Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Anthony Davis, eh?

Can you believe that in over 300 posts on a blog called Badgercentric there has not been one mention yet of Anthony Davis? The Anthony Davis who is Wisconsin's second all-time leading rusher, with 4,676 yards and 42 touchdowns? Who was just incredible his first two seasons, before injuries derailed his college career?

Well, here's the first. Was reading a pretty good Mike Lucas story today on Tyler Donovan's emotions during the NFL Draft, and what his future in the CFL looks like. It's funny, because several times during the draft Saturday I made a remark to Polzin like "Hey Jimmy, the Ravens just took Donovan, time to get to work." Interesting to see that NFL teams actually were talking to Tyler, although it would probably have just been for tryouts.

Anyway, back to Davis. According to Lucas's story, Davis played the last couple years for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before being traded to the Toronto Argonauts in December. Unfortunately, the Argos' website indicates AD was released three weeks ago.

Davis was on my mind last fall when we were debating here how the Badgers' current running back depth chart should shape up. Some people indicated that they wouldn't be disappointed if P.J. Hill moved on, since Zach Brown, Lance Smith and John Clay could fill in just fine. I disagree. When you find a superstar back - like Davis was his first two seasons - the dropoff to guys who are just pretty good can change a season.

When Davis got hurt in 2003 and 2004, Badger fans probably thought it would be no big deal since Dwayne Smith and Booker Stanley were waiting in the wings. They proved capable, but the offense bogged down at times. It wasn't until Brian Calhoun came in the next season that the offense again had a dynamic threat out of the backfield, and that side of the ball was explosive for the Badgers.

My point is, when you have a guy who's a true game-changer right off the bat, you ride him as long as he can, because the guys behind him might not necessarily be better.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Feeling Blue - Vander Blue

Bo Ryan picked up his first commitment for the class of 2010 yesterday when Madison Memorial's Vander Blue pledged to become a Badger. Among his other suitors were Indiana, Kentucky, and Marquette, and other big names seemed poised to follow.

I saw him play at the state tournament in Madison, and saw why there was interest. Vander is good at driving and getting to the rim, and was active in Memorial's trapping defense. He didn't try any 3-pointers - no one on Memorial did, a rarity - but he is said to have a nice mid-range game.

From my limited exposure to Blue, I've been trying to come up with a comparison, but am stumped. The penetrating ability is a little bit like Trevon Hughes, but he's taller. His body reminds me of Devin Harris, but he doesn't seem to be as good a scorer ... although he is just a high school sophomore.

There only appears to be one scholarship left for the class of '10, and it would appear to be ticketed for Evan Anderson. Other notables from that class include Flavien Davis of Milwaukee and Kameron Cerroni of Sussex Hamilton.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Swan song in KC?

Luke Swan signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in the aftermath of yesterday's NFL Draft, and on the surface, it looks like he might have a shot to make the team. Look at the Chiefs' depth chart at wide receiver:

Dwayne Bowe
Jeff Webb
Bobby Sippio
Maurice Price
Devard Darling

In the draft KC took a pair of wideouts, Missouri's Will Franklin in the fourth round, and Kevin Robinson of Utah State in the sixth. Of those seven guys, only one - Bowe, a budding star - had more than 28 catches in the NFL last year. Frankly, Bowe and Darling are the only ones I've even heard of before.

I'd feel a lot better about Swan's chances if he wasn't coming off that horrific hamstring injury he suffered in the game against Illinois. But maybe his situation will mirror Ike's, and he'll get time to heal up, maybe get some seasoning on the practice squad, then make a contribution at the end of 2008 or in early 2009.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

New NFL Badgers

Congratulations to Jack Ikegwuonu, Taylor Mehlhaff, Paul Hubbard and Nick Hayden, who became the latest former Badgers to be selected by NFL teams.

Ike went in the fourth round to Philadelphia. The Eagles have two good corners in Lito Sheppard and Asante Samuel, but it seems like Sheppard wants out of Philly. Doesn't matter much for this year, since Ike isn't going to play while he's rehabbing his injured knee. The Eagles have been pretty successful drafting and grooming cornerbacks over the years — then letting them go in free agency. Ike landed in a good spot, hopefully his injury and off-field issues don't inhibit him from reaching his professional potential.

Checking the Saints' depth chart, it appears that Martin Gramatica is the lone kicker in New Orleans right now. God, I hope Taylor beats out out that little brat! Apparently Gramatica kicked pretty well in the Saints' last three games last season, and was expected to compete with Olindo Mare for the kicking job. If Mehlhaff can stick, what a great place to start his career — a dome. Ryan Longwell's whining for years about the advantages dome kickers have may have turned off some fans (read: me), but he's right.

Hubbard's going to have an uphill battle to win a job in Cleveland, which led by Joe Thomas had a terrific offense last season. Braylon Edwards is the go-to guy at wideout, they recently acquired Donte Stallworth, and Joe Jurevicius is a good #3. Paul will have to beat out the likes of Tim Carter, Josh Cribbs, and Travis Wilson for a job. It'll help if he can show value as a special teams player.

The Panthers came into the draft looking to address their defensive line, but didn't take a D-Lineman until Hayden in the sixth round. So that bodes well for his chances of sticking. Carolina's other guys at defensive tackle are Damione Lewis, Steve Williams, and Ma'ake Kemoeatu; their ends are Julius Peppers, Tyler Brayton, Charles Johnson, and Stanley McClover. So basically, Peppers and a bunch of nobodies. It'll be interesting to see if Hayden can stick at tackle, since he weighs less than 300 pounds.

Just read that the Packers signed Ken DeBauche, who we saw at Crazylegs yesterday. Don't figure he'll make the team, but it will be good for him to get in an NFL camp and show what he can do; guys bounce around so much at those kicking positions that you just need to impress one team. And Luke Swan signed with the Chiefs. Here's hoping Marcus Coleman gets a shot with someone.

Which of these Badgers ended up in the best situation?

And in other news, Jim Leonhard signed with Baltimore after spending his first three seasons in Buffalo.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Crazylegs=Crazy fun!

It wasn't the best day for the 27th annual Crazylegs Classic, with overcast skies and blustery wind. I finished 4,963rd, which was good for second place in our group. Unfortunately, it was 4,962 places short of finishing our quest for the perfect baby name; Jana and I made a deal that if I won the whole ball of wax, we'd name our son Elroy Hirsch Tappa. No dice.

For those of you who know us, the our quintet's finish was: 1. Tim Toohey (great race dude!), 2. me, 3. Matt Schwalbach, 4. Jim Polzin, 5. Andy Tappa. Andy and Jim crossed the finish line at the same time (sadly, not holding hands), but Jim crossed the start line a second before Andy.

A good time. Someone suggested I did some hits and misses for the day, so here goes:

-Here's who greeted us at the starting line: Morris Cain, Lance Kendricks, O'Brien Schofield, Kevin Gullikson, Brett Valentyn, Greg Stiemsma, Joe Krabbenhoft. Saw Brian Butch, wearing a big black hoodie, on Breese Terrace near the stadium entrance.

-The wave start was done better than ever, meaning less running in place and a less congested first half-mile of running.

-Ron Dayne, talkative as ever, told the crowd he planned to play two more years in the NFL before retiring to work with the program. Apparently he's also spending a lot of time in Madison working with schoolkids. Nice to see a strong alumni connection to the current team.

-Free beer at the end is a really good thing about Crazylegs.

-Didn't miss any of the NFL Draft, which started later this year. Really enjoying the new 10 minutes between picks first round, kudos Roger Goodell.

-Always a great feeling to run onto the field at Camp Randall.

-The guy with the lip piercing who enforced the double-letter waves way at the end, who made kids move from BB to CC. Come on dude, lighten up.

-The folks with really bad leg tattoos who dressed up in full Joe Thomas UW uniforms for at least the second time. I appreciate the school spirit, but the tattoos are just creepy.

-Did not hear the theme song from Rocky once. Very disappointing.

-People who are walking on the running course should move to the right side and let us run through!

-Some dude was wearing an Adam Haluska Iowa jersey. I subtly pushed him into Lake Mendota.

-The course got kind of narrow on the lakeshore after the dorms.

-George Johnson, sports director of Channel 3 in Madison and the MC at the finish line, is a bit much for my tastes.

Already looking forward to next year. Will is asking to run with me next year. I'm not sure that's such a good idea, although there were some 6-year-olds who seemed to be finishing ahead of me this year.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Your Crazylegs Grand Marshal: Rooooon Daaaayne

It'll be nice to see the big fella on Saturday, hopefully. According to a State Journal story, Dayne said "I never thought I would be in a position to do something like this."

Really, Ron? You didn't think winning the Heisman and back-to-back Rose Bowls wasn't significant enough to give you the honor of grabbing a bullhorn and addressing 18,000 runners/walkers? Hell, if I keep up Badgercentric long enough I half expect to be Grand Marshal of the Crazylegs ... around 2056.

Looking forward to the run. This will be the first time I've run without actually running beforehand, so if he really busts it Schwalbach might beat me this time, if he decides to run and leave the walking to the women. I have been playing basketball four days a week, though, so I'm not coming in stone cold.

It looks like they're projecting about 18,000 people for this year's event, which is awesome. When I started doing this with Andy six years ago I think the turnout was between 10-12,000.

One of my favorite parts of Crazylegs is to run through the start line and high-five the third-string right guard. We'll let you know whose hands we touch.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So, Ryan's got a drug problem

Didn't see that one coming, but a good plot twist. Good thing Dwight's getting him some cranberry juice.

I like the way the producers are making Jim and Pam annoying to others. It's almost like they're preemptively creating flaws for the perfect couple so that viewers don't get sick of them first and turn on them. Also, I think Jon Krasinski is starting to look like Jenna Fischer.

The Jim Halpert character often reminds me of myself, or at least who I'd like myself to be. Like tonight, when Toby put his hand on Pam's knee, he just shrugged it off. Didn't get mad at him, or her, just shrugged it off.

Great lines:

Dwight: "You've got a ton of dandruff."

Michael: "I don't feel like peanut butter, get me an ice cream sandwich."

Ryan: "Dunder Mifflin Infinity - 2.0!" Stanley: "When will it be ready?" Ryan: "TBD."

Kelly: "If I had created a website with this many problems I'd kill myself."

Andy: "The ol' ball and chain has been more chain than ball lately."

Michael: "I'm a bank teller."

Michael: "Ryan, we're going to take your clothes off."

Lastly, like Michael, Jana and I are watching The Wire now (finishing off season one right after this), and there have been times when she's shared Michael's take on it: "I don't understand a word of it." Great show, if you like mob/gang stuff you should definitely watch it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Badger draft busts and steals

With Crazylegs approaching Saturday, it must be time for the NFL Draft. Not much going on Badger-wise on the first day, unless someone reaches for Taylor Mehlhaff. Paul Hubbard, Nick Hayden and maybe Jack Ikegwuonu are other possibilities to be picked, and I wouldn't bet against Luke Swan signing a free agent contract.

For as terrific as our program has been over the past 15 years, we have still turned out our fair share of stinkers. Mr. Man, a frequent excellent commenter on Badgercentric, today had a post on his blog, Camp Lambeau, about a site called Football Outsiders that ranked the biggest draft busts from 200-2003, among many interesting lists.

Wendell Bryant and Chris McIntosh head the list of busts. Hard to argue, unfortunately. Wendell, a fan favorite who is responsible for so many fond memories from his college days, seemed to party his way out of the league, and Mac was hurt a lot. You could argue that among recent first rounders, Aaron Gibson (if the list started a year earlier) and Jamar Fletcher belong on this list, although they managed to stick around and contribute more than the other two guys.

On the bright side, Chris Chambers is on the list of top 10 second and third round steals, and Mark Tauscher on the list of top 10 second day steals. Both very deserving.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Border Battle, recruiting-style

Today Toohey forwarded me a link from the Star Trib's Gopher blog. At the time the lead story was about how the Wisconsin hockey program reached into Minnesota to sign three highly-regarded recruits, Jake Gardiner, Derek Stepan, and Jordy Murray.

Nice signings, to be sure, but not evidence of a collapse of the Gopher hockey empire. As Schwalbach noted, Minnesota produces more college hockey prospects than any other state in the country, and the Gophers will be really good without these three.

The new top item on the blog mentions that Kim Royston is expected to return to Minnesota to play. That's not surprising, given that Royston's dad says the family is excited about the 1-11 seasons Tim Brewster is putting together up there. But I thought Bielema wasn't going to let him head to the U, right? Change of heart?

It got me thinking about how things have gone between our two schools in terms of stealing athletes from the other state. I won't count hockey, since we take far more players from the west than they do from the east, although Phil Kessel was a notable defection.

So let's look at the main sports since the start of the 1990s. I will note on the front end that my Wisconsin-to-Minnesota lists will probably be missing a few maroon and gold notables, given my relative lack of knowledge of recent Gopher rosters, although the U's website is terrific at listing past rosters.

Minnesota to Wisconsin: Mark Montgomery, Rob Lurtsema, Jason Suttle, Derek Engler, Carl McCullough, Tim Rosga, Dague Retzlaff, John Stocco, Marcus Coleman, Blake Sorensen, David Gilreath, Isaac Anderson, Brandon Hoey, Royston, Brendan Kelly, Joe Schafer

Wisconsin to Minnesota: Ben Mezera, John Pawielski, Raymond Henderson, Keith Lipka, Andrew Allison, Ryan Coleman, Bryan Klitzke, Kevin Mannion, Nicholas Stommes, Jimmy Thompson, John Jakel, Todd Meisel, Troy Reilly, Brad Bultman, Ben Fischer, Michael Hart, Dan Kinsella, Judd Smith, Seth Thompson, Mike Wey, Thomas Hennessey, Pat McCarthy, Mike Nicholson, Jason Lamers, Mike Wojciechowski, Matt McIntosh, Joseph Quinn, Zach Schauf, Ben West, Antoine Burns, Ryan Duffy, Preston Gruenning, Demetrus Johnson, Jason Beckum, Andy Merrilll, Steve Murray, Matt Poreba, Justin Waldron, Timothy Ward

No, I did not just make those names up, those were actual guys with Wisconsin hometowns listed as having been on Minnesota's football roster. Not to oversimplify things or sound callous, but it appears to me that we've never lost an in-state recruit we wanted to Minnesota, but the Gophers can't say the same.

Minnesota to Wisconsin: Jon Bryant, Kammron Taylor, Kevin Gullikson, Jon Leuer, Jared Berggren, Jordan Taylor, Mike Bruesewitz, Grant Johnson

Wisconsin to Minnesota: Tyree Bolden, Jermaine Stanford, Jason Stanford, Mark Jones

Again, not making these Minnesota names up, they are real people. You could give Minnesota Kevin McHale and/or Miles Tarver and this one would still be lopsided in Bucky's favor.

Again, I'm sure I missed some guys both ways, let me know who and I'll add them to the post. Too tired for more analysis.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The offense

Was reading a column this evening, think it was by Tom Oates of the State Journal, about the Badgers' quarterback situation. He had a line that said something to the effect of "It doesn't really matter who the UW quarterback is, as long as he's not terrible. With the running backs on the roster, especially now that Clay is showing he's the real deal, the quarterback won't be asked to do all that much."

That sentiment makes sense. But here's why I don't feel really confident with the offense heading into the 2008 season with a highly suspect passing game.

1. I don't think this offensive line is a road grading line. It's a good line, to be sure. Kraig Urbik is a terrific player, Gabe Carimi has star potential at left tackle, and the rest of the returnees are seasoned. But - and you can argue with me - I think the UW offensive lines of recent seasons have been somewhat overrated. They're good, but they're riding the reputation of the damn good blockers of a decade ago. This line doesn't have an Aaron Gibson or Bill Ferrario who's going to open huge holes.

So while I like our backs, and think each one of them brings some valuable attributes to the table, I still don't think the running game will be dominant enough to carry the offense by itself.

2. With each passing day I'm more bearish about our current group of wideouts. There's a lot of talent there - Kyle Jefferson especially, but several other guys as well - but something's missing. Henry Mason is missing. He was the constant with all of those NFL-caliber receivers we sent to the next level over the past decade. Jefferson's production tailed off at the end of last season when he was asked to carry a bigger load, David Gilreath is only like Brandon Williams in his return ability right now, and the rest of the guys have basically done nothing.

Two years ago, Luke Swan and Paul Hubbard had basically done nothing, but they had a three-year starter at quarterback and Mason coaching them.

3. Because of this, Travis Beckum is going to get more attention than ever. He's damn good, but if opposing defenses can get by with single coverage on the wideouts, they can bracket Beckum with a linebacker and safety and limit what he can do.

4. For all my recent optimism about the defense, it still has the chance to be really bad this season. As such, there's a good chance the Badgers will be playing from behind, which of course limits what you can do in the run game and puts more pressure on the quarterback to make plays in the passing game.

Who knows, maybe tomorrow I'll wake up and think Allan Evridge is the second coming of Jim Zorn, but right now I'm pessimistic.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring game

Read a bunch about the spring game today, and here's what I'm thinking in a nutshell:

-Louis Nzegwu played really well at defensive end with four tackles for loss. He should provide quality depth at a shaky position this fall.

-Lots of reports raving about DeAndre Levy, not so much his play but his leadership. As unstable as the other defensive units are, we should be able to go six deep at linebacker this season without much dropoff.

-Lance Kendricks caught a touchdown pass. His breakout isn't going to come this year, but in 2009 he'll be a big part of the offense as a Beckum-type tight end.

-Seems like Chris Maragos played well at safety, and Jay Valai made some plays. The playing time's there, guys, might as well take it.

-The running backs did nothing to make us think that this won't be our strongest position in 2008. Say all you want about the other three guys, who are good, but I'm still glad P.J. Hill is coming back as the starter. These are four guys who all bring something to the table and will test defenses in their own way. Looks like Johnny Clay did not disappoint in his first public appearance as a Badger.

Don't like
-I'm convinced that our kicking game is going to cost us a win or two this season. It sounds like Philip Welch and Matt Fischer were lackluster at best yesterday, and it doesn't appear there's anyone coming in for fall camp with a chance to unseat them. Bielema held a contest for students to field kicks cleanly; he should have held an open placekicking tryout. And while Brad DeBauche was not impressive punting, at least we have a touted freshmen coming in to push him this fall in Brad Nortman.

-None of the quarterbacks distinguished themselves, but can anyone remember the last time a QB really stood out in the spring game? Stocco and Donovan were horrible, if I recall, and put together some nice seasons. So I'm not too nervous about this ... yet.

-Sounds like my man Daven Jones and Kyle Jefferson suffered from the drops in spring ball. I was already counting on Jefferson as a sure thing at wideout this season, and given all the uncertainty around him at the position, he has to be reliable.

-Bielema's goatee is really bad. He looks like he's auditioning for the defensive line coach job at Lodi High School. What's wrong with the farm fresh, clean cut look from his official mug shot (above)?

It reminds me of something: Every year I try to take a week of vacation around Christmas and New Year's. Starting on Christmas day, I do my best to stop shaving for at least a week, to see if I can grow decent facial hair. Sadly, I still can't, but because I'm really not going out in public, I have some fun with it and end up whittling it down into a tiny, bad goatee that Jana rolls here eyes at. That's what Coach B's goatee looks like. I can just see Alvarez walking by Bret in the Camp Randall parking lot and rolling his eyes.

OK, spring's over. When does the first fall preview magazine come out?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Didn't see the spring game

Last week I read some stories about how Bielema was encouraging Badger fans to make a bigger deal out of the spring game. The stories referenced other schools' games, where they draw near-capacity crowds and scalpers get serious cash for the tickets.

I, too, wish our spring game was a big deal. And yet even though entrance was free, Jana, Will and I were in Appleton today for a trip to the Fox Cities Book Festival and children's museum. Why? Two reasons:

1. Thought the weather was going to be lousy yesterday and planned inside activities. It didn't turn out that way, but if I'm going to commit to watching football practice for three hours, it had better not be 35 degrees and raining. The same philosophy applies to Brewers games, and it's a good bet that the presence of a roof over the top of Miller Park and a comfortable temperature inside makes it easier for the team to draw fans from outside the metro Milwaukee area.

2. Can't really do anything about the weather, so how about this: hold the game in conjunction with something else Badger fans like to do. Like, say, Crazylegs? Case in point: Schwalbach and I will both be in Madison next weekend for Crazylegs, it's an annual tradition for my brother and friends. But he lives 4-5 hours away and I live two hours away, and it's hard, if not impossible, to justify making that trip on back-to-back weekends. Especially with young families.

If memory serves, when we were in school Crazylegs, Butch's Bologna Bash, and the spring game were all on the same day. I forget why they split up/ended these events, but it would be nice if there was one big Badger Weekend in April that brought lots of events - sporting and non-sporting - together.

Until then, it's just Crazylegs weekend for me.

I'll read some of the spring game recaps and comment later, but at the very least it seems like no one else got hurt. So the game was an unqualified success!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Another one bites the dust: Shaughnessy

It was confirmed this afternoon that Matt Shaughnessy, the last remaining healthy defensive lineman on the Wisconsin roster, broke his leg in practice last night. Great. Does Azree Commander have any eligibility left?

To recap, the walking wounded on the D-line include: Shaughnessy, Kirk DeCremer, Jason Chapman, Brandon Hoey, Dan Moore, Dan Cascone, and Mike Newkirk. So at the spring game tomorrow it's Jeff Stehle, O'Brien Schofield, and some guys they picked up at the Nat on the D-line.

At one point, the injuries didn't bother me, because they allowed some younger guys to get more reps in spring practice. But this is ridiculous. Assuming all of these guys are back in time for fall camp - a big assumption that it is probably not appropriate to make - the unit should be at least mediocre. But add that on top of our two best cornerbacks recovering from knee injuries, and the defense becomes even more of a question mark than it was in January.

Then again ... last year's unit came in with a lot of hype and underdelivered. I've got a feeling that we'll be really down on the D coming into this season and they'll play better than expectations. Why?

1. I think Shaughnessy will be back and fully healthy by August and dominate this fall.
2. I think Jonathan Casillas and DeAndre Levy will be All-Big Ten-type guys this season, and Elijah Hodge and his platoon mates will be good enough in the middle.
3. I think Shane Carter will show a more well-rounded game, and our play at cornerback will not be disastrous.
4. Our defense has been really good in even-numbered years under Bielema. That one's a stretch, and I don't think this unit will be as good as those from 2004 and 2006 ... but what were your expectations for the defense in those years?

We may have the offensive horses to win some shootouts this fall, but who can tell with the offense playing against the JV squad. Has there been a less interesting spring game in recent memory? Like most people, I'm most interested in seeing if Allan Evridge or Dustin Sherer outplay one another, and how Johnny Clay looks.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hot, juicy redhead

Too much relationship talk, not enough Five Families talk. Don't care if Michael finds someone, don't care if Jim and Pam get engaged. It's about The Office, producers, don't forget about that. Still, plenty of good lines tonight, and a hilarious call to Wendy's:

Michael: "I like it because every day I get a little more desperate, and desperate times get the quickest results."

Kevin: "If I had someone to set you up with I'd ask her out myself."
Michael, consoling Kevin on his breakup: "You didn't deserve her."

Michael: "Hey Oscar Meyer Wiener lover!"

Phyllis: "She's a professional softball player."
Michael: "Is she a catcher or an infielder?" We all knew exactly what he meant!

Andy: "We won't let you down."
Michael: "You can't because I don't care."

Andy: "He shouldn't have to be worrying ... how am I going to pay my kid's orphanage bills?"

Dwight, on the death of chair model: "She was stoned, apparently."

Michael's encounter with Pam's landlord was classic. During it Jana says "Me makes me cringe!" And that was a very clever way to segue into Jim and Pam talking about moving in together, very Seinfeld- and Simpson-esque.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Close call at Drake?

Rob Schultz of The Capital times has been on his offseason game lately, yesterday with his Big Ten/ACC Challenge breakdown, today with his blog speculation that Gary Close is a logical candidate to replace Keno Davis at Drake. Read the post, makes perfect sense.

While we obviously don't want to lose him from Bo's staff, he deserves a shot at running his own program and would be a nice extension of the Badger coaching tree.

Any speculation on candidates to replace Close on the staff? Would this be a good time for Bo to bring his son Will back into the fold? Maybe a former player coaching in Division III like a Mark Vershaw?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We got Virginia Tech ... in hoops

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchups were announced today, and the Badgers will hit the road to face Virginia Tech. Should be a good game, the Hokies were a bubble team this season after going to the Big Dance last year, and we'll be breaking some youngsters into new roles.

Didn't think much of it until reading Rob Schultz's excellent article today on Very deep reporting for what on the surface appears to be a run-of-the-mill scheduling story. It basically accuses the Big Ten of giving Wisconsin a raw deal in scheduling these games, with an especially long finger pointed at associate commissioner Mark Rudner. Rudner's attitude when responding to Schultz's questions, especially when placed next to other anecdotal evidence, takes what probably isn't a big deal and portrays it as a conspiracy to hold Bucky down.

I'm not buying it, but it is disappointing that we haven't had the opportunity to host Carolina or Duke at the Kohl Center, especially with our better teams. The year that the matchup really bit was last season, when Alando was a senior, when they shipped Florida State to Madison. Nice.

Still, no Big Ten team deserves to gripe too much about its draw in this event, given the conference's lack of success against its ACC brethren. I can't imagine why ESPN renewed this series several years ago, when it's never been close.

Now, if only we could get that Virginia Tech football matchup moved up ...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Introducing Ryan Evans

Last week Wisconsin added a fifth recruit to this fall's incoming class of freshmen. The kid's name is Ryan Evans, and he's a 6-6 forward from Phoenix. Apparently he's grown about 10 inches since his freshman year, and still growing. My thoughts:

-Like that this adds athleticism to the class, and have hopes for Robert Wilson and Evans as defenders/slashers.

-I saw at least one comparison to Ray Nixon, but when I saw the measurables and a picture, the name that came to mind was Maurice Linton.

-He seems to have been an under-the-radar type who was a long shot to land a scholarship from a BCS school. In fact, the talk had been that he might come to Madison as a walk-on. Some observers are startled at the move, but Evans was one of the best players on one of the best teams in Arizona's largest high school division, so I'm confident he has some game.

Check out this video suggested by Mr. Man. You'll see a lot of dunks, some made 3-pointers (jumper will probably need a little tweaking), and some nice hustle.

-Like the 3.3 GPA.

-Don't like that this class ties up five scholarships. Having that many tied up in one class leads to imbalance that we have not seen yet under Bo. Bo's first class had five signees, but one of them never made it to campus.

-When Schwalbach emailed me the Evans news, his subject line was "No Jamil Wilson." And my heart dropped! Because in theory, that's what this means - we now have two scholarships open for next year's class, and those are committed to Diamond Taylor and Mike Bruesewitz.

Here's the thing, though: Jamil has said he won't make his college choice official until March 8, 2009, his late mother's birthday. I've also read that he's delaying his announcement in order to get his high school teammates some recruiting attention, which if true is admirable.

As evidenced from the redshirt post, lots can happen in a year, namely transfers. I wouldn't bet against a departure from the program sometime in the next 12 months. It's inappropriate to start or advance rumors on who, but there is at least one logical candidate given the two 7-footers arriving in Madison this fall.

In the short term, it's exciting to add another prospect to next year's team. Time will tell if giving Ryan Evans a scholarship was the right move.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


All this talk about Butch and Stiemsma has me thinking about the pros and cons of redshirting in college basketball. Certainly sometimes in works out. In Butch's case, we got more out of him as a 23-year-old senior than we would have as an 18-year-old freshman. And as you've read, I think Stiemsma could have been a similar case.

But what about guys who might never contribute, and redshirting just keeps them in the program for another year, tying up a scholarship? Let's take a look at the incoming recruiting classes under Bo.

2008 freshmen: Tim Jarmusz, Keaton Nankivil, Jon Leuer. None of them redshirted. Leuer played a lot early, not much late, but showed great potential. Jarmusz was solid in action late in the season. Nankivil hardly played at all, but should play a lot next year. Even though his body was ready to compete in the Big Ten, he was blocked by Butch and Stiemsma, and in my opinion should have redshirted this season.

2007 freshman: Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon, J.P. Gavinski. J-Bo played the most of the three, and had his moments. That team needed him, especially at the end of the season. Hughes had a nice game against Marquette, not much else, but he didn't seem like a redshirt candidate either. Gavinski redshirted, and right now I'm dubious that he'll make an impact on this program. But I thought the same thing as someone else I'll review here in a minute, and he turned into a contributor, and don't like it when guys get labeled "busts" early in their careers, so let's give him time.

2006 freshmen: Joe Krabbenhoft, Marcus Landry, Mickey Perry. Krabby and Landry played right away, Landry would have been an even bigger contributor if not for his academic problems. Perry redshirted and left early in his redshirt freshman season. My question is, why did it take him that long to come to the conclusion he wasn't going to get the playing time he was looking for? In any event, at least he moved on and freed up a scholarship, best of luck to him.

2005 freshmen: Greg Stiemsma, Michael Flowers, DeAaron Williams. Stiemer and Flowers played right away, and you know how I feel about the former's decision not to redshirt. Williams was an academic casualty. Had he stuck around I think he would have made an impact as a defender and hustle guy.

2004 freshmen: Brian Butch, Kammron Taylor (Zach Morley was a JC transfer). Butch redshirted, wise move. Kam didn't even though he was clearly lost out there and made no impact. Maybe he would have benefited from another year of seasoning.

2003 freshmen: Alando Tucker, Ray Nixon, Jason Chappell, Boo Wade, Marcettus McGee. McGee had problems and never made it to Madison. Wade contributed right off the bat, flamed out later, but his decision not to redshirt was a good one. Nixon was a young freshman and didn't play much, and could definitely have used another year. Tucker was ready to play right away, and eventually took an injury redshirt, but his decision was correct. J-Cheezy for some reason did not redshirt as a freshman and played about 15 minutes. He took an injury redshirt later, and while I lamented the fact he was tying up a scholarship, he eventually became a dependable player as a fifth-year senior. So there's hope for Gavinski.

In this fall's incoming class, you've got to think Jared Berggren and Jordan Taylor will play right away, Ian Markolf might be a project and redshirt candidate, and even if their offensive games are raw, Robert Wilson and Ryan Evans might see time as perimeter defenders.

The guys who redshirted as freshmen were Butch, Williams, Perry, and Gavinski. Hard to argue that redshirts work out for the best - one for four. But that one is so hard to ignore. Because of he redshirted, Butch had three productive years at UW (averaged 9.9 ppg as a sophomore), if not four (he played almost 10 minutes per game as a redshirt freshman, slightly less than what Stiemsma played as a senior) instead of two or three.

In basketball more than football, incoming recruits expect to play right away, and a pattern of redshirting probably works against a program. But there is merit in developing the right guys over a longer period of time. Emphasis on the right guys - if you made a recruiting mistake, get it out of your system ASAP. Wisconsin is not the kind of program that is going to attract the supremely talented one-and-done guys making a layover on their way to the NBA, so why not give them more time to grow?

What do you guys think?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What are those colors again?

Today Jana and I were painting our nursery in anticipation of our second son, ETA mid-May. Last time around we didn't know the gender of the baby, so we went with a decidedly neutral yellow/gold. Jana thought that as long as we knew it was a boy this time around, we should paint it a boy's color, and we decided on blue.

Halfway through, we were debating whether or not we'd have enough paint with one gallon to cover everything sufficiently. So Jana suggested "We could leave two walls blue and two wells yellow."

That might look nice, I thought. But wait, aren't those the colors of ... a certain rival school to the east that's been the source of a lot of buzz lately? Definitely not a Badgercentric color.

So the whole thing's blue. We think Guido (Will's suggested name for his brother) will love it.

Will the Tappas ever half a cardinal and white room? Patience Tappa, patience.

Friday, April 11, 2008

We shall name him Brian Butch

I can remember the exact moment I found out Brian Butch had committed to Wisconsin.

In the fall of 2002, Jana and I were driving to work, and were passing St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Waupaca when Jack Barry was giving a rundown of the headlines we'd hear in that morning's newscast. "... and a nationally-ranked basketball recruit from Appleton commits to the Badgers ..."

The news elicited a gutteral yelp from me that took my wife by surprise. But not as much as my follow-up announcement: "Jana, I want to name our first son Brian Butch Tappa."

Of course, that didn't happen, although Bo Ryan Tappa is still on the table for #2 (right Babe?) ... although those initials would be one letter shy of BRAT.

This begs the question: when you're 18 years old and your college choice inspires yahoos in the sticks to pledge their first born's name in your honor, what do you have to do to not be considered an underachiever, as many have suggested over the past five years?

Win. And win. And win and win and win. Butch was a big contributor to Wisconsin teams that won 105 games, making him part of the winningest class in school history. To me that trumps anything else that can be said about Brian - and thankfully, his extended, triumphant senior season allowed more than enough nice things to be said about him - and makes him the most successful high-profile recruit in UW basketball history.

Kurt Portmann? He was a marginal contributor on some teams that made the NIT, but that's about it. Rashard Griffith? Had a couple nice years and went to the NCAA Tournament, but was only here for two years. Sam Okey? Same thing. Anyone else have other names to throw into the equation?

But, say the detractors, didn't Alando Tucker and Mike Wilkinson and Michael Flowers also have something to do with those 105 wins? Sure, but as I think Will mentioned in a comment on the Stiemsma post, if Butch doesn't break his arm at Ohio State, we might win the Big Ten last year and beat UNLV to reach the Sweet 16, and nobody is throwing around the word "empty" in conjunction with the 2006-07 Badgers. That team hit a wall at the end, and maybe a healthy Butch helps them get over that wall.

What's next for Brian? He's been racking up plenty of frequent flyer miles lately (interesting story here on about how much he's traveled since February). Hopefully he can find employment playing hoops after college. The NBA doesn't seem likely, he just doesn't have the athleticism to keep up. But his inside-out game could certainly play in Europe, where I imagine he'd be a big hit.

How will history remember Brian Butch as a Badger? All-conference pick? Underachiever? Polar Bear?

How about this: Winner.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Serenity by Jan, Babe

Last Christmas, Jana got me a Shrute Farm Beets t-shirt, great gift. Since chicks seem to like candles (the easy Clueless Guy thing to buy for women that can't go wrong), maybe I'll get her some Serenity by Jan candles next Christmas.

At long last, The Office returned tonight, and it was good. No home runs on my scorecard, but a ton of singles and doubles, and one triple. Babe.

My favorite lines:

Jan: "This is my office." Michael: "Never been used!"

Michael to Pam: "I'm always just a phone call away." Jan: "I'm sure you are."
Is it just me, or does the people-pretending-Pam-kinda-likes-Michael thing seem sort of lame? Unless it's leading up to a shocker hook-up ... which might be even lamer.

Jan: "In Spain they often don't start eating until after midnight." Michael: "When in Rome."

Michael, tasting wine: "That has sort of an oaky afterbirth."

Angela on Pam: "Sometimes I think she holds onto faxes."

Michael: "Mr. Blank went on a cruise ..." Jim: "Katie Holmes!" Michael: "No, married to her." Jim: "Dawson's Creek!" Michael: "He's the governor of California." Jim: "Tom Cruise!" That exchange had me rolling.

Michael: "Candles are the #1 fastest growing product in the scented aroma market."

Michael: "You have no idea the physical toll that three vasectomies have on a person!" And I hope to never find out.

Jim: "My apartment's on fire. Er, flooded."

Also loved the tactic Michael used to get Jim roped into coming over for dinner, the look on Jim's face was terrific. And how about Michael's plasma screen TV? "That is a $200 plasma screen TV that you just killed!"

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

We'll miss Mike

Yesterday I wrote about how hysteria about Stiemsma and Butch helped lead to my exodus from regular message board reading. Here's another instance that hastened my departure.

If memory serves, Michael Flowers had committed to UW during his sophomore season at Madison LaFollette, and helped lead his team to a state championship in 2002. I remember a particularly spectacular dunk during the state tournament in Madison. But he got hurt while still in high school, and sort of dropped off the recruiting radar.

Which led to a Badgermaniac post titled "Is Michael Flowers a bust?" As ridiculous as the notion was, the sad thing was that a similar thought had crossed my mind. If we were getting four- and five-star guys like Butch and Stiemsma, why weren't all of our recruits of that ranking? Because of the ankle injury he didn't even make all-state as a senior. Would this guy ever contribute anything?

He was a high school junior, for Pete's sake!

Thankfully Michael turned out to be anything but a bust.

We're all well aware of the standard Flowers stories: he's a great defensive player; he is the hero of a little boy who has leukemia, Max Bass (I can't get enough of that story - they had a piece on it on the Big Ten Network the other night and I watched the whole thing with a lump in my throat); he's a terrific athlete who could probably have played football in college. That's all good stuff.

The thing I'd like to discuss is whether Flowers' defensive prowess held back development of his offense. Think about it: his career scoring averages went from 1.2 as a freshman, to 6.1 as a sophomore, to 7.2 as a junior, to 9.6 as a senior. Could it have been more? He was the team's leading scorer four times, including a 23-point game at Penn State. He led the regulars by making 41.2% of his 3-pointers.

His shot was really pretty most of the season, I loved the way he squared up, got his feet set, elevated, and shot a true jump shot, it was beautiful. He was always good moving without the ball, and a more than capable ball handler when the starting point guard was on the bench.

So my questions are: would Flowers have scored at a higher clip if he wasn't busy chasing around the Drew Neitzels of the world, and would he have scored more if he wasn't surrounded by guys like Butch, Hughes, Landry, and Bohannon?

Now that I've typed it, the answers seem to be obviously yes. But if a college athlete of Flowers' caliber couldn't pull it off the top defender/prolific scorer combination, who could?

This is why, when the talk surfaced about Flowers playing football once his basketball eligibility was exhausted, my first reaction was "Why can't he play basketball professionally?" Sure, NBA teams might look at him and pigeonhole him as a defensive specialist, but I'm guessing that given the opportunity to work on his game full-time, he could become a real scoring threat. This isn't to imply that I think Michael Flowers will be an NBA draft pick, but the league is full of guys who weren't drafted and got their chance by creating a niche for themselves. Or, at the very least, if he wants he should get the chance to play internationally.

Whatever Michael does from here on out, it's going to be hard to replace him. I don't see a perimeter defensive stopper on the horizon (maybe it's incoming freshman Robert Wilson?), and I see one less big shot guy who can create his own look as the shot clock winds down. Probably why, in the poll at, Flowers is the overwhelming choice (44%) as the Badgers' 2008 MVP.

Could thing those message board posters weren't right on this one.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A little bit Stiemed

That's right, I am. Near the end of the basketball season, especially in the NCAA Tournament, it bothered me that Greg Stiemsma was about to exhaust his eligibility. He was playing so well ... and now it's over. It didn't have to be that way.

If memory serves, Greg committed to UW before Brian Butch did, and was just a notch or two below the caliber of recruit Butch was - still a big catch. A woman I work with named Stacy Krull has a nephew named Jon Krull, who was a star at UW-Stevens Point, and was an AAU teammate of both Stiemsma and Butch in high school. She thought Greg was the better prospect, and maintained that up until several weeks ago.

When both Butch and Stiemsma were in the fold, the posters on Badgermaniac were going crazy. Certain posters asked questions like "Would you rather have Stiemsma for one spectacular year and have him leave school early and become an NBA lottery pick, or keep him for four very good years?" There's lots of good stuff on message boards, far more insight than you'll find in one of my daily posts, but it's that kind of hysteria and rampant speculation that got me to quit cold turkey.

Stiemsma had injuries early in his career and he didn't play much as a freshman, but I can't get his performance against North Carolina in the 2005 Elite Eight out of my head. Sean May was dominating us in that game, and Mike Wilkinson was really no match. Young Greg stepped in and did a really nice job slowing May down, even if it was only for three minutes. Didn't see Stiemsma in the second half, and I remember Andy and me screaming for him to come back in. Probably didn't end up making the difference, but it showed just how effective Stiemsma could be as a post defender.

His sophomore season was cut short by his well-documented bout with depression. It took a lot of guts for him to come forward with his disease, and for him to talk about it in such detail. Mental illness is nothing to hide, and hopefully his example inspired others to deal with their troubles.

Last season it puzzled me that Greg was stuck behind Jason Chappell. But you know what? J-Cheezy was the more consistent, well-rounded post defender, good at using his feet and fronting. Stiemsma delivered spectacular blocks, but picked up silly fouls and found himself back on the bench. His game at Illinois was particularly memorable.

Really liked how he fit in this year. After beginning the year in the starting lineup, he moved back to the bench when Flowers was ready to start again. The move was obviously the right move for the team - Landry is more of a 4 than a 3, Krabby's more a 3 than a 2, and Flowers was my choice as team MVP. Never seemed to bother Stiemsma, he came in and gave more solid performances than his first three years combined.

Looking back over my posts from the season, found a lot of instances of "glad we have Stiemsma as a backup 5" and cases where he came in and was effective in limited minutes. My enduring memory of him will be his joy and exuberance during the win over Penn State that clinched the Big Ten title, and his terrific all-around effort against Kansas State that sent us to the Sweet 16.

He peaked at the right time. Too bad any further improvement will be in a different uniform.

There was much talk from commentators this year about how wise it was that Butch redshirted as a freshman - look at how good his fifth year was for him and the program. What about Stiemsma? Imagine if he had redshirted; he played just 27 minutes as a true freshman. Next year, he would have gotten the chance to play 25 minutes a game, controlling the boards with Krabby and Landry. His range wasn't out to the 3-point line like Butch, but he was effective to 16-17 feet, which helps keep post defenders honest.

Now, Keaton Nankivil and Jared Berggren will likely log most of the minutes in the 5 spot next year, and while I'm confident they'll eventually be fine players, they'll be rookies next year and will endure some tough games against older more physically developed players in a rough conference.

Maybe Greg knew this team was special, knew that his senior team would win 31 games and two Big Ten titles. Like George Costanza telling jokes on Seinfeld, he knew when to make an exit.

Monday, April 7, 2008

T is for Tanner

That's what Will says when matching letters with the names of his day care friends: "T is for Tanner, L is for Laine, M is for Mason, V is for Vanessa," etc. Every time he says that I think not of the 4-year-old who tells my son what the dentist will be like, but instead Tanner Bronson.

Earlier this season, I wrote of some frustration I felt at times when Tanner got in games that were not yet decided (not often). It stems from the time in the 2005-06 season where we were playing at the Barn in Minneapolis. The Gophers were playing terribly, we were playing pretty well and had taken a big lead, but Minnesota started pressing and it looked like we were playing five on seven.

So Bo brings in Tanner. All right, I thought, apparently he's proven himself enough in practice to earn Bo's trust and enter the game to stop the bleeding. Wrong - Tanner was overmatched, we kept calling timeouts and turning the ball over, and even though we held on and won, it didn't feel that way. After that I never felt comfortable with him in during tough moments.

I would rather remember Tanner's more customary on-court appearances: at the end of lopsided Badger wins. These moments were always fun because a. the Badgers were going to win by a lot, b. it's nice to watch the contributors of the future like Nankivil and Jarmusz and try to determine if guys like Morris Cain can ever contribute, and c. because the scrub team's point guard, Tanner, respected the game.

You watch enough basketball, especially at the younger levels, and you see some ragged play at the end of blowouts. End of the bench players like to get in and make things happen, shoot early and often, and it usually ain't pretty. (This didn't apply to me; I was a scrub, but when I got in with the other benchwarmers in high school our coach shouted to pass the ball to the German foreign exchange student, Christoph Schmidt, who would chuck up an air ball).

Lord knows the Kohl Center crowd wanted Tanner to shoot it. He had arguably the longest run of being that guy - four years of tentative cheers and encouragement every time he caught the ball. He had his opportunities, too, but more often than not passed them up and kept the Swing running until a Gullikson or a Gavinski shot. Every once in awhile he'd shoot and miss, and Matt LePay would say something like "He's lights-out in practice, you should see him." He probably was - but so was David Burkemper.

So when Tanner did score - three field goals, 10 points this season - it was almost as joyous an occasion as a Landry dunk or Bohannon 3-pointer.

The best thing about Tanner is that we can be relatively sure that he's going to make the university proud to have him as an alumnus. It's been well-documented that he wants to be a coach, and had a good run learning from one of the best. Five years from now, when you see the updated Badgercentric coaching tree, it's a good bet Tanner Bronson will be on it, moving his way up the coaching ranks.

Just like the last four years, we'll all be pulling for him.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday morning thoughts

Still smiling about Carolina's humiliating defeat last night, thank you Kansas. Thinking about the tournament in general.

-The most unexpectedly impressive player I saw yesterday was Cole Aldrich from Kansas, and teammate Sherron Collins provided a huge energy boost during the Jayhawks' first half blitz. In the other game Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts were the expected big stars for Memphis. Where are they from? Big Ten country.

Rose and Collins are from Chicago, Aldrich from the Twin Cities, and CDR from Detroit. Kansas has long taken guys from Big Ten states - Julian Wright, Kirk Hinrich, and Nick Collison come to mind - and lots of good players leave Detroit and Minneapolis as well. Maybe if Michigan and Minnesota did a better job building a wall around their home states instead of chasing recruits from elsewhere, they wouldn't have fallen so far.

-It seems that Marquette is seriously considering promoting assistant coach Buzz Williams to the head job in the wake of Tom Crean's departure for Indiana. I think this would be a bad move. Beyond the absurdity of having a head coach named Buzz, promoting assistant coaches to ensure recruiting stability is seldom a good idea. You've got to pick the best coach available, period, not the one who'll placate your recruits.

Remember how Stan van Gundy turned out in Madison? Yeah, he got Sam Okey to come to UW, but in the meantime he flopped miserably coaching the Rashard Griffith-Michael Finley team, and Okey couldn't coexist with Dick Bennett.

It worked pretty well for Kansas State this year with Frank Martin's promotion ensuring Michael Beasley came to Manhattan. But none of Marquette's recruits is in the same league as Beasley (few would be). Marquette should do what's best for the long-term health of its program, not cater to the whims of an 18-year-old in New Jersey.

-Chris West writes a terrific blog about Wisconsin college basketball, and this post nicely summarizes the Marquette situation.

-If MU does choose Williams, it'll be interesting to see how that affects their Midwest recruiting, as most of the Gold's recent commitments have come from different regions. Highly-regarded high schoolers, but not ones they're competing with us for. Will they still butt heads with us for Jamil Wilson and Evan Anderson? Or will they be chasing some kid we've never heard of in Texas? Even though I like our track record against Crean, he did get lots of quality kids from the state to Milwaukee - Diener, Novak, Merritt, Matthews, Christopherson.

-On that note: Will recently measured in the 95th percentile for height among 3-1/2-year-olds, and on Friday he got a scholarship offer from Indiana. That's us practicing for signing day 2021.

-On that note, I'm relieved to see Tony Bennett is seemingly out of the running for the Marquette job. What loyalty he's showing to Washington State. It's got to be somewhat of a slap in the face to the Gold that their job isn't seen as enough of a step up from Wazzou or Xavier or Virginia Commonwealth for their coaches to move to the Humongous East.

-You know what UCLA right now reminds me of? Duke in the late '80s. A team that gets to the Final Four every year but falls short because they don't have the horses. It was sort of amazing to me that so many people had the Bruins as the national championship favorite ... although I did have them losing to Georgetown in the finals (good call moron!). Ben Howland's team seems to lack something electric that makes a team a champion.

-Glad I didn't fill out a bracket for money this year, my predictions were god-awful. Then again, I did write "If you made me bet $1 million on the Final Four I'd pick: UCLA, North Carolina, Memphis, Kansas. Strong #1 seeds."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

North Carolina embarrassed!

What a terrific result in the second Final Four game tonight! The best part about it was that I only saw the parts of the game where Kansas was beating North Carolina like a rented mule. Jana and I were watching The Wire during the Tar Heels' second half run, which saved me about $10 of deposits in the Swear Jar.

In the past few days, I've been cooking up a long-winded post about why I dislike Carolina so much; about why I don't understand why Tyler Hansbrough - for all intents and purposes a modern-day Christian Laettner - is not reviled in the same way by fans at large; why it's incredible to me that people fawn over Carolina, the Yankees of college basketball; why Roy Williams can only win national titles when he has four NBA first rounders recruited by Matt Doherty on his roster, not just the measly five McDonald's All-Americans on this year's team.

But because of the Heels' embarrassing loss tonight, you'll just get the Cliff's Notes version, the preceding paragraph. Frankly, The Wire is much more entertaining than watching Psycho T take charges, shoot free throws, and shuffle his feet. Thank you, Kansas, for sparing us from Huckleberry Hound gloating during One Shining Moment.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Twin Cities love, part II - from Millie

Badgercentric correspondent Mike Milinovich posted this comment to yesterday's post about Jordan Taylor and Jared Berggren, and it was so good I thought it deserved its own post. Not Louisville dance team 1997 good, but UW hoops in 2002 good. Thanks Millie!

I saw Taylor play twice this year, Berggren once and the Bruiser (rght) twice. Here is what I saw: Taylor - very solid point guard coming in. He is physically mature enough to play right away unlike Kam Taylor and is much more of a pure point guard. He's not as flashy off the bounce as Hughes, but he's effective. I would like to see his shot improve, but it's not like it's a total weakness. Defensively he's active, though he'll probably take a while to play Bo's style of defense. Overall, he's just a very solid player. He doesn't jump out at you with absurd quickness like Hughes or a sweet touch like Bohannon. But he takes care of the ball, is a very good passer and just does everything pretty well.

Berggren - I think that he's going to be a very good player for the Badgers. He has very soft hands and doesn't seem afraid to take it strong. He definitely has a lot of post moves and seemed comfortable using both hands in the post. He's not the most athletic guy, but he isn't a plodder either. He should be a very good rebounder and will provide very solid defense in the post. I'm very excited about Berggren.

Bruiser - Big 10 fans are going to absolutely hate this guy. Let's go through the checklist of things that will drive people bonkers. White? Check. Pasty White? Double Check. Red Hair? Check. Hustle guy? Check. He should be a very good player in the swing offense. He has a pretty good handle for a guy his size and is an outstanding rebounder. He was able to take guys off the dribble and had an incredible baseline drive for a dunk in the state final. The only thing that I would really like to see improve is his jumper. Let's just say that I think we have a guy that can fill Krabby's shoes when he graduates.

Great report Millie. I'm most encouraged by the Bruesewitz review, mostly the dunk. Many reports have pegged him as a Krabbenhoft type, but Krabby doesn't take guys off the baseline for dunks ... although maybe he did in high school. Maybe Bruiser is more athletic than originally speculated.

All the better if he becomes one of the more hated players in the Big Ten - nobody hates guys who suck and don't win. The guys who come to mind who sort of fit Millie's description - Brian Cardinal, Drew Neitzel, Tom Coverdale, Chris Kingsbury - all played for good teams. So where does Miles Tarver fit into this equation?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Future Badger love from the Twin Cities

Anyone else starting to get the feeling that Jordan Taylor is going to be our next transcendent superstar? Read this story, where the St. Paul Pioneer Press named Jordan its player of the year.

What's not to love about him? Solid game? Check. Good grades? Check. Stable family life? Check. Engaging media-friendly personality? Check.

The next Devin Harris? Slow down there, Tappa, let's not get carried away. But it's exciting to read stuff like this.

Also, the Star Trib named Jordan and Jared Berggren to its all-metro team. When his Princeton team came to Wisconsin, they got smacked by a good Waupun team, which gave me pause, but it sounds like his team wasn't very good and opponents swarmed him.

OK, Cities guys, who's seen them play? I understand Taylor and Mike Bruesewitz both played in the state finals. I'm excited about hearing the Taylor report, anxious about the Bruiser report.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Alando lighting up the D-League

The NBA Developmental League has always been a curiosity to me. Never watched a game, because I figured it's about one step above the And 1 Mixed Tape Tour on the quality meter. But just because the teams have nicknames like Mad Ants and D-Fenders doesn't mean good basketball isn't being played or that guys can legitimately graduate to the NBA from there.

At least that's what I'm hoping for on behalf of Alando Tucker. Tuck has been tearing up the D-League playing for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, averaging 28.4 points per game on 52.1% field goal shooting, including 39.1% on 3-pointers, and 87.5% on free throws.

He's also grabbing more than six rebounds and passing out almost two assists per game. Unless there is absolutely no defense being played in this league - a distinct possibility - that's pretty damn impressive. These are all former college stars, and former Michigan sideshow act Brent Petway, he's going up against.

Interesting teammates of Alando's are Darvin Ham (give it up, man!), Julius Hodge, and Kevin Pittsnoggle.

Hopefully we'll see Alando back in Phoenix once those rough edges of his game are refined further.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Indiana chooses Tom Crean

Looks like Indiana has chosen Tan Cream to be its replacement for Kelvin Sampson. Not sure how I feel about the move. I can't hate him as Marquette's coach anymore, but he will now be with one of our Big Ten rivals, so I guess he sentiment remains. He'll have his work cut out for him in Bloomington.

Not a bad hire for the Hoosiers, but I think they could have done better. Crean did a good enough job in Milwaukee, but if Dwayne Wade has better grades coming out of high school, Crean never goes to a Final Four, MU is still in a hyphenated conference, and he's got one NCAA Tournament win and a bunch of NIT bids to show for almost a decade there. It will be interesting to see who Gold fans want as their next coach. Majerus! Majerus!

The good thing about this is it saves Tony Bennett for us for when Bo retires, whenever that may be.

Happy April 1-0

When we were in school, I thought our staff at the Daily Cardinal did a nice job with the sports section. Sure there was some entry-level crappiness, some really good stories, columns, and photography, and a whole lot of typical college newspaper sports coverage.

We never did anything too silly, though, which in one sense is good - we were training to become professional journalists. On the other hand, it's a shame we didn't - college is your last real chance to goof around and do stupid things before you have a car payment and diapers to buy.

That's what makes this Cardinal April Fool's Day story Jim sent over so funny:

Bielema's girlfriend tired of 1-0 mantra

Give it a read, it's good. I, for one, think the whole 1-0 thing is silly (but not the guy in the picture above). I sure did back at my first job in Ohio, when control freak coach Tom Peiffer of Gibsonburg brainwashed his kids with the 1-0 thing - and it's nice to see someone poking fun at it. A little bit risky, too - who knows how Bielema will react?

Well, our basement had some minor flooding last night, so I'm going to wet vacuum 1-0 right now.