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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tucker Is Desert-Bound

Alando Tucker's pro career will begin in the same locale that launched Wisconsin's previous career scoring leader: Phoenix.

Congratulations to Tucker for being selected by the Suns with the 29th pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, becoming the fifth Badger to ever be selected in the first round. Michael Finley was also drafted by the Suns after his senior season, with the 21st pick back in 1995. By sneaking into the top 30 picks, Tucker will sign a guaranteed contract with Phoenix. In addition, the Suns ain't a bad team. A fun style of ball to play, too, wouldn't you say?

Draft day saw a number of significant moves take place, but so far, Yi Jianlian is still a Milwaukee Buck. Pity. He was one of two players I absolutely wanted to avoid at the No. 6 spot. I knew Mike Conley would be gone, but I was holding out hope for Jeff Green until the Boston-Seattle trade was announced. Word was the Celtics had interest in Yi. Then GM Larry Harris passed on Corey Brewer -- yeah, another year of soft players and no defense!

For now, the Milwaukee motto will be straight outta the Bible: "Seek Yi First" ... print up the T-shirts now!!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Future Teammates Unite!

Keaton Nankivil and Tim Jarmusz are two of this fall's three freshmen to enter the University of Wisconsin men's basketball program. Both come from extremely successful high school programs and they appear to have a good chemistry on the court already. Nankivil and Jarmusz teamed together down the stretch to carry the North squad to victory in Saturday's WBCA Division 1 All-Star Game on Saturday.

The duo combined for 28 points and 17 rebounds in a 80-77 win, including 10 points in the final quarter to suppress a comeback by the South, which got 15 points from Iowa State recruit Diante Garrett.

Knowing how to win is a nebulous concept, but a vital mindset to acquire. These two should fit right in with the likes of Krabbenhoft, Flowers and company. Now that they've become roommates in Madison, the future is now.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's About Time

Tonight's title is appropriate on two major fronts. First of all, I'm taking a break from studying accounting to make my first post in 15 days. It's not like nothing has been going on in sports, just nothing that shook the earth so much as to invade my tightly-packed schedule in these busiest of days.

But secondly (and more importantly), I join all Wisconsin basketball fans in taking pleasure that Michael Finley has won his first NBA Championship with the San Antonio Spurs. In his twelfth NBA season, Finley reached arguably the apex of his career while scoring a career-low 9 ppg during the season.

Finley also played a career low 1,823 minutes, which isn't too surprising considering the club for which he now plays. As much as the nickname is tossed about, this man truly deserves to be called "Iron Mike" for the minutes he has logged over the years. He currently sits 70th all time on the NBA's list of most minutes played and will wind up in the top 40 with about three more decent seasons like he had this year. That type of list is understandably littered with centers and power forwards, but we might soon find Finley in the company of wing players like Clyde Drexler, Jerry West and Alex English, above even Larry Bird. The former Badger's pro career has been one worthy of admiration. Especially since he has accepted a lesser, contributing role with a champ after laying the foundation for for years with another Western Conference juggernaut along the way. We forget what a beast Finley was during the 2002 playoffs with Dallas.

I do not hesitate to dub him the "best Badger ever." Consider Finley's NBA career in that discussion. Or don't. It doesn't matter. It's just the truth. The bar is set pretty high, Alando. Shoot for it.

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Speaking of Tucker, if I'm not going to keep you up to date with his comings and goings on the pre-draft circuit, I might as well point you to someone who gets paid to: Dave Heller. Heller's UW and the Big Ten blog at JSOnline includes a wide range of Badger info, but he's got all Alando's tryout appearances nailed down. The Sporting News also had Tucker going 19th to the Lakers in a mock draft published in its latest issue. Senior writer Sean Deveney cites a correction in Tucker's shooting form:
"In May, trainers found a slight flaw in Tucker's mechanics. He has been shooting the ball well since, which fixes the main concern about his NBA potential--his inconsistent perimeter game."
Then again, Deveney also has Tucker going 24th to Phoenix in Version 3.0 of his online mock draft. Go figure. He also has been fooled into thinking 'Do can play some point a the next level.

The thinning of the draft field on Monday (ESPN's Andy Katz analyzes) probably did not affect Tucker in any way. Let's just hope he avoids a situation that might land him on a "bust" list. Keep your fingers crossed for Tucker on June 28.

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The next crop of freshmen to hit the Big Ten next fall have the marquee name (Eric Gordon) and the highly-rated depth to make the top of the conference very powerful over the next few seasons. Four of the top 15 recruiting classes for 2007 belong to Ohio State, Purdue, Indiana and Michigan State, respectively, according to Wisconsin is listed as bringing in the "sleeper class" of the league, one that focuses on big men rather than the highlighted influx of guard talent.

I cannot find anyway around calling Indiana the team to beat this coming season. I really see them becoming scary good under Kelvin Sampson. They lose two exceptional shooters and yet return two more that are just as good, not to mention the frosh.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A Pair of Badgers Get Some Respect

It looks like being a mature, likable, well-spoken, four-year player with big dreams does pay off.

On Monday, Converse signed Alando Tucker to a shoe contract worth at least one million dollars. So even though Tucker does not appear to be a lock to get drafted in the first round, he is already going to be one of the first athletes in his draft class to get paid (insert Ohio State joke here). That is simply unheard of in NBA circles. He joins Dwyane Wade as non-smoking, non-drinking basketball spokesmen for Converse, which is actually owned by Nike.

Even on his worst days this past season, Badger fans could tell that Tucker was the heart and soul of the Wisconsin basketball team because of his leadership on and off the court, and his interaction with teammates, coaches, fans and the media. It's nice to see a good person be rewarded for being just that -- a good person. Well, and a very good basketball player.

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Speaking of honors, Brian Butch was recently one of 30 college players invited to the USA team trials to be held July 12-14 for the 2007 Pan American Games. When I finally looked at the list of invitees, it reflected quite well on the state of basketball in the state of Wisconsin.

Along with Butch, two other players on that list hail from a Wisconsin high school. Washington State's Kyle Weaver is from Beloit and Marquette's Wesley Matthews played his prep ball at Madison Memorial. Only two other states can boast as much talent in the pool: Illinois and Maryland.

Of course, there is a difference between being invited to compete and actually being selected for the team. As has been mentioned on Badger message boards, Butch is one of only two centers invited to try out. When you think about it, isn't Brian Butch exactly the type of player USA Basketball would want in an international competition. Sure, Butch's athletic shortcomings are well-documented, but the guy can really shoot. I think he has a great shot at making the team, and that is coming from the self-proclaimed "Sports Pessimist."

As for Weaver and Matthews, though, the competition is a bit tougher. Weaver is still diversifying and strengthening his offensive game so he would have to make the team in a defensive stopper role. He's one of the better defenders on the list, but you'd expect the staff to select someone who could score more consistently. Matthews, on the other hand, does a lot of things well, but nothing great. The team will almost certainly have dead-eye shooters like Chris Lofton, Drew Neitzel and Jon Scheyer, in addition to some pure scorers. When you add in the necessary bangers and board men down low, a couple of true point guards and maybe one or two straight-up freak athletes, Matthews will likely be weeded out.

Fellow Golden Eagle Jerel McNeal would seem to have a better shot at the team, again because of his defense. In all, three players from Wisconsin colleges were invited to the team trials, a number matched by Washington (Wash/Wazzou) and Tennessee (Memphis/Tenn/Vandy), and surpassed by only -- you guessed it -- North Carolina (Duke/UNC/NC St.).

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Now I wish Tucker had gone to the NBA's Orlando Pre-draft camp, just to see his workout numbers. No surprise here: Mike Conley Jr. was the fastest guy in camp. Somehow they manage to rate the value of each category and concluded that Conley was the fourth-best prospect based on measureables. Carl Landry performed well and was rated fifth, mostly because he is wicked strong on the bench press (21 reps at 185 lbs. tied him for second most) and pretty quick too. The top dog according the ratings was Maryland's D.J. Strawberry, so take them with a grain of salt. I know you will.

Feel free to check out the body fat % on the future No. 1 draft pick of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Gearing Up For Draft Day

Today was the final day of the NBA's official pre-draft camp in Orlando. Neither of Wisconsin's standout seniors, Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor, were in attendance. While Taylor was uninvited, Tucker may have caught some fans off guard by turning down his invitation to the camp.

But don't take their absences for inactivity. Both players have been hitting the gym to hone their skills in the meantime.

The general consensus was that Tucker could not have improved his stock much by attending the camp and possibly exposing weaknesses to a wide audience. After a hot start in his final season, Tucker was being mentioned as a player of the year candidate in addition to seeing his draft stock rise into the lottery area. However, despite an overall stellar senior campaign, Tucker cooled considerably heading into the off-season. Tucker worked out with a few other top prospects in Chicago this week, but his shooting still is not impressive, according to the player evaluation on In it's latest mock draft, Draft Express lists Tucker falling into the second round.

Due to trades, several quality teams will be drafting near the top of the second round. This would seem to be an ideal situation for a mature player like Tucker, who might be able to find a niche contributing off the bench with his athleticism and hustle right away. The potential for more playing time would come with a lesser team, but often those type of teams are in such disarray that players get lost in a shuffle of mismanagement and a losing environment.

Conversely, Taylor is not on the NBA's draft radar, to the surprise of few. However, a very complimentary paragraph about Taylor appears on a different DraftExpress report. Taylor had been working out with a few Purdue and Ohio State players, including Greg Oden and Carl Landry, at the Champions Academy in Zionsville, Ind. Landry (who also shattered a backboard), termed the workout "a Big Ten reunion."

This is the first year in which draft hopefuls were not allowed to work out privately for NBA clubs prior to the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp. Starting June 5, players can begin those individual workouts for teams.

Do you like the NCAA tournament's new 8-team "first-round" format?

What should Wisconsin do with the newly vacated scholarship?

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