Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday morning thoughts

A lot of people wanted to talk to me about the Badgers on Friday, which isn't all that unusual, but their expressions when they approach me are different than they were several weeks ago. Instead of an arched eyebrow and sympathetic demeanor, they are now eager and excited.

And why not? Five wins in a row will do that. Hell, even Will was excited when I told him Friday mornin that the Badgers had won the night before. I told him they had lost six in a row prior to that, and won three in a row before that. Flexing his new math skills, Will concluded that the Badgers had won eight Big Ten games.

Which puts UW in position to finish third in the conference ... right about where I and many others picked them prior to the season. For that to happen, the Badgers have to win at either Minnesota or Michigan State. Tough sledding.

More realistic is we split these last four games and finish fifth, sixth, or seventh in the Big Ten. Our overall record would be 19-11. Conventional wisdom says we'd want to finish fifth and avoid playing Thursday in the conference tournament.

But think of it this way: if we finished sixth, we'd get Indiana on Thursday, as close to a sure win as there is in this conference. Beating them, while not a quality win, would give us 20 wins, and ensure no worse than a 20-12 record to place before the selection committee. There's something about a 20-win team with a winning Big Ten record that would seem to be impossible to keep out of the Dance.

Probably overthinking things ...

-Now we know what it's like to be an Indiana fan. Over the past year the Big Ten Network's house ads have regularly featured highlights of Brian Butch's game-winning bank-shot 3-pointer against the Hoosiers, which I imagine makes their fans dry heave every time they see it.

Now we have to relive J-Bo getting his ill-advised layup blocked and Lawrence Westbrook throwing up prayers that went in from our stomach-turning loss to the Gophers last month. Every time I've thought about that game in the past month it's really pissed me off, and now we'll be reminded of it on a regular basis. Great.

-Over lunch Friday I read Sports Illustrated's tribute to the Big East, and it bugged me. Yes, there are a lot of great, really good, and good teams in that conference, more than any other. But part of that is because they have sixteen freaking teams!

Talk about the Big East's urban flavor and TV savvy and storied history all you want. But you put that many teams together in a BCS conference and of course there are going to be a lot of good ones.

And look at how many bad teams there are: St. John's, who we saw more of than we wanted to Thursday night against Duke, is 12-14. South Florida, which somehow beat Marquette, is 8-17. Rutgers is 10-16. DePaul is 8-18.

The Big Ten has one team this bad, Indiana. Iowa is close (boy that loss in Iowa City chaps me). The rest of the teams are respectable or better, capable of beating anyone on any given night, even Northwestern. That's why we have so many teams hovering around .500 in league play.

The Big East talks about eating its own -- so does the Big Ten. Still, we could conceivably get seven teams into the tournament, which would be a more impressive feat than the Big East getting eight of 16 teams in.

1 comment:

Will said...

It has been exciting to see the Badgers make this climb. I'm going to the regional next month in Miami, and who knows, maybe they will be there.

Would love to know how many times a school made the NCAA tournament even with a six-game conference game losing streak. That might not have even happened when a school with a losing overall record made the field.

The Big Ten needs a good PR person. Because whenever casual fans see Penn State 38, Illnois 33 they assume the worst.