA caliber.

That last bit maybe should have come first. We do not get the NBA guys. We got one (Finley) and produced another (Harris), but in general we don't get them. That HBO piece last year explained everything, other NCAA players, including Big Ten kids, would laugh at Alando Tucker last year that he had to go to class. We need passable student-athletes. None of these guys have written theses of note, but they are passing classes and getting smarter, hopefully. So even if we switched to the Memphis/Phoenix Suns offense where the 5 moves to the weakside to create space for Dribble Drive, who's gonna execute? (BTW this offense is called Dribble Drive Kick Dribble Dribble or something ridiculous) Are we gonna run that for KrabbenBot? Is Tim Jarmusz going to the hole like the NBDLers at Memphis? Me thinks no. (BTW, is it me or do we lose all our dumb kids to Louisville?)

The Swing offense must be considered not as a underperforming stylistic choice, but instead a trait emblematic of our unique resources as a Midwestern University with unyielding academic standards. We know what happens when we try to defeat even Big Ten behemoths with high aptitude-pro stlyes. We suffer decades of futility. The Swing unites us like a phalanx against the tyranny of fake basketball prep schools that feed the High and Mighty programs. The Swing is our method. Bo Ryan looked at basketball and said: less turnovers, more free throws, good shots, solid defense. And he ran that formula over 30 years and has a tremendous resume. Come to Wisconsin and win. 

I'm convinced that if we move away from this style we will go back to losing. All emotion aside, the Swing is a proven winner. Wisconsin, not so much. Not a whole lot of talent or tradition here. But we are now (arguably) the top Program in the league and Top 15 Nationally. I think we have become a little too pompous to think that now WE are too good for the Swing. 

Can the Swing take us all the way to the title? I think so. But it may have to be tweaked a little. It seems high pressure defense on inbounds and on the perimeter needs to be incorporated. It works against us, that's for sure. And we should be more trained to go vertical against pressure. There is no reason Northwestern should be able to press and trap us. We should be passing over their heads and dunking it on their heads. 

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Best MSM Article About the Davidson Debacle

Is, unsurprisingly, from the Cap Times' Rob Schultz. See here.

One for Two

So my mentioning of Badger basketball recruits Jordan Taylor ('08) and Mike Bruesewitz ('09) playing in the 3A and 4A Minnesota state high school championship games only jinxed one of them. Bruesewitz's Henry Sibley team lost to favored Minnetonka, and Mike had a relatively quiet offensive game with 9 points, though he did grab 14 boards and block 5 shots. Sorry, Mike. Congrats on a great season, and remember that you do have one more year.
Taylor's Benilde-St. Margaret's squad, however, beat defending champ St. Thomas to win the 3A championship. Jordan had a big game, with 20 points, 10 boards, 6 assists, and 2 steals, including a steal and several free throws in the final minute to clinch his school's first state title-- congratulations on going out on top, Jordan. You're one of the lucky ones.

There were also some neat compliments and quotes scattered throughout the articles covering Taylor's 3A win. Taylor sounds like he'll be a good fit on the Badgers--
His coach:
"I've got the best point guard in the state. That's a pretty good comfort zone for a coach to have."
And, "Taylor is the hardest worker I've ever seen in a basketball player. He's always pushing everyone to play hard. He's always in the gym."
The opposing point guard:
"You can tell Jordan knows when to make something happen for his team," Waldvogel said. "I've played with him a lot in the summer. He's a special player."
Taylor himself:
"The strenuous drills that no one wanted to do. The complaining, the crying, the moaning. Playing 4-on-4 when the coaches didn't show up for practice, playing the littles against the bigs. So many great memories. To have it end like this with these guys is so great I can't even explain it."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Trend, and an Unacknowledge Profile

First, thanks to Hoops Marinara for pointing out the following-- over the past half-dozen games or so, the Badgers have fallen in love with three pointers. And with good reason: they've shot the lights out generally. If you hit 40% of your threes, that's obviously equivalent to hitting a much higher percentage of your twos. So keep shooting them. But at some point, the touch may desert you, as it did with Wisconsin in the second half against Davidson, and those looks will almost always be better if they're the product of an inside-outside game. UW seemed to forget those things.

Second, in retrospect, I think Davidson was made to beat Wisconsin. That's because they're offense is mostly built around what Wisconsin tries to force teams into-- taking jumpers. Wisconsin's defensive mantra is protect the rim, guard the lane, no easy shots. This frustrates most teams, since most D-I basketball guys are great athletes who like to get to the rack or post up. But Davidson doesn't have explosive slashers, and maybe has one solid leaper and low post threat in Lovedale. However, they do have a gaggle of outstanding jump shooters, including maybe the best jump shooter in the country in Curry. So what we were "forcing them into" they were happy to take, they were designed to take. Then when UW gave up on protecting the lane in order to cover more jump shots, Davidson, Richards especially, took the penetration we were offering them, and made the extra pass for easy baskets. Also, as the Duke, Purdue and Marquette losses demonstrated, UW struggles with smart pressure defenses. The refs let poor little Davidson play-act on offense and get handsy on defense, and without Hughes, the Badgers didn't respond by driving and drawing fouls. In sum, Davidson played both the exact right type of offense and defense to beat the Badgers. As they say, the Tourney is about match-ups. Maybe this is why I was pulling for Georgetown a week ago.

Accentuate the Positive

I'm definitely going to discuss the Davidson Debacle (that has a nice ring to it, don't you think?) more later, but now I wanted to pass along some encouraging tidbits. That is, two of Wisconsin's recruits, Benilde-St. Margaret's senior Jordan Taylor and Henry Sibley junior Mike Bruesewitz, will be playing in the various Minnesota high school state championship games.

Bruesewitz's team has never even made it to the state tournament before, and just dispatched a team with one of the most talented juniors in the country on it. Apparently Bruesewitz and this other touted junior got into a bit at one point and the other guy got a technical. Bruesewitz had this to say after the game-- "I'm just a country kid from Litchfield, but I had to stand up for my team." Hilarious. Bruesewitz's team is the underdog in the 4A championship game--the largest division in the state. Taylor's team plays in the second largest division, 3A. He had 43 points in his team's quarterfinal victory, and 19 in 21 minutes in an easy semi-final win. Congratulations to both these guys and good luck in the championship games. As U-65 said earlier, the Badgers are a program. They'll reload and keep on trucking.

p.s. Go Kansas!


i'm a total bitch for posting this, because i thoroughly enjoyed jumping on the bandwagon of my favorite basketball team as if they had solved any and all offensive problems after a miserable loss at Duke. But it turns out that they really never changed, and that their ability to run an offense and play team defense was only
as imposing as their conference counterparts allowed it to be.
They still run the swing offense.
Despite having superior athletic talent, the swing looked like the inferior system. It made a huge difference that they (davidson) shot the lights out of course, but still, let there be no illusion to the fact that the swing is easily defendable by even the slightest of capable, athletic opponents.
No matter how athletic our recruits get, and no matter how disciplined our system may be run, I seriously doubt that the swing will ever be dominant in an NCAA tournament setting.
Hopefully someday soon I will be proven wrong, but this year's team was the best badger basketball team I had ever seen and I am not going to hold my breath waiting for another group to prove the swing more accomplished and athletic than it is. We need to be more diverse. We need to be more athletic. As much as it pains me to say, Hubert Davis was right. We need to score more points.

Friday, March 28, 2008

So What the F*#%k Happened?

Well, first off, Wisconsin played the second worst game of the season. The worst still, in my mind, being the Duke game. Ok, maybe they're tied. Whatever. Fundamental things that they've been doing pretty well all season-- like getting back on transition defense, having the ball touch the post, not turning it over-- were totally lost. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

As folks have said, they didn't look like Wisconsin. They turned the ball over. They fouled too much, especially in the second half. They let pressure defense, from the champion of the Southern Conference (a team that swept Elon this season), rattle them and prevent them from getting the ball into the post. They shot not great jumper after not great jumper-- doing what UW usually does to opposing teams. Given the low number of decent looks, it's not surprising that they shot 39% from the floor. Terrible. Awful. Ugh. Again, reminiscent of the Duke blowout.

That said, two things that were mostly out of the Badgers' control occurred. First, Trevon Hughes got injured. The loss there cannot be understated. Defensively, Davidson is guard and forward heavy. Hughes is our second best perimeter defender, and would have been able to keep Richards (#2) out of the lane had he been healthy. Offensively, Wisconsin desperately needed capable ball handlers to dribble drive past Davidson's handsy pressure defense. Hughes is easily the team's best penetrator. So him going out was even worse offensively. Maybe this is the fruit of Mickey Perry transferring, because Wisconsin needed another good guard, and Bo obviously didn't feel comfortable putting Jarmusz out there. As Papa said to me, the Badgers never got burned by injuries all season, until this game. (Good thing UW has two capable looking guard recruits coming in next season.)
Second, Davidson came in on fire from outside, and stayed on fire. That stretch where Curry drained two threes in about a minute, after the Badgers had cut the lead to three, was staggering. Both shots were generally contested. It didn't matter. Davidson got some open looks, and often made UW pay for them. If a team takes 24 threes and makes half, they're almost always going to win. That's just how it works. The three point shot is the great equalizer. This is the first time that I've thought "well, I'm glad they're moving the line back next year." It's gotten to be too much of an advantage.

Finally, I'm rooting for Kansas. I hope they stop these little handsy, "someone else does our laundry", three-ball brats. Seriously, UW's team is full of middle class kids, from strong families, like Michael Flowers. Davidson has a bunch of foreigners with questionable immigration statuses, and an NBA legacy with a hot mom, an Oedipal complex, and a family fortune in the tens of millions. Lame. Booooo. Enough free press for the darling Cinderella. I want to see Darrell Arthur hammer dunks over and over again. I hope Kansas friggin' stomps them.

If I sound more sane than you'd think I would, it's because immediately after the game, I went and cooked a grass-fed steak (from this place) according to this recipe. Holy Christ, was it good. I had a NY strip, so I added three more minutes in the oven. Best home cooked steak, I've ever eaten, hands down. Life seems a little less grim when you've been wonderfully fed. Anyhow, say goodbye to meaningful sporting events until the draft in April, the UW Spring Game, and Packer training camp in August. I guess I'll have time to finally read Dostoyevsky's "The Possessed". Crap sandwich.

I just threw up in my mouth...

...a lot.

We got our asses kicked by a bunch of DIII players and the kid of an NBA journeyman. Dammit. We were out-Badgered on defense and allowed ourselves to be taken out of our offensive game, and they were retarded-hot on offense.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Random Thoughts

- So, Davidson, huh? I know three kids who have gone there. A fine liberal arts school-- the Amherst of the Southeast, which bizarrely decided to make its basketball program D-I. (Comparable schools, academically and size-wise, like Grinnell, Williams, Wesleyan, Pomona and Carleton are uniformly D-III and do not offer athletic scholarships. Though there are random exceptions-- like Colorado College in hockey.) But enough of the background. If you're like me, you're probably wondering-- "Gonzaga maybe, but how in the hell did Davidson beat Georgetown?" I was wondering that as well, especially since CBS refused to show Davidson rallying from a double digit deficit, preferring to show the interminable Butler-Tennessee game. But the box score generally reveals what happened. Georgetown blew it. They forced Davidson into relatively poor overall shooting. They did fine on the boards. They shot well. But the Hoyas fouled like crazy-- 27 fouls for the game. That led to Davidson shooting 30 free throws, which they converted at an 80% clip. Plus, they only forced 4 Davidson turnovers. Whoa, boy that's impressive ball security from Davidson. Then the Georgetown offense-- 20 turnovers in a 61 possession game. That's 30% of the teams' possessions-- flat on terrible. (The worst season-long turnover percentage in D-I this year was 28.6%.) And just that didn't do it. G'Town attempted 17 free throws; they made 8. Yeah, that's a 47% rate from the line, and they lost by four points. Shooting horribly from the line, fouling a ton, forcing no turnovers, and forfeiting 30% of your possessions. That's a self-induced recipe for failure.

- That's not to say that Davidson isn't a good team. They're 29th in Pomeroy's ratings (ahead of Ohio State and Illinois) and haven't lost a game since December. They played Duke, UNC and UCLA close earlier in the season. We know they have Dell Curry's kid, Stephen, and that kid is a legitimate great offensive player at any level-- an outstanding shooter from anywhere, a great ball handler, wonderfully heady. The shots of his parents in the stands may be annoying, but he is really good. Maybe we noticed Lovedale, the team's best rebounder. He looks pretty solid. They go nine deep. Most of their points come from their guards. They're very efficient offensively. They rarely turn the ball over, and defensively they do a good job of forcing turnovers and cleaning the defensive glass. But otherwise, they're not world beaters defensively. But it's enough to be concerned about, and not to get cocky over. Keep your heads, Badger fans.

- Lots of kudos to the team defense on Beasley yesterday. Landry, Butch, Stiemer, Krabby, all the frontcourt guys played their parts. And special props to Krabby, who switched between Walker and Beasley and back throughout the game. Not many tougher assignments than that.

- Did anyone notice that the Badgers started pulling away in the second half when they stopped turning the ball over? 3 turnovers in the second half and Wisconsin outscores K-State by 11. Not just a coincidence.

- I like this article, from the Kansas City Star, that claims Wisconsin had more talent than K-State, because talent should include being smart. At the same time, it's a little irritating because it reiterates the general media theory that Wisconsin's talent is less than other teams' in the tournament. I disagree. Wisconsin's roster is full of four (Stiemsma, Hughes, Bohannon, Leuer, Nankivil) and five star (Butch, Krabbenhoft) recruits. Kids don't earn those ratings unless they've demonstrated a fair amount of natural ability. And it's not like Wisconsin's players regress when they arrive on campus. They just subsume their abilities to the demands of the system and the team, because, as Butch has said, the team is all about winning. Apparently, you're not talented if you don't average 20 a game or don't constantly throw down tomahawks. Silly, and it's getting tiring.


Team, team, team. Feel the love. Hear Flowers signing the Bud Song, the jolly polka that ends with "When you Say Wisss-consin, You've Said it All!" with three minutes left and a 19 point lead. Witness how everyone accepts what they have to do (or don't get to do) on any particular night. Watch Krabbenhoft and Landry gamely guard the number one pick in the NBA draft, like a 7th grader trying to guard his 17-year old older brother. Recognize how heady this team is. Realize that the threes were being shot in the first half because the K-State guards were going under screens instead of chasing the ball-handler over them, thus strategy dictated to fire away. And that, conversely, Hughes scored repeatedly on drives in the second half because strategy said so-- K-State had changed tactics, seeking to take away the jumpers. Marvel at senior Greg Stiemsma, with all that fans know he's been through, from a torn ACL to depression turning him into a recluse, getting the best of the Big 12 player of the year, not just once, but over and over. What a spectacle for a Badger fan.

Live in the now, cherish the moment. This team is something special, but if you're reading this, you already knew that. An unprecedented Big Ten double championship, a school record 31st victory, two consecutive 30-win seasons (only the third time in Big Ten history that has ever been accomplished by any school)-- all these things make it pretty obvious. It could end as soon as Friday night against an excellent Georgetown team or an upstart Davidson College team. If not then, it may likely conclude against the Kansas Jayhawks, the best team in college basketball. So lets savor this. Savor the comraderie, Flowers' singing, Krabbenhoft tearing up when discussing Stiemsma's performance, Landry's and Butch's and Krabbenhoft's heroic and selfless defense, the wise and dedicated form of basketball we've gotten to watch this season.

If you need a play to remember, to sum it up, how about this? Flowers' drives in the second half after realizing the K-State guards were playing him for the jump shot, gets to the lane, draws help and dishes, hitting Butch on the hands. But Brian loses it, the ball bats around crazily, then Michael, hustling still, grabs it for a one hand push pass as he's lurching out of bounds. Shoving it right to Pop Hughes, the young man that the divining rod pointed to last night, standing alone on the left wing. Three pointer in rhythm, swish. Undeniably flawed, but beautiful, as are the best things in this world.

Friday, March 21, 2008

And so it begins....

It wasn't exactly what you'd want out of a first round NCAA tournament game. Wisconsin looked a little sloppy (Flowers throwing a ball to Landry's defender, right as Landry was cutting away), shot quite poorly from outside (3 of 16), and let Cal State Fullerton's leading scorer freak out to the tune of 31 points. Plus, the game was close throughout the first half, with the Badgers only up two at halftime. But they did a few key things that kept them ahead, and let them finally pull away-- draw fouls and not foul much in return, grab offensive rebounds for easy put backs (17 offensive boards), and play pretty good defense (CSF shot 36% from the floor). And, combined with decent free throw shooting, that was enough to pull away from the Titans.

In sum, it was a workmanlike effort. Not pretty, actually kind of messy, and bound not to impress any Kansas State Wildcats that were watching, but it got the job done. Time to recognize what can be done better (relax and be smart with the ball, hit your open shots, and aggressively attack the basket when you have a lane), and move on.

Up next, Kansas State, who "upset" USC yesterday evening. K-State was given an 11th seed, but they're clearly the most talented double-digit seed out there. Just watching bits of that game whilst making dinner, Michael Beasley is pretty scary. He grabs a rebound and you know it's his. It's really the man-playing-with-boys stereotype. Plus, he's not just a post-up player-- he'll face big guys up and drive right by them. The idea of Butch or Stiemsma trying to guard him face to face is frightening. I anticipate Landry will be on him, which could be ugly from the other end, honestly. He also fouled out Jefferson and Gibson, the two main USC guys who were guarding him. And then, you get all distracted by him and let other pretty darn good players, like Bill Walker (22 points and 5 boards and also a potential NBA early entrant) go off on you. As a Kansas fan I know told me, when K-State gets contributions from guys besides Beasley, they're pretty nasty. Which is why they're 13th in Pomeroy's ratings, despite having struggled down the back stretch of the season. It'll be a rough game come Saturday afternoon. The Badgers will need to play inspired defense and to play far more capable offense in order to pull that one out.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Cal State Fullerton Titans

Since I don't have a videotape lackey, I must rely on statistics to scout out the Badgers' first round opponents. As many articles have related, California State University at Fullerton (CSF) is a small team that plays at a fast pace. How fast? Well, of over 340 Division-I basketball teams, CSF plays at the 15th fastest pace. The only team UW has played that runs at a faster pace is Duke, who's 13th. (Uh oh. See here.) UW, conversely, is way way down at the end of that list, among the slowest paced teams in the nation. Not as slow as, say, Georgetown or Washington State, but pretty darn slow.

Why does this matter? Well, UW likes to slow things down because they value each possession. Bo's a believer in the points per possession statistic, and has figured out that if you can average a decent rating there (say slightly over 1) then you tend to win. So, from their perspective, it doesn't really matter how many raw points you score. What matters is being efficient with your opportunities-- taking high quality shots, drawing fouls if you can (free throws are the some of the easiest shots), and not turning the ball over. The same theory applies to defense-- play tough defense on each possession, try not to foul, and don't turn the ball over so the other team gets easy fast break opportunities. This theory works well if you've got solid post players (post shots are generally high quality and putting the ball in the post increases your chances of drawing a foul or creating an open jumper for a teammate). Wisconsin's been lucky enough to have guys like Mike Wilkinson, Alando, and this year Butch and Landry-- all of whom are solid inside players. That's also why Wisconsin runs the swing-- in it, everyone can post up and it's premised on hunting around for the best posting match-up. This offensive theory may not work as well if you're more perimeter dominated, or if you lack guards who can function as post players.

CSF is definitely perimeter oriented. (See their stats here.) A smaller, quicker team that's full of good shooters is often best served by running the ball up the court and taking faster shots. This prevents opposing teams' big men from running back and clogging up the lane, and is the smaller team's best shot at efficient offense. These types of teams may stress turnovers as a way to get even more easy baskets. And as a successful small team, CSF is very good at creating turnovers (they're 50th in the country), and they shoot a high percentage (18th in shooting percentage). That all makes sense because turnovers often lead to easy baskets. CSF is also surprisingly smart with the ball for a fast paced team. They, like UW, don't turn the ball over very often (37th lowest turnover percentage). That may be because they shoot before they have a chance to travel or make a bad pass.

Oddly, that's fine by UW's standards. UW isn't a turnover forcing defense. I think they've figured out that trying too hard to create turnovers often leads to too many fouls, and thus sort of cancels out the benefit of getting the turnover. UW wants to get back on defense and force you into tough jump shots with their five-on-five defense. And they've been fabulous at doing that this season.

To get to the point, CSF's whole system depends on creating turnovers, pushing the pace, and getting easy baskets. UW's whole system depends on judicious offense and full-team defense. I doubt that UW will have a ton of turnovers in this game, so that should crimp CSF's style, though they guards will likely play Marquette and Purdue style pressing, handsy, man-to-man D. If CSF can't get turnovers, what they'll probably try to do is run back after long rebounds and maybe take pull-up jumpers in semi-transition-- like when it's 4 on 4 or 3 on 3. I really think that's CSF's shot-- try to create turnovers, and if that doesn't work try to get decent looks in semi-transition. I could totally see them shooting a lot of semi-transition threes (and they're quite good shooters generally, so this is something to be concerned about). If CSF is getting good looks that way, I bet Bo pulls Butch and Stiemsma and puts a Hughes, Flowers, Bohannon, Krabby, Landry combo on the floor. Maybe with some relief minutes from Jarmusz and Leuer. I think that should throw a wrench in the semi-transition offense for CSF, and would still allow Landry to operate in the post. I could see him having a big game, and our traditional "bigs" not playing that much. Kind of like what happened against Northwestern in Madison-- Butch and Stiemsma were pretty quiet and Landry had 20 points. It'd be funny, since one of the other stories leading up to this game is our height vs. their lack of height.

Anyway, that's what to look for-- UW forcing them into contested jumpers with their half-court defense, and UW not turning the ball over. If those things happen, you have to like UW's chances. CSF's defense isn't that great besides their ability to create turnovers (they're decent defensive rebounders, but they give up high shooting percentages), so if the Badgers hold onto the ball they should get good shots off or get fouled. A good development to look for would be some of CSF's forwards getting into foul trouble, since they're not a deep team and that means UW is running their offense effectively. Anyhow, as Badger fans lets hope that UW rolls and crushes Cinderella's slipper. Game on.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Before the Madness, Some Football News

First off, the Packers finally signed a free agent-- agreeing to a two year deal with linebacker and former St. Louis Ram Brandon Chillar. The apparent point of this deal is to give the Packers some more depth at linebacker (they basically had none this past season) and to create some competition with Brady Poppinga, or to allow Poppinga to do some other things besides try to jam tight ends (like rush the passer). Chillar's only 25 and was a fourth round draft pick from UCLA in '04, and interestingly is one of the few Indian-Americans (that is, a descendant from people who lived in India) in the NFL.

Second, I can't decide whether I'm happy or unhappy that the number one high school senior in the football-playing universe, Terrelle Pryor decided to go the Ohio A&M College. I guess it's good for the Big Ten to have really talented players, but at the same time I'm not looking forward to him running around Badger defenders for four straight seasons. I'm sure I'd feel worse if he went to Michigan (who I dislike more than OSU for some reason), or if Wisconsin had been trying to recruit him. Does it really matter if your league is really strong though? Or would you trade a really good record every year for other people mocking your league and your schedule? I think I'd prefer the latter. Also, it's worth noting that Pryor referred to his future college as "the University of Ohio State."

Key Insights

Here's another thought-provoking, insightful analysis of the Badger Men's Basketball team.

An Interesting Piece in the Chicago Tribune

Apparently their main college basketball writer likes the Badgers-- the longest article in the Sports section today describes how Wisconsin can make the Final Four.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Random Basketball Notes

- Was anyone watching the ongoing pissiness between Illinois forward Brian Randle and Marcus Landry? Landry was fighting Randle for post position quite often, and there was a lot of whacking, undercutting and waving of arms. Marcus had that great block on Randle on what looked like a total breakaway dunk. And at least twice, Randle full on shoved Landry out of offensive rebounding position, and it went uncalled. After one of these incidents, I thought there was going to be a fight as they both walked down to the other end of the court. Thankfully, it looked like Marcus thought better of it. Ugly stuff. And an ugly way for Randle to end his career, but I guess it was sort of fitting. The guy was very talented-- tall, athletic, rangy, long arms-- but injuries seemed to prevent him from developing his offensive game, and his defense often seemed to be undermined by drawing too many fouls. I guess that tendency came out in his last game, seeing his team's dream run trickle out along with his career. His frustration is understandable, but t'was not a classy way to go out.

- To flip that discussion, congrats to Marcus Landry for winning the MOP of the Big Ten tourney. His block on Randle epitomized what UW has done this season-- sick defense, hustle, and determination. Also, props to Pop Hughes for taking care of his ankle and making some solid contributions on Sunday against Illinois. Tough stuff, given how much pain he seemed to be in on Saturday. He didn't seem as quick laterally, but his forward explosion was still there as he showed on several drives to the basket. And his arching jumper at the end of the first half was enormous. I trust the UW trainers know what their doing and aren't putting him at risk for chronic ankle problems.

- A few NCAA seeding discoveries. The head of the current tournament selection committee is George Mason's AD. The head for next season is the SEC commissioner. The other members are the commissioner of the Horizon League (UWM, Butler, UWGB), and the ADs of UCLA, Ohio State, UConn, Utah, Kent State, UT-San Antonio and UC-Riverside. See here. The bizarrely circular rationale they gave for their seeding and selection decisions was that what mattered most was "how the individual team performed against the rest of the field." But they get to pick more than half the field. They'll choose you based on how you did against other people they choose? Extending their base rationale a little, it would mean that beating Coppin State or American or Portland State or University of Maryland- Baltimore County would be more meaningful than a win at Iowa or against Missouri, Virginia Tech or Syracuse. That doesn't make any sense at all. The point is-- the committee sucks. These people are career PR bureaucrats, who have made livings trying to please everybody, meaning they will steer toward the most harmless sounding rationale. I say, fire the appeasers! Get some statisticians and journalists together and let them hash it out.

- A few more congratulations are in order. At the end of the regular and post-season conference tournaments, Wisconsin finished first nationally in defense, according to Ken Pomeroy's tempo-free ratings. That's a remarkable accomplishment. So it's not just the "they play at a slow pace" thing. The Badgers really play sick defense. Unfortunately, the same ratings reveal that Wisco got a bit screwed by the committee. The Midwest regional has a ton of good teams in it, including Kansas (rated 1 by Pomeroy), Georgetown (8), Clemson (12), Kansas State (15) and USC (20). Add Wisconsin in there (rated 4), and it's easily the most top heavy regional. A tough road to hoe ahead.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Let the Shafting Begin

So, unfortunately, as was sort of predictable, Wisconsin did not earn a number two seed in the tourney. Instead, they're the number three seed in the Midwest regional, facing Cal State Fullerton in the first round, and, if they manage to beat the champions of the Big West, will match up with the winner of USC-Kansas State, a sort of lottery pick showdown between OJ Mayo and Michael Beasley. The two seed on their side of the regional is Georgetown, which I actually think might be a good match-up with Wisconsin. They run a style of offense similar to Northwestern's, they play at a slow pace, generally play very good defense, and feature seven foot lottery pick Roy Hibbert in the middle. However, unlike UW, they tend to foul a decent amount. I always see an advantage for UW playing against handsy teams that are a bit careless with their fouls (like Sparty and Marquette). So if UW advances to the Sweet Sixteen, I have some hope for giving Georgetown (should the Hoyas make it to that round) a good battle. And that's as far as I'm willing to look right now.

What's interesting is that Georgetown is one of the teams that some predictors had UW bumping for a two seed. Duke was the other. It didn't happen in either case, so it's sort of fitting that G'Town is in UW's group of eight. They may be able to see who's better, straight up, should both teams win their first two games.

Why didn't that bump happen? Well, take a look at how the other Big Ten teams are seeded, and it becomes pretty clear. The NCAA selection committee thinks the Big Ten stinks. Indiana, the third place team in the conference, getting an 8 seed?! This is a team with two first round draft picks on it, and the consensus Big Ten player of the year, which went 25-7. The committee is telling us that an 11 loss Oklahoma team, who lost to Stephen F. Austin and Nebraska by 18, is significantly better? (The Sooners are a six seed.) Second place Purdue, who beat every other good team in the conference at least once and beat three seed Louisville, gets a sixth seed? Then Sparty, which finished well back from Purdue and Indiana gets a fifth seed. Weirdness.

The only thing to explain this is that the committee thought the Big Ten stunk. It underrated intra-conference performance, and mainly looked at how tough the teams' schedules were outside the conference. Indiana had a schedule full of patsies, except for Xavier, who beat them. They're one good non-conference win was over an iffy Kentucky team. Purdue beat Louisville, yes, but David Padgett wasn't playing and the Boilers also lost at home to Iowa State and Wofford. (Never mind that they have five freshmen in their rotation and that they've been excellent since then.) Sparty actually had a solid non-conference schedule-- playing and beating Texas, BYU and Missouri, and losing a close game to UCLA, their only loss in the non-conference portion. So apparently your performance during the conference season didn't matter that much. After all, in the selection committee's eyes, it was just crap on crap.

Or maybe there's a different reason they seemed to ignored Big Ten regular season performance-- they didn't get to see it. The Big Ten Network is still not available on most cable carriers, and satellites are still not that big a portion of the market. Out of sight out of mind, and apparently out of consideration for decent seeds.

What I also find funny is that the ACC got the same number of bids as the Big Ten-- four. But no one talks about the ACC being down, and none of their seeds suffered for it. Duke is still a two, despite finishing second and not making the conference tourney finals. And hell, Miami and Clemson are seven and five seeds, respectively. Clemson had six conference losses in an ACC that only sent three other teams to the tourney. And Miami was .500 in the conference and had one decent pre-season win-- over Mississippi State. And they're seeded ahead of Indiana? Come on, now.... Time to do some digging into who is on the selection committee.

Deferring Dreams, Making History

That's what the UW men's basketball team did this afternoon. They slammed Illinois' dream of redeeming their worst season in a decade, and they accomplished something no Wisconsin basketball team has ever done-- winning both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles in one school year. Congratulations, Badgers! A historic season, that, to me at least, erases the bittersweetness of last year, regardless of what comes in the tournament. More on this game and the Big Ten's likely shafting in the NCAA seeding later tonight. Try to not look ahead just yet, and savor this special season.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It doesn't matter in multiple ways

I agree with Mr. Man, that we won't get a two seed. It is more important is that we are a three though, so we are on the other side of the bracket from the #1. It seems as if there is no real difference between a 2 and 3, two high seed games on the first weekend and then play 2/3 in the Sweet 16. If the selection committee is reading this, it would be awesome to be in the Midwest regional in Detroit. Thanks.

I was very impressed with Bucky today...for 8 minutes. I was afraid that they would run out of time to take advantage of the Sparty hack-fest, but they finally got hot and made some clutch free-throws down the stretch (J-Bo excepted). On display, once again, was Billy Packer's idiocy. Apparently Butch didn't have a 3-point shot in his arsenal until recently (except for the last 4 years), J-Bo is too slow to guard Lucas (except for the entire second half of the game), and it was important for the Badgers to stop shooting from outside to win (except for 3s by Landry, a 4-point play by J-Bo, and a 3 and another 3 free-throws by Butch of a 3 point shot). Is he the dumbest color man in sports? Can we please have a contest between Packer and Tim McCarver for who can say the most uninformed, pointless things during a sports contest. Whoever has the most will have his tongue removed, runner-up has his jaw wired shut forever.

Fantastic, though it might not matter

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.

My name is Hubert

Hey, my name is Hubert. I think that the ACC is the ACC of college basketball. I think everyone else should get used to it. I used to play in the ACC as a college basketball player. Then I went into the NBA association, and learned how to hate college basketball. I hate college too. Just college.
I want everyone to know what I think. I think about the ACC. So know that I'm thinking about the ACC. Did anyone score basketballs in the hoop today? I did. I do everyday. It's in my blood. Can you spell blood? It's easy.
I think if you want to know anything you should try to know this: I think about the ACC. If you aren't down, then maybe you should learn to no-look pass or something. If you like to look when you pass, or bounce your passes, or not travel, then you should probably go back to watching Petticoat Junction, whitey.
Eat a dick.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's Michigan Tomorrow

Michigan is the process of wrapping up a first round victory over Iowa in a battle of the-struggling-and-new-but-highly-experienced-coaches. This makes me a bit nervous, given how closely Michigan played UW in Madison about seven weeks ago. I thought that game might be a turning point for them and they'd finally put it together, but they've continued to be up (beating OSU) and down (losing at home to Northwestern) since. Any predictions?

Why the Kohl Center was so damn quiet this year...

It wasn't just the red sweater crowd growing complacent. As this article explains (it's a bit long-winded so I'll summarize it), UW changed the way student season ticket holders get assigned seats. It's always been and remains a lottery to get student season tickets. But once you "get tickets", it used to be that you were assigned seats based on your willingness to be first in line on a particular Saturday morning in the fall. The first kids in line got first dibs on the choicest seats. That meant that really pysched students would camp out overnight, and usually resulted in the most committed students getting the seats closest to the floor. This also meant that the really loud, passionate fans were often massed together at the front of the student section.

But not this season. Instead, this school year seat selection was based on seniority, which meant that underclassmen (often the loudest fans) were exiled to the upper deck. This dispersed the core of really loud students, and apparently led to the Kohl Center being quiet as all hell for most of the season, as I've complained about earlier. The student who penned the piece I link to above claims that it cost UW the second game against Purdue, as the crowd never really got into that contest after Purdue jumped out to a sizeable lead. Not a bad argument. You only have to watch one game at Duke to realize that critical masses of loud students are a decided home court advantage. The UW ticket office should definitely tweak things so the most committed and loudest fans are clumped together and are close to the court. It helps the home court advantage, and it's good advertising and PR for the university.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Badger Spring Football

So the UW Badgers men's football team has begun its spring practice, culminating in the April 19th Spring Game. I think most of us know the main issues the team needs to face-- injury problems and thinness at defensive line and cornerback, under-performance at safety, inexperience at wide receiver, a new QB to break in, and a happy log-jam at running back where there seems to be a ton of talent.
Personally, I'm hoping the coaches come to their senses and start Jay Valai at safety, that some of the back-up cornerbacks, like Mario Goins and Otis Merrill, emerge as starter capable guys, that Evridge is an improvement over Donovan, that a few receivers, like Daven Jones and Isaac Anderson, break out, and that the rag-tag defensive line (now that it looks like Newkirk and DeCremer are out) develops. Also, like most folks, I'm intrigued to see the development of several back-ups that were highly reputed recruits. To that end, here are some stories to pass around--
- A Lucas piece on John Clay.
- A Journal-Sentinel bit on former receiver, now tight end Lance Kendricks.
- A State-Journal piece on Nick Toon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Positives and Negatives

Well, the Big Ten announced their annual awards this afternoon and alas, Michael Flowers did not win defensive player of the year. That went to Purdoodoo's Chris Kramer, who did lead the league in steals. Still, I'd take Flowers over Kramer any day of the week. And I have no doubt that Flowers could equal Kramer's steal total if the Badgers played Purdue's style of pressure defense. Kramer is, undoubtedly, an excellent player, but it's a shame. The coaches bought into numbers over substance, in my opinion.

The positives were that Michael was named to the all-defensive team, for the second straight season. Joining him on there was Joe Krabbenhoft, someone who doesn't get enough credit for being an awfully good defender. Michael, deservedly so, was also named second-team all conference by the media and third-team by the coaches. (I guess the coaches were just generally a little more down on Michael than the press, unfortunately.) Similarly, Marcus Landry was second team by the coaches and third team by the media. Congratulations, Marcus, and I hope you'll continue to develop during the rest of your time at Wisconsin. In a surprise, Butch was named first-team all conference by both the coaches and the media. Congratulations and well done, Brian. I believe Brian was honorable mention last season. Also, Trevon Hughes made honorable mention all-conference in both squads. I have no doubt that, barring injury or tragedy, Hughes will be a first team guy during the rest of his time here, however long that is.

The great and suprising award-- Jason Bohannon as sixth man of the year. Amen to that one. Without his shooting, capable defense, and smart decision-making, I don't know where Wisconsin would be. Certainly not atop the Big Ten. The complete list can be found here.

As far as my predictions, my main problem was drastically overstating everyone's opinion of Northwestern's Kevin Coble. I guess my opinion was biased by his total en fuego-ness against Indiana a few weeks ago, when NU gave them a scare. He scored 37 points, I think. None of the Hoosiers could stop him. And I underrated everyone's infatuation with Robbie Hummel who was a unanimous first-teamer, even though he lost out on freshman of the year to one-and-done Eric Gordon. I also can't believe Drew Neitzel made first team from the coaches. He had a rough season and Sparty underachieved.

Anyhow, congratulations to all the Badgers mentioned for their excellent achievements. It's remarkable that every one of the Badgers' top six players won some form of all conference recognition. Simply remarkable. And congratulation to the rest of the team for helping get these guys the recognition-- through hard work and dedication.

Addendum! The Journal-Sentinel, I guess as a product of being the largest paper in the state, named Flowers its "Division I State Player of the Year". See here. That apparently means, the best or most important player on any of Wisconsin's four Division I programs (UWM, UWGB, Marquette, and Wisconsin). A nice and well-deserved honor for Michael. The J-S also named Bo its Division I Coach of the Year. See a write up of that here.

Badger Tidbit

Today on Basketball Prospectus, the former Big Ten Wonk, John Gasaway, has published tempo-free (and thus more revealing) stats on all of the BCS conferences. Gasaway, in addition to being a consistent advocate of revealing statistics like points per possession, is a pretty entertaining writer. His numbers on the Big Ten have the Badgers revealed as the best team, and he lobbies for Bo as "National Coach of the Decade." High praise. Gasaway is the only writer I know who picked UW to win the Big Ten.

By the way, his stats show that UW averaged an excellent 1.09 PPP on offense during the conference season, and only allowed .91 PPP, for a very large differential of .18, best in the league. Of course, UW does play at the second slowest pace of any team in the conference, even slower than Northwestern...

Corey Williams Reaction

I know this is hopelessly outdated, but hey, I was on vacation when it happened. Anyhow, I don't think this is a bad deal. Although the Packers, especially now that Favre's retired, certainly could have afforded to have paid Williams his franchise salary, a second-round pick is pretty fair value for the guy. Williams was a solid-starter. A passable run defender, and a good pass rusher at the DT position. Not a star, not a pro-bowl guy. His success depended on the people around him being pretty good. He didn't create mismatches by himself. Rather, he was able to take advantage of favorable match-ups that other players created. That became very clear when Ryan Pickett missed a couple of games late this past season. In that stretch, with Pickett no longer drawing double-teams, Williams disappeared. When Pickett returned, and Williams started getting more favorable match-ups again, you started hearing Corey's name far more often. I think that's proof that Williams wasn't worth paying like a franchise guy season-in and season-out. He's just not a top-of-the-line defender-- just a good, solid player. The kind of guy that beats iffy opponents one on one, plays solid opponents to a draw, and gives ground to really good opponents. He may look like a star for a year or two in Cleveland playing next to Shaun Rodgers (that was a huge pick-up for the Browns), but really he's just a solid starter, not an all-pro. Better than most guys in the league, but not the cream of the crop. So it's a loss, but not one to be too sad about.

And a second round pick is pretty good value for a solid starter, especially given Thompson's positive draft record, though I would have liked the pick to be higher. (It's the 25th pick of the second round, the 56th pick overall.)

As I mentioned before, you have to wonder a little why the Packers didn't just pay Williams the franchise money this season, then franchise him again next season and trade him then. They have a lot of money lying around, and don't look like they're doing much in free agency this season. But it sounds like Corey became significantly "disgruntled" after the Packers tagged him. He always had nice things to say about the franchise during the season, but upon arrival in Cleveland the only thing he said about Green Bay was that "he wanted out." He said this more than once.

And I can understand being pissed. Given the short career-span of football players, you may only get one chance to sign a big fat deal that sets you up for life. By franchising him and then trading him, the Packers never allowed Williams to sample the market, and the market may very well could have given him even more guaranteed money than Cleveland. And remember, Corey Williams was a sixth round pick. He's been playing for relatively little (in NFL terms) for several years. I think I'd be pissed too.

Going forward, the Packers D-Line rotation looks like this-- LE- Kampman, DT-Jolly (if healthy), DT-Pickett, RE-Jenkins. Back-ups are KGB, Mike Montgomery, and Jason Hunter at end, and Colin Cole, Daniel Muir and Justin Harrell at tackle. That's not a bad group, if people start living up to expectations and if guys like Jenkins and Jolly can get and stay healthy. I'd like to see another end or a pass rushing tackle picked up in the draft though.

P.S. Check out the section of this article, from the Boston Globe, titled "Browns Make Score, But Give Packers Extra Points". (It's about half-way down.) It summarizes Thompson's strategy pretty succinctly, I think.

Easier than It Looked

That's what Wisconsin's victory Saturday afternoon over Northwestern was. Close and frustrating (because, predictably, of too many turnovers from Northwestern's zone press), until the last few minutes of the second half. Then, NU stopped scoring, and Wisconsin calmed down, stopped turning the ball over, and worked their way inside for decent looks, or crashed the boards hard for rebounds and tip-ins. Northwestern's biggest guy is 6'8" and none of their guys are very stout. Their most muscley player is probably their freshman point guard. That's why they play a 1-3-1 zone-- they're trying to keep the ball out of the perimeter, because they know if you get decent post position on them, you have an excellent chance of scoring. That's what happened from the 15 minute to the 30 minute mark.

Combine smart offense with what happened on defense, where Wisconsin stopped overplaying Northwestern's cuts, and you have a serious Wisconsin style "run"-- no scoring from the other side, consistent, but not spurting offense, and after a while, a big fat lead. It was 19 points with 10 minutes left, basically insurmountable given Northwestern's O and the Badgers' D. Wisconsin relaxed a little bit, and let NU trim the lead to 11, but the game was essentially over with 10 minutes left. All in all, that was a fine accomplishment given Wisconsin's history of frustrated, lackluster play in Evanston, both on the basketball court and on the football field.

Random game notes--

- Trevon took a bit of a beating in this game. He had a few turnovers, got shoulder checked in the face on a moving pick, Coble backhanded him in the gnards on an obvious uncalled foul, and the game ended with one of the Northwestern seniors, Tonjua Jones, a back up guard cursing him out, and getting called for a technical foul. (On senior day, no less!) Nice job, jackass. You would have hoped your $200,000 education had sunk in a little more. Thank goodness Trevon totally ignored the guy. Way to keep your cool, Pop. You're the big winner.

- The excellent statistical games of Landry in the first Northwestern game (21 points), and Butch in this one (20), demonstrate Northwestern's problem. They have no bigs, and their zone scheme is only effective when it forces turnovers or keeps the other team out of the post. And the secondary flaw with their zone is that it takes their 100-pound weakling of a team and puts it in poor rebounding position. You get a strong, reasonable-sized competent post player, and they're going to go to town on NU. First time around, it was Landry with the lay-ups and the tipped misses. This time around it was Butch. I think that's actually quite encouraging, and shows that Butch has improved his quickness, because on the defensive end, whoever your frontcourt guy is, he has to run guard what are essentially a bunch of small forwards. Butch got all the points because Bo was comfortable leaving him in defensively. That was not as much the case in the first game, where Brian played fewer minutes.

- If they want to get better, which they apparently don't, Northwestern has got to do some serious things. I've got three steps.
Step one-- lower the admission requirements for basketball players. As Duke has shown, a school can benefit tremendously from having a good men's basketball team. And hell, the number of students you have to make exceptions for is tiny. It's three or four kids a year. Northwestern has a pretty campus, is an excellent school in a big league, and sits atop of one of the nation's hotbeds of basketball talent. They shouldn't have to rely on Eastern Europeans and French-Canadians to fill up their roster.
Step two-- play more attractive basketball. This step may require the school to fire Carmody, who only seems to know irritating zone defenses and the intensely boring Princeton offense. That offense lets smaller, less athletic teams make up their physical deficits with smarts and skill (passing and shooting). Unfortunately, in the Big Ten, you get teams, like Wisconsin, that are bigger, more athletic, and just as smart and skilled. Or teams (like Sparty and Indiana), that are so much bigger and more athletic, that it doesn't matter. After this year's one-win team, it's time to go back to the drawing board. I suggest playing a more attractive style of basketball to attract the less academically qualified recruits they'll now be admitting.
Step three-- fix that awful "arena." Welsh-rarebit is an embarrassment. Even though it's tiny, it's always half empty, except when visiting fans overwhelm it. Then there's the weird lighting, terrible concessions service, and awful layout (concession lines blocking bathroom access). It's easily the worst basketball stadium in the Big Ten. Hell, UIC's and UW-Milwaukee's stadiums are far nicer. It might be the worst basketball stadium in the Horizon League.
Of course, hopefully, from Wisconsin's perspective, Northwestern will do none of these things and remain a doormat. The less competition the better, I guess.

- Jason Bohannon is now one of the best free throw shooters in Wisconsin history, having made more consecutive free throws than any other Badger player ever. I love that this had happened-- that he's become the ice-man at the line. It's great to have one of those guys on your team. Plus, he's confident about it. Check this out, from Rob Schultz in the Cap Times-- "Bohannon's knees weren't exactly knocking after he stepped to the line with 3:44 to go to attempt the free throw that would break [Wes Matthews Sr.'s] record. He stunned junior swingman Joe Krabbenhoft by turning around to face him while doing a little play-by-play before he took the shot. 'He looked back at me and said, "This is for the record,"' Krabbenhoft recalled. 'I said, "Turn around and shoot it. Don't even think about it." Of course, he goes up and knocks it down.'"
Awesome. Confidence is a good thing.

The Big Ten tournament awaits, starting Thursday. The Badgers' first game is Friday morning at 11. Since the tourney has relocated to Indianapolis for the foreseeable future, you'd think that gives a homefield advantage to IU and Purdidn't, but thankfully, with the Badgers winning the Big Ten outright, those two teams are on the same side of the bracket, so will likely knock each other out. Bucky will face the winner of Iowa and Michigan, two transitioning teams that have made some improvements as the year progressed. Wisconsin swept both of them in the regular season, but had to work hard for the wins the second time around. The third round could get interesting. If Wisconsin manages to beat the winner of Iowa/Michigan, then it would play the winner of OSU/Sparty in the semis in another likely very tough game. Should be a fun week of basketball ahead.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Random Badger Observations

- A really neat compliment that Larivee and the BTN color analyst relayed last night-- the PSU coach said that UW was "unscoutable" since pretty much every one of the team's first eight players is capable of doing some offensive damage on any given night. That is a remarkably cool thing to hear about your team-- that they're so cohesive and varied, you can't figure out where the points are going to come from. It may not get UW a bunch of all-conference players (I doubt UW will have any first team guys), but it has gotten them at least a share of the conference title.

- Speaking of first team all conference guys, I predict Jamar Butler, DJ White, Kevin Coble, Raymar Morgan and Eric Gordon. I hope and wish that Flowers wins defensive player of the year, but I think it might be White with all his blocks, despite the fact that he does statue impersonations whenever he picks up a foul or two. Other all-conference defensive players should be Al Nolen, Chris Kramer and Ekepe Udoh.

- I'm not sure what the deal with Kevin Gullickson is. To remind those out there, except for his minute of garbage time at the end of the PSU game, he hasn't seen the floor since getting his third ticket for public drunkenness in January. (He also turned 21 in February, thankfully.) I don't know if we'll ever find what's going on. I know UW has already signed four high school seniors for next season, but the various recruiting sites keep mentioning UW as being in contact with other random uncommitted seniors, including a power forward from the Quad Cities, and swingmen from Moline, Champaign (Shampoo-Banana), and Arizona. That makes you wonder whether there's going to be some unanticipated freeing up of a scholarship beyond the four seniors (Flowers, Butch, Stiemsma and Bronson). With Gullickson's exile to the back of the bench after one too many drinking tickets, you have to speculate-- will Kevin be leaving the team after the season ends? Personally, I like the kid a lot. He's a gamer (see his valuable minutes against Texas), by all accounts an excellent student, and by getting really drunk and wandering around campus he was merely following established Wisconsin traditions.

- Worst moment of last night's game-- JP Gavinski airballing an 8 foot turn-around jumper, while being guarded by a shorter back-up PSU forward. Ugh. That was the worst non-shot clock running out shot I've seen a Badger take in several seasons. If Gavinski turns into a Dave Mader like contributor by the end of his career, I think we'll be lucky.

- Again, boy do I wish Stiemsma had redshirted his first year. He looks more and more confident and comfortable, both on defense and offense. He'll probably never have Butch's dribbling ability and range, but he's bigger, stronger, a better passer and more athletic, and has some traditional post moves (ambidextrous hook shots) that Brian lacks. Is it crazy to think that he has a future in the pros, either domestically or overseas? Along those lines, is it crazy to think that Flowers has a future in the pros, either domestically or overseas? Could he not be just as good as Chris Duhon is on the Bulls? (A back-up point guard who can hit jumpers, make an occasional drive, take care of the ball, and play solid defense.)

- My father has recently referred to Welsh-Ryan Arena, where the Badgers will play their final regular season game come Saturday, as "Welsh-Rarebit." For those of you who don't know what that is, click here. I remain a bit nervous about Saturday's game, although since NU has finally managed to win a Big Ten game, UW has already clinched a share of the title, and this Badger team has been so smart and determined recently, I'm feeling oddly optimistic.

- The talk that the Badgers are "overachievers" and that the "whole [of this team] is more than the sum of its parts" is wrongheaded and tired. Look at the recruiting numbers (according to Rivals): Stiemsma and Butch-- four and five star players; Bohannon and Hughes-- four star players; Krabby-- a five star player; Leuer-- a four star player. The only guys who appear to have overachieved are "three-star" guys Flowers and Landry. Personally, I think the recruiting folks blew it on Landry, and that Flowers is a great athlete and competitor who's worked his butt off and developed. Now, the team may be better than the sum of its parts, but that's due to good coaching and dedicated, unselfish players, not iffy talent. Nearly every good team is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

Krabbenhoft Dunks!

Woo hoo! Forget the Big Ten Championship-- the Hoft actually threw one down, for the first time ever in his collegiate career! I can't tell you how long I've been waiting for that kid to two hand a shot through the basket. Alleluia! In fact, I believe this game featured more dunks by more goofy looking over-sized upper-Midwest Caucasians (three of them featured above) than any collegiate basketball game in history. At least since the retirement of George Mikan. Butch threw one down, Stiemer threw down two big ones, the Hoft had his aforementioned slam off a nice Stiemsma feed. Hell, even JP (no personal offense, but boy I wish we could have your scholarship back) Gavinski dunked a miss in garbage time. (The BTN cameras smartly cut to the bench afterward, where the regular rotation was on its feet, laughing hysterically.) Tanner Bronson swished what will probably be his last shot as a Badger, Wquinton Smith, the new walk on, got on the floor, Jarmusz hit the first three of his career, and even Kevin "I'm now of legal drinking age" Gullickson, got back on the floor and made a shot. (Does this mean he's finally out of the doghouse?)

Seriously, this was a dominant, great Wisconsin win, a wonderful way to send out the seniors, and a fitting game to clinch a share of the Big Ten title. The Badgers only had six turnovers. They played lockdown but clean defense on PSU, allowing less than 30% shooting, and only fouling PSU 7 times. The team shot the lights out, but shared the basketball, with no one taking more than 8 shots and 11 players scoring. (And it would have been 12 had Leuer not bricked two free throws.) Plus, even though PSU was without its best remaining player in Jamelle Cornley, the Badgers didn't relax. They put the pedal down, exemplified most by Michael Flowers, who I swear had more than double the two steals the box score gave him. The margin became huge because they played tough, smart, and with energy but no nerves. And they played together. Team, team, team. Well done, Badgers.

Now, as they might say in Mortal Kombat-- Finish Him! Go to Northwestern and rewrite the history that has you struggling there. Make your own destiny. Dominate them like you can and should and keep the Big Ten Title all to yourselves. Represent.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


So goes today one of the best to ever lace them up, Brett Favre, choosing to retire. Mr. Favre has been my favorite player in any sport, ever. He was in short, my sports Shane. He rode in, bested foes, defined masculinity both on the field and off, and now is riding off into the sun. 

My cap goes off to him as I've enjoyed him longer than any fan deserves to enjoy the actions and antics of any one player. He played EVERYGAME. He won a Super Bowl, he could've won more. He won 3 MVPs. He and Reggie White changed the entire perception of Wisconsin on a national level. He stiff-armed D-Linemen. I'll repeat it cause we may never see it again, he stiff-armed D-Lineman. He always got up. Other times a defender would come flying in and when 95% of QBs would take a sack, he became the all-time leader in the "mini-roll right, pump fake, step left, find guy and fire". 

I'm so glad he and Green Bay met. They're a perfect match. There are atleast 20 hilarious clips where the camera and microphone catch him tearing up the room with funny remarks. He's old school, he's funny, he was our quarterback.

So long Brett, I've already forgotten all of your frustrating weaknesses.


Now we get to watch the Brett Favre unretirement media frenzy. Mortensen is gonna have a camera in Favre's garage. We're gonna hear shit like; 'he's been keeping himself in great physical condition... swimming with aligators and walking his daughter to prom and such... He went ahead and had the other half of his lower intestines removed and Brett told me yesterday he's never been lighter on his feet... Back to you, Stan'.

Honestly, I'm still mad about the four picks to brian williams when we lost at home to the vikings in the playoffs 4 years ago. Aside from that, I don't really believe he's going to be able to stay away. Especially when the team is decent and needs him to step in. Which is what will happen.

Strahan's his boy, and he hasn't even said a thing about winning the superbowl because he's still talking shit on Brett's voicemail about how he didn't have to go through training camp. Favre just doesn't want to work, but he knows he can't just skip it. He wants to give Rodgers some work, end the stupid streak (knowing when he comes back from retirement it will continue anyway), and play a 10 game season with no preseason. watch.

By August, Mark Clayton will be giving us updates on what Favre 'had for lunch today'.


I never looked at what it was. But after seeing that Purdue currently has an RPI of 28 behind cupcakes like Michigan St., Pittsburgh and Arizona (or, if you think those teams are good, Butler, BYU and UNLV). Also, Louisville (not a cupcake), whom they beat 67-59 in West Lafayette. 'How could this be'? I thought.

In their losses they've been beaten by an avg. of just over 5 pts/gm and 5 of their 6 losses came on the road. The one home loss to Wofford. Which apparently is killing them? I used to think we got no respect.

the following is cut and pasted from to which there is a link on the right down there. I highly recommend it for setting up yo brackets.

The RPI is calculated by adding three parts.

Part I (25% of the formula): Team winning percentage. For the 2005 season, the NCAA added a bonus/penalty system, where each home win or road loss get multiplied by 0.6 in the winning percentage calculation. A home loss or road win is multiplied by 1.4. Neutral games count as 1.0. More on the effect of these changes can be found here.

Part II (50%): Average opponents’ winning percentage. To calculate this, you must calculate each opponent’s winning percentage individually and average those figures. This is NOT calculated from the opponents’ combined record. Games involving the team for whom we are calculating the RPI are ignored.

Part III (25%): Average opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage: Basically taking all of the opponents’ Part II values and averaging them.

so apparently wofford is 12-39, with over 2 dozen losses to the worst division 1 teams in America? I still can't imagine how Purdue doesn't have a better RPI. Maybe I'm just impressed that they beat us twice. They're just as good as us. But I guess beating Texas counts as much for you, as losing to Wofford counts against you. Makes sense. But... I'm sure it works out.