Wednesday, March 3, 2010

UW-Iowa thoughts

Always enjoy Senior Night, a chance to honor kids who have devoted themselves to a program for four or five years, remember how far they've come.

I remember Trevon Hughes as a freshman, playing great defense in a surprising win at Marquette, but mostly playing out of control and making you hold your breath. I remember Jason Bohannon as a freshman, going off in a big game at Ohio State, but mostly seeming like a one-dimensional kid tethered to the 3-point line.

They've come so far. Pop is one of the best point guards in the country, and a top pickpocket. J-Bo has mastered the jab step-stepback jumper, and threw a sweet pass to Bruiser tonight -- and did you see he had nine rebounds?!? More than anything, these kids are winners. Just like the kids in every senior class that passes through nowadays. Makes you smile.

-Obviously the story line tonight was Jon Leuer's play, he was outstanding in a variety of ways. His dunks were the highlight, but I was more heartened by his turnaround jump shot, which he had struggled with since returning from the wrist injury. And he's blocking more shots now.

-Speaking of Leuer's dunks, Keaton Nankivil had a sweet one himself. I would argue that Leuer and Nankivil are the most athletic pair of true big men -- 6-8 and taller -- we've had at UW at one time.

-Wayne Larrivee was talking about how Leuer's absence was a blessing in disguise for the Badgers, since it forced other guys to fill the void. That's true to an extent, as guys like Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson have played a lot more important minutes than they otherwise might have.

But here's the thing: we lost three games without Leuer, and another one in his return where he was rusty and ineffective. If we win just one of those games -- not a stretch -- we're playing for a share of the Big Ten title on Sunday. So yeah, if we win the Big Ten Tournament or go to the Final Four because of the growth our guys showed without Leuer, then it was a good thing. But otherwise, I would have rather his wrist never been broken, he kept playing, and Jordan and Rob waited until next year to grow all the way up. I like winning the Big Ten more than personal growth.

-Here's another thing: when we had Leuer, Nankivil, Hughes, J-Bo and Taylor on the floor, I found myself thinking that barring foul trouble or injuries, Bo shouldn't use his bench much from here on out. I don't mind when Evans, Jarmusz, Wilson or Bruiser play, they all have their moments. But our starting five is by far the best combination we put out there, offensively and defensively. If Taylor can guard a guy like Gatens, using his strength to offset his lack of height, then there aren't many teams that are going to use combinations those guys can't handle.

I heard someone talking about this the other night in regards to Ohio State, which is playing its starters almost the entire game. The guy said that in the postseason, where TV timeouts are longer, fatigue shouldn't be much of a factor. So barring foul trouble, why not severely tighten the rotation?

-Wilson only had four points tonight, but I'm really looking forward to seeing him play major minutes next year. Mainly because he's shown more aptitude for the post-up game than any other guard we've had recently. He had a nice post move today to get himself a layup, and if he does that on a regular basis next year, that'll give us two bona fide post scorers.

-Iowa is awful, and it doesn't look like it's going to be getting better any time soon. Fuller and Gatens are nice players, and Cole looks like a player. But Cully Payne? Brennan Cougill? They should only be playing in televised basketball games in a movie like Teen Wolf. There were times tonight that I thought Gatens was going to hit one of his teammates for their awful play.

-You know who else had a good game tonight? Tim Doyle on the BTN. He annoys me every so often, but he did a really good job tonight. It always helps when your team is on the right side of a blowout, but he made a lot of good points tonight. In particular, he talked about Leuer's tendency to shoot his turnaround post jumper spinning to his right.

Let's finish strong at Illinois, could be seeing them twice in a week.

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