Well, Wisconsin gave it a ride. They were there for quite a while, but eventually the X-Men were just a little too much. Too much sizeable strength in the front court, too much strong cleaning of the defensive glass, too many well contested shots.
This game was a bit of the microcosm of the issues with this year's team, honestly. When Leuer and Nankivil were playing decently, the team was right in the thick of things. When they started fouling (Leuer), and bricking decent shot after shot in the post (Nankivil), and blowing defensive assignments (both, but most plainly Nankivil on that wide open dunk), things broke down. Pop and Landry kept them in it for a bit, with Hughes drawing fouls, and Marcus scoring on some nice post moves, but Xavier adjusted on Landry, Pop stopped getting the calls and couldn't really convert on most of his shots. Thus, the offense dried up, the lead evaporated, and the season trickled to an end.
In order to beat better teams this year, and there's no doubt in my mind that Xavier was a slightly better team, UW either needed a great team effort, or for someone to be on fire. When the production from your five spot is poor, when you don't have anyone hitting their shots (like Bohannon was against FSU in the second half), when your team's heart and best rebounder (Krabby) is hampered by fouls the entire game and you're playing against a big team with excellent rebounders, well, that's a sure recipe for a loss. Thus, this loss highlighted the issues with this team once more:
- The lack of quality depth.
- The lack of a go-to scorer on offense.
- The revolving door at the third frontcourt spot.
- The lack of physicality, athleticism and size up front.
So they went out like they played. They were who we thought they were, to paraphrase Denny Green. The failure of JP Gavinski to develop in his third year in the program and provide the team with a serviceable big guy, the failure to land a true impact player in the last few years of recruiting, the lack of depth due to the impatience of guys like Mickey Perry (who certainly would have played just about as much on this year's team as he did for Dayton--- 14 minutes a game), Leuer and Nankivil's slow grasping of the team's defensive principles, the bill on all of this stuff came due, again. Of course, there was a big positive in this game-- except for some loosening down the stretch, they held a pretty darn good Xavier team to less than 40% from the field. That's solid defense any way you slice it, and bodes well for the future, especially since Krabby was on the bench for a fair amount of the game.
It was nice to see Landry have a solid game in his last college outing-- stepping up on the boards and getting a double-double. He's had some serious times in Madison, and seems to have matured immensely. He will be missed. Good luck to him and his family.
I felt the worst for Krabby-- no points, just a few rebounds, fouling out, and (worst of all for him) going out with a loss. But remember Joe, unless you play in the Ivy League, or win the Tourney, the NIT, or that other weird tournament, every squad ends the season on the right hand side. Good luck to Krabby, as well.
More forward-looking thoughts later on this week.