Thursday, July 31, 2008

On Wisconsin, Charlie

Here's a video I took of our baby and Bucky Badger a couple weeks ago. By the way Charlie is waving his arms, it looks like he likes On Wisconsin. Either that, or I've sparked a lifelong fear of Badgers.

Bucky was one of Will's favorite toys as a toddler, and I hope the same holds true for Charlie!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Titletown, USA?

ESPN should shorten SportsCenter to half-hour shows, max, during the summer months. They apparently have nothing to fill 60 minutes, so they resort to contrived gimmicks.

Last year, it was the “Who’s Now” contest, in which the likes of Kirk Herbstreit, Kevin James, and Jessica Biel decided who was More Now – Dwayne Wade or Peyton Manning. Arguably the worst pseudo-sports programming since the XFL.

This year it’s the Titletown series. If you’re expecting me to get all huffy and “There’s only one REAL Titletown, dammit – GREEN BAY!” then you’ll be disappointed. Green Bay has long claimed the nickname, but objectively speaking, they have had one team winning titles over the years, if you don’t count the Blizzard of afl2. Which I don’t.

What’s stupid is that they’re picking these college towns and passing them off as title-winning equivalents to larger cities. Naturally, three college towns are home to my three least favorite college sports programs: Ann Arbor, Mich.; Columbus, Ohio; and Chapel Hill, N.C.

If you’re counting conference titles, I guess I can see Michigan and Ohio State, and the two have won their share of national titles. Hearing Desmond Howard recount his time in the dorms when Rumeal Robinson hit the winning free throws in the 1989 national championship game was riveting TV.

But North Carolina? As far as I can tell, they’ve won three or four national basketball titles over the past 50 years, some women’s soccer titles, and finished second in the College World Series. Putting UNC on this list seems like the network’s gift to Stuart Scott for putting him at Linda Cohn’s table at the 2007 Christmas party. (Question for Millie: When you interviewed Stuart for that Daily Cardinal piece 12 years ago, could you have imagined the major league tool he’d develop into?)

For the record, I also think the nominations of Lawrence, Kan., and Knoxville, Tenn., are ridiculous. One-trick ponies.

Rationally, I know ESPN had to include college towns and high school towns in this feature, since who wants to debate whether Los Angeles or New York is Titletown? But even if you stripped out professional teams, LA is still five times the Titletown Chapel Hill, Ann Arbor, or Columbus are – UCLA and USC have been dominant in a number of different sports over the years. Hell, given Stanford’s all-around proficiency Palo Alto would be a better option than these three.

Too bad I can’t forcefully argue for Madison’s inclusion in this debate, apologies to Suzy Favor Hamilton and the 1995 UW men’s soccer team.

But what about West Bend? Six state baseball titles since 1972, at least that many girls volleyball state titles … I’m just saying!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Carson Palmer hates Ohio State too

Did you hear what Carson Palmer said last week about Ohio State? I caught a little bit of it on SportsCenter, and Mike Pidanick emailed me a link to text of the highlights. Great stuff, even if Palmer presented it in the context of USC arrogance and Big Ten bashing.

When Mike and I were in Fremont, Ohio, college football fans split their allegiances between Ohio State and Michigan. The town was roughly the same distance from both Ann Arbor and Columbus, and while many Fremont athletes like Bob Brudzinski had gone on to star for the Buckeyes, there was no shortage of former Little Giants who played for Michigan – Rob Lytle and Charles Woodson were the most prominent.

During our stint in Ohio, the Buckeyes under John Cooper were routinely losing to Michigan and falling in at least one big game per year. So Buckeyes fans’ arrogance was under wraps. Hell, when I was in the Horseshoe press box for the Badgers’ big comeback win over Ohio State in 1999 – Brooks Bollinger’s coming out party, where I sat about 5 feet from a hobbled Barry Alvarez (glass separating us, of course) – the guys I sat by were pretty low key … until they found out I was a UW alum, at which point they stopped talking to me.

Ohio State has been much better under Jim Tressel, which has brought out their fans’ hubris. Several guys I worked with in my construction publishing days were really good guys, until they started talking Buckeyes, at which point they became unbearable. At the tail end of the Badgers’ disappointing 2006 basketball season, we beat OSU at the Kohl Center while I was at a trade show, and these guys reacted as if they’d lost to Bowling Green.

So thank you, Carson, for calling out Ohio State fans as being the oftentimes unbearable, arrogant blowhards that they are.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How many wins this season?

How many wins will Wisconsin have this fall? According to Bodog, the over-under is nine. That sounds about right, and if I was putting money on that, I'd take the under. Just too many things that can go wrong for this crew.

What about the other Big Ten teams?

Illinois: 7 (too low)
Iowa: 7 (too high)
Michigan: 7-1/2
Michigan State: 7
Ohio State: 10
Penn State: 8-1/2
Purdue: 7

Anyone want to bet on Minnesota? Northwestern?

Speaking of Randy Wright ...

... the Journal Sentinel had a column a couple weeks ago detailing how former Badger quarterback Randy Wright is the new offensive coordinator at Sturgeon Bay High School, where he'll be working with coach Gary Rabach, father of former Badger Casey. The story of how Wright got hooked up with Rabach is pretty interesting, very coincidental.

Ah, Randy Wright: once a poster boy for Packers quarterback mediocrity, one that we have been able to avoid for the past 16 seasons but may be staring down again. Now a symbol of post-football business success.
Another branch grows on the Badger football coaching tree, although given the circumstances, it doesn't appear this branch will grow much further than Door County. Good luck Randy!
-Also, read the other day that former Badger offensive line coach Bill Callahan, most recently known as the guy who ran Nebraska into the ground, is now the Jets' offensive line coach. Here's guessing he's going to be pretty good in that role, as he was in Madison.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Badger Bounce Pass

The other day Chris Earl sent me a link to an awesome YouTube video. For those of you unfamiliar, it's of the Bounce Pass. I'm glad he did - I've read a lot about the Bounce Pass over the years but have never actually seen it.

To recap: trailing late in a 1982 game against Illinois at Camp Randall, coach Dave McClain called for a bounce pass. Quarterback Randy Wright took the snap and threw the ball backwards to wide receiver Al Toon. By design, the ball bounced, which was meant for the defense to relax. Toon scooped up the pass and threw a strike to tight end Jeff Nault for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Badgers missed the extra point, and Tony Eason drove the Illini down the field for the winning field goal: 29-28 Illinois.

Watching the play a couple times, what is interesting to me is that the Illinois defenders don't exactly stop playing when the ball bounces. Three of them keep running toward Toon, two of them looking ready to make a tackle. Also, another Illini defender strips Nault of the ball right after he gets into the end zone, I wonder if that part of the play would be reviewed nowadays.

I believe this is the only Badger loss that made the Top 25 games in Camp Randall history. Because of the Bounce Pass, many people don't remember the Badgers actually lost.

Too bad the poster, likely an Illinois fan, talks over it a couple times with immature comments. He calls the play "bullsh!t," when anyone would agree it was perfectly legal. Your team won after a fluky play, man, just enjoy it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Keaton Nankivil

Keaton Nankivil could be the most important player in determining the success of the 2008-09 Wisconsin basketball team. It's not a stretch. Consider:

-Landry, J-Bo, and Hughes will handle increased scoring loads, the former from the inside and the latter from the outside.
-Krabby can lock down opponents' top perimeter scorers.
-All of these guys are good individual defenders.

But what about post defense? With Butch, Stiemsma, Chappell, et al providing solid play on the blocks in recent years, it has never been a concern. Yet as we sit here in July, it might be my top concern.

Landry has proven capable since he first started getting regular minutes, but he's never been relied on to score like this season. Jon Leuer is too slight to bang; it will be interesting to see what his body looks like come November. Kevin Gullikson can't be counted on. J.P. Gavinski doesn't seem likely to be ready. Incoming freshmen Jared Berggren and Ian Markolf are big dudes, but when was the last time we relied on a true freshman for anything important?

That leaves Nankivil. I think he's up for the task. Even in high school, he had the frame to bang with the big boys - 6-8, 245 pounds, well proportioned. In high school he blocked shots, but I don't think he's going to overpursue blocks as a collegian. My biggest concern for Nankivil as a defender is that he'll be foul-prone, taking over Stiemsma's role as the guy who picks up ticky-tack fouls.

The nice thing is, most of last year's top Big Ten post players have moved on: D.J. White, Shaun Pruitt, Othello Hunter, Kosta Koufos, Spencer Tollackson, Ekpe Udoh. Who's left? Goran Suton is good. Cyrus Tate is athletic. There's probably some promising incoming freshman big men, but I can't think of them off the top of my head.

So even if Keaton can't get the job done just yet, or if he's often on the bench in foul trouble, it won't be the end of the world.

Aside from defense, Nankivil will average 4-5 rebounds and 3-4 points per game, which will be just fine given the personnel around him. Long-term, like most of the other guys who are making their way through our program, the kid is a winner, and a solid student and citizen who will represnt the state and the university well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jon Leuer

Jon Leuer had an interesting freshman season for the University of Wisconsin. In a way, his individual fortunes were exactly opposite those of the team in general.

In the blowout loss at Duke, Leuer was the one bright spot. In the season opener against Michigan, when no one knew what the Badgers really had, he put up a mind-boggling 25 points in Ann Arbor. But after playing 13 minutes in the January 26 loss to Purdue, Leuer reached double digits in minutes just once the rest of the season. Meanwhile, as the freshman's minutes declined, the Badgers took off to success no one foresaw at the start of the season.

So where does Leuer go from here? The team's success while he logged time on the bench by no means implies that he is unlikely to contribute this winter. In fact, his early success was just a pleasant surprise -- very few guys come in and play that much for Bo Ryan as true freshmen.

Leuer has some undeniable assets.

Shooting: His shot is funny-looking, but effective. He made 46.2% of his 3-point attempts as a freshman, and his 6-10 frame makes it harder for defenders to close out on him.

Rebounding: His numbers weren't huge, but he showed a nose for the ball and a willingness to mix things up inside.

What he needs to improve:

Ball security: Even in his best performance, the Michigan game, Leuer had three turnovers. Better ball security will likely come with ...

Strength: Leuer carried only 208 pounds on his 6-10 frame last fall, looking roughly like my brother did in high school. Adding 15-20 pounds of good weight will allow him to spend some time defending opposing big men and hold up over the rigors of the Big Ten season.

Given how little Leuer played during the stretch run it's easy to forget just how promising a prospect he is. With Krabby and Landry occupying the spots in which he fits best, Leuer probably won't see his playing time skyrocket. But it's not a stretch to see him averaging 15-20 minutes per game, bumping his scoring average to 5-7 points per game and rebounds to 3-5 per game.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

P.J.'s Heisman chances

Reading the preseason magazines, I see P.J. Hill mentioned as a darkhorse contender for the Heisman Trophy. The obvious contenders: Tim Tebow, Knowshon Moreno, Percy Harvin, Chris Wells, Chase Daniel, Matthew Stafford.

Where exactly do P.J.'s chances stand in comparison to the others? I found some Heisman Trophy odds on the Bodog Sportsbook that rate his odds at 22-to-1 (UPDATE: Now at 25-to-1), which puts him right in the middle of the pack.

In addition to the players mentioned above, others given more of a shot at winning the Heisman than P.J. include Sam Bradford, Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree, DeMarco Murray, and Pat White.

In my opinion, 22-to-1 is pretty high for P.J., and it has nothing to do with his talent or durability. It has to do with the well-documented depth in the Badger backfield. Lance Smith is faster, Zach Brown is tough and put up 250 yards (albeit against Minnesota), and John Clay may end up being the best player of the group. Given P.J.'s history of injuries, it would make sense to rest him more and give carries to the backups, limiting his carries to 20-25 per game.

As stated here before, I still think P.J. is clearly the best back on the UW roster, and we'll need him in big games. But in order for him to be at his best in those games, it makes sense to play him less against the Minnesotas of the world, and that hurts any shot he might have at the Heisman.
For the record, my money's on Wells, followed by Daniel, Moreno, Tebow and Harvin, who will split the Florida vote.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Return game

How much does experience matter in college sports? Tons, frankly. The difference between an 18-year-old boy and a 22-year-old man is huge, especially in a sport like football with such an emphasis on strength.

Without giving it too much thought, I imagined that most teams return roughly half to two-thirds of its starters. It appears that, this year at least, that’s on the low end. According to Athlon, here are the Big Ten’s returning starters in 2008.

Ohio State: 18
Minnesota: 17
Penn State: 17
Wisconsin: 17
Michigan State: 16
Iowa: 15
Northwestern: 15
Indiana: 14
Purdue: 13
Illinois: 13
Michigan: 12

Like all numbers, these can be deceiving. Minnesota returns 17 starters who contributed to one win in 2007. Michigan will have 10 new starters, but odds are they were all Parade All-Americans. We return 17 starters, but none of them are quarterbacks, which puts a big question mark by the Badgers’ title hopes.

Next year, that number for Wisconsin might come in at around 10, which could make for a bumpy 2009.

Since the numbers were readily available, I also ranked the Big Ten by returning letterwinners.

Ohio State: 52
Iowa: 52
Indiana: 51
Wisconsin: 48
Northwestern: 47
Michigan: 45
Illinois: 44
Minnesota: 43
Purdue: 41
Michigan State: 37
Penn State: 35

Of course, letters won are even more widely subjective than who would be considered a returning starter. If you covered a kickoff against Florida International, you probably earned a letter, same as your all-conference teammate.

It is interesting, though, that Penn State returns 17 starters but just 35 letterwinners. Guess that mean JoePa has a short bench. Or he's stingier than LeRoy Young in giving out letters.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Weighing the Big Ten O-lines

The other day I was reading Athlon’s college football preview, and going through the Michigan preview, I noticed that Stephen Schilling, their leading returning lineman, weighs 295 pounds. Odd, I thought, an elite lineman weighing less than 300 pounds. They still exist?

Apparently. Surveying the Big Ten’s projected starting lines, I found plenty of guys weighing less than 300 pounds. Here is how they break down, going LT-LG-C-RG-RT:

Indiana: 306-320-292-315-292
Illinois: 295-303-296-309-300
Iowa: 305-300-285-305-290
Michigan: 294-288-292-292-295
Michigan State: 305-325-300-292-320
Minnesota: 315-280-275-300-305
Northwestern: 285-295-300-305-285
Ohio State: 312-345-297-323-312
Penn State: 314-291-297-288-309
Purdue: 325-308-287-314-300
Wisconsin: 299-316-317-328-321

For those who don’t know Badgers by their weights, that’s Gabe Carimi-Andy Kemp-John Moffitt-Kraig Urbik-Eric Vanden Heuvel.

The average projected starter on a Big Ten offensive line in 2008 weighs 302.98 pounds.
Interesting, no? Now let’s look at how these lines average out. In parenthesis are Athlon’s conference ranking of the units, which I found to be pretty much in line with how I see things.

Ohio State: 317.8 (1)
Wisconsin: 316.2 (2)
Michigan State: 308.4 (8)
Purdue: 306.8 (5)
Indiana: 305 (7)
Illinois: 300.6 (4)
Penn State: 299.8 (3)
Iowa: 297 (6)
Minnesota: 295 (11)
Northwestern: 294 (10)
Michigan: 292.2 (9)

Certainly, weight alone doesn’t make an effective offensive lineman. Strength, agility, intelligence, technique, scheme – they’re all as important as size, although you don’t see too many 6-1, 250 guys out there any more.

But isn’t that interesting? Ohio State and Wisconsin, the consensus top two lines in the Big Ten, are by far the largest. Minnesota, Northwestern, and Michigan, the three lightest, are also Athlon’s three weakest units in the conference. Of course, all three also run the spread, so their relative Liliputian statures aren’t critical liabilities.

Now, let’s look at the Big Ten’s team rushing leaders in 2007: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State. This year’s three heaviest lines are right there, and talents like Rashard Mendenhall and Juice Williams transcended a lighter-than-average line for the Illini.

Josh Oglesby, all 338 pounds of him, will arrive as a starter in 2009 at the latest. There will be no stopping us then.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chris Pressley, blogger

Got a press release last week from Jeff D'Alessio of the Sporting News indicating that Badger fullback Chris Pressley and I will soon share more than a love of Camp Randall on Saturdays.

Wisconsin Badgers fullback Chris Pressley will add “sports columnist” to his media guide bio this fall.

Pressley is among 22 college football players who will write weekly columns in Sporting News Today, the nation’s first digital daily sports section. The players will cover topics on the field and off it, from the big game of the week to the life of a student-athlete.

SN Today launches on Wednesday, July 23rd. The free product will offer year-round coverage of college football and basketball, the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL and NASCAR. Readers can sign up to receive SN Today at

SN Today’s roster of player columnists includes Heisman hopefuls, preseason All-Americans and all-conference picks:

Marvin Austin, North Carolina
Alex Boone, Ohio State
Antoine Caldwell, Alabama
Hunter Cantwell, Louisville
Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee
Chase Daniel, Missouri
Cullen Harper, Clemson
George Hypolite, Colorado
Tyson Jackson, LSU
Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech
Alex Mack, Cal
Sen’Derrick Marks, Auburn
Colt McCoy, Texas
Ryan McDonald, Illinois
Scott McKillop, Pitt
Mike Nixon, Arizona State
Curtis Painter, Purdue
Todd Peterson, Nebraska
Chris Pressley, Wisconsin
Ryan Purvis, Boston College
Myron Rolle, Florida State
Pat White, West Virginia

That's a pretty impressive lineup for TSN. Glad Pressley will be able to take part in it, from all I've read about him he seems like a thoughtful kid, far from the stereotypical student athlete. It will be interesting to see what form SN Today takes - if these athletes' writings will be in blog form or look like a regular newspaper column.

The other interesting thing about this: I got a press release from a legitimate publishing organization, and I imagine Sporting News sent this to other independent bloggers covering the other universities on this list. A sign of Mainstream Media acknowledging the grassroots importance of blogs like this one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bevell tampering with Favre?

The Brett Favre mess has added a Badger component to it, so I finally feel compelled to comment on it in this space: is reporting that the Packers are pursuing tampering claims against the Vikings, alleging that Minnesota offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has been speaking with Favre inappropriately since the latter began contemplating a comeback. Bevell, remember, was Favre's position coach in Green Bay, which I always thought was funny, since they both assumed starting quarterback positions in the state at about the same time in 1992.

Gee, I hope the Vikings don't get penalized for this in any way, it would take some of the luster off such a classy franchise.

Seriously, I think Bevell is a good guy and doesn't get hurt by this, given his up-and-comer status in the NFL coaching ranks. Especially since the Vikings, along with the Bears, are such obvious landing spots for Favre if he returns and is released. Which is why the Packers shouldn't grant him his wish.

Thousands of words of have written and spoken on this subject around the state and the country in the last week or so, and I certainly can't add much to the discussion. I'm just sad that it's come to this for my favorite NFL team and favorite player.

Ten years from now hopefully this will all be forgotten, but in the short term, Brett is just coming off as a wishy-washy and immature. You weren't sure about retiring in early March? Than don't do it! You're thinking about coming about changing your mind in late March but then change your mind? Don't tell the team in the first place!

He's mad at Ted Thompson for not trading for Randy Moss and not resigning Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera? The team went 13-3 with the youngest roster in the league last year, man, how can you criticize the GM's roster assembling?

I sure as hell am not losing an sleep over it, but I know people who are, and for everyone's sake I hope for a speedy resolution to this mess.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sun bathing with Fletch

Last week we were talking about the 1999 Rose Bowl and the beginning of Jamar Fletcher's great career. It's easy to forget that his college career ended in El Paso Stinking Texas in the Sun Bowl in another Badger win over UCLA. The unsatisfying end to the Shoe Box season with arguably the most talented team in UW history.

The way I remember it, Freddie Mitchell had his way with Fletch in that game. Mitchell was named the MVP, after all. Apparently, though, the bowl remembers otherwise and recently named Fletch to its 75th anniversary team. Jamar did have seven tackles and the game-sealing interception.

It's interesting that the guy who set a bowl game record for receiving yards and was named game MVP would not make that bowl game's all-time team, but the cornerback responsible for covering him would be. Maybe it's because Freddie wasn't the most sportsmanlike player in college football history ... although Fletch did his share of smack talking as well.

Who would have thought that the Sun Bowl, at 75 years old, is the second-oldest bowl game?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gophers crack top 25*

*Was reading the Athlon Sports 2008 college football preview, and an early feature section was Ranking the New Coaches of 2007. Minnesota's Tim Brewster came in 24th ... out of 24 new coaches in 2007.

"Brewster talks a good game, and he has done a good job on the recruiting trail, but the results in year one were disastrous. The Gophers ranked last in the nation in total defense en route to their first winless Big Ten season since 1988."

Way to go, Brew!

Later on, in the Minnesota preview, there is a sidebar where Opposing Coaches Size Up Minnesota: "... I don't like those guys. They're arrogant. ..."

This is just hilarious to me. Charlie Weis may be arrogant. But Tim Brewster? How many Super Bowl offenses has he coordinated?

It's one thing to enter a moribund program and be confident and optimistic, to infuse some life. But it's another thing to be arrogant.

Turning over to the Sporting News preview, here's how Minnesota's story leads:

"It wasn't supposed to be like this for Tim Brewster. Mr. Promise, Mr. Enthusiasm, Mr. Energy was Mr. Dud in his debut as Minnesota's coach."

That's from Tom Dienhart of TSN, not some snarky blogger from a rival school. Harsher treatment of the Brew than most other coaches get in the pages of the preview.

In other good news for Minnesota, class act Clint Brewster is transferring away from his dad.

Story here

Absolutely shocking that Brewster the Elder couldn't find a permanent spot in the Dome for such an upstanding young man. Maybe he can follow Taylor Mehlhaff around the country and taunt him for missing kicks.

I know that the best way to deal with an inferior rival is to ignore them, but this Brewster guy just rubs me the wrong way and I want to see him fail badly.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tim Jarmusz

In early March my friend Ryan and I were driving to a lunch in honor of a co-worker who had taken a job in a different part of the company. Ryan was asking me a few questions about Badger hoops, and as is my nature, I was rambling.

In particular, I was rambling about Tim Jarmusz, who had just been getting some legitimate playing time in the wins at Illinois and Ohio State. If memory serves, I called Tim a "Kirk Penney type" who would at some point in his Wisconsin career be a versatile scorer from both the perimeter and in the post.

What do y'all think of that statement? Upon immediate reflection, it seemed like a fairly unreachable projection. But thinking about it further, I could see him developing into a Penney type. Consider Penney's yearly scoring averages:

Freshman: 3.7 ppg for the Final Four team
Sophomore: 11.2 ppg
Junior: 15.1 ppg after becoming the main man on Bo's first team
Senior: 16.2 ppg as he becomes an elite player

Jarmusz didn't play much last year, and probably will not break 15 minutes per game as a sophomore, and with Pop, J-Bo, Landry, and Krabby back his scoring will not skyrocket. But it's not a stretch to see him averaging double-digit points per game as a junior and senior, using his 6-6 frame to post up smaller wings and his nice outside shot to hit about 35-40% of his 3-point attempts. In other words, a guy fit for the Swing.

Will he become an all-conference player like Penney? I'm not ready to put money on that, but consider that Penney played on a leaner roster with less scoring options than Jarmusz will.

Jarmusz's emerging playing time in the last quarter of the season was one of the more unexpected developments from the 2007-08 team, and when he was presented the opportunity, he did not show that he was incapable of contributing. Aside from a three-turnover stinker in the Big Ten clincher at Northwestern, he was strong with the ball, and took the open looks that came to him.

Will Tim Jarmusz become another Kirk Penney? Probably not, but that's not to say Tim won't become an all-around, versatile scorer every bit as valuable to a winning program as Penney was. If he can get to Kirk's sophomore year production at some point in his career, I'll be satisfied with his development.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Trevon Hughes

Haven't been thinking too much about basketball lately, but Trevon Hughes popped into my consciousness the other day. He was obviously a big reason for last season's unexpected success, but how did he stack up individually against his predecessor, Kam Taylor? Let's go to the stats:

Trevon Hughes, 2007-08: 11.2 points per game, 2.5 assists, 2.1 turnovers per game, 1.8 steals, 3.1 rebounds, 39.4% FG, 31.4% 3-point FG, 68.8% FT. Team: 67.2 ppg, 44.9% FG offense, 54.4 ppg, 38.3% FG defense

Kammron Taylor, 2006-07: 13.3 points per game, 1.9 assists, 1.7 turnovers, 0.5 steals, 2.2 rebounds, 42.1% FG, 38.4% 3-point FG, 79% FT. Team: 70.2 ppg, 46% FG offense, 57.9 ppg, 41% FG defense

So what can we tell from these numbers? Not much that we didn't already know. Hughes played on a more balanced team (lower scoring average), is more of a pure point guard (more assists per game), and isn't as good of a shooter as Kam (field goal percentage). I was surprised to see that Kam had so few steals per game compared to Pop - not necessarily the best measure of a defender, but in this case it's telling.

What do we need from Pop as a junior? He needs to raise his scoring average and field goal percentage by a couple points with the departure of Brian Butch and Michael Flowers. His free throw percentage needs to rise a few points at least, although J-Bo is still our better guy to give the ball in obvious fouling situations at the end of games. It would be nice, but not critical, to see him average another assist per game.

The thing I'd like to see less of next season from Hughes is those minor injuries. He is too important to the team to miss time so often, especially without Flowers as the obvious fill-in at the point. Ironically, had Hughes not been hurt for the Texas game, the magnitude of that win might have been less and the team may not have had the emotional boost heading into Big Ten play that it got in Austin.

It's always been a topic of conversation that the Swing offense doesn't need a true point guard, which is why teams with a Taylor have thrived. Hughes was the first true point guard to run the Badgers since Devin Harris in 2003-04, and it worked out pretty well. It will be fun to see how much better Pop will get as he makes minor improvements to his game.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Five great players, continued

The Five Great Players post yesterday got me thinking: how has each team since the 1993 Big Ten championship team stacked up using this measuring stick? Here's what I'm thinking:

Great Players
1993 (10-1-1): Brent Moss, Joe Panos, Lamark Shackerford, Mike Thompson, Lee DeRamus
1994 (7-4-1): Terrell Fletcher, Joe Rudolph, Jeff Messenger, Cory Raymer
1995 (4-5-2): Eric Unverzagt, Darrell Bevell
1996 (8-5): Ron Dayne, Tarek Saleh, Pete Monty, Jerry Wunsch
1997 (8-5): Tony Simmons, Dayne
1998 (11-1): Dayne, Aaron Gibson, Tom Burke, Matt Davenport, Kevin Stemke
1999 (10-2): Dayne, Chris McIntosh, Wendell Bryant, Jamar Fletcher, Nick Davis, Casey Rabach
2000 (9-4): Michael Bennett, Chris Chambers, Kevin Stemke, Rabach, Bryant, Fletcher
2001 (5-7): Anthony Davis, Lee Evans, Bryant
2002 (8-6): Davis, Al Johnson, Jim Leonhard
2003 (7-6): Evans, Leonhard
2004 (9-3): Dan Buenning, Erasmus James, Anttaj Hawthorne, Leonhard
2005 (10-3): Brian Calhoun, Joe Thomas, Brandon Williams, Ken DeBauche
2006 (12-1): Thomas, Travis Beckum, P.J. Hill, Jack Ikegwuonu
2007 (9-4): Taylor Mehlhaff, Beckum

No surprise, but there's definitely a correlation between great players and great seasons.

What do you think about the players I have on here? Discuss.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Five great players

When Barry first rolled out his Five Great Players theory a decade ago I really liked it. Everyone's always looking for a formula for sporting success, and the fact that he could point to Gibby, Dayne, Burke, Davenport, and Stemke and a cast of pretty good guys as the reason the '98 Badgers won the Rose Bowl.

So what about the 2008 edition? Does it have five great players? I would argue it has one.

Travis Beckum. That's it.

P.J. Hill? Could get there, but injury prone. Kraig Urbik? An above-average lineman, but not great. Matt Shaughnessy? Still waiting for him to advance beyond second team All-Big Ten performances. Shane Carter? Great ball skills, subpar tackler.

Jonathan Casillas has the ability to perform at a great level, but I wouldn't put him in that category yet. David Gilreath could be a great returner, but I'm still thinking his success last year was more the result of ample opportunity than flat-out excellence.

So, here it is in the second week of July, and Badgercentric is already forecasting a less-than-special year for our boys. Prove me wrong, guys.

Monday, July 7, 2008

1999 Rose Bowl

Charlie and I spent Thursday afternoon together watching the 1999 Rose Bowl. Know what I remember most about it? That my friends were all there watching it while I was stuck in my oversized closet of an apartment in Fremont, Ohio, cheering my heart out in solitude. Think about that next time you plan on graduating in four years flat, kids.

Anyway, fun game to watch. The second thing that sticks out in my memory was that Craig James called the Badgers the worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl, and then Bucky went out and dominated a UCLA team that until early December had been a national title contender.

My third memory was that the one Badger game I saw in person that year was the loss in Ann Arbor -- the only loss that season. Great timing.

-Keith Jackson is just a treasure to listen to. My favorite line of the game from him is as we're lining up near the end zone and he says "First and goal Nebras - Wisconsin." Not a confused old man, but someone watching the spitting image of Tom Osborne's great Cornhusker teams. A high compliment indeed, worth exploring later this week as I decompress in the UP.

-The other thing I want to follow up on is Barry's Five Great Players Theory, which I believe was first advanced this season. The five on this team were Aaron Gibson, Ron Dayne, Tom Burke, Kevin Stemke, and Matt Davenport. That doesn't even include Jamar Fletcher, Wendell Bryant, and Chris Chambers, who were all young guys on that roster who hadn't yet proven themselves. Or Chris McIntosh, who may have been better than Gibby. Or Casey Rabach, who quietly may have been the best UW center since Mike Webster. Does the 2008 edition have five great players? Let's discuss later.

-If you would have told me in 1994 that Bob Adamov and Leonard Taylor would one days be starters on a Rose Bowl champion defense, I would have looked at you funny. But that's a testament to those guys' work ethic and the coaching they received.

-Seven starters on that defense were Wisconsin natives. For defensive starters were former walk-ons -- Nebraska comparison there.

-The run-pass ratio for the Badger offense was 552-183 entering the Rose Bowl. Hard to argue when Dayne is your tailback, Mike Samuel is your quarterback, and the line goes McIntosh, Bill Ferrario, Rabach, Dave Costa, and Gibby. But Brad Childress's offense was just so damn unimaginative -- same basic sets, same plays. Works against horrible defenses like UCLA's, but not hard to see why Michigan shut us down in our one loss that year. Was that Chilly's preference or Barry's influence on the offense?

-That said, Dayne's first touchdown run was a simple play executed to perfection, a thing of beauty that gave me goose bumps. What great blocking, and Dayne flat-out outran Ryan Nece.

-Bryant didn't start, but played a tremendous game, you could see he was going to be a beast.

-UCLA's defense was the worst tackling unit I've ever see playing a game of significance, god were they awful. They had a few NFL guys on that side of the ball, but most of them were young.

-If you're UCLA, it has to be disheartening to come out of the tunnel of your home stadium and see that less than half of the fans are wearing your colors. Must be what it feels like to be a Minnesota or Northwestern player.

-On Dayne's second TD run Rabach pulled right and paved the way. He was so athletic, but never really earned the recognition he deserved.

-Watching Samuel throw short, touch passes was painful, but a. He was a tough sucker, b. As was well-documented, he was a winner, and c. His deep ball wasn't half bad. Watching his two-handed pump fake brought back good memories.

-Davenport was 32-of-37 heading into the bowl game. That's a lot of field goal attempts, and a great conversion percentage.

-That team had so many interesting stories attached to the players. Nick Davis could catch a BB in the dark. Gibby could do the splits, dunk a basketball, needed a custom helmet for his huge melon. Davenport's nickname was Money. Donnel Thompson sold sodas at Camp Randall as a kid. Don't see too many of those anymore.

-Burke had 21 sacks on the season, an amazing total for a college season. The Badgers didn't sack Cade McNown all that often in the game, but forced a lot of holding penalties.

-Fletcher with the ball was as exciting as any offensive player we've had in the last 15 years. Why did he play only nine games that season?

-I know this is probably just because of how the sideline assignments fell, but the ratio of Bob Toledo close-ups to Alvarez close-ups was about 20:1. Sort of ridiculous.

-What a solid Badger defense. Great pass rush. Solid tacklers at linebacker. Emerging star young corners. They defended UCLA's screen to perfection.

A vintage Badger win from a vintage Badger team. Great balance between stars and role players, experience and youth, great coaching, great special teams. We've rarely come close to achieving that balance again, but watching games like this give you hope that it's going to happen eventually.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Super Bowl Shuffle

Last night my cousin Paul got married in Appleton, a fun time. His wife, Gina, is from Chicago, and many of the guests were from the Windy City. Not surprisingly, many were Bears fans, and the DJ did his best to make them feel welcome by playing the Super Bowl Shuffle.

What a trip down memory lane. It was 1992 all over again, with Hill rapping awkwardly:

"I'm Samurai Mike, I stop 'em cold, part of the defense, big and bold ..."

"I'm mama's boy Otis, one of a kind, the ladies all love me for my body and my mind ...:

"They call me Sweetness, I like to dance, runnin' the ball is like makin' romance ..."

Here's what I don't remember: the song lasts for about 45 minutes. We listened for awhile, nodding along, and I decided to get up and take a leak. I come back five minutes later and it's still going. "Gary Fencik's verse took like two minutes," says my brother-in-law Nick with a sigh. Was that really necessary?

The world needs more stuff like this, athletes who aren't afraid to make asses of themselves on camera on purpose.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Scoopy sighting

This post has nothing to do with the Badgers, but I thought it would make Schwalbach laugh. Today at Waupaca's Fourth of July parade Scoopy, the Culver's mascot, attacked my son. Will then lunged at him and stabbed him in his abdomen/cone with a blunt stick. Rot in hell, Scoopy!