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Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Glimpse Into The Present

There's nothing like a sloppy Red/White scrimmage to derail the confidence you have in your favorite team. As far as scrimmages go, it was not even that sloppy. I was just hoping to see something, well ... more, something better.

What I saw was a team that at this point still doesn't know its identity. Minus last year's top two go-to guys and leaders, you wanted to see Marcus Landry step up and dominate. Minus Michael Flowers, who I hope can still be this year's emotional leader, you didn't see enough players making you get excited just by virtue of their energy.

That being said, there were plenty of bright spots. One was definitely seeing Joe Krabbenhoft leading his team in scoring. He had about 18 points. Technically, the Red vs. White scrimmage was a tie, thanks to some creative score keeping at the five minute-mark and again under a minute. The Red team (Hughes, Krabbenhoft, Gavinski, Keaton Nankivil, Gullikson, Valentyn, Cain) appeared to be a decided underdog, having only two players from last year's rotation, yet they led by around 20 points for over half of the game. I attribute most of that to the fact that Hughes controls the tempo, especially in a looser setting. His team got much easier baskets. Yet when the score was "reset" to 71-71 with five minutes left, the White team (Butch, Bohannon, Landry, Bronson, Stiemsma, Leuer, Jarmusz) took control. The fact that the experienced players came alive when it mattered eased some of my discomfort, but the fact that Hughes & Co. folded with several turnovers was a little worrisome.

The Badgers are also sporting new jerseys this year again. Not bad. Thankfully, nothing crazy, nor resembling women's jerseys. The closest comparison is the Houston Rockets. Not sure what you can glean from the pics.

I am operating under the assumption that the scrimmage provides at least some value in anticipating what how the team will function this season. Get on board with me. Here's the rest of what I saw, player-by-player:

#1 :: Marcus Landry
Very disappointing in my opinion. It took about 15 minutes of play to realize that he was even in the game. To me, this is a bad sign, even in scrimmage. It's not a sign that he's a bad player or even not a leader. I feel it does indicate he's not ready to make The Leap this year like we all had hoped. Landry brought the ball up court several times, but he still seems more comfortable down low on offense. To fill Tucker's vacated role, Landry will have get better penetration, which will only come as he gets more experience handling the ball. He picked up four fouls early and seemed frustrated with the play of Leuer on a couple occasions.
HIGHLIGHTS: Landry posted one alley-oop dunk and a fantastic pass in the paint for an assist.

#3 :: Trevon "Pop" Hughes
Best player on the floor. A couple of shots didn't bounce his way on some nice moves to the hole, but did hit several jumpers. Overall he looked ready to lead the team, although I would have liked to see him draw some fouls. Still gets caught in the air a few times without a real plan, but he got bailed out each time.
HIGHLIGHTS: Pop rebounds very well as a lead guard, which is great because the transition to the other end of the floor is then instantaneous. It's just fun to watch him run end-to-end with the ball.

#12 :: Jason Bohannon
Not much to write about. I wish he would have put up a few more shots, but I really wish he could have played along side Hughes to see what kind of open shots he'd get. J-Bo seemed content to distribute the rock.
HIGHLIGHTS: A deep step-back two with his foot on the 3-point arc.

#14 :: Tanner Bronson
Went to the bench when the five minutes of "serious" play began. 'Nuff said.
HIGHLIGHTS: He did manage one bucket.

#15 :: Brett Valentyn
I doubt this guy will be an In-Game Asset (IGA) for Wisconsin. Wisely used his redshirt last season and has some height at 6'4".
HIGHLIGHTS: Took advantage of a size mismatch to score in the post on Bronson and drew a foul down there on a separate occasion.

#21 :: Morris "Sugar" Cain
I predict Cain will see significant minutes this season. He seems to make open shots, is a fairly good athlete and plays guard. I think that will be enough this year, given Flowers' status. But he will have to fight Jarmusz for those minutes, judging by Bo's comments.
HIGHLIGHTS: Blocked a Butch layup from behind, off the glass. Sunk the first basket of the game, a baseline J from about 10 feet. Truly a lost art.

#22 :: Michael Flowers
Did not see him in attendance. I suspect he was supposed to suit up for the red team originally.

#24 :: Tim Jarmusz
Did not play. No explanation for why he relaxed on the bench the whole time, although some fans claimed to see him holding his ankle.

#30 :: Jon Leuer
Struggled with turnovers and decision-making. Not uncommon for a freshman, but unless Flowers does not return, I think a redshirt year would benefit Jon. He got whistled for a five-second call and his turnovers get the White squad out from putting a few runs together. I don't see how he would get minutes down low and he won't be helping on the wing much until his ball-handling improves. I know he was recruited more as a small forward than anything, despite the fact that he's 6'10". The White team threw three near 7-footers out in their front court for stretches when Leuer joined Butch and Stiemsma. That's fun.
HIGHLIGHTS: The nifty pass from Landry went to Leuer, who used a great, if unnecessary reverse to lay the ball in. Rest assured, Leuer can convert when given the ball near the basket. He scored in double figures.

#32 :: Brian Butch, "The Polar Bear"
Butch will be the 2007-08 team's leading scorer. If he did not still have the knack for pivoting with the ball directly into the double-team on the block, he'd be a great offensive player. Along with Hughes, Butch stood out (as he should) as a clearly superior player. He has to be Wisconsin's go-to guy and I think he's finally ready in his fifth season. As reported, he is in the best shape of his career.
HIGHLIGHTS: In the five-minute drill, Butch attacked. And scored. And got to the foul line. I want to see this all year in meaningful games. People realized how valuable Butch was when he got injured last season, so it's time to truly enjoy him. He also had a couple of Shaq-like dunks where he pulls his knees way up and hangs on the rim a bit in addition to an "and-one" dunk over Gullikson (or Gavinkski, I can't remember).

#34 :: Greg Stiemsma
The Steamboat impressed me quite a bit. He showed a nice touch around the basket and relatively good footwork. I don't think he gets credit for being the good athlete that he is, no longer awkward at all in his huge frame. And he is having a lot of fun while he's at it.
HIGHLIGHTS: Swatted two consecutive shots in the same possession near the beginning of the game.

#43 :: Kevin Gullikson
Hard to believe he's "only" 6'7" -- he truly looks like he belongs on Bret Bielema's defensive line. At this point, you know what you're getting out of this guy: hard work and a banger to body up on bigger foes.
HIGHLIGHTS: Nothing stands out.

#44 :: J.P. Gavinski
Looked winded immediately and threw up several airballs from 10-15 feet. Not a good omen. Also got abused on the defensive end. He will get minutes backing up Stiemsma, but mostly by virtue of his height. I would expect Nankivil to get more PT (hopefully). When J.P. does something good, let's just say it's a pleasant surprise.
HIGHLIGHTS: As the game wore on, he actually showed a few decent post moves and a softer touch from within five feet.

#45 :: Joe Krabbenhoft
Krabby is one of those players I don't expect too much from. People go overboard criticizing his lack of offense and others go overboard defending his all-around game. The fact is he is always around the ball and he hit nearly every shot he took this afternoon. Now, come the regular season, do you really care whether that's a spinning pull-up jumper or another garbage five-footer because he got himself in good position? Me neither.
HIGHLIGHTS: I was extremely pleased watching Krabbenhoft. He crashed the board for a sky-high one-handed rebound at one point and sank a couple of pretty, close range bank shots -- reminiscent of Big Fundamental himself. A bit more willing to shoot, but we'll see how that translates to real game action. I have my fingers crossed optimistically.

#52 :: Keaton Nankivil
True player. I've said it a million times, but this guy is going to be a workhorse for the Badgers. There is reason the ACC was after this kid. He is fundamentally sound, with good range, athleticism and a Big Ten body. He looks like he belongs.
HIGHLIGHTS: Executed a sweet three-part up and under move on Butch that got a big cheer out of the crowd. Nailed an open trey early in the game while others were still finding their rhythm. Keaton can match up against the trees on either end because he can front the post well already, which Bo will absolutely love.

Wisconsin could be hard to handle down low this season. There is a lot of experience at the post positions, but Nankivil will crack the rotation. Butch and Stiemsma will be a nice duo and if there was ever a year to employ some zone defense, this is it. Imagine Hughes, Flowers and Krabbenhoft hounding the perimeter and Nankivil and Stiemsma in the paint. The offense will struggle at times, but I can't wait to see which guys emerge to help Butch out.


  1. Awesome write-up. Thanks a lot!

    Good news about Butch, but Landry is certainly disappointing. Still, I think our fortunes rest on Hughes...

  2. wish I could have been there. And too bad you confirmed what I suspected: they're gonna struggle

    I agree completely, though, Trevon Hughes is the best basketball player on this team


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