Saturday, May 31, 2008

Introducing your Madison Mustangs

Two former Badgers will be playing for the semi-pro Madison Mustangs this year: Jason Settle and James Kamoku. Um, Cap Times, don't you mean Jason Suttle? The same Jason Suttle who looked like he wanted to smack me when I charged him $2.20 for two slices of bread during my short stint as a Frank's Place cashier? I think he was in the Packers' camp about five years ago, but didn't stick. Best of luck to both.

Friday, May 30, 2008

We're #7 - our offensive line, that is

Just how good is the Badgers' offensive line? Lindy's has it as the seventh-best unit in the country.

"The Badgers, near-permanent residents of this list, have lots of versatility and standout guard Kraig Urbik, making life easier for a new starting quarterback."

The "near-permanent residents" phrase is what gets me. The Wisconsin line is almost always in this top 10, and when they're not I take exception. But is that reputation deserved?

We've always had top-tier linemen, from Joe Thomas to Dan Buenning to Casey Rabach to Chris McIntosh to Cory Raymer. And we always seem to have one of the best running attacks around. Here's where we've ranked nationally in rushing yardage recently:

2007: 22nd
2006: 37th
2005: 37th
2004: 52nd
2003: 37th
2002: 33rd
Good, but not great. Surely many of the rushing attacks ahead of ours have been unbalanced teams playing lesser competition. But while our attack was more balanced than, say, Navy's, our pass protection has never been iron-clad.

This year's unit looks to be pretty solid: Gabe Carimi and Eric Vanden Heuvel at tackle, Urbik and Andy Kemp at guard, and John Moffitt at center. Urbik's a star, Carimi might become a star this year or next year, Moffitt shows promise, Kemp and EVH are fairly average. Josh Oglesby is the star-in-waiting.

Maybe that's what it takes to have one of the 10 best offensive lines in the country. Maybe it's unrealistic to think that an offensive line will feature five all-conference types. Maybe after all these years, my expectations for the offensive line are greater.

If the Badgers' offensive line is the seventh-best in the country, we'll be all right this year.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Reunited and it feels like a long shot

Just saw on the AP wire that the Redskins acquired Erasmus James from the Vikings. Nice that Ras is going to get another shot to carve out an NFL career, despite is knee injuries.

What's interesting is that the Skins' defensive line coach is none other than John Palermo. Didn't know he had surfaced in the NFL - good for him.

Hopefully these two can recreate the magic of 2004 in Washington.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jeronne Maymon to play in Milwaukee

Jeronne Maymon announced yesterday that he will start his college career at Marquette playing for Buzz Williams. Nice get for the new coach, Maymon is a player and should contribute to that program.

My emotions about this are mixed. He's been on the radar for a couple years, but only this year did he really emerge was a high-level recruit. By the time I finally saw him at state in early March, it was pretty clear he wouldn't be a Badger, which probably influenced my opinion of him. Which is:

On the court, Maymon is a man among boys. He has a nice spot-up jumper to about 15 feet, can penetrate, and is a rebounding terror. Fun to watch. One of the stories I read today said he projects as a small forward or shooting guard on the college level. I can't see him being a shooting guard, he's too muscular and his handle isn't there, but I could see him playing power forward. He probably would have been a good fit in the Swing, his game reminded me a bit of Alando Tucker.

But ... in the game Andy and I saw at the Kohl Center, there were several times when he loafed and didn't bust it back on defense. Kind of like those of us who play at the Fitness Center every day at noon, only this kid has a chance to go big time. His grades are suspect, which is why, it is speculated, we were not hotter after him. Hopefully he doesn't let that derail his career.

Then there are quotes like this, from his press conference: "They guaranteed me a starting spot." Really? That's bad, because either a. A coach sold out to win a 16-year-old's heart, or b. The coach didn't actually say that but Maymon just really wanted to hear that bad. Never heard a Bo Ryan recruit say that. You like the confidence, but never want an incoming freshman expecting to be handed a starting job.

Would Maymon have looked nice in red? You bet. But best of luck to him, and we're happy with our guys.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Feeling a draft

Early in its college football preview Lindy's, working with, lists its top senior NFL prospects. Travis Beckum is #16, and Kraig Urbik is #39.

I love Beckum, but that seems high to me. I just can't think of a comparison for a guy his size playing a tight end/H-Back spot going that high. Tight ends that go in the top half of the first round, like Vernon Davis or Kellen Winslow, weight about 20 pounds more. Can Beckum add that weight? Sure, but it won't be natural. Otherwise, he would have added it by now.

Then again, add in underclassmen who will declare, and that pushes him to late first or early second round. That seems about right.

Lindy's has Beckum as the top tight end in the nation and an All-American.

As for Urbik, it takes a special guard to go in the first two rounds. He's been starting for a long time, a very solid player. All it takes is for one team to take a liking to a player for him to go higher than expected, and it could very well happen for Kraig, who Lindy's ranks as the sixth-best guard in the country.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Lindy's picks Badgers 11th

Picked up my first college football preview magazine of the year, which has got to be a record for the earliest I've ever bought one of these things. As regular readers of this blog know, even though the Internet has an abundance of free information on any subject imaginable, including college sports, I still prefer to pick up these big print magazines as I've been doing for the past 20 years.

The magazine is Lindy's, which picks Wisconsin to finish 11th in the nation, second in the Big Ten behind Ohio State. Here's what they say:

Old School Still Leads to New Year's
Bret Bielema has established himself as a coach, winning 21 games in his first two seasons and taking the Badgers to consecutive New Year's Day bowls. Wisconsin has become one of the country's most consistent programs and something of an anachronism. Look, how cute, the Badgers still use a blocking fullback. But there's really nothing cute about Wisconsin, which grinds and grinds ... and has won at least nine games in seven of the past 10 years.

THE GOOD NEWS: The Badgers are back to pounding the opposition with one of the best sets of backs in the country -- P.J. Hill, Lance Smith and Zach Brown. If the quarterback situation can get settled, the defense should allow Wisconsin to contend for the Big Ten title.

THE BAD NEWS: The quarterback situation IS unsettled. It was assuemd that Kansas State transfer Allan Evridge would win the job. We'll see. Dustin Sherer is the other option. It's no one's fault, but injuries have plagued this team the past two years, including this spring.

OUR CALL: Asking Wisconsin to get past Ohio State for the Big Ten title is probably too much. But winning 10 isn't out of the question if the Badgers can overcome a tough early conference schedule.

Not too much to argue with there, although I don't quite get the blocking fullback comment. While it's clear traditional fullbacks like Chris Pressley aren't on everyone's roster anymore, lots of teams still use them. Too much Spread on the writer's brain, methinks.

I'll be posting other nuggets from Lindy's in the days ahead, and also keep a running average of where national media outlets are picking the Badgers. We'll stick with print media for now, given the fluidity of Internet predictions, then pool some web-based picks near the end of the summer.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vikings erase Erasmus James

In a mildly surprising move, the Vikings released former UW defense end Erasmus James a couple days ago.

It's too bad, injuries played a big role in his ineffectiveness. It's not altogether surprising, given how often he was hurt during his Badger days.

Ras was really sort of an out-of-left field type of guy for Wisconsin. He was so dominant during the first half of the 2004 season that some people were talking about him as a top 5 pick. Then he got hurt on that cut block at Purdue in the Scott Starks game, and he was never the same again.

Whenever a professional rival takes a Badger - like the Vikings with Michael Bennett or James, the Lions with Brian Calhoun - it's bittersweet. You're glad they're in the pros and you want them to do well and represent UW ... but not too well. But you never want to see it end like this.

Hopefully Ras gets another shot, stays healthy, and sticks in the NFL for awhile.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dirty jobs: Introducing Bill Nayes

Sporting News had an interesting feature this week about the dirty jobs in sports. One of the mini-features was on Bill Nayes, Wisconsin's director of football operations.

Give the story a read, it's not long, and it shows just how anal retentive successful coaches can be. Looks like Bielema is no exception.

It's always nice to see your favorite teams getting pub in national magazines, and this is no exception.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Badgers win Border Battle

Great news! The University of Wisconsin has defeated the University of Minnesota in the fourth annual Border Battle.

Don't know what that is? Me neither. But I would want our state to triumph over East Dakota in a pie eating contest, so this is a nice little feather in our cap, no matter how obscure.

In truth, most Badger fans would probably tell you they measure the Border Battle in terms of how we did head-to-head in men's basketball, football, and men's hockey. But this shows that maybe our athletic department on the whole is a bit more well-rounded than Goldie's.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

This Bud's for us: Jon Budmayr commits

Word leaked Tuesday that Bret Bielema landed a commitment from a pretty darn good high school quarterback by the name of Jon Budmayr of Marian Central Catholic in Woodstock, Ill. Seems like a good kid, and a good quarterback prospect. He also impressed at the Nike Football Training Camp in Ohio recently (thanks for the heads-up, Schwib).

Bud, as he will be known here from now on, chose UW over Notre Dame, Nebraska, Illinois, and Iowa, among others. Not bad.

Schwalbach emailed me excitedly Tuesday night, opining that top-tier quarterback recruits are starting to see that Madison isn't such a bad place to play. I'm not sure. Bud isn't exactly a Jimmy Clausen-type recruit -- Scout has him as the 55th-best QB prospect. And while Curt Phillips ended up being pretty highly rated, he wasn't at the time he committed.

But so what? All I care about is that they end up being effective players for Wisconsin. Think about our recent quarterbacks: Donovan, Stocco, Sorgi, Bollinger. None of those guys was the next coming of Ron Powlus coming out of high school, and all played well enough to win a bunch of games as college starters. Two guys even carved out nice little NFL careers for themselves.

Given the receiving talent we attract to Wisconsin and the coaching they receive; Paul Chryst's modern offense; and the relative success of the aforementioned Badger quarterbacks of the last decade, we should see a higher caliber of QB recruit matriculating to the alma mater. But if not, we'll probably be OK anyway.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Luke Perry a Badger fan?

Don't know about you, but I watched various parts of the two-part season-ending American Idol episodes. Super-pumped that David Cook won. He is the Idol America deserves and needs in these difficult times.

But what really got me jazzed was in the intro to Tuesday's show, when they were panning through shots of celebrities and used-to-be celebrities. Like Luke Perry, who sauntered over from the Peach Pit to listen to the Davids, and Randy Jackson's insightful comments.

Look at the kid, presumably Luke's son, sitting to his left. There was never a really clear shot of it, but that's a tattered cardinal and white #33 jersey he's wearing. Looks awfully Badgerish. An old Ron Dayne jersey?

Or maybe it's a Brent Moss jersey? Maybe the Badgers dropped by the 90210 set while in California for the 1994 Rose Bowl and gave a kids-sized version of their best player's jersey to Luke and Ian Ziering.

Or maybe it's actually a Roger Craig 49ers jersey.

We need to know Luke, tell us!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jason Bohannon

Every year in college hoops, you look at your favorite team, look at who's not on the team anymore, and wonder who is going to make up for all the points that just graduated. If you've got a strong program, it takes care of itself. Bo's done it after losing Kirk Penney, Devin Harris, Alando Tucker -- he'll figure out how to replace Brian Butch and Michael Flowers.

Who sees his scoring average jump the most in 2009? My bet is it's Jason Bohannon. Which isn't a total upset pick by any means, but you have to wonder: If he's such a sure thing, why didn't he average more than 8.2 points per game?

Two words: Opportunity and consistency. I think Jason has the arsenal of offensive moves and shots to get the job done. He's a good 3-point shooter, but he also makes good cuts to get himself open for layups and has a nice runner/floater. He's also our best bet for closing out games at the free throw line. And while at the beginning of last season many of us were fretting about his ability to create his own shots, that no longer worries me.

The opportunity for more shots will be there. Butch and Flowers took almost 18 field goal attempts between them, and I see Landry and J-Bo assuming the lion's share of those. Of course, this also means he'll be facing the other team's best perimeter defender. The nice thing is, the Swing makes it harder for teams to focus on a certain guy, like we did with, say, Drew Neitzel.

Consistency is the big thing. J-Bo scored in double figures 13 times in 36 games last season. He also scored five or fewer points 11 times. The nice thing is, he finished strong: eight of his double-digit games came in the Badgers' last 14, and most of his clunkers came in the early non-conference schedule, when it was speculated he was battling an injury.

The key number to me is 69. Sixty-nine percent of J-Bo's field goal attempts last season were 3-pointers. If he can bring that number closer to 50% by working more off the ball and maybe developing a post-up move or two, he'll be much more effective.

Lots of things worry me: gas prices, the Brewers' bullpen, whether Jim will ever propose to Pam on The Office. Jason Bohannon? Not worried about him.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Blog Buzz

By now most of you have probably read about or seen the "discussion" on HBO a couple weeks ago about blogs and sports between Deadspin's Will Leitch and author Buzz Bissinger, goaded on by Bob Costas. If not, here is:

The video

Leitch's reaction to what happened

I finally got a chance on Friday to watch the segment. It was brutal to watch because a. I love Bissinger's work; Friday Night Lights still may be my favorite book, and b. I write a blog about sports.

Bissinger came off as a raving lunatic in his criticism of sports blogs. He appeared to have been stewing about the topic for weeks if not longer, and his premeditated lines about W.C. Heinz and Jimmy Olson were like bad Dennis Miller one-liners from Monday Night Football. Carping about Deadspin's posters' usernames was a superficial criticism. Costas was almost as bad, grilling Leitch about comments made on his blog; surely, Leitch said, you know the difference between blog posts and comments, right? It's not clear Costas did.

Leitch handled it all very well, and I think most impartial observers would agree. He said everything I was thinking, only eloquently, on the spot, and in front of a national television audience. And poor Braylon Edwards, the third member of the panel.

Here's the thing, though: I've had the same thoughts that Bissinger put forth.

Several months ago, I was talking with my friend Lisa about how Badgercentric had seen steadily increasing traffic since his inception. She said something to the effect of wouldn't it be cool if blogs replaced today's mainstream media outlets. No, I said. If, by some miracle this blog started earning significant advertising dollars, and started siphoning those dollars away from, say, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the MJS had to cut staff and/or operations ... well, I for one would be bummed.

Quality sports journalists and the work they do are a necessity to any serious sports fan. It can't just be guys sitting on their couch watching games on the Big Ten Network and writing their knee-jerk reactions to what they've just seen. Badger fans need the work of Jeff Potrykus, Mark Stewart, Mike Lucas, Rob Schultz, Jim Polzin, Tom Mulhern, Jesse Osborn, Todd Milewski. They're the ones who take us closer to the teams we love, who often start our conversations.

Then again ... there is something to be said for Leitch's assertion that he wouldn't want to report on games from the press box, because then you're writing for the other guys in the press box. How valuable is access nowadays? Statistics, quotes, they're all available online. Not many teams allow reporters into practice anymore, and the truly breaking news coming from practices is off-limits for general consumption. Couch-bound bloggers don't do significant, thought-provoking enterprise reporting, but how often do we read that nowadays?

Plus, as a friend of mine who covers the NFL points out, truly deep access comes with a price. When we traded emails this winter, he was referring to ESPN's college basketball guys, who regularly drop "When I had dinner with (famous coach) last night" lines, then launch into impassioned pitches for said coach's team to be a lock for the Big Dance.

In a follow-up interview with
Sporting News blogger Spencer Hall, Bissinger acknowledged that his treatment of Leitch was wrong, and that many people had emailed him examples of good sports blogs. But he still maintains that blogs are founded upon mockery and maliciousness.

I don't think that's true. Blogs are discussions among sports fans taking place online. Do mockery and maliciousness creep into those conversations? Of course. Otherwise Tim Brewster and Tom Crean would never appear here. But are blogs replacements for sports journalism? No.

Can't they both just get along?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Paul Hubbard: The next coming

There's been a lot of positive early buzz surrounding Paul Hubbard at the Cleveland Browns' minicamp.

My thinking is that Hubbard's impressive showing right now means that the Browns won't cut him, or if they do they'll bring him back to their practice squad. Then he'll get a chance to replace Joe Jurevicious next season. A good spot to be in -- that offense was pretty explosive last year, and with guys like Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards it should be for a few years. Hopefully Paul will smooth out the rough edges in his game and find a way to contribute.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ten years?

It may not be exact to the date, but 10 years ago this weekend I graduated from the University of Wisconsin. Really, 10 years? Has it been that long? Was my stay in Madison that brief?

I remember it being an emotional weekend. Friday night our gang went to the Oak Crest Tavern, where as usual we commandeered the CD player and played darts. A handful of us stayed on the guys' front porch at Bowen Court until the wee hours of the morning.

My parents, along with my roommates', showed up the next morning a couple hours later and we headed off to the Kohl Center; ours was the first graduating class to hold commencement in the new building.

Sitting down in my seat, the young woman next to me said "You're Scott Tappa? You're not Scott Tappa!" Turns out, one night that winter I had forgotten to take my press pass off after a Badger hockey game, and took it off at our table at State Street Brats. My buddy Butch had put it on and preceded to hit on as many girls as he could -- using my identity. Apparently he hadn't made a good impression on my seat neighbor. She forgave me for all the things I had not actually said.

That afternoon my folks and I had a nice time at the Terrace, and that night we had a low-key party. The next day we went to Milwaukee to have a party at an Irish pub with Hill and Kate's families. The last days of true freedom.

Monday, real life kicked in. Job interviews led to my first gig in Ohio, which led to a tearful goodbye to Madison. Reality kicked in further my first Friday in Ohio, when at night, instead of hanging out with my buddies, I headed to the office to type in Little League scores. I was surrounded by really good people in Fremont, but was lonely nonetheless. The fact that so many of my friends had remained behind, and my brother and his friends had just arrived in Madison, made it even more difficult.

A couple years after graduation, I wondered when my longing for Madison would subside. Thankfully, it did. Jana is a big reason for that, as are Will, and now Charlie. Life has turned out pretty good, and while I still enjoy visiting and reading about Madison, my roots are planted two hours north.

Maybe 20 or so years from now Jana and I will be in the Kohl Center for Will's or Charlie's commencement (featured speaker: Erin Andrews). If their experience is anything like mine, it will be four awesome years -- but not the best of their lives. Those should come later.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Looking at the 2008-09 UW basketball roster, the guy who was the highest-rated recruit coming in is Joe Krabbenhoft. Per Rivals, he was the #23 overall recruit and #5 small forward recruit in the class of 2005.

Which is interesting. My guess is if a basketball fan watched the Badgers for the first time without any knowledge of the players' backgrounds, and they were asked which was the lowest-rated recruit coming out of high school, they'd pick Krabby.

Because while there is no denying his importance to his team, his effectiveness defending and rebounding, those glue guys are usually unheralded coming in. Guys don't get five stars for leading the country in stitches.

I've made mention of this before, but my impression of Krabby coming in was that he was going to be a scorer, a Mike Miller-type who would be a better version of Clayton Hanson. Someone like Kirk Penney. Instead we got a taller version of Mike Kelley.
Which is great, Kelley was a winner and Krabby's a winner. In thinking about next year's team, I find myself thinking that Krabby should score more to make up for the departures of Butch and Flowers. But realistically, that probably won't happen. He's not a shooter; his scoring average might end up creeping toward 10 ppg, but it probably won't happen.
Krabbenhoft will probably do almost exactly what he did last season: guard the other team's best swingman, with the ability to guard the 2 and 4 spots; make an occasional layup; bring the ball up the court in a pinch; lead the team in rebounding.
If Wisconsin wins 20 games, Krabby will have been a part of 100 victories in his career. There's a lot of five-star guys who can't say that.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Toby Flenderson's last day

So Toby is leaving Dunder Mifflin. I'm disappointed, he was a great straight man, although Michael's animosity toward him was over the top. Another well-crafted episode, classic Office.

Pam to Michael: How much of that anti-gravity potion do you want?

Creed: What do I do here? I should have written it down.

Michael: Are you real or are you a Holly-gram?

Michael: I am downloading some M3P music.

Michael: It was love at first see with my ears.

Holly: Lovitz ...

Michael: My name is Captain Bruisin'.

Dwight, on the Suck on This rock: You did, you made me wrap it up.

Oscar: The real crime, I think, is the beard.

Holly: It's easy to get in, impossible to rise up.

Michael to Pam: You cheated on me when I specifically asked you not to.

Great curveball at the end, and I'm glad that Jim not proposing wasn't immediately followed by Toby whisking her off her feet.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Matt Bernstein sighting

Looks like Matt Bernstein is back knocking heads again. Number 45 recently took part in the Giants' minicamp, and held his own.

Apparently he played with Bon Jovi's Arena League team, the Philadelphia Soul, before getting released. Before getting the call from the Giants he was helping out coaching at his old high school.

The odds of Bernie making it with New York are long, given that the Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions; Madison Hedgecock is a decent returning player; and fullbacks continue to diminish in importance in modern NFL offenses.

But Bernie will always have a soft spot in my heart for his performance against Penn State in 2004. That was the day we first fed Will solid food, and the day Bernie fasted before going out and running for more than 100 yards against a good defense.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tom Petty loves the Badgers

Schwalbach sent me this email this morning, got my day off to a good start. If you've got about four free minutes and want to feel good about being a Badger, give it a watch.

I thought this was really well done.

A couple things stick out:

Ron Dayne was one hell of a runner. Obvious I know, but as time passes you forget just how good he was in college.

Calhoun and BWill - they were quick as hell. Too bad Cal's not much of a player in the NFL. I thought he would be.

There's a lot of great memories there, mostly since 1993 - of which we were in college for or shortly thereafter.

The 99 Rose Bowl was awesome. I'm so happy I was there.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Coaching tree grows another branch has a brief story about how James Kamoku will be a defensive backs coach at Madison East this fall. And the Badgers' football coaching tree grows another branch.

In past posts I've written about former Badger players and coaches who are still coaching, primarily in college and the pros. But what about at the high school level? Leave a comment with anyone you know of who fits this description so I can write a bit more about them.

Regarding Kamoku: could he be the last Hawaiian we see in awhile? From Donovan Raiola to R.J. Morse to Lyle Maiava to Kamoku, it seemed like we were mining what has been a talented location for players. But none of them made a lasting impact. Reminds me of our foray into California recruiting, although those guys contributed more than the Hawaiians.
Just goes to show that you can't just throw a fishing line into a state and expect that whoever you pull back will be an all-conference pick.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Last one out, turn off the lights

What is going on with Big Ten basketball teams? Players are fleeing their schools like rats off a sinking ship, and the result will be a conference significantly weaker than last year -- when most people didn't think much of the league.

Phil Mitten of Hoops Marinara wrote an excellent post detailing the comings and goings. The Cliff's Notes:

-Scott Martin left Purdue. He was overshadowed by Robbie Hummel and Purdue's other impressive freshmen, but this kid was a contributor and had a bright future.

-Tony Freeman left Iowa. He was one of Iowa's two legit players last year. They will be terrible next season. -Ekpe Udoh left Michigan. The kid was an excellent shot blocker and active aroundn the basket.

-Indiana has lost Eric Gordon, Armon Bassett, Jamarcus Ellis, DeAndre Thomas, Eli Holman, along with departing seniors D.J. White, Mike Thomas, and Lance Stemler. Looks like Tan Cream hasn't lost his touch for running guys off.

-Ohio State lost Kosta Koufos to the NBA Draft after one season in college.

Illinois will add Alex Legion and there are a couple other transfers and big-name additions coming in, but wow -- that's a lot of departures. So even though the Badgers lose Butch, Flowers, and Stiemsma, they ought to be right in the thick of things this winter. My outlook:

Michigan State, Purdue


Borderline contenders
Ohio State, Illinois, Minnesota

Terrible teams
Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan, Indiana, Penn State

Should be another Big Ten/ACC Challenge barn burner.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Marcus Landry

I've been watching a lot of NBA playoffs lately -- cue the boo birds -- and have gotten to thinking: is there any player on the Badgers' 2008-09 roster that is capable of playing in the NBA?

From what I've seen, probably not. Trevon Hughes has some of the required attributes, but guys his size usually need to be a lot quicker or much better shooters to make the league. J-Bo's a great shooter, but sometimes has troubles getting his shot off against college defenders. Jon Leuer is a darkhorse, a big guy who can shoot; hell, Steve Novak is still playing professionally stateside, so why not?

Actually, it's one of Novak's Rockets teammates, Carl Landry, who piques my interest. Carl was a helluva college player -- powerful, good mid-range jumper, workmanlike. Thought he was an inch or two too short to make it in the NBA. Was wrong. He played a key role on one of the league's most overachieving teams this year. Good for him.

So what about his younger brother? The buzz on Marcus coming in was that while he was not as strong as Carl, he was more advanced skill-wise than his older brother at age 18. Carl was an instant success at Purdue, but that was after two years of junior college ball.
Marcus has become a fine college player, but has he reached Carl's level? It would be a reach to say yes. There have been times when he has seemed on the verge of becoming a dominant player, then fades back into being just another guy spreading the wealth in the Swing offense. Granted, Carl's Purdue teams were not nearly as good as Marcus's Badger teams; Carl never had an Alando Tucker or Kammron Taylor go-to guy on his roster.

As a freshman, Marcus was ready to contribute, and was getting about 15 minutes of playing time per game until sitting out the second semester with academic troubles. His absence hurt more than Stiemsma's, in my opinion, and was a major reason for what was really the only mediocre season in Bo Ryan's time in Madison.

As a sophomore, Landry apprenticed under Tucker, and while he averaged just 5.9 points per game, he shot over 50% from the field. Comparisons to Alando probably held him back at the beginning of his junior season -- Marcus was slotted to play the 3 and become the team's go-to scorer. But in reality, Landry, like his brother, is more of a 4, and his personality is not comparable to Tucker's. He played much better when Stiemsma was taken out of the starting lineup and he returned to the 4 spot. His scoring average increased by about 5 points per game, but his field goal shooting percentage went down about 5 points.

So what can we expect from Marcus Landry as a senior? Without Brian Butch around, he becomes to unquestioned first option in the post. The more I think about it the more I think that Landry is more like Butch on the court than he is like his brother. So here's a projected stat line for Landry in '08-'09: 13.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks per game. About 45% shooting from the field, a willing 3-point shooter. Guards the other team's top big man. First team All-Big Ten.

Will Marcus Landry reach the NBA? Probably not. But if he hits those projections, and the Badgers contend for a title in what is looking like a weaker-than-ever Big Ten, then his career will have to be considered an overwhelming success, no matter how his resume compares to Carl's.
And by the way: if you're not watching the NBA playoffs, you're missing Chris Paul's coming out party. The guy is amazing. Deron Williams is pretty awesome, too.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The newest Badger

This morning at 2:22 a.m., Jana gave birth to Charles Edward Tappa. Charlie was 20.5 inches long, 7 pounds, 8.4 ounces.

I understand that's a little bit tall for a newborn, and sure enough: when my mother-in-law went home to check the mail for us, there was a scholarship offer for Charlie from Indiana University! I'm holding out hope he'll play for Tony Bennett in Madison.

When Will was born in May 2004, I had to walk him around OB unit to keep him calmed down in the first day or so. One of the stories I told him was the story of the 1993 Wisconsin Badgers, who magically shook off decades of poor play to win the Rose Bowl. We went through the two-deep, position by position. Haven't had to do that yet -- Charlie has been a terrific sleeper thus far -- but at least I have some fresh material for him: the 2006 hockey national champions, All-American Alando Tucker, Joe Thomas, the 2008 Big Ten basketball champions, etc.

It's early, but it's hard for someone like me not to daydream about taking Will, Charlie and Jana to Camp Randall on fall Saturdays in the not-so-distant future. Those are some of my best memories of my dad and brother growing up, and hopefully my boys and I will make similar memories.
God willing, these two will follow their father, uncle, grandfather, and many other wonderful people to Madison for college. When I graduated from UW 10 years ago, most of the best moments in my life took place there. They're still great memories, but nothing beats holding your newborn child ... even if they end up going to Northern Michigan.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Wire

Last weekend at Crazylegs, my brother accused me of being a fan of just about anything out there on pay television. The Sopranos. Entourage. Weeds. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Sex and the City (yikes).


So Jana and I have had HBO for about four years now, and somehow, we never managed to watch The Wire. This is a show that has been widely praised, but not as widely as most of those shows listed above. I just started paying attention as its fifth and final season was winding to a close, reading a nice tribute in Newsweek, but still didn't bother to watch.

But the Newsweek tribute did say the show might just be better than The Sopranos, which the Scandinavia Tappas regard as just about the greatest show of all time. And with the dearth of good movies out there right now — what, you think Jana's going to get me to watch 27 Dresses? — we decided to go back to something we've enjoyed doing since the advent of Netflix: watching acclaimed shows from the beginning, three of four episodes a weekend.

Saturday night we finished the first season of The Wire. Un-freaking-believably good show. I've always been a sucker for stories centered around gangs and the like — Godfather, New Jack City (yikes), Sopranos — and that's what season one served up.

It's gritty. It's profane. It's violent. It's funny.

It's really good, and the season two disc arrived in the mail today. Hooray!

Anyone else a fan?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Badger hoops globetrotters

Today the Journal Sentinel had a list of Euroleague basketball players with Wisconsin connections. Very interesting list. Thought I'd take a closer look at the Badgers who are playing internationally.

Jason Chappell, Gussing Knights (Austria)
I'm sort of surprised at this one. J-Cheezy never seemed like the type who cared much about basketball, just played it because he was tall and his dad was great. And there's that whole aspiring fashion designer angle. But he turned out to be a solid contributor to a great team and is now getting played to hoop. When we saw him back in Tucson in September 2004, if you would have told me Chappell would play basketball professionally, I would have told you there was a monsoon coming and the temperature would drop 30 degrees in an hour. Oh wait ...

Rashard Griffith, CSU Asesoft Ploiesti (Romania)
Shard apparently plays for the most successful Romanian club of the past decade. He could play forever over there, couldn't he?

Andreas Helmigk, Allianz Swans Gmunden (Austria)
Wasn't able to interpret much that was written about Andreas, but check out this hottie he married. Way to go, dude!

Danny Jones, Schwetzingen (Germany)
It is shameful that this is the first time Danny Jones has been mentioned on Badgercentric. This guy was the greatest player to wear red when I was a kid, or at least that's how I remember it. Sort of amazing that he's still playing professional ball, he's got to be pushing 40. He still stands 198 centimeters tall, just like in college.

Zach Morley, Leche Rio (Spain)
I took four years of Spanish in high school, and can tell you that Leche Rio means Milk River. Morley hit a big shot this season to give the Prince's Cup to Lugo.

Ray Nixon, Tuebingen (Germany)
Speaking of guys who would have been well-served by a redshirt season ... this guy defied stereotypes by becoming a Wisconsin player who won a slam dunk championship! Click here to see his winning dunk. It's safe to say there are few things funnier than a German-language call of a slam dunk contest. Below is another YouTube video of Nixon dunking, but of very poor quality.

Kirk Penney, Breakers (New Zealand)
Apparently the guy hasn't just given up basketball to hang out with Andy North. He was first team NBL last season after averaging 24 points per game, and guess who one of his teammates is? Rick Rickert! Here's an interview with him from three months ago.

Kammron Taylor, L'Hospitalet (Spain)
Do yourself a favor and visit this team's official website — it's funky fresh! Best I can tell, Kamm, playing primera temporada, led the team in total puntos and tres-puntos made, was second in assistos. And his middle name is Harry.

Mike Wilkinson, Khimki (Russia)
Wilk has been granted Macedonian citizenship and plays for the Republic of Macedonia national team. What?!? Who does the ol' US of A turn to at power forward next time Elton Brand blows out his knee? Just kidding, Wilk's doing fine - 8.6 ppg and 4.4 rpg at last check. Notable teammates include Daniel Ewing and Pat Burke. Tell you what: I wouldn't dare fail to hedge out on a screen or miss a box out with those coaches glowering from the bench.

That's all I was able to glean in 45 minutes, maybe I'll revisit this post again and bring my personal translator, Babel Fish, with me. If anyone has any more info about these dudes please post a comment.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Middle-Aged Man

Four years ago, right after Will was born, Jana and I took are slightly larger family to Oshkosh to visit friends. As we rolled up to our friend Shu-Ling's house, she came outside, took one look at our new car, and announced:

"Oh my God, you middle-aged!"

That new car was a Toyota Camry.

Saturday, we bought a Honda Odyssey — a minivan! So if a mid-sized sedan made me middle-aged, what does a minivan make me?

I feel like that Mike Myers Saturday Night Live character, Middle-Aged Man. The guy whose theme song included the passage "... developing skills and a gut ..."!

Well, whatever. We bought a minivan because our family is about to grow by 33%, and we need the room. And I'm guessing this thing can outrun other minivans. Especially ones from Detroit.

By the way, Will is in these pictures. Not sure if you saw him, you know, because of all the camouflage he has on. This is what happens when 4-year-olds dress themselves.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Evan Anderson commits to Wisconsin

There's nothing like working ahead, is there? Bo Ryan and his staff wrapped up its recruiting class of 2010 this weekend when Evan Anderson of Eau Claire North committed to play for Wisconsin.

The commitment wasn't a huge surprise, but it was a huge get nonetheless. Anderson is the #10-ranked player nationally in the class of 2010 per Scout (second-ranked center), and #5 per Rivals. Don't get me wrong, I know how much — or how little — these rankings mean, but it will be nice to peak at these rankings for the next couple years and see Wisconsin in the right-hand column near the top of the list, the spot usually reserved these days for North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, and Ohio State. Those were the types of schools who were beginning to take an interest in Evan, similar to Brian Butch at that age, and it's good to lock up a homeboy and get him to Madison.

From my one time watching Evan, on television in the state tournament in North's game against eventual state champion Wauwatosa East, he looked worthy of the hype. He runs well and showed the ability to use both hands offensively around the basket. Other observers say his defense is much more advanced than his offense at this stage, but that would apply to most 6-11 16-year-olds.

So now we're done with our next two recruiting classes (with a big asterisk next to Jamil Wilson's name), and can start focusing on recruiting ... kids who are currently high school freshmen. Gulp. The thing is, UW is not alone in getting commitments from kids at such a young age. One the Scout list seven of the top 10 kids had already committed to a school.

Here's how the next three batches of incoming freshmen shapes up at the moment:

2008: Jared Berggren, Ian Markolf, Jordan Taylor, Robert Wilson, Ryan Evans
2009: Mike Bruesewitz, Diamond Taylor
2010: Vander Blue, Evan Anderson
For good measure, let's throw in 2007: Tim Jarmusz, Keaton Nankivil, Jon Leuer

So, theoretically, our 2010-11 roster is already set. It will look like this:

Center/power forward: Nankivil, Berggren, Markolf, Anderson, J.P. Gavinski (redshirt senior)
Small forward/power forward: Leuer, Bruesewitz, Evans
Shooting guard: Jarmusz, Wilson, Blue
Point guard: Jordan and Diamond

That's pretty good balance, and a pretty versatile roster. Just about all of those last seven guys will be able to swing between a couple positions, and that's a lot of height among the bigs. It's a real similar roster to the one we had this year, with maybe a little more depth at guard if all these guys pan out. Adding a talent like Wilson would be a major wild card, I see him filling the Marcus Landry role on future rosters if we can wedge him in somehow.

These early commitments can sometimes seem anticlimactic, as they take us out of the running for the high-stakes recruits at the top of the lists. But realistically, we're not going to get those guys anyway, and it's good for the stability of the program to get these verbals early.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Garage Ball

My friends and I have come up with some awesome games over the years, particularly in college.

Hammer Quarters was a classic. Two guys each have a quarter, put it no the ground, and slam hammers into the floor in an attempt to get their quarter to touch the other guy's quarter first. Great stuff. Don't think those guys got their deposit back.

Sinker was another good one. When Schwalbach and I lived together in Oshkosh, we had a long, narrow apartment, and liked playing golf. The game we came up with challenged people to use a pitching wedge and knock a Wiffle golf ball from the edge of the kitchen through a narrow crack in the far bathroom, and get it to land in the sink. Not just hit the sink and bounce out, but land and stop there. We played for months and only had 5-7 sinkers apiece.

Garage Ball might be better. Garage Ball got its start roughly two years ago, at my friend Jim's 30th birthday party. Burch had gotten Jim a mini soccer ball as a gag gift, but instead of throwing it in a closet, we decided to put it to use with a game. The game is simple:

-Throw and catch the ball with one hand.

-Use two hands and you're out.

-Drop the ball and you're out.

-Throw an uncatchable ball and you're out.

-Last one left wins.

-Winner decides the rules. This is the fun part.

Last Saturday after Crazylegs, we played Garage Ball for about four hours. Rules included: Toohey and then Schwalbach playing a round with an orange sand pail on his head; Jim and Molle slow dancing while playing; Andy sitting on my lap, and Toohey sitting on Jim's lap; Jim (who was wearing an awesome AJGA light jacket) and me sitting backwards; shooting a mini basketball at a mini hoop for a chance at redemption; playing a round in the dark; Andy playing a round on a tricycle; and Andy playing a round in a red Radio Flyer kids wagon.

Last year after Crazylegs, when we had a fluke nice day in April in Sun Prairie, Schwalbach, Jim, Andy and I played a variation of Garage Ball called Yard Ball. Rules from that afternoon included me sitting out a round in a children's playhouse and playing a round sans shirt ... much to the befuddlement of our hosts' neighbors.

The more I write this, the more it's dawning on me that maybe Garage Ball is one of those things where you had to be there to experience just how fun it is. But it's something our small band of idiots looks forward to every spring.

So I ask you, Badger fans: what are your games?

Maybe one of these days we'll compile enough of them and have a weekend-long Badgercentric Olympics.

Friday, May 2, 2008

When we were young and the Badgers stunk

When guys my age were young, in the 1980s, mainstream University of Wisconsin sports were horrible. Hockey was a powerhouse, but no one I knew played hockey. The football team was a joke, and the basketball team, while flirting with the NIT and delivering some big upsets, wasn't much better.

This drove some of us to root for other college teams that played in big games and postseason tournaments. In basketball, I liked Georgetown and Arizona. In football, I liked Oklahoma and Florida State. Thankfully, for the past 15 years we've had a home team playing important games and winning a good chunk of them.

Our good friend Scott Burch - he liked Penn State. As this picture indicates. Let's hear the cheer now:

"Penn State!" Clap, clap "Penn STATE!" Clap, clap. "Penn STATE!" Clap, clap.

Special thanks to Rob Jansen for sending me this Holy Angels football photo out of the blue this afternoon. The accompanying quote: "I think Burch was the 'get back' guy on the sideline."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Did I stutter?

Barry Bonds may have made it famous, but Stanley Hudson now owns it.

"Did I stutter?!?!"

This episode was funny, but also different because it directly and honestly addressed two things that would be simmering if Dunder Mifflin Scranton was an actual workplace:

-Stanley's lack of respect for Michael, which is undoubtedly shared by many of his fellow co-workers. This reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons starring a character named Frank Grimes, or as Homer called him, Grimey. Grimey was thoroughly frustrated by Homer, and explicitly pointed out all the things that were wrong with him. Somehow, taking it beyond the implied stage didn't sit well with me - we know Homer's an idiot, but that's the fun of the whole show. On The Office, we know Michael's an idiot, but that's the fun of the whole show. Don't confront him about it and make him consider changing.

-Jim getting called out by Ryan for his lackadaisical performance. Watching this show for four years, you just sort of assume that Jim's hitting his sales numbers, but maybe he's not. And let's face it, if you were working your ass off and saw him talking to the receptionist for two hours a day, it would bother you too ... especially if you had a thing for the receptionist.

Other good quotes:

Dwight to Michael: "Force it in there as deep as you can."
Michael: "Mmmphmpfhfmpfh." ("That's what she said.")

Michael, creating a fictional jive talking session between him and Stanley for Toby: "'Hey, you're poor,' 'Hey, you're mama's dead,' ... You're so white."

Dwight buying that car was terrific. I plan on using the same tactic to purchase a Honda Odyssey minivan this weekend for several thousand dollars below sticker price. You can buy this car.

Fluffy fingers - "You start tickling them, then you just got to church together, eat ice cream cones." Nice one Darrell. I'm actually surprised Michael didn't try this one.

Also loved the Emergency Org Chart where Dwight controls all.

Michael: "You're fired like a heart attack."

Michael: "If you don't get no respect you might be a redneck."

I'm out, time to go plan my group's Summer Sales-A-Lot.