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Friday, March 16, 2007

Time For Another Load Of Landry

As much as I think Flowers is the key to an improved Wisconsin team, Marcus Landry is another Badger who must shift his game into another gear. Literally. The guy has looked downright sluggish for stretches of the Big Ten season.

Not that hitting the proverbial wall should be a huge surprise. This is Landry's first full season at the collegiate level. Landry has faced very little scrutiny for failing to remain eligible academically during his second semester last season, mostly because of the long-distance family obligations that kept him quite a bit busier than most freshman. The fact that basketball is just one of the sophomore's many priorities is well-documented.

So this year when Landry's minutes increased in Big Ten play (21.68 min/g versus 15.33 min/g in the non-conference schedule), like most UW fans, I was expecting the begoggled one to sustain his flashes of brilliance. The flashes he shows about once a month. Landry has broached double-digits in scoring three times, all huge efforts. On Dec. 9, he was superb at Marquette, shooting 62% with 11 pts, 4 rebs, 4 blks and 2 assts. Then on Jan. 9, his four blocks and two killer 3-pointers versus Ohio State were instrumental in UW's victory. Even at Michigan State in late February, Landry found his outside touch and sprung for a career-high 18 points.

But the Badgers lost to the Spartans anyway. And the ensuing games proved Landry was not quite ready to take over for Tucker yet. How many times have we seen a bigger, slower man guarding Landry on the block and held our breath waiting for the baseline spin move that he showed us once but never again? Maybe we expected too much, too soon.

Simply put, Marcus Landry is one of the most athletic, exciting players to enter Wisconsin's basketball program in some time. Badger fans glimpse the future and see his enormous potential. Next time you see the goggles out on the court, don't expect James Worthy. Just see Landry for what he is ... a developing talent.

In reality, Landry has increased his scoring and rebounding production pretty much according to his increase in playing time. Though still not very reliable from the free throw line (including 1-of-10 since the MSU loss), Landry is Wisconsin's first option in the post. He is rebounding better after a terrible midseason stretch, but that is likely due to Brian Butch's absence. If he can muster up some energy to pick up Butch's slack on both ends, Wisconsin will be in good hands.

Best-case scenario? 10 pts, 6 rebs & 2 blks and a flash of brilliance for March, at just the right time.

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