Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bubble Team

That's what this UW men's basketball team looks like now. Hell, they way they've played in the last three games, they look like an NIT team. And one that doesn't do much in the NIT to boot. Tonight, they play at an 80% full Iowa arena, against a team missing two starters, who had lost three in a row coming in. They look loose with the basketball, make lazy odd passes, resulting in a ton of turnovers given the low number of possessions in this game. And the killer, the ultimate sign of a loss if you're a UW fan-- committing way too many fouls. Certainly, the refs were calling the game ridiculously tight. Every drive Iowa made in the second half seemed to result in a foul. UW just didn't adjust though.

Yes, Taylor's shot to force overtime was remarkable. It was excellent to see him get some confidence and contribute, and the additional shots he made in overtime were great. But with no Leuer and Krabby in the extra period, and with Bo sticking Pop on the bench for no apparent reason (why not play Hughes and Taylor at the same time?), you never had the feeling that UW was going to make a solid push. They just didn't seem inspired, which is odd, because we've seen a very solid, and very inspired UW team at earlier points this season. So yeah, tough ugly road loss in the Big Ten. It happens, I know. But what's scary, is what's going to happen going forward.

I'm sure most UW fans, myself included, looked at the conference schedule and thought "win, win" for the last two games. It has not been so. Wisconsin is now 3-3 in conference. Consider the next five games, and assume a similar level of performance from the past three game. At Illinois on Sunday. Given how the Fightin' Fibs have been playing, especially at home, that looks almost like a guaranteed loss. They've always played great team defense under Weber, and this year is no exception, and their sophomore big men have really come along. Then Purdue at home. Loss. At Northwestern, who is coming off wins against Minnie and today (shockingly) Sparty. Decent chance of a loss, given UW's troubles in Evanston. Illinois at home. Again, a decent chance of a loss, and should be, at the least, a very, very close game. Then at Penn State, ditto. In three weeks, Wisconsin could have an 8 game losing streak. Crazy to think of, given the level of success we've been used to, but still. It seems well within the realm of possibility.

I'd like to think that the solid contributions of Nanker and Taylor tonight are a sign that the team's depth will be better as the season goes along, and that this loss can just be written off. But this sudden and uncharacteristic tailspin the past three games has me feeling odd. Loads of fouls, poor rebounding, unclutch defensive lapses, weird turnovers, poor three point shooting, changes in the starting line-up, and now benching of starting point guards. Something strange is afoot, and I don't mean that in a good way.


Hopped Up said...

That was f'ng terrible. Half-empty arena (seriously, they can't get 6k to come out? I don't care if it's cold) Empty row behind goal = home court advantage FAIL. Lousy team on a bad losing streak (against weak teams) and Bucky comes up small. Taylor looked great for the end which was fun, but no points for the team in 2 minutes in OT kills.

You always warned that games in Evanston are not fun, but I made the mistake of buying 3 about a month ago. Two more losses and any Coble momentum for NW after the two wins over ranked teams, and I'll be drinking whiskey by the half.

nate said...

you should be drinking whiskey well before tip off.
scream at children. make enemies. evanston gets rattled.

Hopped Up said...

I'm wondering if last night was the turning point for red sweater sentiment toward Bo Ryan. Or if this upcoming stretch goes as badly as you (and I) imagine, whether there could be some pressure on him. His regular season record is fantastic, but only one Elite Eight appearance makes me wonder if the tide might turn against him if this season ends up with a losing Big Ten record. Actually, looking at the NCAA tourney performance is kind of startling since all of his Big Ten success has made him seem invincible to criticism.

Mr.Man said...

The established fans who pay for season tickets still remember the pre-Kohl Center years. Even if they end up with a losing record and don't make any post-season tourney this year, Bo will be safe for years. That said, there'll be a lot of grumbling if they lose 8 straight.

And I actually think it's hard to criticize UW's tourney performance unde Bo. The only year I recall them seriously underperforming their seed was Alando's last year where Butch got hurt and threw the team's mojo off. (Sadly, I was at the UNLV game.) Although the loss to Davidson was disappointing, they played up to their seed last season.