Last week the Journal Sentinel ran an interesting story about how Dustin Sherer is working on improving his throwing motion. He makes an interesting point. It's tough to just radically change your throwing motion when you've been doing it your whole life.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Last week the Journal Sentinel ran an interesting story about how Dustin Sherer is working on improving his throwing motion. He makes an interesting point. It's tough to just radically change your throwing motion when you've been doing it your whole life.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
When it comes time to remember the Badgers' time in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, I'll remember the exciting win over Florida State, with Nankivil's effort, J-Bo's shooting, and Trevon's game-winner.
When it comes time to remember the Badgers' 2008-2009 season, I'll remember it being summed up in the second half against Xavier.
We're up 33-26, looking really good and ... we don't score again for about an hour. Xavier slowly scores 10 straight points to take the lead, and we never really challenge again.
What an excruciating shooting performance -- 29%? That's pathetic. Credit Xavier's defense for some of that, but there were a lot of makeable shots that we just whiffed on. J-Bo was 2-for-12. Pop, who seemed to be playing a good game, was 3-for-16. Nankivil was 1-for-8. Leuer and Krabby took two shots apiece.
Xavier wasn't all that much better offensively, and we played a pretty decent defensive game, but their kids made some 3s and finished some in the paint.
At least this collapse happened relatively early in the second half and gave us time to prepare for the defeat, unlike all those waning-minute collapses that have characterized this season.
Silver lining: Marcus Landry went out with style. Showing just about everything in his repertoire (aside from the deep ball), Marcus had 18 points and 10 boards, and was assertive. Unfortunately, his fellow senior starter, Krabby, was virtually invisible in his last game. I can't remember a single thing he did before fouling out.
Clearly, among the many things that need to improve next season if UW is to return to greatness, #1 is avoiding these prolonged dry spells. Not sure exactly how you do that, other than the obvious -- have your kids improve their shooting. Maybe design and call some high-percentage plays, rather than just letting the Swing run its course.
Anything after Friday's win would have felt like gravy. But when we were up seven points, I started dreaming about being in the Sweet 16, getting another week of practice and hype. When you get that far, anything can happen.
It's hard to imagine a 20-win season capping a 100-win career by the senior class being a mild disappointment, but the bar has been raised. Which is why losses like this have become so hard to stomach.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Madison Memorial beat Racine Horlick tonight to win the Division 1 state championship in a game that was never close. What an impressive team. I ragged on Jeronne Maymon a little bit on Thursday, but he's a terrific high school player, a man among boys. You'd be hard pressed to find many guys who have had better four-year varsity runs in this state.
Friday, March 20, 2009
All day I had people asking me "Badgers got a shot tonight?" In the break room. In the hallway. In the door of my office. In conference calls. To each questioner I said, with a goofy grin, "I think we're going to win tonight."
There were plenty of times tonight when that seemed far-fetched, but wow, what a great day to be right!
Yes, it's just one win, far away in Idaho, but right now a warm feeling is washing over me. Temporarily wiping away the disappointment of the football season, the six-game hoops losing streak in January, Lawrence Westbrook, etc., etc., etc.
Life is good.
We won this game because, as it turned out, we were the better team. Florida State played really good defense, and Douglas is as good as advertised, but they didn't have much offensively besides him. We had a couple guys get hot when it was just about to be too late, and Pop did his Virginia Tech circus shot thing at the end to beat another ACC team. Very gratifying that we could play a far from perfect game and still come out on top.
-The first half was absolutely horrible, again. 26.9% shooting. Leuer was 0-for-7 at one point. Our guys were double clutching and scared to shoot. If you live in Wisconsin, you should have been watching the Madison Memorial-Bay Port state semifinal game (Vander Blue hit a big 3-pointer and blocked one, too, to lead the Spartans to the finals).
-But looks who comes out hot in the second half, Keaton Nankivil. His shot is aesthetically pleasing, and I'm counting on a huge step forward from him next year. I still can't fathom why he wasn't playing more in this last stretch; at the very least he should have been getting Gullikson's minutes.
-Then J-Bo snaps out of his slump at just the right time. After he hit that long 3 with under a minute to play he started pumping his arms and yelling -- never seen him so fired up. It was refreshing! Hopefully he uses his clutch performance tonight as a springboard to a big senior season.
-Landry's play tonight might go overlooked, but it was solid. He went up against some good, long post defenders and still found a way to make five shots.
-Jordan Taylor's play was steady if not spectacular. I can't remember any turnovers from him, and he made that late layup to bring us within a point. Also played pretty good defense.
-And what can you say about Pop's game-winner? Watching the replay a couple times, there was a high degree of difficulty on that one. His arm was almost fully extended trailing the rest of his body.
-Douglas was really aided by some superstar calls late. The foul on Pop that led to Douglas's game-tying free throws at the end of regulation was a bad call, Douglas just fell down. On the 3-pointer he made to put them up three late in OT he appeared to push his man down (although I didn't see a replay and might be wrong). He may have had 26, but I thought our guys did a pretty good job on him.
-Our guys missed some big free throws down the stretch, and the way this season has gone I fully expected it to cost us the game.
-Twenty wins again, not a bad total for a down year.
-Between our game and Siena beating Ohio State (aww, too bad ... there goes my Big Ten allegiance), what an exciting end to the first round.
Who's next, Xavier? No problem ...
I'll think more about them after getting some sleep. Which might be easier said than done after that finish.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
First off: Stringer Bell is on The Office! How exciting is that? I just hope he's a character that hangs around for awhile and isn't gone in three episodes. It would be awesome if Avon Barksdale and/or Marlo Stanfield dropped by and capped Bob Vance because he didn't pay protection money.
But anyway ...
-Watched most of the Madison Memorial-Germantown game, and am really excited about Vander Blue. Last year you could see potential, but it he was very much unpolished. Tonight: 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the floor, including two 3-pointers, and 9-of-9 from the line. Yes, many of those field goals came in transition, where he showed great athleticism, but he also made a few long jumpers and looked very good on them.
Jeronne Maymon, on the other hand, looked sluggish and lackadaisacal, although he did have seven assists. Without having seen that team play before tonight, my guess is opposing teams gear up to stop Maymon and make the other guys beat them, and a team like Germantown with size can slow him down a bit. He'll probably have a big game Friday night.
-Didn't see the Racine Horlick-Eau Claire North game, but Evan Anderson didn't do much. Looks like he was in some foul trouble. I'm not too worried about him, though -- he had a rough year with injuries, and I'd look for him to have a big year next year.
Jamil Wilson had 24 for Horlick. One recruiting message board I read had a guy purporting to be a friend of Wilson's who said Jamil wanted to be a Badger. But the implication was that we weren't willing to wait until March 8 to find out his college choice, a date that held significance to his deceased mother. Too bad, I've heard lots of good things about him, and he's headed to Oregon; at least it's not East Lansing. Sure hope Ryan Evans pans out.
-Bay Port-Beloit just doesn't excite me, seems there's always a game like that on Thursday.
-Minnesota looked unbelievable early, then cooled down, then showed just about how good they really are. I can't believe we lost twice to that team this year, it's sickening. Goodbye Lawrence Westbrook, good luck in Europe. (NOTE: Per the first comment before, I'm wrong about this, we have to see Larry charging into Big Ten defenders and throwing the ball at the rim for another year. Damn.)
-Conversely, really nice win for Michigan. I'm surprised we beat them twice this year, includin that really convincing one in Ann Arbor.
-Purdue also won to make the Big Ten 2-1, we'll see how Illinois does. It would be nice for the Big Ten to have a winning record in the tournament, maybe shut some critics up.
-It seems like every time I switch channels from the high school game to the college game on CBS it's going to commercial.
-Not enough Rural Insurance commercials during the WIAA broadcasts.
This is such a great time of the year. It's somewhat less great when your 10-month-old repeatedly crawls over to the satellite receiver and turns it off, leaving snow on the screen. He usually turns around and smiles, which makes it cute and semi-acceptable, but come on Charlie, not in March!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Probably not going to fill out a bracket this year. Haven't for a few years, just can't get that worked up about it for whatever reason. But since I know you're wondering, here are my picks for the tournament.
Louisville def. Morehead State, Ohio State def. Siena, Utah def. Arizona, Wake Forest def. Cleveland State, West Virginia def. Dayton, Kansas def. North Dakota State, USC def. Boston College, Michigan State def. Robert Morris
Louisville def. Ohio State, Utah def. Wake Forest, Kansas def. West Virginia, Michigan State def. USC
Louisville def. Utah, Kansas def. Michigan State
Kansas def. Louisville (haven't seen Kansas play much this year, and don't know that much about them, but I like the Collins-Aldrich combo; they'll probably lose in the first round.)
UConn def. Chattanooga, Texas A&M def. BYU, Purdue def. Northern Iowa, Washington def. Mississippi State, Marquette def. Utah State, Missouri def. Cornell, Maryland def. California, Memphis def. CSU Northridge
UConn def. Texas A&M, Purdue def. Washington, Marquette def. Missouri, Memphis def. Maryland
Purdue def. UConn, Memphis def. Marquette
Memphis def. Purdue (Purdue played five terrific halves of basketball in Indianapolis, and if Hummel keeps shooting well they can beat anyone.)
Pitt def. E Tennessee State, Tennessee def. Oklahoma State, Wisconsin def. Florida State, Xavier def. Portland State, VCU def. UCLA, Villanova def. American, Texas def. Minnesota, Duke def. Binghamton
Pitt def. Tennessee, Wisconsin def. Xavier, Villanova def. VCU, Duke def. Texas
Pitt def. Wisconsin, Duke def. Villanova
Duke def. Pitt (although Duke has no answer for Pitt's Blair, I think they'll just make a bunch of shots)
UNC def. Radford, LSU def. Butler, Western Kentucky def. Illinois, Gonzaga def. Akron, Arizona State def. Temple, Syracuse def. Stephen F. Austin, Clemson def. Michigan, Oklahoma def. Morgan State
UNC def. LSU, Gonzaga def. Western Kentucky, Syracuse def. Arizona State, Oklahoma def. Clemson
UNC def. Gonzaga, Syracuse def. Oklahoma
UNC def. Syracuse (if Lawson isn't 100%, Flynn can light these guys up.)
Memphis def. Kansas, UNC def. Duke (that would be a helluva interesting Final Four, wouldn't it?)
Memphis def. UNC (think Lawson's toe will be bothering him a lot by this point and he won't be able to run with Memphis)
It's funny, but as I was watching ESPN's esteemed experts pick their Final Four, almost all of them went something like this:
"In the Midwest I like Louisville ... in the East I like Pittsburgh ... in the West I like Connecticut ... in the South I like North Carolina." Brilliant stuff, pick the four #1 seeds. Only one or two of them picked somethin other than the four #1s. That's why we watch.
Posted by Scott Tappa at 8:56 PM
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
My first thought is that I'm glad the game is Friday and not Thursday, since it will give our kids one extra day of practice and postseason experience before the season's over. Sorry, it's been that type of year.
But really, I'm thinking that while few people are giving us a chance, it's not a long shot to see us winning this game. They do have Toney Douglas, who is probably the best player we've faced this year. This guy is ranking Douglas as the best point guard in the country, ahead of Ty Lawson, Jonny Flynn and Stephen Curry. And it's not that much of a stretch, given that he was just about the ACC's leading scorer and also its defensive player of the year.
So you can pretty much count on Pop not having a big game. The thing is, beyond him they seem to be just a solid team. Four guys averaging about 8 points per game. Don't seem to have anyone other than Douglas shooting lights-out on 3-pointers. No dominant rebounders, but a few decent shot blockers. They appear to have some athletic bigs, which given our lack of legit height could be troublesome.
Comparing similar opponents, they beat Virginia Tech twice, including a squeaker at home (like us), and lost at Northwestern (but by a lot more). Their signature win -- in the conference tournament over Carolina -- is far better than anything we've got, but the rest seems comparable.
So they're similar to us, on paper at least.
It may sound arrogant and/or obvious and/or simple to say this, but I think that this game comes down to how we play, not necessarily what they do. If we play a solid 40-minute game, I think we'll win. We've got good players, the better coach, and while this is our 11th straight trip to the NCAAs this is FSU's first in about that long.
But how many times have we played a solid 40 minutes against a good team this year? A few, depending on your definition of "good team," but you don't need two hands to count them.
So it'll probably be a close game, hopefully played in the 60s. I'd like to think the Badgers can break tendencies and do enough to move on, but ...
Posted by Scott Tappa at 8:38 PM
Monday, March 16, 2009
I had our modest point-and-shoot camera in Indianapolis and snapped some shots from our seats in the club level.
It's always fun to see the spirit squad and team run out on the court while the band plays "On Wisconsin".
The last Big Ten pregame huddle for Krabby and Landry.
Have you head the Big Ten Network has a new show that Eddie George is hosting, and that it's raw, unscripted, and candid? If not, welcome out from under the rock. There was a lobby display at Conseco where a video screen in the shape of George's body hypes the show. At first I thought it was a robot, but it turns out that's just how Eddie talks. The Big Ten Quad promises to be ... easy to miss. But Ron Dayne and Bret Bielema will be guests.
People ask me what the difference is between Indianapolis and Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament. In Chicago, the Illinois game might make the first page of the Tribune's sports page. In Indy, they rename the streets after each conference school and put banners all around the downtown. A far superior location.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Well, we're in. Even though I said a 12 seed might be appropriate for us, when I see how some of these other teams are seeded, it's puzzling.
Whatever. Haven't seen FSU play at all this year until today against Duke, but know they have a great scorer in Toney Douglas.
Can't say it seems like an unwinnable matchup, but we have to make some shots.
We're heading north on 65 now, and my thumbs have about had it, as has my brain. I'll check back in tomorrow night.
Posted by Scott Tappa at 5:47 PM
Saturday, March 14, 2009
If you've talked with me about our annual trip to the Big Ten Tournament at any time in the last three years I've probably mentioned that in 2006 we went to Hinkle Fieldhouse and saw Greg Oden and Mike Conley lead Indianapolis Lawrence North to a regional win over Jeff Teague and Indianapolis Pike. It was neat to see two future lottery picks and a future college All-American in one high school game at the gym where they filmed the final scene of Hoosiers.
Tonight we went back to Hinkle to catch Lawrence North play Franklin Central. It was an entertaining game won by the underdog, Franklin.
Franklin was a bunch of scrappy guards and one stellar big guy, Patrick Bade, a 6-8 kid who played a great game. Unfortunately, he'll be playing at Purdue. No one else who played much for the Flashers (great nickname) was taller than 6-3.
Lawrence's front line, on the other hand went 6-9, 6-7, and 6-9 on its front line. And not just any old big guys -- 6-9 Stephan VanTreese and 6-7 Justin Martin are Louisville signees, and 6-9 Dominique Ferguson is a Kentucky commit. Off the bench, Lawrence brought 6-9 Purdue signee Jeff Robinson and yet another Louisville commitment, 6-10 Michael Chandler. They had a 7-foot kid, Jan Maehlan, who didn't get in the game at all.
And they lost by about 15 points in a game that wasn't even that close. Franklin packed it in, forced Lawrence's other guys to shoot, and made the most of their opportunities.
Think about that: this game featured three Louisville recruits, two Purdue recruits, and a Kentucky recruit. On two teams in the same metropolitan area, neither one private schools. You ever see that sort of top-level talent in one non-all-star setting?
Anyway, it was intense, with both coaches really working the refs hard, and really physical, with bodies falling all over the place. Better yet, the game took about 75 minutes to complete, and to Nick's delight they had Chik-Fil-A available.
If for whatever reason you ever attend this event in Indianapolis in the future, I would urge you to go to the Hinkle 4A regional, it's well worth the time.
Posted by Scott Tappa at 9:28 PM
Over beers last night, our traveling squad brainstormed reasons why the Badgers losing to Ohio State immediately in the Big Ten Tournament isn't so bad.
-The kids can get back to Madison and focus on their studies. ;)
-In past years, we've won the tournament and it has not helped our NCAA seeding. This year we won't have to worry about getting screwed like that.
-We can rest up before our possible first round NCAA Tournament game.
-Ohio State should definitely make the NCAAs now, and the Big Ten has a good chance to get more teams in than the Big East or ACC.
-When we make the finals our late-arriving fans have to play inflated ticket prices for the semifinals and finals. This year Badger fans get to reap the benefit of ticket demand, especially with four semifinalists with fan bases that travel well.
-In theory the official Wisconsin restaurant, Buffalo Wild Wings, should be less crowded. In theory.
-Barry Alvarez doesn't have to eat Embassy Suites breakfasts all weekend.
Posted by Scott Tappa at 8:33 PM
... is pissing away its shot at being a top seed. They're getting plenty of good looks but can't make anything. Sort of like us yesterday. They've even resorted to using our pathetic inbounds plays.
Ohio State, on the other hand, is playing really well, better than they did against us. Mullens and Lauderdale have been especially good, as has Buford. And Turner isn't even playing that well.
Posted by Scott Tappa at 2:19 PM
Going into Friday I thought we'd see four good games between evenly-matched teams. Instead we saw one good, close game (UW-Ohio State), one favorite winning convincingly (Michigan State over Minnesota) and two teams playing really well and winning by a lot (Illinois and Purdue).
Overall, the feeling I came away with was this: the Big Ten is a lot better than it has been in any of the five years we've been coming to this event. In years past, we've seen teams in the semifinals that have no business being there and getting beaten down handily. I don't think we're going to see that this year, because of the parity in the conference. I've shared my thoughts on Bucky, here are some on the others.
Looked appropriately good. Don't listen to what the MSU commenters come on and tell you -- this is the deepest, most talented team in the league (why do they dispute that as if it's an insult?), and they used that depth Friday. No one played an outstanding game against Minnesota, and they missed a bunch of free throws, but enough guys made enough plays that the outcome was never really in doubt.
Said it before and will say it again: Tubby shouldn't play so many guys. Some of their players -- Abu-Shamala, Busch, and Hoffarber (who took no shots in 17 minutes) come to mind -- shouldn't play at all, unless they're pressin for 40 minutes. Westbrook still drives me nuts. Sampson played really soft and borderline scared against Suton and State's other bigs. Damian Johnson is a stud, he'll be great next year. That Carter guy has impressive flashes. They need Nolen to learn how to score more. I can not believe we lost two games to these chumps.
Jeremie Simmons killed us quietly with 10 points in 16 minutes. Turner showed a really nice mid-range game. Andy kept talking about P.J. Hill's hair. It flies around so much it creates the illusion that he's doing more than he really is. Mullens sure didn't show much before he fouled out.
Mike Davis was awesome Friday, there is no other player in the Big Ten like him in size or athleticism. Tisdale didn't score much but has nice range. They played great defense on Michigan, and exposed their lack of size. Chester Frazier's absence is going to hurt them against a team with a penetrating point guard, maybe even today against Purdue. They should play him even if he has a club on his hand, he shouldn't shoot or dribble anyway.
Aside from maybe Novak, they were all terrible Friday. They officially had 10 turnovers, but it seemed like twice that; every turnover they had seemed to lead to an emotionally-charged play for Illinois. It will be interesting to see if Harris or Sims think they're good enough to enter the NBA draft early. I sure don't think they are.
They got run over by a freight train, and it might have hurt their NCAA chances. They didn't play that badly, but Purdue was just about flawless. Cornley airballed his first two 3-point attempts, but for some reason kept shooting.
By far the best-looking team on Friday. It's funny -- at one point they showed Gene Keady on the JumboTron and the PU fans gave him a huge ovation. I giggled because it is sort of amazing how quickly Matt Painter has turned around that program after Keady let it slide into a horrendous state. Purdue is so much more talented than they were just three years ago, it's amazing. Hummel was unconscious early in the second half. Moore was great around the basket. Grant was hittin from outside. Kramer looked like freaking Doctor J on one of his open court dunks. Even that Calasan greaseball hit some shots. Hard to believe they lost as many games in the Big Ten as they did this year.
My favorite non-Badger Big Ten players: Chester Frazier, Mike Davis, E'Twuan Moore, Zach Novak, Talor Battle, Damian Johnson
My least-favorite Big Ten players: Chris Kramer (I can see him holding court at Brothers with girls of ill repute gathered around him), Namanja Calasan (the guy is a black hole, whenever the ball gets in his hands it ends in a shot), Goran Suton (because he hates us because we grab and hold), Jamelle Cornley (airball your first two 3-poiners? Keep shooting!), Lawrence Westbrook (read past Badgercentric posts)
Posted by Scott Tappa at 1:30 PM
... and his colleagues are wasting my freaking time. Every couple minutes they stop the clock and huddle around a monitor to make a Very Important Decision. Like taking one second off the shot clock.This game has no flow. Please, Jim Delaney, get rid of this guy.
Posted by Scott Tappa at 1:08 PM
Friday, March 13, 2009
While we were eating at Palomino after the game, an elderly gentleman in a Wisconsin sweater approached us.
"What happened?" he said.
"I just think that this team lacks courage," I responded.
"Hmmm ... courage. Haven't heard that one."
But isn't that what losing games like this boils down to? We were up seven with Leuer shooting free throws with 3:59 left. Out of the timeout Leuer missed the free throw and we proceeded to fall apart. The defense wasn't that bad, but it wasn't good, either. We had many open looks but missed all of them.
It isn't a skill thing. Our guys were skilled enough to build that seven-point lead. But as we've seen time and again this year these guys can't step on an opponent's neck when in position to do so. As such, Ohio State's talented guys had breathing room to come back and make some plays.
Will just left a comment regarding our seeding. I'm thinking 10, but 11 or 12 could end up being the seed. At this point, I'm nervous that teams like Xavier lost and Maryland won. I still think we'll get in, but can't see us winning. If this is what constitutes a down year for this program, so be it, but it's disappointing because something much better was within reach.
-Leuer played okay overall, he found some spots where he could make jumpers. He had a smaller guy on him, and when he does he should be able to shoot over them. It will be interesting to see if that is still the case next year when Landry is gone.
-Landry wasn't going to be able to do anything in the post with Lauderdale or Mullens on him, but didn't hunt for jumpers as much as he should have.
-It seemed like Pop played a decent game, but I see he was 3-for-11 from the field, which is obviously pretty bad.
-Krabby had 10 boards but took only three shots. I'd say he played decent defense on Turner, but he still had 19 points on a respectable percentage. You have to assume our offense will be more dynamic with someone out there who looks for shots more.
-J-Bo was 3-for-9 on 3-pointers. Every time he went up for a shot, you could hear all the UW fans in attendance muttering "come on, Jason!" He did have some good drives to the basket. He did a good job again on Diebler, who only took six shots (and made a big one late). It struck me that Ohio State fans were probably muttering "come on, Jon!" every time Diebler went up for an open 3.
-Our out of bounds plays from under our own basket have bothered me for some time, but this year, when our margin for error is so small, they have become a major liability. The best we seem to get is a heave to Hughes or Taylor at least 40 feet from the basket. Forget actually scoring off this situation, we're lucky not to turn it over. It's amazing that a coach as good as Bo can't come up with something better, when many other teams seem to.
-Another opponent shoots 50% from the field on us. In our game against OSU in Madison they turned it over enough that the high percentage didn't hurt us too badly, but today they took care of the ball. For the season, we're allowing opponents 44% shooting from the field; last year, it was 38%. This year we're allowing 58.9 points per game; last year it was 54.4.
The kids are trying out there, playing generally the same way we've played in the past. It's just that something's missing. Dad says it's a guy like Stiemsma, which is valid. Turner's drives to the basket would have been tougher to finish if we had a legit shot-blocking big back there. Maybe it's a dynamic slasher type, someone other than Hughes who can consistently create; perhaps that's Rob Wilson next year?
It will be interesting to see what happens Sunday. If you look at our resume, we should probably get in the tournament. But if the committee decides to leave us out, I'd be really disappointed, but understanding. We've had plenty of chances to cement a place in the Dance and have failed plenty of times.
With us leading 52-50 and 2-some minutes left Pop throws the ball away to J-Bo against the press. I turn to my dad and day:
"I've seen this game before."
And so again we give a game away late, missing open shots and free throws, breaking down on defense. Disappointing, we had this one well in hand at the under-4 timeout.
Time for happy hour at Palomino's, then back for the remainder of the Badger-less tournament. More thoughts later.
What is it with Bo and the refs this year? Every one of these T's seems to really hurt us.
With the time Turner missed for them we should be up a couple baskets. Major opportunity lost.
Ohio State fans are far and away the biggest whiners of the four fan groups we've seen here so far, a few of them are ridiculous.
Hope to keep it close and start hitting shots at the end.
First, a rant: the Embassy Suites still charges for Internet access. $12 per day. Are you freaking kidding me?!? Who charges for Internet access any more? What is this, 1998? No-name, off-brand motels don't even charge for Internet access any more! The other Hilton chain hotels don't charge for Internet access any more!
But ... if we weren't at the Embassy Suites, I wouldn't have had the pleasure of discussing last night's epic Syracuse-UConn game with Mike Lucas this morning. Discussing might be overstating it. After getting on the elevator and heading down from the ninth floor, Lucas and his wife got on one or two floors down.
He said: "Are Syracuse and UConn still playing?"
The rest of us on the elevator: "Heh heh, mmm."
So not really a "discussion," but still an interesting way to start the day. After awhile, the Lucases were joined at breakfast by Barry Alvarez. As Andy said, Barry seemed to be lecturing Lucas about something; maybe he was upset with all the Izzone shirts at breakfast in UW's official team hotel. Later on, Marsh Shapiro held court, Nitty Gritty style.
As Andy, Kenji and I scarfed down breakfast, our conversation turned to how much we appreciated having a top-notch radio announcing crew like Lucas and Matt LePay. This could not have been made more apparent than it was yesterday, when I listened to about 10 minutes of the Marquette-Villanova game on my drive to West Bend.
For starters, Steve "The Homer" True is a stain on broadcasting. It's one thing to be a homer, it's another to be The Homer. You might think I feel this way just because he calls Marquette games, but I'd feel this way if he was calling our games, too; I'm not a huge fan of Wayne Larrivee and Ted Davis, for instance. True's a caricature, and not the good kind. Jim McIlvaine, while light years better than the incoherent unofficial assistant coach/cheerleader that was George Thompson, doesn't bring much to the table other than "I guess there's Saran Wrap on that rim" to explain the shooting woes each team suffered at times.
LePay and Lucas, on the other hand, provide even-handed play-by-play and analysis over the course of a game. LePay has a superb feel for the flow of the game, and knows when the pause for Lucas, who offers good analysis interspersed with interesting backstory and statistics. In my book, Lucas is a far better announcer than writer. Do they get excited when Wisconsin does well? Sure, but only in the most appropriate moments. Some of LePay's end game calls are classics in any book that still give me goose bumps. The Homer treats a three-second call with the same gusto as LePay treated Brian Butch's game-winner against Indiana last year.
Hey, to each his own. If Marquette fans like their announcing team, good for them, that's all that matters. I'll take ours.
And by the way, did you watch the entire Syracuse-UConn game? We did, incredible.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
We're cruising south down I-65 in Dad's Impala (no hydraulics), Indianapolis in sight. Dad, Andy, Nick and I are heading to the Big Ten Tournament for the fifth straight year, and I'm very excited. Doesn't matter that the Badgers are a long shot to win more than one game this weekend. For a basketball junkie like me, it doesn't get any better than this.
(As evidence of my basketball geekdom, I present my plot to visit Hinkle Fieldhouse following the BTT games Saturday to hopefully see Indianapolis Lawrence North play Indianapolis Pike in IHSAA regional action. Three years ago we saw Greg Oden and Mike Conley -- mostly Oden -- lead Lawrence North past Pike -- which had current Wake Forest star Jeff Teague on its roster.)
Anyway, was thinking about the All-Big Ten teams that were announced Monday. Not surprisingly, we didn't have anyone on the first team, which breaks a pretty impressive run for Wisconsin. Given the youth of the guys on the first team -- all sophomores -- it's going to be tough to get a Badger back in there in the next few years.
Landry on the second teams seems about right, as do Pop and Krabby earning honorable mention. No Badger made the all-defensive team, which at first blush seems wrong (Krabby?) but on further reflection seems about right. The Badgers' defense just was not that good this year.
Can't argue with Kalin Lucas as player of the year, worthy choice. But Izzo as coach of the year? I realize it's standard to give the award to the conference champ, and Michigan State did run away with it impressively. But for my money -- and that of the media and probably a lot of other observers -- Ed DeChellis deserves more credit for riding what was basically a three-man team to 20-plus wins, and Bruce Weber deserves more credit for turning around what was an atrocious team last year with essentially the same roster.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Two recent, similar stories/blog posts got me thinking about who would make an All-Bo Ryan Team.
The Daily Cardinal's top 5 was, in order, Alando Tucker, Devin Harris, Mike Wilkinson, Kirk Penney, Marcus Landry.
Papa Sal of Camp Lambeau named Harris, Penney, Tucker, Wilkinson, and Brian Butch.
My thought is that Harris, Tucker, Penney, and Wilkinson are no-brainers. It's that fifth guy who's a challenge to name.
Landry doesn't jump out to me as a top 5 guy. Yet his senior numbers are very similar to Butch, who was first team all-conference, just a rebound or two shy.
If position is no object -- saying you don't need another true post for this team/top 5 -- why not Kammron Taylor? He wasn't a pure point guard, but he was a go-to scorer who wasn't afraid to take big shots in the clutch. What about Krabby? His offensive game has left much to be desired, but he was tough as nails, a great rebounder, terrific leader, and the ultimate glue guy.
My choice: Michael Flowers. His offensive game was underappreciated and underutilized, but his calling card, as everyone knows, was his defense. Just how valuable his perimeter defense was has been painfully apparent this season, as guys from Lawrence Westbrook to someone named Nick Williams have penetrated our defense at will. Remember how Flowers shut down Drew Neitzel in Madison last year? Can't remember many defensive efforts like that this season (save for J-Bo's defense against Ohio State's Diebler, although Diebler is clearly not yet in Neitzel's class).
If you played this as an actual starting lineup, it would look like one from Bo's early years: small, but tough. Devin and Flowers at guard, Penney at the 3, Tucker as the undersized 4 (a role he excelled in early in his career) and Wilk in the middle. Fill out the rotation with Butch, Landry, Krabby, and Kam. Not a bad run over eight years.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Just got done watching North Dakota State's exciting win over Oakland to win the Summit League tournament and clinch an NCAA Tournament berth in their first year of eligibility. The Bison are coached by former UW assistant Saul Phillips, who will likely be a hot coaching prospect moving up the ladder in coming seasons. Saul, of course, played for Bo Ryan at Platteville and coached under him at UWM and UW.
Bo's son, Will, is an assistant under Phillips, and it wouldn't be a stretch to project him moving up with his boss or back to work with his dad at some point in the future.
That team has a lot of seniors, many of whom were on the court three years ago when they shocked the Badgers at the Kohl Center in what is undoubtedly still the biggest head-scratching loss of the Bo Ryan era.
Other Wisconsin ties from North Dakota State include director of basketball operations Dan Weisse, who played at Oshkosh West and UWM, and senior Mike Nelson of Madison Memorial.
Best of luck to these guys against whichever #1 or #2 seed they draw, hopefully they can pull a shocker like they did in Madison that horrible day in January 2006.
Monday, March 9, 2009
The other night while driving around I heard Bucks announcer Ted Davis jokingly referring to the Bills' signing of Terrell Owens. Made me laugh, too -- can you really see the good, hard-working people of Buffalo putting up with that clown?
If he helps the Bills win, sure. What I'm most interested in, naturally, is what T.O. can mean for Lee Evans.
It seems like ever since the Bills drafted Evans and he began producing at a slightly above-average level, people in the know have said A. He needs a decent quarterback and B. He needs a complementary receiver.
At least he has B now. T.O. will attract so much attention, both from opposing defenses and the media, that Evans will be able to quietly thrive. Trent Edwards isn't a great quarterback, but he's not bad, either, and T.O. might make him even better.
It would be really nice to see another Badger to take the next step, a la Joe Thomas and now Owen Daniels, to Pro Bowl-caliber player. Evans is the most likely candidate, and now that he has a better running mate that has a better chance of happening.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Nice to close out the regular season with a laugher. Get the seniors their own individual standing ovations. Get Morris Cain a bucket. Get Brett Valentyn a bucket for Pete's sake! Very nice.
To reiterate, our NCAA Tournament chances are solid -- good RPI, top-five strength of schedule, a winning record in our last 12 games -- so it shouldn't matter what happens against Ohio State on Friday.
-Here's the one disturbing thing about this game for me: the inability to stop Verdell Jones and Nick Williams. They are clearly the only two scoring threats Indiana has, and yet we were unable to stop them from getting good looks. They hit 13 of 19 field goals between them; they shot 54% from the field overall. That wouldn't have happened against any of our teams in recent years.
-Indiana's limited talent clearly shows up in its offensive performance, but they are apparently even worse defensively. Let's face it, any team that gives up 85 points to us is a sieve. And we did it with only two double-digit scorers.
-Nice moments for all the seniors. Nineteen points and nine boards for Krabby. Landry had six assists. Gully played 19 minutes and hit some nice baseline jumpers. Cain with his shot was a treat, nice moment for a good kid.
-Nineteen assists for the team, has to be a season high.
-Come on, Bo, please play Nankivil and Wilson earlier in games like this. They are going to need to step up big next year for us to keep this streak of success going, and any seasoning they get helps. There's pretty much no time left for them to get that PT this year, unfortunately.
-My mind kept drifting to next year during this game. Conventional wisdom says we will have many question marks and should struggle. But I can see Pop, J-Bo, and Leuer taking big steps forward, Nankivil and Wilson earning 20-plus minutes per game, and someone like Berggren becoming a limited contributor.
But first things first. As much as an early exit from the Big Ten Tournament might not be the worst thing in the world -- get some extra rest heading into the big one -- winning a game or two would do a world of good for these guys' confidence. They haven't been the most consistent bunch, but stringing together two complete games, regardless of outcome, would really help.
Ohio State is definitely beatable, although they figure to have many more fans at Conseco Fieldhouse than we will. Michigan State would likely be the semifinal opponent, and while beating them is a long shot, a strong showing against them would suffice.
Looking forward to the trip as usual, stay tuned for reports from the road later this week.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Looks like things are falling into place for us to avoid Thursday play in the Big Ten Tournament again.
Minnesota blows a big lead and and loses to Michigan. Both finish 9-9 in the Big Ten.
Penn State can't close out Iowa and loses there in double overtime. They finish 10-8, but we beat them twice and own the tiebreaker.
If we take care of business tomorrow night against Indiana, we would finish 10-8 in the Big Ten. The other team with the potential to finish with that record -- Ohio State, which much beat Northwestern to do so -- lost its only game against us this year.
So, provided we send Tan Cream home with a loss tomorrow, I believe we would earn the fourth seed in the BTT and play either Penn State (if OSU loses to NU) or Ohio State (if they win tomorrow). Either matchup is one we could win easily or lose handily, depending which Badger team shows up at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Under these scenarios, it looks like we won't be heading to Indy until Thursday evening/Friday morning, which means one less half-day off work for me. No complaints here.
As long as we make the NCAA Tournament -- which seems like a solid probability if not a lock -- I hope all the rest of these teams get in somehow. It would be a big win for the Big Ten if seven or eight teams made the tournament, and then a couple of them won a couple games once there.
Posted by Scott Tappa at 4:42 PM
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Will and I had a breakthrough moment tonight. In the first half, we were watching the game and I noted that our team was in red. He made the comment that we could also cheer for the team in white because white was one of our colors.
"No, buddy, that's Minnesota, we never cheer for them."
"Because, er, because ..."
"Because we hate them?"
"Will, we shouldn't ever say hate, that's a strong word and it's not good to hate anything. ... But yeah, Daddy really hates Minnesota and hope they lose everything they compete in."
Tonight, like our first meeting, is a good reason why. Here's another one we should have won yet stole defeat from the jaws of victory. Credit Tubby Smith's innovative Lawrence Westbrook Run Into Guys Offense, brilliant stuff.
I can't stand Westbrook. His whole game is predicated on wild, out-of-control sprints into the lane where he draws contact and hopes the refs call the foul on the other guy. If contact doesn't ensue, he just throws it near the rim and hopes it goes in. Worked like a charm tonight. The kicker was the play that led to his two free throws that gave them the lead -- nothing much happened on that play, but there was contact, so it must have been a foul on us. It was like watching Dwayne Wade in the 2006 NBA Finals, where any time Dallas looked at him funny it was a trip to the charity stripe.
-Larrivee said this is the first time Minnesota has swept our season series since 1992. Hard to believe it's been that long, we've had some bad teams in there, too.
-We lost this game in the first half. Five baskets? The shooting was just atrocious. It wouldn't have been so bad if, later, we hadn't shown the ability to score effectively against their defense.
-Landry played well, mainly because he didn't hesitate when he got the ball, he just shot.
-Pop was penetrating at will late -- where was that the rest of the game? Too bad his shot completely abandoned him tonight.
-Why wouldn't Minnesota press us for an entire game? They play 10 guys who are all about the same, so fatigue shouldn't be an issue. Given how helpless we were against their press in Madison, would have made sense.
-Great move by Tubby to not play his only scoring threat until late in the game. He's really grasping out straws trying to get that team out of its funk, good for him we came along with a stinker to help him out.
-How funny were those back-to-back missed dunks? Never seen anything like that before. At least their guys tried to dunk rather than going up with blockable layup attempts.
-So how many games is that where we've given away a lead late? Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Purdue, Northwestern, Michigan State, Minnesota. Lot of talk about closing out games, not much actually doing it.
Like the Michigan State game, I had this penciled in as a loss, which take 5% of the sting out of it. But golldarnnit, we should have won this one, too. It stings, but if we take care of business against Indiana on Sunday we should be fine. Really wish we'd taken the "should be" out of it by now, though.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Just read Jim's story that Elijah Hodge, Xavier Harris, and James Stallons will be leaving the football program. None of these things are surprising nor necessarily damaging. Mildly disappointing.
I thought Hodge was going to be the second-best player in his recruiting class, after Beckum. After all, his brother was a stud at Iowa, so why wouldn't he be, too? He was an easy target for frustration as the defense struggled early in the 2007 season, although he did have that big play to end the win over Michigan State.
When he wasn't one of the top six linebackers this year you figured he was done playing from scrimmage. We'll never know how good he would have been had the injuries not caught up with him. Interesting that Bielema gave him a chance to move to fullback but he didn't take it. Nice thing is he's on pace to graduate in May.
Wasn't Harris's nickname "The Savior"? I remember watching him warm up before theh Bowling Green game in Cleveland and thinking that he lookd the part and would play as much as Swan and Hubbard at wideout that year. Guess not. Although a back injury ended his career, don't think it had that much to do with him not playing much before then.
Stallons, from what I understand, didn't put in as much prep time in the classroom or the meeting room to earn more playing time, but if he had he might have gotten on the field last year. With Phillips and Budmayr coming in, he was looking at being squeezed out himself.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Last week I watched games involving Duke, Louisville, and Ohio State, and saw highlights of Marquette's game against UConn. Each one of those games featured a guy who we were serious players for -- some more serious than others. I couldn't shake the feeling that if any one of these guys was in a UW jersey we'd be right there at the top of the conference this year.
Every school would have guys like these, but indulge me:
Evan Turner, Ohio State -- As I understand it his choices were down to us and Illinois, so of course he chose OSU. This guy has the best all-around game in the Big Ten, scoring, rebounding, ball handling, passing. Right after he chose to go elsewhere, Tim Jarmusz committed.
Jerry Smith, Louisville -- The talk was that Jerry had set a press conference at Wauwatosa East to announce he was coming to Madison but called it off and reconsidered. We ended up getting Jason Bohannon instead. But a friend tells me that Smith didn't go elsewhere just because we had J-Bo and Pop; he would have come, but we had used up all of our available scholarships after J.P. Gavinski committed so early. Having Smith as another 3-point shooter sure would be nice, wouldn't it? J-Bo could come off the bench and be more effective against second teamers or defenders with tired legs.
Jon Scheyer, Duke -- We weren't as close to Scheyer in this class as we were to Smith, not that close at all really, but we were in his finalists along with Duke, Illinois, and Arizona. He's a less athletic, shorter version of Turner, but he would play a lot of important minutes for us.
Wesley Matthews, Marquette -- For his first three years in college I thought Wes was fairly overrated, and riding James' and McNeal's coattails in a forced Big Three situation. But he has really picked up his game this year and become outstanding. That last scholarship that he passed on went to Mickey Perry, who didn't last long in Madison.
The traits these guys exhibit -- outside shooting, athleticism, go-to guy attitude -- would fill voids on this year's team. Any one of them would have helped us to 4-5 more wins at this point in the season.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
I'm either going to hell or I'm onto something.
Didn't watch today's game live, but kept abreast of the proceedings, despite being in church. After listening to the first half on the radio, we entered Our Lady of Lourdes Church in De Pere for a service connected to Jana's participation in the Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults. The Badgers, who had been up seven just minutes before, were down two at the half.
Yet, in a ceremony marked by hundreds of confirmation candidates, I was able to sneak away and get score updates on my BlackBerry. First in the reconciliation room, then behind various pillars displaying stations of the cross. Several times I had to slip the device into my pocket when a dude with a collar approached. Without knowing exactly how, I saw the Badgers build a lead against a team that's really playing well, then hold on at the end. Divine intervention?
Maybe not today, but after that six-game losin streak it seemed like it would take divine intervention for Wisconsin to make the NCAA Tournament. But that's exactly where we seem to be headed after today's crucial win. It was a nice one; I saw Michigan beat Purdue on Thursday, and they looked damn good, like they probably looked in beateing Duke and UCLA.
What's nice is that we now own the season series against Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State, the teams around us in the standings. Our odds of not playing Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament appear pretty good, but as stated before, that wouldn't be the end of the world provided we finish sixth and would draw Indiana.
As for today's game:
-What an incredible start, that was beautiful offensive basketball. In recent years Michigan would have packed it in at that point, credit them with coming back strong, taking control of the game late in the first half, then fighting us to the end. John Beilein is a really nice coach for them. He got a lot less buzz than the other coach they lured from West Virginia, but might end up being the far better hire.
-Everyone raves about Manny Harris, and he's good, but for the last two years I've thought DeShawn Sims was the better player on that team. He was pretty bad on two late 3-point attempts today.
-Great to hear Gus Johnson calling games on the Big Ten Network, he's one of my favorites. His enthusiasm on certain calls is genuine and not Musberger overblown. Heck, today he even started talking about Bob Sura, one of my all-time favorites. Trent Tucker, on the other hand, not a big fan.
-Pop was the guy we needed him to be today, creating his own shot off penetration and hitting from outside. Had he been able to put together just one game like this during our losing streak it would never have gotten so long.
-Leuer did a nice job getting himself in position to use his size advantage to get easy shots. I especially like the little jump hook he's using, even though I think he only made one of them today.
-Landry had a nice little game today, too. Good shooting, six boards, five assists. He's the one reason I wouldn't mind a 4-5 matchup with Penn State in the conference tournament. The sight of him shooting those short turnarounds reminded me of how well he played in those matchups this season.
-Krabby missed another wide-open left-handed layup, don't even think he hit the rim on him. Still love him and his all-around game -- 11 boards today -- but his lack of confidence shooting the ball in college remains a mystery to me. Had he had the mindset to score 12-13 points a game he would have been all-conference caliber. Joe also had some turnovers today that looked like me playing noon ball at the Iola Fitness Center, head-scratching passes.
-We ourebounded them by 10, grabbing eight on the offensive glass. That's how it should be againt a team that plays so small. It will be interesting to see if Michigan can bring in personnel that fits Beilein's system but allows them to be more competitive on the boards. One of Krabby's offensive boards gave me a big smile. J-Bo missed a 3-pointer from the corner, and Harris half-heartedly boxed him out. Krabby just muscled him aside and grabbed the errant shot, drawing a foul. Beautiful.
-Boy, if Jason Bohannon finds his shot by the time postseason play begins we'll be tough to beat.
-Pretty tight rotation today, Jarmusz was the only bench player to get double-digit minutes. I wouldn't mind if this trend continued down the stretch. Only exception -- stop me if you've heard this before -- is that I'd like to see Nankivil get more minutes. At some point, like last week in East Lansing, we're going to run into a team that can kill us on the boards, and his big frame would come in handy.
-We didn't close out very efficiently with spotty free throw shooting and that dumb foul by Hughes. Good thing we defended well.
Bottom line is another nice win, and pretty darn close to clinching a spot in the Dance. Even with a loss at The Barn, there's no way we should lose to Indiana, which leaves us 19-11 overall, with a strong RPI. Might be a double-digit seed, but that's OK -- just need to get in, then anything can happen.