Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday musings from Indianapolis

What a Friday in Indianapolis! Amazingly, I found myself cheering out loud for Illinois and Minnesota, both deserving winners who will have a chance to play their way into the Big Dance.

First, Badger thoughts:

-Our win over Michigan is getting panned by the national media types, especially ESPN douchebag John Buccigross (is "ESPN douchebag" redundant?). You know what? Let them criticize. Certainly an element of poor offense is playing into these low-scoring games, but Big Ten teams play defense, the Badgers better than anyone. Holding Michigan to 20% shooting is damn impressive. Their players were more highly rated coming out of high school than ours, and that talent didn't just evaporate when they got to Ann Arbor.

By contrast, we were watching the Marquette-Notre Dame game Thursday, a quarterfinal in the Enormous East Tournament. Marquette played very well, especially Jerel McNeal and Maurice Acker, but the shots they were making were wide open jumpers - the kind of wide open looks you don't see in Big Ten games. 

The Big Ten is down, I'm not arguing otherwise. But let's give our kids and coaches credit for defending better than any other group of teams in the country.

-I'm oddly ambivalent about today's game with Michigan State. Thought I'd be pretty fired up for what should be our last game against Drew Neitzel, but not so far. That will probably change in an hour or two.

Neitzel had a great game yesterday, but had to play a lot so I'm hoping his legs won't be fresh this afternoon. The guy I'm really concerned about is Raymar Morgan - he's a terrific mid-range shooter who had an awful game yesterday, missed a ton of 15-footers, he's due to rebound.

-Ohio State put up a good fight against MSU, but you know what? They just lack kids who can put the ball in the hole. Kosta Koufos had a nice game, and Jamar Butler made some shots, but the rest of their kids, while athletic and good defenders, lack confidence with the ball against top competition.

-Still can't believe Illinois beat Purdue. When the Boilers really pressured on the perimeter, it looked like they were playing seven on five and the Illini kept coughing it up. But PU never could pull away.

-Indiana keeps getting mentioned as the Big Ten team that has the chance to go furthest in the NCAA Tournament because of its star power, but I just don't see it. D.J. White is great, but he's a crybaby. Eric Gordon has been less and less impressive as the season has progressed, he made some awful decisions yesterday. Beyond that, they've got nothing. Minnesota without Tollackson had no business being close in that game, let along deserving to win.

-I would have been really upset had Indiana won that game, they did not deserve it. The foul call that sent White to the line for the second time at the end was a joke, it was a chase for a loose ball and he flopped on contact with a Minnesota guard. Pathetic. Thank goodness Hoffarber kept the Hoosiers from any more ill-gotten gains this season.

-Right before the final play, I turned to Nick and said "Watch this: the Silencer (our nickname for Travis Busch after he made a jumper to stop an IU run in the first half) is going to play Grant Hill to Dan Coleman's Christian Laettner." I got the Laettner part wrong, but was right on the Hill part. Great play, fantastic ending.

-Funny thing is, Minnesota has about 12 fans here in Indy. They have more combined band members and cheerleaders than fans in the stands. Can't imagine many of them will be coming today - murder for the scalpers.

-Before that last shot, Hoffarber had been the second-worst player we've seen here so far, having no impact on defense, overwhelmed on offense. It baffled me that Tubby kept him in instead of Al Nolen. The worst was Jeff Jordan. Early on in the Illinois game, Dad made an honest comment about how Jordan had been steady and solid to that point, and then he made a jumper. I said "we'll see," and Jordan proceeded to turn the ball over three times, and it could have been more.

-My favorite non-Badgers of the tournament thus far:

-Deandre Thomas, Indiana. He's the Hoosiers' fat guy, but he's nimble, plays nice defense, gives the crowd energy.
-Damian Johnson, Minnesota. Hoffarber gets the headlines, but Johnson was the Gophers' MVP last night.
-Demetri McCamey, Illinois. Continues to impress, he was untouchable yesterday. Six-for-six on 3-pointers, cold-blooded tying shot late. He's like a fullback playing point guard. Purdue made a mistake in not switching Kramer on McCamey until overtime - Kramer neutralized Trent Meachem, but McCamey went off.
-Goran Suton, Michigan State. He's just a solid player, a really athletic big. Our bigs will have their hands full with him today.
-E'Twaun Moore, Purdue. He's just a scorer, was Purdue's only bright spot yesterday. Should have been first team all-Big Ten instead of Neitzel or Butler.

Here's hoping for another great day and three or four more Andy North sightings!

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