Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wisconsin-Valparaiso thoughts

Just got done watching the Badger-Valpo game, and I'm not second-guessing the decision to watch the Bourne Identity instead last night. Not a work of art by any means, but a good win against a good team that will give Butler a run for its money in the Horizon League.

We did take a break from Bourne to watch the last few minutes of the game, in which UW bricked free throw after free throw. Jana asked if there was anything tricky about shooting free throws; there isn't. In fact, as I told her, it's the one discipline in basketball where exceptional height, athleticism, or skill is not required - she could practice free throws for five hours a day and become good at it. Missing 19 of them has to be near some sort of school record - it seemed to be contagious. It reminded me of when Andy or I had trouble throwing strikes as kids, and Ken would tell us we were aiming it instead of throwing it.

But I digress ...

-OK, Trent Tucker, how do you read "W-I-S-C-O-N-S-I-N" and get "WES-consin"? Bob Griese was the first and worst offender of this glaring pronunciation faux pas, but Tucker is now carrying the torch for inexplicable mispronunciation into the 21st century. There are no E's in there, dammit!

-No matter what my base defense was, if I was coaching against the Badgers, I would put in some zone. We just don't cope well against it, especially that 1-3-1. We got off 20 3-pointers last night and made a respectable number of them, but against a team with better perimeter athletes those shots wouldn't be there. Getting us out of the Swing takes away a huge part of our offensive identity.

-Nice early spark from Jon Leuer. Loved that dunk - off one foot and fouled while doing it. Of course, he missed the free throw.

-Loved Joe Krabbenhoft's successful inbounds pass off a Valpo player's back. Did you see him try it again later? Krabby played a terrific all-around game - 11 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists. Of course he also had four turnovers and was 3-for-9 from the line. He is very good at using the glass. After the Green Bay game Tod Kowalczyk said he was our best player, and it's hard to argue with that right now.

-We looked confident shooting 3-pointers last night, they came in rhythm. Especially Trevon Hughes.

-Conversely, Marcus Landry was not as strong and confident in the post as he had been the last few games.

-Look at the stat sheet from last night, that's how our rotation is going to shake down this year. The one exception will likely be Greg Stiemsma - he played just three minutes last night while Jason Bohannon got 29 becaues of matchups - expect those numbers to move 10 each way come Big Ten time.

-Precious Child Break: As we watched the game Will and I looked through a baseball book my mom got me for my birthday. We stopped on Babe Ruth, "Maybe the greatest baseball player ever" I told Will. Will nods and says "Daddy, am I the greatest baseball player ever?" No son, that's Curt Schroeder.

-As poor as the ball protection has been at times this season - 20 turnovers last night - we also seem to pass the ball better than last year. There were several rotations last night that were downright spectacular.

-Hey Trevon, what's with the faux-hawk?

-To me the team showed big-time guts when, after failing five times to score down 45-44, they came right back after Valpo went up 50-44. There are going to be plenty of situations like that in the Big Ten, and knowing that you can come back from that gives you confidence.

So this takes us to 9-2 going into the final non-conference game, at Texas, which we will lose. Watching the Longhorns play Michigan State yesterday gave me the same feeling as watching Duke-Marquette - we're good, but just not there with those teams this season.

No matter, 9-3 heading into Big Ten play is just fine. The conference schedule is set up for us to start fast, and given its weakness this year 9-7 or 10-6 is reasonable, which should put us in shape for a 6-8 seed.

For now, though, just happy we're not heading into Christmas with a loss.

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