Friday, February 29, 2008

Golden Graham

While looking into some of the search terms noted in Wednesday's post, I found this page while searching in Facebook for Andy Crooks Wisconsin:

How Do You Cram All That Graham?

Never thought that of the current group of Badgers that Garrett Graham would be the first one to appear on the cover of a cereal box, even a fake one, but there he is.

Wasn't the old Badger goaltender Graham Melanson nicknamed Golden Graham?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wisconsin-Michigan State thoughts

You know what? I love this senior class, and tonight is the perfect illustration why. Stiemsma plays great minutes in the first half and scores six points. Flowers holds Neitzel to three points. Butch makes four 3-pointers. Badgers win.

And isn't that what this is all about? Our kids keep going up against teams with rosters stocked full of players who were more highly rated coming out of high school, projected to finish higher than the Badgers this year, and keep beating them because they play sound basketball.

Two games to go, Penn State and Northwestern. We're right where we want to be. So why am I happy and nervous as hell at the same time?

-One turnover tonight. One! After watching the first half in Columbus, I wouldn't have been surprised if we turned it over 20 times against Michigan State. But we took care of the ball tonight, and even though State played very good defense, kept us off the boards, and held us under 40% from the field, we still ground out 57 points. If we can take care of the ball like that going forward, we'll be tough to beat.

-Early in the game, Musberger talked about Flowers playing football, claiming that Alvarez said the school would like Flowers to play defensive back for a year. Does anyone know if that was serious? Why not give it a shot? From everything I heard he was an electrifying high school quarterback.

He was terrific tonight, hit some key shots, but most importantly held Neitzel to 1-for-10 from the floor. Mike did a great job, but Neitzel looked to be off his game. It reminded me of our matchups last year. In Lansing, he had his feet set and was ready to shoot whenever he came off a screen. In the Big Ten Tournament, and tonight, he looked hesitant when he caught the ball. One time near the end, when the game was pretty much out of reach, Flowers fell down coming off a screen when Neitzel caught the ball at the top of the key; Neitzel didn't shoot, instead waiting for Flowers to get to his feet and challenge.

Izzo said State was playing as well as they could possibly be playing heading into this game. Guns loaded, eh? Hmmm. Just hope they're good enough to knock off Indiana on Sunday.

-One turnover!

-Anyone else notice Flowers holding his right elbow tonight? He was doing that against Ohio State, too.

-Here's why I love watching Butch make 3-pointers: he reminds me of myself. He's capable of making 3-pointers, but overall shoots a fairly low percentage (27.5% on the year). However, when he's feeling it, like tonight, he can put a few together. I probably made one of the first 10 I took this week at hoops, then made three of about five today. In both our cases, it's important to at least try 3-pointers to open up other parts of our games. Yep, me and Butch, outside shooters separated at birth.

Good Musberger quote on Butch: "I want to be his agent on a European contract, he'd be huge over there!" I could see him having a nice career in one of those leagues over there.

-Liked that Bo played Stiemsma and Butch together for stretches in the first half. State is one of the teams where that pairing makes sense, they're so tough going to the offensive boards.

-Quiet 13 for Pop tonight, but his steady play was important.

-Krabby hit a couple big outside shots at key times, making up for J-Bo's scoreless night.

-I'm so glad none of our guys wear cornrows like Morgan and Allen. Even though it makes me sound like Grandpa Simpson commenting on a young Joe Namath, "They look like girls!"

-Great Musberger quote late: "I can't wait to see Erin Andrews on YouTube tonight, she'll have 2,000 hits by midnight!" No new ones from me tonight, but that one I posted a month ago of Erin, Brent, Lav, Stiemsma, et al has been viewed 2,588 times thus far.

-One turnover!

-Flipped to the Big Ten Network during a commercial and saw a projection that had us as a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now, I know there are a million bracketologists out there and there's no use getting your undies in a bundle before anything happens, but in the Internet shorthand that the kids are using nowadays - WTF? We've lost four games, to teams ranked #7, #16, and #21. We've beaten the #5 team in the country, which has the same record as us, at their place, without our point guard. We've swept the #12 team in the country and now beaten #19. You're telling me there's 12 teams with a better resume than that?

There's a long way to go still, but we've been screwed by the selection committee so much that things like this get me agitated.

OK, I'm over it. Great win - let's rest up and take two next week!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How did you find Badgercentric?

Badgercentric has been around for about five months now, and it’s a lot of fun to write. If you’re a stats/analysis geek like me, it’s also fun to take a look at who’s coming to your site and why.

Every few days I check out Google Analytics and see what sites are referring people to this blog, and what search engine keywords are doing the trick. Through February 23, 2,293 keywords have brought people here, and it’s fascinating to see them. Many are related to The Office and non-UW items, but I’m going to share my favorite Badger-related search terms for Badgercentric:

#5 punch groin wisconsin minnesota (you wouldn't believe how many there are like this - apparently Minnesota receiver Eric Decker's handiwork on Ike was noticed)
#7 brett valentyn
#13 bo ryan soulja boy (tons of searches similar to this)
#38 erin andrews ice fishing (pretty sure this was all Toohey)
#108 wquinton smith
#151 matt lepay’s call of final play vs. texas
#246 jack ikegwuonu nuts
#311 tim brewster feud with bret bielema
#315 university of wisconsin band nice clipboard rex (from the Packers-Bears game at Lambeau, rex is Rex Grossman)
#318 who owns the metrodome (we do)
#330 “aaron henry” trash bielema
#411 “jenna fischer” rentmeester
#426 “mark tauscher” vegas (what in the world could they have been looking for?)
#480 “scott burch” penn state (did Froehlich finally discover the Internet?)
#500 “tom crean” tan (a Journal Sentinel story last week called him “Tom Cream”)
#554 6’3 diamond taylor
#563 al toon wisconsin badgers jersey number
#579 andy crooks facebook
#583 anti uw shirts
#589 arrogant michigan
#604 badger baggo, #630 badger cornhole game
#720 bielema bad goatee (when did he have a goatee?)
#723 bielema mad youtube
#794 bret bielema passed out in bathroom (where did Google get that from this blog?)
#840 can curt phillips be a starter freshman year?
#859 chris chambers oshkosh north high school (huh?)
#925 culmer st. jean highlights
#996 doug gottlieb hates wisconsin, #1124 gottlieb why do you hate wisconsin?
#1035 erick olson badger football
#1072 football jansen wisconsin

#1100 gangster toohey (his secret life!)
#1167 how many times has joe krabbenhoft had stitches?
#1172 i love appalachian state t shirt wisconsin
#1215 jason bohannon drinking game
#1499 mock draft, tyler donovan
#1637 picture of bill callahan farewell tour
#1854 swan family website fennimore hamstring
#1921 tight end schwalbach (fill in your own punchline)
#2063 what is mike kelley former uw basketball player doing now?
#2279 matt schwalbach casino (search was from Pompano Beach, Fla. – did Megan hire a private investigator to look into our Vegas trip?)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A look at the Badgers' football recruits

Bret Bielema signed his latest recruiting class when I was still recovering from my Germany jet lag, so I've been remiss about commenting on our latest round of new Badgers.

Maybe that's because this class didn't have the pizazz of some of our other classes — no John Clays or Josh Oglesbys. Maybe it's because my least favorite Big Ten coach, Tim Brewster, signed what is being heralded as a terrific class at Minnesota.

Or maybe it's because I've finally come to realize that, while it can be fun to follow, getting really worked up about football recruiting is pointless. It would be one thing if we were players in the Terrelle Pryor derby, but we're not. Here is my take on football recruiting in a nutshell:

-We will never rank near the top of the Big Ten recruiting rankings. Ohio State and Michigan will always be 1-2, and Penn State will usually be third. Some school like Iowa or Minnesota or Wisconsin will sneak into the #4 spot on occasion. That doesn't always translate into wins - the core of Iowa's last two disappointing teams was a recruiting class considered the school's best-ever, while their success preceding that came with players who may have flown under the radar in the recruiting process.

-If you get a lot of capable kids and coach them up, you'll have a chance, even against all the bandwagon-jumping mercenaries suiting up for the Buckeyes and Wolverines.

-Getting the key in-state kids to come to Madison will always be our top priority, and with a few exceptions (Adam Stenavich) we've been outstanding in this area since Barry took over. This year is no exception.

-Complementing the signees with solid walk-ons is critical.

-Our best teams have not been led by highly-ranked recruiting classes, but rather by deep classes that didn't have many busts.

So what about this year's class? I like Tyler Westphal, the defensive end from Menasha. Iola-Scandinavia scrimmaged Menasha this year, and my buddies who saw it said Westphal just threw our kids around - and we were state finalists.

The offensive line signees - Neenah's Peter Konz, Wisconsin Lutheran's Kevin Zeitler (left), Joe Schafer of Minnesota, Jake Current from Ohio - seem poised to carry on our tradition up front. I like that we signed so many defensive backs from Florida and Texas, and loaded up on defense in general (14 of 23 signees).

We signed a junior college transfer, Dan Moore, to help immediately on the defensive line. Thankfully, we haven't relied on Juco guys too much over the years, but sometimes you need them to plug holes. Clearly we're thin on the defensive front, so Moore will get his shot.

Curt Phillips (right) has already enrolled in school, will take part in spring practice, and might have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job this fall (although my money would be on Allan Evridge). I'm excited about this guy. And the kid who may have the biggest immediate impact is Brad Nortman, a highly-regarded punter from Brookfield Central.

An interesting side note: Jim Polzin wrote an interesting story fleshing out something we touched on here a couple months ago. Basically, Jim points out that we signed six players from SEC states, three from Texas, and none from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. This is because the current batch of assistants doesn't have ties there like past staffs had. Let's just hope Florida, Texas, and the other warm weather states we're now mining are as good to us as New England has been.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cal Poly who?

So the Badgers' 2008 football schedule is complete, as Cal Poly replaces Virginia Tech. Sigh. The first thing that came to mind was that Cal Poly sounds like a punchline - you know, "Wow, great win for Marquette last night, they beat Cal Poly School for Blind Albinos by six at the Bradley Center in their holiday classic." But Cal Poly is a good I-AA team, probably better than The Citadel last year, and we have to make sure they don't become an Appalachian State punchline for us.

Bielema's rationale is sound. Opening Big Ten play with Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State will be brutal. If we end up winning the conference next year because of this move, terrific. I've got my doubts about that likelihood, although that's how most of our special seasons have started before.

But my first reaction was this: I would rather lose a good game to Virginia Tech than beat Cal Poly. Of course I'd rather beat Virginia Tech, but the point is that Badger fans are hungry for a big game outside of the conference and outside our bowl game. Think about some of the recent high-profile non-conference games: Ohio State-Texas, LSU-Virginia Tech, USC-Nebraska. It's not hard to come up with others. Those are games that get your blood pumping, get ABC in town for prime time Saturday night broadcasts, get the GameDay crew in town in September.

To be the best, you have to beat the best, and while the Big Ten has some of the best around - Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State are surely more of a brand name in college football than Virginia Tech - it's a given that we'll play them every year. Bowl games are exciting because you get to test yourself again different conferences and players from different regions. We see it more often in college hoops, but regular season losses don't mean as much there.

We'll see the Hokies in 2016 ... hopefully.

-The Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn is at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and filed a report on the Badgers' draft candidates. In a nutshell: Mehlhaff has looked good and could potentially be the first kicker drafted; Hubbard did everything well but catch the ball (oh, is that all?); Ike is looking at a big mountain to climb; Hayden benched 225 pounds 34 times, about what I do, and was working out today. Anyone caught these guys on the NFL Network yet?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wisconsin-Ohio State thoughts

Show of hands: Who, back in November, looked at this Badger team and thought they'd be 7-1 on the road in Big Ten play with only a game at Northwestern to go away from the Kohl Center? Not me, that's for sure.

Another great road win for Wisconsin - not a perfect effort by any means, but making enough winning plays on both ends to come out on top.

-The Badgers' laissez faire approach to offense in the first half was appalling. the passing was careless. We looked unprepared for their defense. Once breaking their pressure, we didn't attack, but instead waited for more pressure to come. Pop in particular looked like he was sleepwalking out there. Thank goodness Flowers kept us in it.

It was a miracle we were tied at halftime. Obviously we were much better in the second half, with only two turnovers, although one of those did come right after a timeout to set up an inbounds play.

-Because CBS chose to stay with the Big East free throw shooting contest in South Bend (more on that later), we didn't see Butch's second foul, which LePay said was a pretty big flop by Jon Diebler. LePay doesn't complain about refs often, so it must have been pretty bad.

-Congrats to Brian for going over 1,000 career points. Some people might say he hasn't lived up to his billing as a McDonald's All-American. I'm not one of them, and this milestone is one reason why. I'll devote a longer post to the subject at a later date.

-The lineup we had out there for much of the first half was a catch-22: it needed to be small to deal with Ohio State's pressure (and Butch's foul trouble), but Koufos and Hunter ate us up on the boards. That lineup did better in the second half, but having Butch back in there was important.

-Billy Packer, who called a good game, kept harping on our inability to guard the pick and roll with Butler. He was right - I can't remember us having that much trouble defending that. Butler's inability to exploit that late was a big reason they lost.

-Clark Kellogg shows up with Packer and Verne Lundquist and says he's only in attendance as a proud alumnus today. Today? He is the most ridiculously on-air biased alumnus in sports broadcasting today, save for Stuart Scott. He was OK today, though.

-Kosta Koufos looks just like Arvid from Head of the Class. Take of Arvid's glasses, and give Koufos a pocket protector and an '80s haircut, and they could be brothers.

-The key play of the game was Flowers' steal and rim-hugging layup to tie the game at 49. Our seniors keep making big plays, which is what seniors should do.

-Ohio State obviously mises Greg Oden and Mike Conley, but you know who I think they miss most in games like today's? Ron Lewis. He was overshadowed last year by the freshmen, but he made a lot of big shots that either stopped their opponent's momentum or jump-started his team.

-Really didn't like how passive we got on offense after going up seven late.

-Remember early this season when we were all concerned about J-Bo's ability to get off his shot? Me neither.

-We recruited Evan Turner pretty hard, and he went to Columbus, so we took the less-heralded Tim Jarmusz. Today, TJ made his only field goal attempt and had three points, two rebounds, and an assist in 12 minutes. Turner was 2-for-7 for four points, two rebounds, two assists, and two turnovers in 31 minutes. As Packer repeatedly harped on, Turner did not use his size and athletic advantage on J-Bo, and was largely a spectator in extended minutes. This is why we win under Bo - our guys have less stars coming out of high school but are skilled and fit the system.

-We control our own destiny for grabbing at least a share of the Big Ten title, and 30 wins are within the grasp of this team as well. Not bad for a team projected to finish fourth or fifth in the conference.

-Missing the first six minutes of the game because of the excruciating end to Notre Dame-Syracuse was like enduring a root canal that takes four times longer than scheduled. Local CBS affiliates should have had the option of leaving that game in favor of the UW-OSU game. The Big East is a ridiculously large conference with something like 39 teams spread out in 27 states - let them show their games on local TV networks like the WB or UPN or whatever they are now, so their niche audiences should be confined to niche channels. Nobody in Wisconsin cares about Big East basketball outside of a three-block area in Milwaukee.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Badgers' new Bruiser

Bo Ryan got his first commitment for the class of 2009 this week, a kid named Mike Bruesewitz from Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, Minn. Looks like Minnesota, Iowa, Purdue, and Washington State were among the other schools after the Bruiser (easy nickname, right?).

Apparently he's a three-star kid, per Rivals, whatever that means. There's a good discussion on the commitment on Heavystarch's message board, here.

From what I've read, the kid's coach compares him to Krabby, which isn't bad, right? And guys who Bo signs and stick with the program for their entire college careers always end up contributing - even Jason Chappell.

Not sure how to feel about this. It's a pretty early commitment, and it sounds like this guy plays roughly the same position as Jamil Wilson of Racine, a much higher priority for us — in-state kid who's a national recruit, ranked #33 on Rivals' class of '09 list. I like the fact that he's smiling in this mug shot, not trying to look tough.

The thread mentioned above compares this to the situation we were in when Jerry Smith had a press conference scheduled to announce his intentions to attend Wisconsin, but canceled after we go a commitment from Jason Bohannon. That's the way I understood it as well, and when Smith committed to Louisville, it cleared the way for Trevon Hughes to make his way to Madison.

But ... last March at the Big Ten Tournament a smart person told me that it wasn't J-Bo's or Pop's commits that squeezed out Smith — it was J.P. Gavinski's. J.P., if you recall, committed really early in that class, which left room for only two of the three very good guards who wanted to come to Madison. Balance is one thing, and you always need height, but just think about how potent we'd be with Hughes-Bohannon-Smth right now.

So my point is, early commitments aren't bad, as long as they don't keep you from grabbing some higher-hanging fruit.

At the least, it keeps us viable in the Twin Cities even as Tubby builds his fence. Any of our Minnesota friends see this kid play or hear anything about him?

Friday, February 22, 2008

The World Without Us

Last year I read a few reviews of The World Without Us, a book by Alan Weisman, and was intrigued. The book presupposes that the human race vanishes - what happens to everything we've built, or already destroyed?

Before you get the wrong idea, this isn't an apocalyptic doomsday piece (although there is some interesting talk about how humans' exit from the Earth might happen, including an interview with someone from the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement; do we know anyone involved in that?). It also isn't a politically-motivated piece like anything from Al Gore or the right-wing wackos who deny global warming.

It's just a good, thought-provoking book. Even if it did feel like homework as I labored through it over Thanksgiving. Some of the most interesting parts included:

-The DMZ between North and South Korea, untouched by man for more than 50 years, is now home to a number of rare animals. A group of dedicated South Korean scientists is allowed access to the DMZ, and warns that creeping suburban sprawl will soon threaten even this area.

-In Chernobyl, site of the horrific 1986 Russian nuclear meltdown, all sorts of interesting species of plants have grown back in an area where people just don't go anymore. Tours of Chernobyl are offered - wouldn't it be fascinating to take one?

-A look at a patch of old-growth primeval forest in Poland, where all sorts of rare wildlife still lives.

-There's a farm in England where they've been taking soil samples for a century and a half. Those samples tell a depressing tale of rising ph levels from pollution.

-Ever think about what would happen to the millions of miles of pipes built to handle oil in East Texas if humans weren't around to monitor them? Scary stuff that Weisman gets into.

-Apparently there is a nation-sized area in the Pacific Ocean that is pretty much all plastic bags - the place where any non-degradable goods that enter the water stream end up, swirling for eternity.

-Not sure what this had to do with the book's overall premise, but in Turkey there are whole cities built underground - how cool would it be to see them?

-Billions of birds are killed every year when they run into man-made structures, including radio towers.

-Most reviews of the book focus on Weisman's assessment of what would happen to New York after people were gone (shocker), and it's still very interesting.

-Weisman is cool and even-handed throughout, except for when he rails on ... house cats, who he sees as the pampered brats of the animal kingdom.

It's dense reading, or at least more dense than reading about fantasy baseball and the Baltimore Ravens, but worth the time. On our ride home from the UP, Jana asked me what the big takeaway was. Good question - Weisman doesn't lead us there, to his credit. It sounds obvious, but my takeaway were that current initiatives - recycling; developing renewal energy sources; pollution control; consumption moderation - are what we've got to do to give Earth a chance long-term.

Then again, humankind will probably be wiped out in another couple thousand years, the cleansing described in the book will take place, and the planet will be fine for new or holdover species to thrive.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Next up: Kidd for Alando

The long-delayed trade of Jason Kidd and others from the Nets to the Mavericks for Devin Harris and others is finally official. Now I can go on with my life. From a strictly NBA standpoint, I don't see how this helps the Mavs catch up with the other top teams in the West. Kidd is great, certainly better than Devin right now, but I don't think point guard play was Dallas's shortcoming (Devin's injury notwithstanding).

Hopefully, if the Nets ever move to Brooklyn, Will will have the chance to get season tickets and watch Devin 41 times a year.

From a Badger fan standpoint, isn't it interesting that of the three former UW players in the NBA, Kidd has been traded for two of them? During the 1996-97 season, Kidd was traded from Dallas along with Tony Dumas and Loren Meyer for Michael Finley, A.C. Green and Sam Cassell.

So when Kidd runs out of gas in another year or two and Phoenix needs a reliable backup point guard for Steve Nash, Alando Tucker will be on his way to Dallas. Circle of life.

And for those of you who think the point of this post was to finally work A.C. Green into the blog, you're not entirely wrong.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wisconsin-Illinois thoughts

Ho-hum. We just strolled into Champaign and completely dominated the Big Ten's top program of the decade, and it's business as usual. The way things are going, it's not that surprising (more on that later).

Really enjoyed the effort. Five guys with eight or more points, different guys taking turns carrying the load and delivering body blows to the staggering Illini.

-Sometimes it's sort of amazing how different the Swing looks in the first minute of the game compared to how it looks in the 30th minute of the game. Early on tonight we were out of sorts on offense, but as the game wore on we did whatever we wanted on that end. Certainly Illinois came out hard on defense, but is there more to it than that? Does it have to start out with a feeling-out stretch?

-Not Butch's best game - looked helpless against Pruitt at times and never found a rhythm on offense. Conversely, Stiemsma gave great minutes at the 5, including a couple nice shots and a sweet pass to J-Bo for a 3. What a luxury it is to have two solid 7-footers - usually Butch is the guy, but tonight Stiemsma was the better option.

-Pruitt's dominance early on is disconcerting. He is one tick above average but was getting whatever shots he wanted. Much like D.J. White last week, though, he faded in the second half - did he get tired? Did our post guys front him better? Without going back and watching the game again, I'm guessing Landry had a lot to do with that, I've always liked the way he battles in the post on defense.

-Early on I jotted down that Bruce Weber should be playing Demetri McCamey more. He didn't impress me in Madison, but was terrific against Indiana. After a slow start today he really came on strong.

-J-Bo is really figuring out how to put himself in position to score. I'm as excited about his layups as his 3-pointers.

-Excellent game for Landry on both ends. Those two 3s he made were shot with confidence.

-Flowers also had an underrated good game, his usual little bit of scoring to go along with great defense.

-Really happy to see Jarmusz get lots of meaningful minutes. Nothing against Leuer, who I think is fine and will contribute again this season. But Jarmusz offers more of what we need in an eighth man right now. I was happy to see him come in and get a rebound right away, take a shot (even though he missed), get a steal. It's also good on-the-job training for next year, when Tim will be needed to fill a role similar to what J-Bo did last year and the early part of this year.

-A quiet 18 points for Pop, if that's possible. He hit some real circus shots.

-Now a few words about Illinois. Late in the broadcast, Wayne Larrivee was talking about how this was a transition time for Illinois. I disagree - transition implies that another stretch of similar excellence is imminent, and I just don't see it. This looks like it could be the second stage of a significant downturn.

The Illinois we saw with Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head, Brian Cook, Frank Williams, James Augustine, et al, was incredible at times. They didn't shot themselves in the foot with avoidable turnovers or missed layups. They didn't jaw at the refs, like Pruitt, after every unfavorable call. They didn't lose at home.

Why? In addition to being tough and well-coached, they were talented and well-rounded. The current Illini roster has some guys who are good at one or two things but deficient in others. Pruitt can bull his way inside for some points, but is a terrible shooter and commits dumb fouls. Chester Frazier is a tenacious defender but can't shoot - vice versa for Trent Meacham. Calvin Brock is OK. I thought Brian Randle might become a star, but he's regressed. If Jeff Jordan was named Jeff Peplinski, he'd be playing at Wheaton College. Mike Davis, Rodney Alexander, Mike Tisdale - just guys who run around flapping their arms. Only McCamey has any real upside. I haven't heard anything about their incoming recruits.

Bottom line: Weber is a good coach, but he won with Bill Self's players. Now that they're gone, he's struggling. I'm not suggesting he can't turn it around, but it doesn't seem likely to happen next year. It will be interesting to see if, however far-fetched it might seem, Illinois finishes with two losing seasons in a row, how patient the school will be with Weber.

He did lead one of the greatest seasons in recent college hoops history just three seasons ago, but memories are short. Especially when apathy creeps in. A student manager behind the Illinois bench was seen yawning early and often. Lots of empty seats in prime locations. The student section, which has always struck me as intimidating, lacked energy. Maybe they just get up for yelling at Eric Gordon and Kelvin Sampson nowadays.

Go back two paragraphs -- weren't we just discussing the UW football program in these terms two months ago? Substitute Bielema for Weber and Barry Alvarez for Bill Self, and you've got fairly similar scenarios. Only our football team hasn't actually slid to the bottom of the Big Ten yet, and Illinois's basketball team has. Here's hoping it doesn't happen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Soup Campbell on LinkedIn

Every week or so I check LinkedIn for former classmates and colleagues, and usually come away grinning. Just the other day I saw none other than Lamar Campbell has signed up for the service. Apparently Soup is in real estate now, hope he's doing well.

Campbell isn't the only Wisconsin athlete from our school days on the website. Other Badgers spotted on LinkedIn: Branden Cantrell, Joe Bianchi, Rick Enrico (check out his resume), E.J. Bradley, Rob Lurtsema, Dave Cruickshank.

Also found Jon Babalola, my Cardinal sports editor predecessor, and our old Badger Herald buddy Ken Chia.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Jana and I had today, President's Day, off work for some reason, so we took advantage of that and Will being in day care to catch Juno. Cute movie, we liked it.

First, what I didn't like: Diablo Cody's writing, at times. Cody is raking in accolades left and right as the next It writer, but I think everyone might be jumping the gun on her a bit. The dialogue, especially early on, is borderline ridiculous, so much that it's not funny. For instance, in one of the first scenes Rainn Wilson plays a convenience store clerk and rattles off several sentences no one would possibly say. It's like a teenage girl writing for Dawson's Creek or any Aaron Sorkin show.

That said, Cody snaps out of make-my-creative-writing-class-friends-laugh mindset enough to produce a sweet, thoughtful, funny movie. It's a testament to her take on teen pregnancy that people on both sides of the abortion debate are hailing its virtues. And really, the movie is about so much more than just teen pregnancy.

The acting is terrific. Ellen Page deserves all the praise she's been getting. Michael Cera plays the semi-dork I should have just admitted I probably was in high school. Jennifer Garner is convincing as the woman who desperately needs a child, as is Jason Bateman as the husband still clinging to his cool days before moving to St. Cloud. Refreshingly, Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons plays parents who may disagree with their teenager, but are still supportive, and not in a cliche, corny way.

Now, just have to figure out how to get Jana to see Semi-Pro ...

Office PSAs

Schwib just emailed me this link, it will have to do for tiding us over until the new episodes hit:

Hurry back!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ryan Newman wins Daytona 500. Yawn

For the second straight year, I've tried to watch the Daytona 500 and see what all the fuss about NASCAR is really all about. For the second straight year, I've come away convinced that watching biathlon highlights on Eurosport 2 is about as interesting.

Let's put it this way: given the choice between the Daytona 500 and golf as TV sports to help me fall asleep for my Sunday nap, I chose auto racing.

Let's put it this way: my 4-hour drive from Sheboygan to Scandinavia - which took two hours on Friday - in rain, sleet, freezing rain, then white-out snow, was a far more compelling drive than 30-some cars making left turns for four hours.

Here I thought NASCAR had graduated from its redneck roots, only to hear one of the announcers - probably Darrell Waltrip - yell "Wooo-eee! I hear thunder comin' and it ain't Garth Brooks!" Ugh.

One of the sponsored highlights showed one of the race's highlights, and from what I could tell, no cars changed positions during the gripping sequence. In the last 25 laps I think there were five cautions. Admittedly I don't know much about auto racing, but to me it is incredibly boring that these yellow flag instances count against the overall lap totals.

I will say this: the television production of NASCAR events is arguably the best in sports today. The circuit's broadcast partners put cameras everywhere, cut in on audio at the right times, and offer statistics - like speed, RPM, etc. - that are probably really enlightening to people who, unlike me, know their relevance. And aside from the Larry the Cable Guy-type hyperventilating commentary, the "play-by-play" guy was excellent, as were the "sideline reporters."

The one puzzler: whereas football, basketball, and baseball broadcasts liberally show crowd shots, I saw none during Sunday's race. You would think that there would be enough tipsy Southern belles wearing midriff-baring cutoff Kasey Kahne T-shirts to make these shots worthwhile for the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic.

When Matt Kenseth wrecked late in the race I stopped caring completely, although I was still interested in seeing where Janesville's Travis Kvapil, friends with my buddy Todd Sommerfeldt, finished (30th). Maybe next year I'll invest another six hours in a drab February Sunday and catch NASCAR fever. Probably not.

Oh, the picture above is winner Ryan Newman. Tomorrow morning, if you asked me to pick him out of a police lineup, I wouldn't be able to.


Just checked my email and - gasp! - my eight Keeper League keepers are due to commissioner/perennial champion Frank Schwab by Monday. I've put some time into it, but not as much as usual. I've only got a couple tough decisions to make - good tough decisions, not trying to choose between marginal players - and it shouldn't take me that long.

Over Christmas, I was all set, ready to make these tough choices, after reading Sam Walker's Fantasyland. What a great book. If you've ever gotten a little bit too involved in your fantasy baseball team, this is a must-read.

In a nutshell: Walker is a big-time newspaper reporter who takes a year off his regular job to enter Tout Wars, the most prestigious rotisserie baseball league in the country/world. He's never played fantasy baseball, but figures the connections with general managers, managers, and players from his regular job will give him an inside track on the competition. But, he is also intrigued by the Billy Beane Moneyball approach - numbers don't lie.

The guy flies to the winter meetings, visits every team in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, and makes it to loads of games in person. And my favorite part: he hires two guys to help him. One is a guy who researches players' personal histories and focuses on the intangible qualities. The other is the numbers guy who runs formulas and says things like "stick to the paradigm." The battle between the two is fascinating, and seeing how Walker chooses whose advice to follow is too.

In the end, Walker finishes near the bottom of the standings, but learns a ton, and wins the league the next year.

Even more enlightening are what happens to Walker's personal life. His wife is a saint, patient to a fault, even while pregnant. She is happy her husband has found a hobby, and amused at the maniacal state it drives him to. He also loses touch with all his friends, and instead of going out for dinner stays home and watches games.

Happy to report that I've never reached this depth of obsession, so this book makes me feel better about my approach to fantasy sports. But it also left me envious - how awesome would it be to hire two guys to help you run your team? To fly to a Red Sox game and tell David Ortiz you're thinking about trading him for Alfonso Soriano because you need steals? (Walker did this)

The book inspired me to come up with a more analytical approach to drafting, which will take place later next month. I'm not going to reveal my plans, because I don't want Schwab to copy them. ;) To make up the ground between second, where I finished last year, and first, Frank's usual spot, I'm going to need all the inspiration I can get.

Now, gotta find that Sporting News fantasy preview ...

West Bend East baseball - '98 videos

Andy emailed me Saturday to let me know that Robby Jansen had begun putting their old West Bend East baseball videos up on YouTube. This one is a sectional game against Cedarburg.

I watched the top of the first, in which my brother (top) goes in as a courtesy runner, takes third on a Mike Mueller single to right, then scores on a double steal. Pretty cool.

For those of you that didn't know, even though Andy's teams never won a state title, they were still pretty damn good, and set the standard for power hitting by a high school team.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wisconsin-Minnesota thoughts ... not worth much

All year long, I've run into friends, family and co-workers the day after Badger games and said "Didja see the Badger game last night?" All too often, the response has been "No ..." with me realizing "Oh, that's right, you don't get the Big Ten Network."

Now I know how it feels. We're at Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan for our annual winter family outing, spending a lot of time at the place's waterpark, which Will loves. The place has Time Warner cable, which of course doesn't have the Big Ten Network. Worse yet, the only radios we have in the joint, alarm clocks, did not pick up any AM stations. So we were essentially flying blind and deaf for today's game, tracking the score on the Internet before falling asleep.

Just woke up and "saw" us pull away at the end, good thing, because a loss to Minnesota in Madison might have ruined my weekend. Here's what I know from watching the play-by-play, box score, and Brian Lucas's courtside blog.

-Before the game I read that J-Bo hurt his leg in practice yesterday and was doubtful for today. Good thing he did.

-Love the balanced scoring, four guys scoring 11 points and one scoring 12. Six guys took between five and eight field goals attempts. On the year we have six guys averaging between 7.5 and 12.7 points per game. As we saw earlier this season, it's not just the type of scoring that leads to nights like this, but different guys going for 20-plus.

-We're really taking this "we make more free throws than our opponents attempt" thing seriously, eh? Shot 33 today?

-Glad to see we held Tollackson to four points. In one of our games last year he was scoring on us in the post really effectively, limited only by foul trouble, but he didn't really hurt us in our games this year. Could be as much Tubby's system and playing time patterns as anything.

-Pop seemed to have a soild game, although I haven't seen assist and turnover numbers yet.

-Mike Kelley was the honorary captain today, and brought his son Mike Jr. along. Nick, whose dad and stepmom are friends with Kelley's parents, tells me Mike also has four children, and that Kelley's parents have more than 30 grandchildren already. Prolific.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Good to Great

About a month ago my company scheduled an offsite strategic planning meeting. Part of our preparation for the planning was to read the Jim Collins book Good to Great, so I did on my flight to Germany. Then the meeting got canceled. Still, it was a good read, and I thought sevearl of the book's main tenets are applicable to Badger sports.

In a nutshell, the book was a scientific analysis of why some companies, like Kimberly-Clark, Phillip Morris, and Walgreens, outperform the market after years of middling results, while other comparable companies plod along. Some of the traits these successful companies shared were humble leaders, people put in the right places, and focusing on something they can be the best in the world at. Let's look at this from a UW athletics point of view.

Humble leaders: I'm going to put Pat Richter in this class. The guy is obviously incredible, from his days as an athlete to his days in business to his days running our athletic department. Yet you never heard him glorifying himself in public. Barry Alvarez had/has an ego, but you didn't hear him using the first person to describe the program's accomplishments. Dick Bennett and Bo Ryan are as self-effacing as they come.

Put the right people in the right places: Credit Donna Shalala for this one, getting Richter on board to lead the resurrection. But there were lots of other people responsible for doing off-the-field work required in a successful athletic program: Al Fish, Joel Maturi, Jamie Pollard, John Chadima, Steve Malchow, Rob Jansen, and lots of others. ;) These are the ones who monetize all of UW athletics' assets, who communicate a consistent message to the public, who hire other talented people at the lower levels.

Do what you can be best at: In the book the author cites Phillip Morris, which decided to be the best damn tobacco company in the world, not one that got distracted by diversifying into peripheral businesses (although they did that successfully later). No matter how you feel about the ethics of this, you can't deny that they've succeeded, and been immensely profitable along the way.

Let's apply this to UW sports. What could they be best in the world, or at least one of the best in the country, at? Alvarez built the football program with the goal of being the best in the country at running the ball. He figured that he could get linemen from the Midwest and a few good backs and build an identity. Sure, many talented receivers languished under this offensive approach, but it lifted the program to three Rose Bowl titles in six years, unprecedented success.

The basketball program under Bennett and Ryan has been the best in the world at defending and controlling tempo. Sure, many talented offensive players have had their games suppressed under this approach, but it lifted the program to a Final Four and a string of 20-win seasons and NCAA appearances that would have been a pipe dream 20 years ago.

Running a successful athletic program is like running a successful business, and we should be thankful that ours has been run as one of the best in the country for the last 18 years.

Big thanks to my brother-in-law Tony Sorgi, er, Nick, whose computer I'm using to write this.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Next Man Up

I've read a few books since the holidays, and figured this would be a good time
to write some short reviews. Today's book: Next Man Up, by John Feinstein, which I started on my flight home from Germany and finished last weekend.

Faithful readers may recall my review of another Feinstein work, The Last Dance, was not glowing. Too much Duke and Carolina, not enough for anyone else. Next Man Up was much, much better, vintage Feinstein.

Feinstein was granted access to the Baltimore Ravens for their 2004 season, and delivers a behind-the-scenes look at an NFL franchise that is unprecedented today. It starts with the owner, Steve Bisciotti, who bought the franchise from Burch's favorite family, the Modells. Bisciotti seems like a really good guy, a sharp contrast to Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who must have farted on Feinstein's chair at a game at some point - Feinstein just hates him and delivers anecdote after anecdote about what an ass Snyder is.

Ozzie Newsome is another key player, he's just one of the all-around good guys in the NFL and a terrific general manager. Great drafter. Brian Billick is the star. I've always been split on how I felt about him as a coach - he's an offensive coach at heart whose Baltimore teams consistently had subpar offenses but awesome defenses. He comes across as a very tech-savvy, media-savvy guy.

The 2004 season was a tumultuous one for the Ravens. It started in the offseason when Terrell Owens refused to report to Baltimore and ended up with the Eagles. Jamal Lewis was in the midst of his alleged drug deal troubles. Deion Sanders came out of retirement (remember that?) and spent most of the season hurt. Todd Heap was hurt much of the year. Kyle Boller struggled in his first year as a full-time starter. Ed Reed became a superstar. They missed the playoffs, but with all their injuries - Ray Lewis had a broken wrist, Jonathan Ogden and Matt Flynn were hurt as well - it wasn't surprising.

Several former Badgers make the book. Casey Rabach steps in and plays most of the year on the line because of injuries, although he was considered a starting-caliber player to begin with (he signed with Washington after the season). Ed Hartwell plays alongside Ray Lewis, although he isn't mentioned much. And Mike Solwold is on-again off-again as a long snapper. Feinstein much have really hit it off with Solwold, he comes across as a helluva guy. The next year the Ravens' regular long snapper was replaced by former Badger Matt Katula.

(Brief Solwold anecdote: Freshman year in Sullivan Hall, we lived on the same floor as Mike Samuel and Ryan Sondrup. One weekend they hosted Solwold and Mark Zander - a quarterback recruit who, like Hartwell, ended up transferring to Western Illinois. They stopped in our room for some beers and Madden/NHL '95, seemed to have a good time. Solwold, then a junior and a top five tight end recruit nationally, committed the next week, the earliest commit under Alvarez. Solwold didn't do much in his UW career at tight end, but was a terrific long snapper, as evidenced by his NFL career.)

Back to the book - great read, couldn't put it down. Reminded me of Season on the Brink, only with Billick playing the role of Bobby Knight. I haven't read too many good NFL books, but this is the best. I recommend it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wisconsin-Indiana thoughts

Wow, what a great win! As disappointed as I was Saturday - losing a game I expected us to win - tonight's win is even sweeter - winning a game I was sure we'd lose. My quick initial thoughts:

-Felt like the Texas game.
-Butch now has a signature moment as a Badger.
-On the day their coach was confirmed a cheater and a liar, Indiana did not deserve to win.

-Butch came up huge late, but to me it was Flowers and Bohannon who were the heroes. Flowers had a great offensive first half and did a nice job on Gordon, even though he ended up with 23 points. J-Bo, obviously, had the breakout shooting game we've all been waiting for, at just the right time!

-You know why J-Bo and Flowers were knocking down those 3-pointers? Because they caught the ball ready to shoot, not catching it and waiting for the defenders to get on them like sometimes happens when we're being so deliberate. Today's ironic headline: The Cap Times' "J-Bo not just a gunner anymore." It was a well-reasoned story, but I was happy he came out gunning tonight!

-In the pregame, Gene Keady said Indiana would come out playing zone, so I expected them to be good at it. Not the case. We had tons of wide-open looks in the early going, even if they were perimeter shots, just didn't make them. I made a note that if we lost, it was because we didn't take advantage of their poor early defense.

-Love the resilience in the first half. The shots weren't falling, White was killing us, even the fat kid scored a couple times - but we never let it get out of control.

-D.J. White is a really good player, but he looked like Wilt Freaking Chamberlain in the first half. It reminded me of the Sweet 16 game five years ago against Kentucky where Marques Estill ate us alive and Bo refused to double down on him. In this game, that refusal paid off - White slowed down in the second half and they were just 3-for-13 on 3-pointers.

-IU is talented, but missing something that makes a good team an elite team. Probably defensive stoppers - we scored only 66 points, but I think we had a very good offensive game.

-Schwib emailed me earlier today about the Kelvin Sampson news, and he compared it to our Shoe Box game against Western Michigan. Very similar, good call. Indiana knew this guy was in trouble when they hired him, now they've got to deal with his continued naughty behavior. Will they fire him? Apparently they can do it without buying him out. Makes you wonder more about Gordon's de-commit from Illinois ... bet Illini fans are having a field day with this.

-Stiemsma played some good minutes in the first half on both ends.

-Krabby once again hit the boards hard, and had a nice bank shot, but was again tentative finishing around the basket. Here's a comparison for you: Joe Krabbenhoft is the Badgers' Dennis Rodman, pre-bug out.

-Jim Sorgi in the house! In this mug shot he looks like a cross between my brother-in-law Nick and Tony Romo.

-After Saturday's mess, I thought this game was very well-officiated. We only shot five free throws, but only deserved that many, shot mostly jumpers. They shot 20 because they attacked the rim. The key was that the refs let our guys play defense on Gordon without sending him to the line time after time like NBA refs to with Dwayne Wade.

-Gordon and Wade: an apt comparison? I envision Gordon as an NBA point guard, but Wade makes a go of it at roughly the same height (6-4).

-Great play by Landry to tip in his own miss. We hit the offensive boards well all night.

-As mentioned at the top, really happy for Butch. He's been here for some great teams and great games, and stepped up big - he wanted that last shot. He was wonderful against Texas - but everyone will remember Flowers' shot and steal. He was big against Pitt in Madison last year, but I remember Alando. Here's his moment to remember - even if it was a bank shot!

Thought it was funny that Larrivee called him the Polar Bear, though ESPN/Lavin/Musberger had copyright on that.

-That's our seventh road win this year. Today's email said that we had the fifth-most road wins of any major conference school in the last two years - perhaps a better indicator of program strength than home court dominance.

-Another 20-win season, five-for-seven under Bo - should have been six if not for that loss to North Dakota State. Who would have thought this was possible 15 years ago?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Alumni basketball game

On his short radio segment tonight following our local news, Bo was talking to LePay about the alumni basketball game, which was played Saturday before the UW-Purdue game. They talked for a while in generalities about how special it is, the great guys, yadda yadda yadda.

In Brian Lucas's courtside blog for the actual game I found this mention of the alumni game:

Tonight's honorary captain is Charlie Wills. He was part of the alumni game that took place earlier today. Sean Mason led all scorers with 19 points to lead the Red team to victory. Dave Mader paced the White team with 16 points.

Not surprising that Mason could still fill it up. That wasn't a bad two-person class - Mason and Sean Dougherty - was it?

Earlier in the week Lucas's daily email mentioned other notables:

... rumored to be in attendance include Clayton Hanson, Dave Mader, David Burkemper, Sean Mason and Charlies Wills ...

What was Burkemper, the ref? Lord knows he's got the whistle.

The game got me thinking about what my dream UW alumni game would be - with guys playing in the shape I'm guessing they're in nowadays, so Joe Franklin and Wes Matthews probably wouldn't qualify. Here's my matchup:

Cardinal: Devin Harris, Sean Mason, Michael Finley, Sean Dougherty, Mike Wilkinson

White: Kammron Taylor, Roy Boone, Kirk Penney, Alando Tucker, Rashard Griffith

Who do you think wins that matchup?

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Cap Times, they are a changin'

Regular readers of Badgercentric know that we value The Capital Times, Madison's afternoon newspaper, for its UW sports coverage. Sure, it doesn't hurt that some of our good friends and former colleagues work there, but even if we didn't know them, we'd still read the stories for comprehensive coverage of our favorite teams.

If you haven't heard about it by now, there are big changes afoot at TCT, announced late last week. Cap Times editor Paul Fanlund, in a video announcement, says TCT will change from a afternoon newspaper published six days a week to an Internet newspaper published seven days a week. Read the story for full details.

As a longtime newspaper junkie, it wasn't hard to see this coming. Afternoon papers are a difficult sell in today's 24/7 news cycle with an endless; newspapers, period, are a difficult sell. Look at me - I used to work in daily newspapers, but don't subscribe to any, and read 4-5 per day online.

The decision to continue with any print product is puzzling, even if it is primarily opinion and arts content. I'll give TCT execs the benefit of the doubt, but my gut says the TCT portion of the State Journal will be easily overlooked, although the TCT's left-leaning opinion pages will probably retain a following going forward.

It appears that while TCT will retain a decent-sized sports staff (and we're confident management will make the proper decisions about which staffers to retain), there is no way they can produce the volume of print coverage they did before. This is not a bad thing. It gives TCT the opportunity to revolutionize professional coverage of sports. Here's what I would recommend:

-Focus on what you can be the best in the world at (a tenet of Good to Great, an interesting book I read on my recent flight, that I will recap later). Forget about spending any staff resources on covering the Packers or Brewers, AP feeds will suffice. Either:

-Devote all your resources to covering local sports: high school, home talent baseball, youth, Badger State Games, etc. Going hyperlocal is a strategy many larger newspapers are pursuing nowadays. But this would be hard to sell advertising around by itself, so:

-Throw your entire staff into covering University of Wisconsin athletics, with a heavy emphasis on the three top revenue-producing sports: football, men's basketball, men's hockey. Maybe not even hockey. That's what locals want, but it's also what UW alumni and fans worldwide want, too. We're an attractive demographic to web advertisers. With five or six guys covering the Badgers full-time, you could blow the State Journal and Journal Sentinel out of the water. Then, on top of the traditional stories you write, get into:

-Video - not hard, do lots of it. Create a mini-Badger TV network.

-Audio - ditto.

-Blog like you mean it, not the afterthought it is now. Be more timely, more provocative. Use it for quick hitters, like Dave Heller's "catching up with" UW alumni features for the Journal Sentinel.

-Be quicker. Right now, the Journal Sentinel and message boards seem to be better places to find breaking Badger news, however limited it might be.

-Build a community, including a message board that could rival any currently out there.

-Consistently cover recruiting like no other major media outlet. Not just this Phil Fritz stuff, well-written, reported recruiting news.

-As regular readers of this blog would know, I also think increased alumni coverage is desirable. Either we went to school with these guys, or they played on teams that made us happy - what are they doing now?

Aside from the unfortunate fact that some true professional journalists will lose their jobs in this transition, I am excited to see what The Cap Times comes up with here. All of us in publishing are trying to figure out the Internet, still, and the trick is to make it its own distinct product, not just a different form of your the product. Now, TCT won't even have a print product to compare itself to, which will be terrifying, but also liberating.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Guten morgen

Well, I think all the pilsener and wienerschnitzel has been flushed from my system, and I'm ready to write about my week in Berlin. What a trip!

In the purest sense, I was there for a coin show - the World Money Fair. Our company was promoting our full array of coin and paper money media properties, especially NumisMaster, our shiny new website that we think is best in class. We were also presenting our Coin of the Year Awards, which go out to mints from around the world. China was the honored country at the event, and they brought along my new friends in this picture.

Thankfully, we ventured out of the convention center a number of times. Some of it was for business related to the coin show. Our friends at the Royal Canadian Mint invited us to a reception at the Canadian Embassy, a gorgeous, modern architectural marvel built in a location where the Berlin Wall used to reside. We toured the Berlin Mint, and were able to catch 2-Euro coins coming off the line. A friend of ours at the German Ministry of Finance invited us to a press event at the Bundeskanzlerin, the German equivalent of the White House, where we came into close proximity with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Bundeskanzlerin was another magnificent modern building, sprinkled with the sort of old world elements you'd expect to see in Europe.

Aside from that, we were able to venture into small neighborhoods and take the train (subway workers are on strike) to downtown shopping areas, thoroughly enjoying it all. A personal highlight for me was walking into a dingy little comic book shop and finding the latest issue of Comics Buyer's Guide, with my name listed on the masthead. The punk teenager standing next to me didn't share my enthusiasm.

All in all, the people were so friendly. I expected the German mindset to be very serious, curt, especially toward Americans, but that was not the case at all. Most spoke English enough to help us get by, some were downright fluent. The food was terrific. One complaint: few water fountains or the type of bottled water we typically drink - mostly mineral water, yuck - which often left me feeling dehydrated.

Germany was not at the top of my list of places to visit in Europe, but it proved to be a wonderful destination, and I would not hesitate to go back.

Our team: Dave Harper, Tom Michael, Lisa Bellavin, and me at the Canadian Embassy. My past experience with work travel was proven true again: Canadians know how to have a good time.

This car, about as long as my legs, is apparently called the Smart Car. My suggestion, Death Trap, probably would have been nixed by the marketing department. People take this thing on the freeway - brave people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. I have no idea what she said, but it went over well with the press.

Folks lined up around the block for the right to walk around the perimeter of the dome resting atop the Reichstag, Germany's legislative building.

Pretty sure this is where the German Cabinet meets. Lots of candy and drinks on the table; dehydrated, I was eying up a bottle of orange juice when a young, serious-looking security guard gave me a look that suggested taking the bottle would lead me to a less beautiful room in the Bundeskanzlerin.

Apparently over 12,000 people attended the World Money Fair. Most of them had showered in the past week.

Our Coin of the Year event attracted press from Italy, Latvia, Germany and elsewhere. It was paparazzi-esque, unusual for a coin show; we did have Miley Cyrus handing out the awards.

Coaching tree update

Quick update on a couple Badger football coaching tree developments while I was gone:

-Joe Rudolph, who was one of the underrated standouts on the first Alvarez Rose Bowl team, has joined the staff as tight ends coach. He was most recently on Bill Callahan's staff at Nebraska in the same capacity.

-Dan McCarney was named Florida's assistant head coach. That's pretty huge for Mac, a testament to the respect he has amongst coaches that Urban Meyer would give him this title a little more than a year after winning the national title.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Wisconsin-Purdue thoughts

Feeling pretty raw about this one. Earlier today I was thinking about how confident I was about this game - a rare emotion for me when it comes to big Badger games. But after the close loss in West Lafayette in which we played poorly, I thought the Kohl Center/big game factor would lift us to a comfortable win.

If only. We are not built to come from behind, as Tim McCormick noted correctly on the broadcast, and were never able to get over the hump. Getting down by double digits in the second half against a team that isn't going to implode is a sure recipe for a loss.

First the obligatory gracious words for the victors. Purdue shot well, was scrappy on defense, and didn't let the Kohl Center beat them. They're coming of age sooner than anyone expected, should end up a top 15 or even top 10 team this season.

But man ... we shot 32 percent, allowed them to shot 52 percent, had so many horrible turnovers, left their 3-point shooters open, pushed or backed off on offense at the wrong times, and fell victim to some bad calls and non-calls.

This loss unfolded over such a long time that I experienced all five stages of grief: denial ("we'll still come back ... they can't keep shooting this well"), anger ("that Hummel geek can't keep knocking down 3s ... call the f#$%ing travel!"), bargaining ("if we go stop-score-stop-score-stop-score it's tied ... if I watch the primary coverage on CNN instead of the game we'll cut into their lead"), depression ("I can't believe that after only losing to Illinois at the Kohl in Big Ten play under Bo, this is the second conference team to beat us"), and acceptance ("you know what? 9-2 in the conference, probably ranked in the top 12 on Monday - that's much better than where I thought we'd be at this stage.")

As satisfying as it is to categorize my emotions from a basketball game into the Kubler-Ross model, I'd rather be drinking a Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat and toasting the win that put us in the driver's seat for the Big Ten crown.

-Had a knot in my stomach when their grimy center hit those 3-pointers to start the game, sort of like when Gorney hit several jumpers to start the Iowa game.

-Not going to blame the loss on this, but that was a poorly officiated game. The area in which I thought the refs were consistently off were missing Purdue players shuffling their feet. In the first half, Hummel hit a 3 to stop a rally after traveling twice on the possession. In the second half, Kramer slips and falls, we get called for a foul and a technical, then Calasan knocks down J-Bo with on an illegal screen, none of the calls going our way. (What the hell was that technical about? The TV broadcast never sufficiently found out.) Late in the second half Kramer had a three-point play on a phantom foul call on Flowers.

Yes, they got called for 25 fouls and we shot 33 free throws, but that was appropriate given the style of hands-on defense Purdue played - which limited our penetration and open perimeter looks.

-Pop had a really bad game. It looked like he tweaked his ankle early without anyone noting it, but it's so hard to tell how much it affects him. He wasn't able to get separation for jumpers, which may have been a combination of a slight injury and good, long defenders on him.

-Four points was the deficit hump we couldn't get over. At 26-22 Hummel hit that three after going for a walk. At 59-55 Hughes drove and unwisely put up a shot that was easily blocked. At 64-60 Krabby missed a free throw (you just knew we weren't going to go 33-for-33), Hughes missed a 3, and we committed a turnover. At 69-65 Hughes was stripped and Grant dunked going the other way. At any one of those a conversion could have shifted the balance.

At Indiana on Wednesday, can't imagine that will be a cakewalk.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wisconsin-Minnesota thoughts

Yet another game that was fun to watch knowing that we won. I really like how we took the crowd out of the game early, and it sounded like we had a lot of Badger fans at The Barn. Is that right Schwib and Toohey?

-A terrific game by Pop. He was never out of control, and he really anticipated the Gophers' lackadaisical passes en route to his six steals. My one concern is that he gets caught up in making steals and lets up on playing solid positional defense. Remember, steals don't equate to good defense, and I'm sure Bo won't let that happen with Hughes. I love Trevon's demeanor after all those big plays - no chest pounding, just business as usual.

-Minnesota doubled Butch and Stiemsma in the post at times in the first half, don't remember seeing anyone do that against us to this point. The big guys didn't exactly handle it spectacularly, just kind of survived. Thought the Gophers also used their hands guarding the perimeter more than any other team I'd seen this year, surprised they didn't get whistled for that more often.

-Matchups obviously dictate this, but we seem to be going with a smaller lineup a lot: Hughes, Flowers, J-Bo, Krabby, and Landry. Good lineup for closing out a game and for guarding the perimeter, but not bad rebounding either.

-Early in the second half Minnesota scored a few points in a row to cut our lead to like 15 points and I heard what had to be about 10 fans in the student section shouting the now cliche "Ohhhhhh!" It sounded like a dead cat moaning.

-Liked the offense overall, but too many possessions went down to the last five seconds on the shot block with Pop taking a 3.

-Let's pick a nit: way too many unforced turnovers.

-I think Tubby Smith played too many guys. Ten guys got eight minutes or more, and Tollackson - their only guy who scares me offensively - only got 16. They never seemed to have a cohesive unit on the floor. Do you really need to find minutes for a mediocre guy like Abu-Shamala? Contrast that to our tight rotation, which is eight at the most, and in the Minnesota game was really only six. Playing at that pace, you can use less guys.

-Even though they're not putting up Alando Tucker-esque numbers, Hughes and Butch, probably even Landry, can be counted on to score in double digits, which is important. It was concerning that Landry had three shots blocked, he seemed to be too relaxed on those shots.

-Is it me, or have Flowers and Krabby shot more reverse layups than anyone you've seen in the last 10 years? Those shots aren't easy.

-Finally, and I feel uneasy writing this because it is somewhat critical of a good kid: Tanner Bronson reminds me of a guy we had on our varsity sophomore year. His name was Christoph Schmidt, a foreign exchange student from Germany, and he was terrible. He'd get on the court in garbage time and run around like a chicken with his head cut of before doing something embarrassing.

To be clear, I do not think Tanner is embarrassing, he's a sharp kid who's busted his butt for four years and will be a success in whatever he pursues after college, likely coaching. That's admirable. But I can't remember a time when he's done anything productive with the limited minutes he's gotten at the end of games. Case in point against Minnesota: he misses two free throws badly, that's something he should be able to do. Finish the game on the right note - let Tim Jarmusz and Keaton Nankivil feel like their limited minutes count. Earlier in his career, it was cute, but now I'd rather see a guy like Brett Valentyn, who might contribute some day, get those minutes.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Wisconsin-Indiana thoughts

Upon returning from Germany, I walked into my boss's office for a review of what I had missed. Naturally, the conversation was 90% about basketball, and he told me about the Badgers' wins, especially the one over Indiana. "You've got to see the pick Krabbenhoft set on Gordon," he said.

Just got done watching it, and he was right - it was a crusher. What a night for Krabby. I'll overlook the shaky free throw shooting. Five assists and 12 rebounds, to go along with great defense and pick setting, and he was the man of the match.

-What offense were we running in this game? It sure didn't resemble the Swing. Maybe that's because Indiana was so inept stopping dribble penetration, which is puzzling. Pop had a bad night shooting, but he penetrated well.

-Another nice game for Landry - double-digit scoring and rebounds on plus-50% shooting while staying within himself.

-Butch struggled to finish inside again, but if the tradeoff is that he's now making more 3-pointers, I'll take it.

-Steve Lavin made a good point about our transition defense, saying we "built a shell." Not many people are better in transition defense.

-Eric Gordon is something else, isn't he? Explosive, powerful, skilled. Not always the best decision maker, though, and he's not going to get away with those things against good teams. I think he'll play point guard in the NBA and be spectacular from the start.

-D.J. White is a bully. This is the guy I thought he'd be three years ago when he was a freshman, but injuries really slowed him. The refs really give him leeway, although Landry did draw a charge (with a bit of a flop).

-Lance Stemler is horrible, how was it Sampson played him 26 minutes?

-Deandre Thomas is listed at 6-8, 295. Two-hundred ninety-five what, kilograms? I haven't seen a guy that fat playing Division I hoops since Oliver Miller at Arkansas. It's amazing that with the constant running that comes with basketball that he would still be borderline morbidly obese.

-One of my opponent villains last year was A.J. Ratliff, who went insane during our game in Bloomington. This year he plays five minutes and is a non-factor. What happened there? (Since you asked, my other villains from last year were Drew Neitzel and Kevin Kruger.)

-Lavin made a comment that this is Bo Ryan's first UW team without a surefire first round NBA draft pick. Very untrue. Devin Harris wasn't a surefire NBA player until his junior season. Alando Tucker's NBA worth was debated for three years. The better description would have been that this is his first team without a clear-cut leading scorer or All-Big Ten player.

-Flowers and J-Bo both shot 3-pointers well earlier in the shot clock than usual. They were open looks, but both missed badly.

-Pop's behind-the-back pass to Flowers was just beautiful, went back and watched it five times, before they replayed it five times.

-Good crowd at the Kohl Center, they were really into it.

Hope to catch the Minnesota game tomorrow and make it three wins in three days heading into the Purdue rematch.