Monday, March 02, 2009

Back in Madison

Yeah, so I went to the Wisconsin-Michigan basketball game yesterday with a good friend who's a Michigan alum. (He was not the dick Michigan fan shouting "Miss it!" in an otherwise deathly quiet Kohl Center when the Badgers were shooting free throws.) As many folks are saying, this is a win that puts the Badgers in reach of the tournament. A win at Minnie this week (followed up by a home win over Indiana) would seal it I think. With a loss at Minnie, and a win over IU, I think I'd want a first round win in the Big Ten tournament before I'd be relatively comfortable with their chances. Yeah, I know their RPI is good, and their strength of schedule is excellent, but still. I'd like them to be safe. Anyhow, various observations:

- UW and Michigan are sort of like polar opposites. Michigan starts a guy who was a walk-on. Pretty much all of their seniors are former walk-ons, and most of them (like Lee and Merritt) play a fair amount. The point is, they have little depth. DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris are burgeoning stars-- true sophmores with legitimate All-conference ability. Zach Novak, their pure shooter 2-guard is a true frosh. Everyone else on that team is pretty fungible. They lack solid role players. UW, by contrast, seems to have a team full of solid role players-- Bohannon is an excellent spot shooter, Krabby is a fine defender and excellent rebounder, etc. But I don't know if UW has a guy with the ceiling that Sims and Harris have. Maybe Leuer. Sometimes Pop, I guess, but he only has one season left. Anyhow, it made for a funny contrast.

- So the Pops' seats are at the baseline, about ten rows up behind the visiting bench. They're good seats, and thus we're surrounded by the Madison bourgeoise-- a class that seems to be rapidly aging, and growing increasingly persnickety. That is, clapping or shouting during Michigan's offensive possessions (along with the student section) earned me a bevy of stinkeyes from the folks in the rows in front of me. Particularly from this pallid high schooler who was a ringer for the bizarre arty son in Wedding Crashers, and a red-sweatered sextegenarian working a salt-and-pepper afro. Sorry, folks, I like to cheer, and I think making things loud for the opposing team helps UW's cause. We also got some hilarious chatter from the retirees behind us about the referreeing. Apparently every time Marcus Landry touched the ball he got fouled. Who knew? (I tried to get my UM fan to appreciate the comedic value of their complaining. Like the time they started complaining about Michigan goaltending on a rebound on the far baseline--those seats have the worst angle in the stadium for making that call.)

- Whenever the typical Jarmusz-for-Krabby substitution occurred, I experienced a feeling of dread. Don't know why, and I'm not sure if the Badgers' performance merited that feeling. As much as I'd like Timmy to be the new Krabby, I'm just not seeing it-- maybe the new Clayton Hanson, if Hanson was taller and somewhat afraid to shoot...

- I don't know if Michigan will make the tourney or not. I think they have one more conference game. If they win that, and win their first rounder in the Big Ten tournament, then maybe? My buddy kept ranting about how they were the worst road team in the conference-- even when I pointed out that Iowa and Indiana are clearly worse. Anyhow, their best players (Sims and Harris) are both sophs. Novak is a frosh. Transfer Lucas-Perry (who has fallen out of favor, but is still pretty talented) is a soph. They have four decent looking prospects coming in next year, including the 14th rated point guard in the country. Their zone defense in the last 8 minutes of the first half was excellent. I look for them to get better and better in the next few years, although I wouldn't be surprised to see Sims leave early.

- Anyhow, this was a bit of an ugly game. UW was dominant in the first ten minutes, with Michigan coming out man-to-man, and getting owned. Then Wolvie switched to zone and (after a few mintues) really established themselves, and UW did their uber-frustrating "pass the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock is almost up" thing, or turned the ball over. At the other end, UM drained a bunch of threes. During that strech, UW scored once in 8 minutes. Ugh. Thankfully, Hughes and Boyanyon each nailed a three to make the halftime score respectable. Then, to start the second half, UW either put the clamps down defensively, or Michigan went into the dumper. Either way, again, Michigan scored one basket in the first ten minutes of the second half. But the pace was so slow, or UW wasn't hitting enough shots, so they only built up a nine-point lead. Yeesh. It was ugly and semi-tightly contested from then on, especially, as a UW fan, all the missed free throws down the stretch. Not a pretty game. Good thing it was on the Big Ten Network.

- Speaking of free throws, the students need to start doing something when the Badgers are shooting charities. It's too quiet, enabling spoiler visiting fans to be heard. Unfortunatley, given the administration's successful effort to muzzle the student section, I doubt anyone will come up with anything. Speaking of that, there were a lot of empty seats in the lower bowl of the student section. A lot of kids standing around, a fair number sitting, many not really into the game, not dancing with the band. Again, the university needs to change the way they allocate tickets so that passionate student fans get the prime seats down low. The student section was helpfully loud at times, but compared to years' past, it was lame. Come on, Biddy! UW's lost more home games since the student ticket policy was changed than the previous four seasons combined. Time to try something new.

- Final note--for post-game munchies, I can highly recommend the chorizo-egg torta at this establishment, very conveniently located for those heading out of town to the East (just between East Wash and Willie Street).

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