Sunday, January 24, 2010

UW-Penn State thoughts


I spent a good portion of this afternoon trying decide if this would be Wisconsin's worst loss of the Bo Ryan era, or simply one of the worst. The verdict: this was the worst. (Charlie, on the other hand, voted for the North Dakota State loss. Agree to disagree.)

Against an inferior opponent with a confidence deficit, we played lazy defense, got killed on the board, and once again missed a ton of open shots. We played inspired ball for about three minutes and Penn State played along, but then relaxed and let Taylor Battle dictate things.

Interestingly enough, Jordan Taylor was the one Badger who drew my ire more than the others. He was shooting terribly, not playing particularly well offensively. Then ...

What happened? Taylor played like an All-American for about four minutes, Penn State played about like you'd expect them to, and we pull out an improbable win.

The Badgers got outshot 51.8% to 43.3%; outrebounded 34-22; jacked up an obscene 33 3-pointers; and yet ...

For all its ugliness, this was a win that makes you smile. Why? Because it's a testament to the program's strength. Coming into the Kohl Center and winning is just really, really hard to do. It's similar to, say, a Miami being up 16 points in the second half at Duke: Miami might be doing everything right, and Duke might be laying an egg, but you know they're not going down without making a run, and Miami's going to have to play perfect for 40 minutes to go home a winner. More often than not they'll have a rough stretch and open the door enough for Duke to win a game they probably shouldn't.

That's what happened today. Penn State was the better team for 36 minutes of regulation, and it wasn't enough.

-Are you worried yet about all the 3-pointers the Badgers are shooting? My brain says yes, because it's not the formula that has worked so well under Bo. We're not touching the post, and we're not getting to the free throw line as much as we should. But ... for the most part the 3-pointers are not bad looks, and shooting 30% on 3-pointers, like we did today, is the equivalent of shooting 45% on 2-pointers.

-Look at Taylor's game. He missed a ton of 3-pointers early in the game, then makes two at the end to get us close enough. But his better shots were the game-tying short one and a nice jumper in overtime. Jon Leuer only became an elite offensive player when he developed an inside-the-arc game. His shorter teammates should remember that.

-I'm really going to miss Trevon Hughes when he's done. Where does he rank on your list of Badgers you want taking a big shot under Bo? Somewhere among Devin Harris, Alando Tucker, and Kam Taylor, maybe even #2 on that list.

-How awesome was Jason Bohannon's block on the weakside help? A pretty weak move on the Penn State guy's part, but still. J-Bo's third on the team in blocks, would you have guessed that? Oh, and he went over 1,000 career points today, good for him.

-Everyone's going to remember Taylor, but Keaton Nankivil had a really efficient game, 7-for-9 from the floor, only one 3-pointer. It was a Leuer-esque performance. Stop me if you've heard this before, but he's a really nice shooter, and also probably our most athletic player -- how about that putback dunk?

-I'm glad Rob Wilson is getting minutes and contributing, but all this four-guard lineup stuff doesn't feel right to me.

OK guys, I'm heading off to Germany for a week. The Badgers are in much better shape than they were a year ago when I traveled over the pond; at that point we'd lost six in a row. We're in much better shape now. But even though we're 3-1 without Leuer, I don't think anyone would say we've played well. It's going to be tough to win at Purdue, unless we shoot about 50% on 3-pointers.

Auf wiedersehen!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

UW-Michigan thoughts

Wow. What just happened there? I hate to say it, but the only way we won that game is because Michigan is a flawed team. They have two really good players, and ... what else? Nothing. And they're short. They're really a lot like Northwestern -- they'll play well and beat some good teams, but they're too shallow and short to finish in the top three in the Big Ten.

Stilll, they just beat UConn convincingly and we'll have a tough time beating them in Ann Arbor. If we play anything like we did tonight we'll get blown out there.

No sense dwelling on that, though, so how about giving out game balls:

-Rob Wilson, well done! With Jordan Taylor and Jason Bohannon looking completely lost out there tonight (1-for-14 from the field combined? Are you kidding me? Those weren't bad looks.), someone had to make perimeter shots. This was one of those deals where usually someone, anyone from our top seven is going to make some shots, but tonight we needed points to come from #8.

We've always expected a clutch performance in a critical situation was something Wilson had in him. Ever since he tried dunking over Hasheem Thabeet in last year's loss to UConn I liked his aggressiveness, but it seems like it's been in hiding ever since. It was back tonight. Trevon Hughes joked after the game that Wilson brought his scout team game tonight. Thank god he did.

-Other game ball goes to Tim Jarmusz. We haven't exactly been complimentary of his play lately, and after his two shots from the corner early on Wednesday -- a bank of the side and an airball that fell about three feet short -- I was working on some snotty comments. But he played Manny Harris very well, moved his feet, stayed in front of him, and didn't give him many good looks. I'm not sure anyone else on the roster could have done that tonight, so nice job Tim.

-My only criticism of Pop tonight was that he didn't exploit his defender early enough. Really, who on Michigan could check him? No one. Their guards match up well with our other guards, but not Trevon.

-Keaton Nankivil didn't shoot well tonight, but I'm glad he shot. He needs to. Of course, had we lost I'd be saying "Set more picks, Keaton!!"

-I thought we scrapped well on the offensive boards tonight, kept possessions alive. It didn't pay off until we made a few shots at the end, but it's a good sign -- even when the shots aren't falling, our kids are still trying.

-DeShawn Sims is awesome, or at least he was tonight. I've always been an admirer of his game, but he's disappeared during our games in the past. He should touch the ball in the post on every one of their possessions.

On the other hand, Harris was a non-factor tonight. Shon Morris praised him for not forcing things, which I guess is praiseworthy. But Michigan lost the game in the first half when they couldn't get real separation. They missed a ton of close shots that, had they fallen, could have pushed their lead to 15 or 17 points, and I'm not sure we can come back from that. Maybe he should have forced things rather than letting Zack Novak jack up bricks.

Happy to get a win, but I'd like us to play better. That home winning streak against unranked opponents is pretty impressive, indicative of a top-notch program that wins games it should. Keeping that streak going tonight, when we didn't have our fastball, was a great sign for the program.

How about shooting better than 34% against Penn State?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stretching is Essential

A couple years ago Schwalbach let me know about Mark Titus's blog, Club Trillion. Titus is a benchwarmer for Ohio State, and is out to prove that he's got some game. Schwib forwarded us this clip Wednesday, it's hilarious. For those of you who know me and my friends, this brand of humor is right up our alley.

Read Titus's blog if you get a chance. I don't regularly, but the few times I've checked in I've laughed my butt off.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UW-Northwestern thoughts

That was a very gratifying win, one that for about 30 minutes I didn't think was going to happen. At one point, didn't you get the sense that the Badgers weren't going to make another jump shot all night?

But Pop heated up before it was too late, Northwestern played to its talent level and we pulled it off. As I said Monday, losing Jon Leuer for an indefinite period of time pretty much eliminates our outside shot at a conference title. But to get a road win the day after his surgery, when morale could have been in the gutter, is a great testament to this team's leadership.

The best part? Watching Pop celebrate after he made those 3-pointers. He is usually a cool customer, so to see him bust out the corny celebration -- rubbing his hand past his face and miming dice rolling -- really brought a smile to my face. Did you see the little handshake he did with Keaton Nankivil after the game? Who'd expect that from Nanker? They're having fun.

The second-best part? Our offensive rebounding. Granted, Northwestern is not a strong rebounding team, but you had to love the way our kids crashed. Fifteen offensive rebounds on 32 missed shots. I can't believe Bruiser only had four boards, they must have all been offensive. And did Pop really have eight boards?

J-Bo had another strong game, not so much from distance but on pull-up jumpers and a few times on penetration.

We played great free throw defense for the third straight game, let's hope we can keep that up.

I don't know if this is the Northwestern team that's going to break their NCAA Tournament drought. They have no bad losses thus far, but no really good wins. They will probably pull some upsets, but they seem to be about one player short. Like a Kevin Coble type. Too bad for them he's hurt.

But as we know full well, injuries are part of this, and we took a good step forward tonight. I figure we lose at Ohio State on Saturday, but if we can hold serve at home against Michigan and Penn State we're 6-2 in the conference. Not bad.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Fresh off yesterday's Packers loss, word comes this morning that Jon Leuer has a broken wrist and will be out indefinitely. Great. Sources are saying he'll miss 4-6 weeks, or 7-10 games. Could be more, that's a finicky injury.

Let's be honest: this just about kills our Big Ten title chances. They were probably a long shot anyway. It was nice to daydream.

OK, enough of that, glass half-full time.

Health: We haven't had too many bad injuries in the past few years, have we? Brian Butch at the end of the 2007 season and Alando Tucker in 2004 come to mind immediately as two in-season injuries to key players that really hurt. Pop hurt his ankle before that memorable Texas game. Sharif Chambliss hurt his knee in offseason workouts. Krabby had a lower body injury. My point is, we've been fortunate in the injury category, and should be thankful for that.

Keaton Nankivil: You have to shoot more now, big guy. You have to! Now! You are a really good shooter, particularly when you're looking for your shot. You're not going to do the same moves Leuer does, like shooting off the dribble, but you are better taking a pass and shooting off a guard's dribble penetration. You will replace Leuer's perimeter game. (Of course, you will also have a better defensive player checking you now.) You're also very good hitting the offensive boards. Now is the time for you to become the double digit scorer you can be.

Mike Bruesewitz: We've been impressed with your athleticism and active game in limited minutes. You will replace Leuer's rebounding and some minutes. You'll also be called upon to take Nankivil's minutes when he gets in foul trouble. (In the locker room at hoops today someone remarked that Nankivil has become Greg Stiemsma for refs' tendency to call fouls on him the minute a play comes near him. This is also known as Dave Mader Syndrome. It's not fair, but it's true.)

Ryan Evans: We've been impressed with your knack for scoring. You will replace Leuer's low post game, and become the quick trigger guy in the frontcourt. We love your confidence, even if your shot isn't everything it could be and will be.

Jared Berggren: You are now the only guy on the roster over 6-8 who is capable of playing against Big Ten post players. You're going to need to play double digit minutes some nights, if only because Nankivil's going to get tired or in foul trouble.

Like most injuries to star players, there's no way one guy can replace Leuer. But I am really excited in seeing what these four kids can do with their opportunities. Additionally, you would expect the guards to assume even more of the scoring load, like in the Purdue win. They're capable.

We've won games recently with limited minutes and production from Leuer. We ought to be able to tread water without him, and emerge a deeper, more experienced team.

But I don't want the Badgers to tread too long -- get well soon, Jon!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

UW-Purdue thoughts

When I first saw Jordan Taylor last year, my initial thought was that he looked like a physically mature kid who would be a solid defensive player and game manager but never a particularly dynamic offensive player. Certainly not a scorer.

So then he goes for 23 points against a really good defensive team as a sophomore? Granted, he made a bunch of free throws as Purdue had to foul near the end of the game, but he made seven field goal from a variety of spots on the floor. His shot creation really isn't anything like Trevon Hughes' or Kam Taylor's, but he knows how to create space for himself. And as has been well-documented he has a great assist-to-turnover ratio, most likely far better than Pop's or Kam's. The point is in good hands with Jordan.

Great win, by the way. This morning I told my dad that I didn't expect us to win this game, and it wasn't just my usual set-the-bar-low strategy to mitigate disappointment. Purdue's the #4 team in the country, was unbeaten, playing really well. This win may not resonate as much as the Duke win, but in the bigger picture it's more important for this season. The optimist will say it keeps us very much in the Big Ten title race. The pessimist will say we have no shot at winning the Big Ten and this will just help ensure an NCAA bid. Either way, it's all good.

-The officiating in this game was atrocious, both ways. I just got done watching the game (recorded), and my ears hurt from the constant sound of whistles. Way overofficiated, although that may have played into our favor. Let 'em play, guys.

-Let's talk about the technical foul on Rob Wilson. First of all, as Bo explained it in the postgame if blood is drawn, it's automatically a technical, regardless of intent. If that's true, that's a BS rule. So if Rob had bent over to tie his shoes and Hummel had tripped over him and split his lip, that would have been a technical?

Second, if, as the refs told Bo, intent is meaningless and it's only blood that matters, why did the refs check the video? All they had to do was look at Hummel's face. I would be much more upset about this if we had lost. That whole sequence was just ridiculous.

-Wilson had a nice game. I'm happy to see him getting double-digit minutes lately, although I wish it weren't because Pop was in foul trouble. He deserves to play. After seeing the way some guys have entered and left our program after one year because they weren't getting starter's minutes, I feared Rob might do the same, but he's stuck it out and is reaping the benefits. With Pop and J-Bo gone after this year, Rob's in position to start next season. Not all kids grasp the concept of delayed gratification nowadays.

-Jon Leuer had an absolutely atrocious shooting game, but his rebounding and interior defense were very important in the effort. Nice that we can beat an elite team without him scoring.

-Larrivee and Morris were comparing Mike Bruesewitz to Joe Krabbenhoft. Seems like a pretty superficial comparison to me -- white guys with funny names. Both are good rebounders, but Bruiser is a better athlete than Krabby, and Krabby was a better ball handler than Bruiser. Also, Bruiser has a way to go before he's a defender of Krabby's caliber, yet Bruiser seems to be more confident in his jumper than Krabby.

Bruiser had five rebounds in six minutes, played great at the end of the first half.

-I hate to bash Tim Jarmusz, a great program guy, but he really shouldn't be getting many minutes as we go forward. Wilson, Bruiser, or Evans would all be better options to get the bulk of those minutes. That airball he had from 10 feet was pretty bad, and if he's not sticking the good 3-point looks that come his way, we're pretty much playing four on five offensively.

-Ryan Evans shooting mid-range jump shots looks like me shooting mid-range jump shots: he look surprised and goes sort of slowly. But he makes a lot of his, whereas I miss almost all of mine.

-And oh yeah: Jason Bohannon had a really good game, and Pop made every shot he took and grabbed five rebounds with three steals in just 23 minutes. Somehow J-Bo's 20 points seemed quiet, didn't they?

-That's two games in a row in which we benefited from our opponent shooting free throws poorly. Purdue missed 11. Take away Hummel and they were seven of 18. Hummel's free throw style is really strange, but obviously really effective. My dad always said that the key to free throw shooting was to do the same thing exactly the same way every time. Hummel certainly does that.

-It feels like I've said this before, but I love E'Twaun Moore's offensive game. He's got such a repertoire of short- and medium-range shots, and he knows how to create just enough space for himself. Hummel and Johnson are really good too, and as much as I can't stand Kramer, he's a great defensive player. (Have you noticed how Kramer runs with his arms at his side? It's like how the Molly Shannon character on Seinfeld walked. He still manages to move pretty well, but it look funny. Imagine how good he'd be if he waved his arms around like the Raquel Welch character from that episode.)

After watching both Purdue and Michigan State this week, they would still be my choice as the two best teams in the Big Ten, but I can't decide who's better. Comparing personnel, I like Moore, Hummel, Johnson and Kramer more than anyone on State's team, save for maybe Lucas and maybe Green. But it's not that decisive over Summers, Allen, Roe, Morgan, Lucious, et al, and those guys are much better than anyone past Purdue's starting five. Quantity versus quality? Guess it depends on fouls and health when they play.

Why did our students do the "overrated" chant near the end? Aren't UW kids supposed to be smarter than that? It appears we are rated about where we should be, and I would hope we're still a top 20 team on Monday after splitting games against two very good teams. Two tough games on the road next week, too, so we've got to stay sharp.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

UW-Michigan State thoughts

Midway through the second half, after another feckless Badger possession, Jana remarked "They're playing scared." Ding ding ding! It was so obvious even my half-alseep wife saw it.

Wisconsin came out tentative/scared/slow/whatever from the opening tip, that was the really disappointing thing. It's not like they came out and were overwhelmed by State's defense then retreated into their shell after a few minutes -- it was from the start. The ball movement was terrible. Knowing that we weren't going to be able to penetrate off the dribble as much as usual, passing, cutting and screening had to be better, and it definitely wasn't. The result was 34% shooting and more airballs than a fifth grade girls game.

Give Michigan State credit, they played really good defense. But jeez, our offensive effort was pathetic.

-At least Jon Leuer showed up. He scored on a variety of nice moves. I absolutely love his pull-up jumper. It was interesting: State guarded him with Raymar Morgan, who I thought was their best defender for him, but Jon was still able to use the three extra inches he has on Morgan to get shots off.

-Other than that, Jordan Taylor had his moments, but not enough of them. Jason Bohannon did a little bit here and there, but with Trevon Hughes having a bad game he needed to do a lot more.

-Pop looked a step slow tonight. Maybe it was just good defense by Kalin Lucas and the other guards.

-Why did Bo have Nankivil on such a yo-yo tonight? State didn't play that short, and they absolutely killed us on the offensive boards. Couldn't he have helped more? Or was he the problem?

-I thought Ryan Evans would fare better coming off his strong showing at Penn State, but he was a non-factor. Mike Bruesewitz grabbed five rebounds in four minutes, he was active. Why didn't either of those guys get some of Tim Jarmusz's minutes? One rebounds, one assist, one steal, no points in 27 minutes.

-With six or seven minutes left, Gus Johnson and Steve Smith kept saying over and over how Wisconsin needed to run a play for J-Bo and get him shots, that he had only taken three shots. On one hand, I agree; running more set plays would help get us over offensive droughts like we experienced during that losing streak last year. On the other hand, it's like these guys have never seen a Badger game or looked at a Badger box score before. There are a lot of games where Jason only takes five shots -- not desirable if you're us, but it happens regularly. And his jumper isn't quick, meaning that athletic, long guards like State's are going to make it really hard for him to get his 3-point shot off.

-Speaking of Steve Smith, it would help his non-partisan announcing prospects if he didn't yell "Nice!" when Morgan makes a mid-range jumper and "Come on!" when Derrick Nix steps to the free throw line (Did you see he's 4-for-32 on the year? My mom could do better than that blindfolded.)

-Lucas was absolutely horrible offensively tonight. Something looks wrong with his game. Chris Allen really bailed him out, although Durrell Summers didn't have the game I thought he'd have.

-They really miss Goran Suton, for his true post presence, but they seem to have adequately replaced Travis Walton's defense. At the moment they don't seem as good as they were last year, and after this weekend we'll know better how they compare to Purdue.

-I love Draymond Green, that kid's a warrior. He's aggressive, versatile, and best of all he's a leader. I'd take him on my team any day, man boobs and all. Not Nix, though, he needs to lose his man boobs before he's useful.

Green was also part of the worst call I've seen all year, when he was laying on the baseline and the ball clearly hit off his hand before going out of bounds right in front of the ref, who promptly signaled Michigan State ball. Green was laughing about it with Lucas running down the court.

-Does it getting any worse than watching Tom Izzo coaching against your team? When asked heading into halftime about his team, he accurately moaned about his team missing a lot of free throws, but threw in a little jab about our guys falling down when his players drove the lane. Well, maybe they were falling down because your kids were running over them, then walking to the free throw line. Izzo seems like a decent guy off the court, and I'm sure fans of other teams feel the same way about Bo, but Izzo is just over the top on the sideline sometimes.

-But what's worse than Izzo? Michigan State's end-of-the-bench guys! It was like watching Marquette when Jerry Sichting's kid was riding the bench. Several times during the game I paused the action to point out to Will that these guys are not being good teammates, but doing these things to draw attention to themselves since they will never see the court.

After one shot one of the kids -- best I can tell it's a kid named Mike Kebler, but that's an educated guess -- ran up and down the bench giving high tens to his teammates, coaches, trainers, Sparty, cheerleaders, Plaxico Burress, Kirk Gibson, Tony Mandarich, Steve Smith. Hadn't seen that since watching a girls volleyball game, or maybe a girls softball game. Don't embarrass yourself kids -- your fans are laughing at you, not with you.

They got us convincingly today, but I think we can win the rematch in Madison.

Less Cooks in the kitchen

Sounds like Kerry Cooks is going to leave Bret Bielema's coaching staff to take a job at Notre Dame. Apparently a former college teammate of Cooks' will be the defensive coordinator for Brian Kelly.

While Cooks was a member of Bielema's original staff, this doesn't seem like a mammoth loss. Our defensive backs haven't been a particularly strong unit for the past three seasons after a stellar 2006. On the other hand, he's coached up guys like Allen Langford and Chris Maragos, and his unit was hit by dismissals and an overreliance on youth.

With most assistant coaches, the bigger issue is their value recruiting. Cooks recruited Texas, Iowa and Maryland for us. Texas hasn't netted us much recently beyond Jay Valai and Devin Smith. Florida is the better southern state for us. We haven't gotten many kids from Maryland, although that's changed with Frank Tamakloe and Robbie Havenstein in this year's class. Top kids from Iowa go to ... Iowa.

So without doing a deep dive through the roster and checking every guy Cooks was responsible for, it doesn't appear we'll take a big step back here.

I see this as an opportunity for an upgrade both in position coaching and recruiting. Also, word is this is Bielema is being strongly urged to get someone else to coach special teams. Hey, great idea. If only 100,000 Badger fans hadn't suggested it a year ago.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Goodbye, Erik Smith

Looks like Erik Smith is going to transfer from UW. Illinois State will be his new home. Thanks to Schwib for mentioning it in a comment; I looked into it (Smith is a prolific Tweeter), and Smith did indicate that he's done in Madison.

From the bits we saw of Smith this year he looked promising, although if everyone stayed healthy next year it was hard to see him climbing any higher than fourth on the tailback depth chart. With guys like James White coming in, seems like Smith is making a good move for his football future.

Best of luck, Erik!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Nice pick-ups

What was looking like a ho-hum football recruiting class for Wisconsin got a lot better around the holidays, with commitments from Beau Allen and Sherard Cadogan. Both guys figure to have a shot at playing right away, given our losses at their positions.

Allen is a 6-3, 292-pound nose guard/defensive tackle from Minnetonka, Minn. Not only did we steal him from the Gophers, but Allen had offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Stanford and UCLA. Looking at pictures and video, his size look legit, although he appears to have lots of room to improve the nature of his weight.

Most people, my included, figured defensive tackle would be a weak spot this year, but Jeff Stehle, Dan Moore, Patrick Butrym and Jordan Hein played well enough that our run defense led the Big Ten. Four of our top five DTs are out of eligibility, so Allen will get a shot to play if he's ready.

Cadogan is a teammate of quarterback recruit Joe Brennan, and my favorite thing about them is that they're from New Jersey. We've done so well there historically and went away from the Garden State for awhile, and I'm really happy with the inroads we've made with this class.

Cadogan was named New Jersey's defensive player of the year, but while he has said Wisconsin coaches will let him play both ways, it's likely he'll play tight end, or at least start there. We've got a lot of promising young defensive ends, and an opening to be the #2 pass catching tight end behind Lance Kendricks, so either he or Warren Herring could play as true freshmen. He picked UW over Michigan State, Pittsburgh and West Virginia.

One last thing I like about these kids: their GPAs. Cadogan's is a 3.8, and he wants to major in engineering; Allen has a 3.3 GPA.

James White has a 3.5 GPA and plans to major in accounting, but I'm guessing he won't play much right away. White is a running back from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas who committed to us yesterday over Michigan State, North Carolina State, and Clemson. If that high school sounds familiar, it's because freshmen Conor O'Neil and Dezmen Southward are also from there.

Also, if you're a high school football geek, you'll recognize Aquinas as the team that won the mythical national championship last year and is annually chocked-full of college prospects. Establishing a pipeline to that high school would be a very good thing. Linebacker Vinnie Mauro and tackle Jermaine Barton are teammates of White also considering UW.

A good few weeks on the recruiting front ...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

UW-Penn State thoughts

You might look at me funny for writing this, but this was my big takeaway from today's easy win over Penn State: If Rob Wilson played for PSU, he'd be their second-best player, but for us he's no higher than the third guy off the bench.

This isn't meant as a knock on Penn State, which lost a lot after having a really good year a season ago. It's more of a reflection of the quality depth on the roster Bo Ryan has assembled. We basically have two great players, four or five good players, and another couple players who aren't going to embarrass themselves if they get minutes. That's why we can win going away when Jon Leuer plays 14 minutes or Trevon Hughes turns the ball over five times.

Leuer was a non-factor in today's game, but Ryan Evans scores 10 points and Keaton Nankivil grabs 11 rebounds in his absence. Pop's playing loose and Jordan Taylor comes in and shows a confident shot.

-In high school when we were watching tape our coach would point out instances where a guy didn't make a crisp flex cut or set a firm screen. He was always right; you run an offense so many times that it becomes second nature, but that can be a good and a bad thing if you go through the motions.

Right after Wilson got in today he made a really crisp flex cut and his defender, Jeff Brooks, doesn't go hard with him. Wilson gets open and Pop finds him for an easy layup. In an otherwise ho-hum game, that execution from Wilson was the play that stood out.

-Good to see J-Bo stroking it from distance today, but my favorite play of his today was a nice crossover dribble that led to a shot clock-beating layup. Efficient game for Jason.

-How big is Keaton Nankivil's wingspan? Today it looked well over 7 feet. There was an offensive board he seemed to snare at the foul line from underneath the basket for an easy put-in, and a blocked shot.

At Michigan State on Wednesday, a game we shouldn't win, but you never know.

Friday, January 1, 2010

More post-Champs thoughts

After a few days of reflection, I've got some more thoughts on what the Badgers' win over Miami the other night means. It's mostly good. Here goes.

Speed vs. power
National media types oversimplified our matchup and boiled it down to this, and when we won credited power winning out. Perhaps, but I'll submit that while Miami had the speed advantage among perimeter/skill players, our defensive line's speed advantage over Miami's offensive line was the deciding factor.

Jason Fox's absence at left tackle for the Canes was absolutely fatal for them. O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt lived in Jacory Harris's face and never let him get going. If he had time, chances are their receivers would have been more open, or Harris would have hit them when they were open.

It reminded me of the national championship game where Ohio State came in as a big favorite against Florida, and Florida's D-line just killed Troy Smith by running right around the tackles. OSU had fast, skilled perimeter guys who just couldn't get the ball.

Tight End U
If you're from the Midwest, or from any other area Big Ten teams recruit, why would you not go to Wisconsin? Since Paul Chryst's arrival, we've had Owen Daniels, Travis Beckum, Garrett Graham, and now Lance Kendricks. What's interesting about those successful guys is that only Graham started out as a tight end, the others switching from quarterback, linebacker/defensive end, and wide receiver.

Next year we've got Warren Herring and now Sherard Cadogan coming in, two of the better prospects in our next recruiting class, and both true tight ends in the 6-3, 230-pound range. By all accounts they'll fit in nicely and maybe even get a chance to play right away. We've also got a kid named Manasseh Garner, who made his name in high school as a linebacker but appears headed toward an H-Back role in Madison; he's only weighing 205-210 right now, so you'd think he has to put on some weight first.

But we were also in the running for very highly-rated tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz (who backed off his early commitment and went with Iowa) and Alex Smith (who went to North Carolina). How could either of those two possibly thought those schools were better fits for an aspiring professional tight end?

We have oranges here, too
As much as I'd like to see us play bowl games in states other than Florida, putting together a nice showing like we did the other night has to help our standing in the eyes of high school players in that state. Still, we need to be picking the right ones, not just taking anyone from Florida.

We had 11 Floridians on the roster this year. Two of them, Jae McFadden and Culmer Ste. Jean, were starters. Zach Brown, Antonio Fenelus and Aaron Henry are key contributors who've started at times. David Gilbert shows promise. The rest of the guys are freshmen or sophomores. So not a lot of Florida stars on the roster now, but not bad, either.

Finish them
Ask Jana, Graham's fumble in the fourth quarter when we were going in for the game-salting touchdown sent me through the roof. Time after time after time this year we had an opponent on the ropes but let them escape with new life: Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Indiana, and Miami were instances where it happened late; we were controlling Iowa in the first half of that loss, and we had chances to beat Northwestern. Next year we need to do better stepping on our opponents' necks when the opportunity presents itself.

From the glass-half-full vantage point, the cases presented above showed a remarkable improvement in the "stealing defeat from the jaws of victory" department, we showed resolve in not letting any of those first five result in losses. But with our offense, we should be putting teams away early and giving Badger fans' hearts a break.

(On this subject: How many times did Auburn let Northwestern back into the Outback Bowl? Fumbles, penalties, you name it, if that was Wisconsin I would have had a heart attack from all the miscues. Great game, by the way, I was totally wrong on that one.)