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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stephen Bardo Is A Moron

Immediately after Wisconsin dismantled Michigan State in front of a nationwide cable audience, the ESPN talking heads asked "analyst" Stephen Bardo to name which team he would pick to go farther in the post-season. Bardo went on to spew some vague, nonsensical reasons why he likes Michigan State better. Can someone get him a television set? The Badgers improved to 24-4 and 14-2 in the Big Ten by holding the Spartans (22-6, 10-5) to 42 points! Bardo must be dreaming.

I was hoping to be able to provide a running diary of this game, but the opportunity did not materialize. My lack of both the Big Ten Network and a DVR has made that type of post difficult this season. But even if I had put one together, I may have been at a loss for words -- how does one react to an "comfortable" victory over Michigan State?

The obvious answer would be to react jubilantly. After all, this may have been the biggest game of the conference season given the timing and possible title implications. This was the type of game where every single basket is magnified in importance. Taking care of the ball is paramount. Bo Ryan and Trevon Hughes saw to that, as the team set a school record with only one turnover.

One could also respond with a bit of surprise. Take a closer look and it was a game of bucking expected trends. Michigan State's problem all year has been turnovers, but the Spartans cut down on those versus the Badgers. Joe Krabbenhoft hit two long jumpers to keep MSU's defense guessing as it sagged to limited UW's inside game. Those jumpers were vital, as Krabby's garbage hoops did not fall and his attempt at leading a 2-on-1 fast break with Michael Flowers was pathetically timid. Instead of Jason Bohannon raining threes, it was Brian Butch catching fire from 3-point land. Those four treys, a career-high, were crucial to proving Izzo wrong: Wisconsin can beat you from the outside. [box score]

A quick Butch 3-point shooting breakdown ...
First 18 games: 3/32 (9.4%)
Last 10 games: 15/25 (60.0%)
Season total: 18/57 (31.6%)

Besides the Polar Bear's hot streak, one constant in this latest Badger winning streak has been Flowers. My affinity for him has been well-stated. His shooting accuracy is no longer a fad, it is reality. Through trial and error, Flowers now possesses the perfect level of aggressiveness on offense and defense. We have not seen him pick up a fourth foul in a game since January 10. Yet the results are even better, whether it be hounding Neitzel into a 1-for-10 shooting night or picking up his offensive production. Since the second loss to Purdue (5 games), Flowers has made 10-of-18 3-pointers, doled out 17 assists with 6 TOs and 6 steals.

I love the rivalry with Michigan State. Those with hatred for Marquette might disagree, but there is no bigger matchup for me each year. Nothing else touches it. It feels good to be on the winning side again, even if the Spartans seem a little off their game this year.

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Devin Harris got busy tonight against the Bucks in his New Jersey home debut. Check out the video highlights for his vicious drive and flush over Andrew Bogut. He moves so fast, he can't even stay upright all the time. Harris has some very nice running mates in Jersey like Jefferson and Carter, so hopefully he stays healthy and continues to spread his more-chiseled-yet-still-scrawny wings.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Seasoned Badgers Solve The Buckeyes

Earlier in the year, I wouldn't have been excited about a match-up with a team playing strictly zone defense. With the recent emergence of Jason Bohannon, I was cautiously optimistic about today's game and Wisconsin proved me right with an important 58-53 win over Ohio State.

Despite the outstanding play of two Badger guards this afternoon, the play of the game was made by a big man. Brian Butch's block of Matt Terwilliger with two minutes left prolonged a game-ending Buckeye drought and kept the home crowd at bay. This enabled Wisconsin to pull out the victory even though it squandered chance after chance to put Ohio State away in the final minutes.

CBS named Bohannon the Player of the Game after shooting 4-of-6 from 3-point land en route to 16 points and five rebounds. [box score] With the win, UW takes a temporary half-game lead atop of the Big Ten standings with three games remaining.

Bohannon was not alone, however. Michael Flowers continues to be the guiding force for this team. I have not written about this yet, but I've been making the point for a few weeks now: Flowers is the most important piece on this team. As opposed to a player like Greg Stiemsma, the improvement made by Flowers has been very evident over his career, even more so this season. You could make an argument for Flowers as team MVP on the basis of his tireless defense alone, but his evolution into a 3-point threat seals the deal in my eyes.

For instance, Flowers played a team-high 35 minutes and dished out a game-high six assists. With 13 more assists, Mike will move into the top ten in school history for a career. His two steals today moved him into sixth place all-time with 152 career thefts.

You cannot say enough about the confidence the team has been building from the outside. Just as he did against Indiana, J-Bo followed up an airballed 3-pointer with a swish a minute later. No more hesitation. Let's just hope the resurgence is not coming at the expense of other facets of the offense.

Wisconsin's big men generally had trouble finishing on the blocks and were out-sized with Butch on the bench for much of the game with early foul trouble. The Badgers were out-rebounded again, "forced" into 12 first-half turnovers and only shot 10 free throws. In their defense though, they really tightened down the rebounding and ball handling (2 TOs) after halftime.

I can't forget to mention that Tim Jarmusz is officially in the rotation with another 12-13 minutes today. Bo is clearly more comfortable with Jarmusz handling pressure than Jon Leuer and seemed to want the IQ and passing ability of the former against Ohio State's zone. Jarmusz also added a sweet turnaround jumper from eight feet at a fairly critical juncture. That's more great news for Badger fans.

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Rob Wilson and Garfield Heights battle Cleveland Heights on Wednesday night for the right to advance to the district finals.

Back in Wisconsin, chalk is holding court throughout D1. Madison LaFollette welcomed back sublime shooter Cashton Craig and the Lancers are surprising some as they tear through the competition right now. LaFollette plays Waunakee -- which shut down Marquis Mason and the pesky 11-seed Madison East -- when most of the tournament resumes Friday. On Thursday, however, top-ranked Milwaukee Washington collides with Milwaukee King early in an epic Sectional clash.

Sixth-seeded Pius XI was eliminated the same week former King transfer Korie Lucious was snubbed from the McDonald's All-American Game to be held in Milwaukee next month. Lucious pulled out a win for the Popes just before the tourney started with two tough last-second 3-pointers [video]. The 5'10" shooting star once tabbed by Sports Illustrated For Kids as the best 8th-grader in the country will play for Tom Izzo in the fall. Good luck to him.

Eau Claire North (Evan Anderson) is still alive in D1, but Flavien Davis and Wisconsin Lutheran got bounced unexpectedly by Brown Deer in D2. Locals Madison Edgewood and Monroe also cruised into the D2 sectionals, while the division's top team Waupaun faces sixth-ranked Plymouth for a third time this season. Waupaun destroyed Jared Berggren's Princeton (MN) team a month ago, but dropped two close games to Plymouth to finish two back of the Panthers in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference.

Five of the 16 remaining teams in D3 are private, parochial schools. Keep an eye on that number, as the percentage will likely rise as the field dwindles. Whitefish Bay Dominican escaped with an 81-79 overtime win against Milwaukee Northwest to keep a potential sectional final game with Racine St. Catherine's a distinct possibility.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Judgment Day in Bloomington?

EDIT (6:06 p.m. CT) - Andy Katz got the goods for ESPN indicating Kelvin Sampson has been bought out of his contract at Indiana. The Hoosier Scoop has the most up-to-date info and was attempting to broadcast the "press conference that never was" all afternoon.

Indiana may or may not hold a press conference at 1 p.m. CT, but it sounds like Kelvin Sampson is finished, probably through the suspension for termination route. The Hoosier Scoop is all over it.

Today and tomorrow are going to be much more distracting days for the Hoosier players than the night the allegations hit and the team played Wisconsin. For one thing, many of the players are pissed.

The Indianapolis Star has a copy of Sampson's contract on its website [pdf], which I was happy to peruse. The money spots are 6.02.B.4-6 & 10-14, which spell out reasons that could result in a just cause firing. The next sections (6.02.C & D) go on to outline how the university would go about such a course of action and what its financial responsibilities are to Sampson.

Personally, I like Section 5, where all Sampson's potential performance bonuses are spelled out. For instance, he's entitled to $20,000 for winning the Big Ten title or making the Final Four, but a whopping $40,000 for winning the Big Ten tournament!

Oops, looks like he won't be cashing in on any of those.

Boo hoo. Poor IU alum Dane Fife must be really upset now. He will probably blame the shocking upcoming loss to Northwestern on the situation, which would be more believable than the game Indiana dropped to Bucky.

I will update as soon as it is official.

: : :

- Ian Markolf's San Antonio Churchill team lost to crosstown rival Taft in the Texas state boys basketball tournament. Markolf had a very good first half before Taft took over. Is a redshirt season under Bo next?
- Interesting story on pairs of brothers in NCAA hoops. This would have been more relevant to Badger fans last year when Carl Landry was still at Purdue, but a good read nonetheless. Landry is coming along nicely for the Houston Rockets, by the way.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Prospect Profile: Mike Bruesewitz

Mike Bruesewitz, F
6'7" :: 215 lbs.
Class of 2009
Mendota Heights (MN) Henry Sibley HS
AAU: 43 Hoops

Scout: 3 Stars * * * (PF)
3 Stars * * * (NR > #31 SF/#144 > #28 SF/#125 > #32 PF/#124 > #33 PF/#118 overall)
ESPN/Scouts, Inc. grade: NR >> 89 (#46 > #44 > #45 PF)

2009 AP Minnesota Player of the Year
2009 AP All-State First Team
2009 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year
2008 AP Honorable Mention All-State

Recent Press
6/21: Catching Up With Mike Bruesewitz - Hoops Marinara
3/31: Pioneer Press boys basketball player of the year - Pioneer Press

3/24: Sibley's Bruesewitz is Metro Player of the Year - Star Tribune
3/13: Getting to know future Wisconsin Badger Mike Bruesewitz - Sports Bubbler
1/15: Coach lauds 'red-headed Minnesota kid' - Cap Times
12/10: Sibley has the size, skill to give Hopkins a battle - Star Tribune
7/7: Adidas It Takes 5IVE Classic - Rivals

3/27: Class 4A Semifinals: Warriors Win the Battle - Minnesota Sports Online
3/26: Voices inside your head can offer good advice - Star Tribune

The Verbal
Men's hoops gets first commitment for Class of 2009 - JSOnline (2/20/08)
UW men's basketball: Badgers land first '09 recruit - WiSJ (2/20/08)
Men's basketball team lands '09 recruit - Cap Times (2/20/08)

The Hype
Marquette-bound Maymon thrives at Timberwolves Shootout - Scouts Inc. (1/2/09)
Maple Grove - Dasohoops (12/30/08)
Week 2 of the MBA Fall League - Twin Cities Boys Hoops (9/27/08)
Real Deal top surprises - Rivals (4/25/08)
Henry Sibley: Start of something big - Star Tribune (3/25/08)
New town, new team, no sweat - Star Tribune (3/4/08)

Highlights: Sibley Basketball 08-09 - YouTube
Interview: Bruesewitz ready for the big show (1/7/09) -
Highlights: Adidas May Classic (2008) - Rivals
Highlights: Sibley's First Trip to State (2007-08) - YouTube
Highlights: Chris Halvorsen & Mike Bruesewitz Dunks (2007-08) - YouTube

Senior: 2008-09 (Sibley) - MaxPreps
Junior: 2007-08 (Sibley) - MaxPreps


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Breaking The Seal On '09: Mike Bruesewitz

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Wisconsin secured a verbal committment from Minnesota's Mike Bruesewitz late last night. Bruesewitz is a 6'7" junior at Henry Sibley High School in the Minneapolis area whose coach compares him to Joe Krabbenhoft. His school's official fight song? On Wisconsin.

The commitment from Bruesewitz could be viewed as good or bad, depending on your tastes. While I've never seen him play, Bruiser fits the bill physically and even has the ready-made nickname straight out of high school like Krabbenhoft did. If Bo Ryan indeed has found Krabby 2.0, it's unfortunate that the kid will have to learn from scratch, since Joe will graduate next season before his red-headed replacement arrives. Despite his shortcomings scoring-wise, no one would be opposed to getting another four years of Krabbenhoft-like effort and production.

As I've said before, though, there is a fundamental stubbornness to Bo Ryan that infiltrates his style, whether it be managing his rotation, his defensive philosophies or in this case, recruiting. Unlike Krabbenhoft, Bruesewitz is not regarded as a four or five-star player. He had offers from a couple of high-majors and a mid-major. By suddenly making Bruesewitz a priority, the Badgers are basically saying they are giving up on at least one of the following players: Jamil Wilson, Royce White, Rodney Williams, and Jordan Prosser.

Recent reports have Wisconsin in good standing with Illinois guard Diamond Taylor. If Taylor were to verbal next, you'd have one spot left for 4-5 really good prospects. What if Wisconsin also offers SG Jacob Jenkins from Kentucky? Bo then risks being officially out of the running for any of the more sought-after forwards before the jockeying even heats up. What is worse is that Wisconsin was hot on the trail of those aforementioned blue-chippers as early as anyone in the country.

More importantly, UW is sending a message to its Midwestern competitors that the program takes what it can get and does not need to be reckoned with when it comes to top regional recruits. But on the flip side, Wisconsin doesn't seem to mind getting out-muscled for big-time athletes. That is where the stubbornness seeps in. It seems even a little arrogant that the current staff will not wait around for a top recruit to take his time with quite an important decision. As if not jumping at the chance to commit to Wisconsin suddenly makes that player "a bad fit for Bo's system," as some would have you believe. It's a fine line between due diligence and failing to covering your own caboose.

For what it's worth, getting Bruiser as the first 2009 commit probably means the end of Isiah Nunn's chances of landing in Madison in 2008. Downsizing to one more available scholarship in '09 at this juncture would be ridiculous.

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Speaking of recruits, the incoming 2008 Badgers are beginning the journey to possible high school championships in their respective states. I whould be able to keep pace with the updates for all four players, so stay tuned, as things are just getting rolling.

- Ian Markolf had 13 points to help his San Antonio Churchill team defeat Austin High to open Class 5A Bidistrict play on Tuesday night. Churchill will play San Antonio Taft this weekend. Taft beat Churchill by two points in the first game of the year. The winner will probably play highly-ranked San Antonio Madison, which also beat Churchill earlier this season.

- Garfield Heights, led by Rob Wilson, recently clinched on a conference title as a first-year member. Wilson teams with Carl "Tay" Jones to lead the Bulldogs into action on Friday, Feb. 22 in the Division 1 Warrensville Heights District bracket.

- Minnesota does not start their playoffs until March. Jordan Taylor's Benilde St. Margaret's squad is in Class AAA, as are Jared Berggren's Princeton Tigers. Bruesewitz and the Sibley Warriors will compete among the largest schools in Minnesota in the Class AAAA tournament.

Monday, February 18, 2008

2008 WIAA Boys Basketball Tournament

My exposure to high school basketball in Wisconsin has been minimal this year, but that does not make tourney time any less exciting. Finally, it's that time of the year when you can cheer on your alma mater or just support your local teams. We get to marvel at the most talented players in the state and in some cases, future collegiate stars.

The WIAA boys basketball tournament kicks off around the state once again on Tuesday, Feb. 19 with first-round regional action. The Division 1 bracket features some familiar names back in positions of power, like Madison Memorial, Verona, Kaukauna, Sheboygan North, Brookfield Central, Wauwatosa East, Milwaukee Vincent and undefeated (20-0) and top-ranked Milwaukee Washington.

Over the last five years in Division 1, an average of five #1 seeds advanced to the 8-team state tournament at the Kohl Center each season. In fact, 37 of the last 40 participants at State have been at least a 3-seed. There are exceptions, however, as evidenced by the 2007 results which saw both a 4-seed (Milwaukee King) and an 8-seed (Kimberly) crash the party. The seedings also were changed last year to award only nine #1 seeds rather than two in each sectional. (Sectional 1 has had two #1 seeds the past two seasons for some reason.).

History tells us at least two of these top seeds will not make it to State: Eau Claire North/Wausau West (Sec. 1), Bay Port, Madison Memorial, Sheboygan North, Germantown, Verona, Racine Horlick, Milwaukee Washington. An experienced Wausau East team could knock off the co-top seeds in Sectional 1 and Vincent looms as the 2-seed in Germantown's sectional. Defending champion Oshkosh West is seeded fourth in Sectional 4 (featuring Sheboygan North) and the always tough Milwaukee King is also a 4-seed in Washington's sectional.

Locally, undefeated Waunakee (20-0) seems like an unlikely underdog. But the Warriors are only four years removed from Division 2 and find themselves stuck in the same sectional as Madison LaFollette (#2) and Memorial.

However, I've always had a soft spot for Janesville Craig and I will be rooting for them to reach a face-off with top-seeded Verona in Sectional 6. Coach Bob Suter has a nice collection of long, inside-out players on the team -- one of the few teams I have been able to watch this year -- and you know Craig will be well-prepared. Verona has a great program but lacks the marquee firepower of recent Wildcat teams (edit: 6'4" junior Jason Ziemer actually led the county in scoring at over 21 ppg). I see the Cougars taking out the Wildcats to end Verona's last season in the Badger South Conference.

The state tournament also provides some great memories of individual players. I can recall Alex Compton draining threes for Madison West's 1992 champions ... burgeoning thug Sam Okey destroying everyone in Division 4 en route to back-to-back titles with Cassville ... Kyle Weaver strapping his Beloit teammates on his back in 2004 before running out of gas against a Memorial team that featured three current or future Mr. Basketball winners (Michael Nelson, Welsey Matthews and Keaton Nankivil) ...

Since Wisconsin's 2008 recruiting class does not include any homegrown talent, Badger fans will have to hope for a few upsets to see some of the top college-bound seniors play at the Kohl Center. Milwaukee Pius XI, featuring Michigan State signee Korie Lucious, is a 6-seed in the Milwaukee-loaded Sectional 8. Lucious fired a 30-foot strike at the buzzer to beat Catholic Memorial a week ago to give the (14-6, 12-2) Popes a share of the Classic Eight Conference title. Whitefish Bay Dominican's Kwamain Mitchell hopes to lead his squad to another Division 3 championship before heading off to St. Louis University. In Division 2, seventh-seeded McFarland will go only as far as UW-Milwaukee recruit Riley Walker, a 6'6" forward, can take the Spartans in the Sun Prairie Sectional.

While it might be your last chance to catch those players on the high school level, even bigger names litter the rosters of some more talented teams. This group of younger players has the chance to grab the spotlight right away. Junior All-Everything Jamil Wilson led Racine Horlick to a top seed this year, so failing to make State would be a disappointment. If the Rebels can get past Brookfield Central, Wilson and Co. should be on a collision course for the Washington Purgolders in the semifinals.

Many other have "Madison or Bust" expectations. Big man Evan Anderson transferred to Eau Claire North for the better competition and now has to prove his team's top seed in Sectional 1 is no fluke. Jeronne Maymon and Vander Blue earned another #1 seed for Madison Memorial (Sec. 3), while Germantown's Ben Averkamp helped the Warhawks notch a top seed after last season's #2 seed. Superstar sophomore Flavien Davis has fourth-ranked Wisconsin Lutheran positioned for a run as a 1-seed in D-2.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Bay View will struggle to get out of the first round as a 12-seed despite an impressive roster led by Marquette target Johnnie Lacy. Explosions from Nate Zastrow, Luke Russell and Marquis Mason are the only hope Manitowoc Lincoln (#7), Menomonee Falls (#6) or Madison East (#11) has in picking up more than one or two wins.

2008 Boys Brackets [pdf]:
Division 1 : : : Division 2 : : : Division 3 : : : Division 4

If you are interested, there is a lot of historical tournament data available at the WIAA's website as well. Also, the esteemed Mark Miller will be making predictions on every game in every division on

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pending Sanctions and Simmering Talent

BREAKING NEWS: Before getting into the recruiting topic today, it looks like the other shoe is about to drop on Kelvin Sampson at Indiana. The school will announce allegations of major men's basketball violations sometime Wednesday morning. The allegations involve Sampson lying about improper phone calls. However, it will not affect the Hoosier's postseason this year unless Indiana self-imposes sanctions, according to the report filed by Andy Katz.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program ...

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Despite all the praise heaped on Wisconsin's coaching staff for locking up its 2008 class early, it doesn't look like the Badgers got the jump on the other schools for anyone in the Class of 2009.

Top prospects Jamil Wilson and Royce White have faded from the forefront as far as national hype and rankings go. It's temporary, of course, since they are both still Top 10-caliber small forwards. Each of the talented juniors has been rumored to be headed some place other than Madison, as in Marquette (Wilson) and Minnesota (White). Milwaukee Pius XI senior Korie Lucious is also said to be putting his two cents for Michigan State into Wilson's ear. And if Wilson is serious about playing both volleyball and basketball collegiately, Wisconsin is one of many schools out of luck.

It's too early to believe that is set in stone, especially with the lengthy list of suitors Wilson and White are maintaining. As is typical, not much real information leaks out about Badger recruits before they verbal. But the silence, in this case, is deafening.

I fear a letdown. After so much talk about how talented the area ballplayers are in 2009, there is no indication that Wisconsin has a good chance at one, let alone several. The most recent new names to pop up in recruiting circles is Mike Bruesewitz out of Minneapolis. The name came out of nowhere, based on a few nice games and the big schools taking notice. But to me, it's more evidence of the current Badger staff gearing up to play it safe yet again.

I can see it now. No offense to these talented young men, but here is the class I hope Wisconsin avoids:
-SF Mike Bruesewitz, MN
-PF Unknown Offered When UW Gives Up On Someone Else, XX

Commitments from such players would certainly fill roster needs on paper, but lacks a certain dynamic that could take the Badgers to the next level. If this ended up being the case, I would be in favor of spending another 2008 scholarship on swingman Isiah Nunn and going with only two scholarships in 2009.

Six months ago, the best-case scenario for UW fans was verbals from Wilson, either White or Rodney Williams from Minnesota and Joseph Bertrand in '09. Wisconsin had been one of the first programs (if not the first big-time school) hot on these fellows' respective trails. Diamond Taylor from St. Joe's in Chicago replaced Bertrand on the "Ideal List" when the latter committed to Illinois. With White and Williams seemingly out of the picture due to Tubby Smith's presence or academic issues, Jack Cooley and Tyler Griffey took center stage at the power forward position. Even I was shocked when the two white, suburban power forwards chose Notre Dame and Illinois right away over Wisconsin.

Lo and behold, Williams' name has surfaced again as a possibility and some have speculated that improved grades are the cause. I wouldn't get my hopes up for actually signing a spectacular athlete like Williams, but how long would Wisconsin be willing to wait on a guy like that? The chances are slim when they start offering lesser players scholarships; those players are more likely to quickly accept an offer.

However, in my opinion, a quality three-man class is still possible, with or without Williams -- he would be the icing on the cake. Letting go of Wilson, the ideal commitments look like this from my vantage point:
-SG Diamond Taylor, IL

A bumper crop from our southern neighbors to be sure. Howard Moore would finally earn his keep on the the home turf that way. With two bigs coming in next fall and Evan Anderson looming in 2010, missing out on Rowley would not be a big deal. Prosser and Taylor might be equally tough to land, but I'm hoping Wisconsin can at least sign one of the two. Add both and it wouldn't matter who the third player in the class was.

If things should fall through with Taylor, could UW possibly be interested in Chris Colvin? The staff has apparently kept in touch enough to maintain moderate interest from this quietly rising point guard prospect. Colvin has a handful of big programs after him at this juncture. Although Wisconsin doesn't necessarily need another lead guard for '09, it would be an opportunity to snag a highly-rated recruit that would solidify the backcourt instead of settling for a second-tier big man.

Looking ahead to 2010, Wisconsin should have three more scholarships available with the departures of Landry and Krabbenhoft and Mickey Perry's abandoned schollie. I trust Bo's ability to reel in Anderson from the Northwoods, leaving two offers with which to speculate. We're talking nearly three years down the road by the time that class would actually hit the floor, but it's never too early, right? At least when you have another pair of solid wing players in-state, like Flavien Davis and Vander Blue ...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Notes From A Big Week

Take a listen to Bo Ryan's weekly press conference. He talks about the wear and tear that his guards are experiencing at this point in the season. Bo is also clearly unhappy with Trevon Hughes' shot selection. These clips and other recent quotes after the past few games are as close as you'll hear Bo come to calling out a player. Assorted thoughts on Purdue and Indiana are sprinkled in as well.

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I pulled out a few tidbits from the Journal Sentinel's Badger Blog. As you know, I've been keeping an eye on Brian Butch's climb up the Wisconsin career rebounding list. Dave Heller delivers the update on the offensive side, where Butch is up to 207 offensive boards, overtaking Michael Finley this past weekend for fifth all-time. The Polar Bear may have about 10 games left in his career in Madison, so it's likely he'll wind up between Andy Kowske (240) and Sean Daugherty (227) for fourth place in the books.

What's amazing about the offensive rebounding leaders is how far ahead of the pack both Alando Tucker (314) and Mike Wilkinson (311) are. Both of them played on successful teams and played more games than some others on the list, but I consider those extra games hard-earned. Tucker, of course, had the benefit of four extra games the year he broke his foot and redshirted, so I think I can safely proclaim Wilk to be UW's "King of Offensive Rebounding."

Note: Overall, Butch's current pace of 7 reb/g should sneak him into ninth place for total rebounds, ahead of Kowske.

: : :

This tangent has been slow-cooking on the back burner for awhile, but I'm finally giving up on my secret hope that Finley could squeak into the Basketball Hall of Fame. At, he is the 27th most likely candidate among active players ... Manu Ginobili is even in front of him! Ginobili just got to ride the Big Fundamental's coattails longer, methinks.

You're a HOF'er in my book Finley ...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Swept By The Boilers

Purdue won the game. And Wisconsin also lost it.

Turnovers like losing the dribble out of bounds without being touched by a defender and passing up an open layup to throw the ball into the first row of seats are not signs of a great team. Wisconsin is not a great team. It is a good team capable of playing great defense. Falling out of the Top Ten this week will not bother me. I knew this team was slightly overrated, but I'm happy for the team to get the publicity and media name-drops that come with the high ranking whenever possible. I'd rather my favorite team be overrated than an afterthought, at least now that I've realized Wisconsin won't sneak up on anyone again.

But as far as Saturday night's game goes, I think Joe Krabbenhoft put it best after the game:

"We care deeply about how this team performs. Wins and losses, they say a lot, but we didn't think we gave our best effort tonight, and I think we're more disappointed in that than the loss. We got away from some things that we can do a lot better, and we'll get back to them as soon as possible."
The Badgers seemed to clamp down (somewhat) in the second half, after Purdue's final two 3-pointers in the opening three minutes. They never made the Boilermakers pay on the other end. Balance is great, but the lack of a go-to player is detrimental in such scenarios.

Wisconsin's most talented player is a gimpy, inconsistent sophomore point guard. The team's most consistent scorer and rebounder is a weak, slow-footed fifth-year senior. Marcus Landry disappeared. If you looked up the term "garbage hoop" in the college basketball dictionary, Krabbenhoft's face would be right there.

When the team absolutely needed a bucket at the end of the first half, Krabby drove right in to the hole and took it. Now let me ask you: where was that determination, that will, to score the other 39 minutes of the game? All the team needs is the consistent threat of that play to keep the engine purring. Not to mention someone posting up and calling for the ball. Hughes' biggest fault during the game might have been his inability to see his big men off of the screen and deliver the ball off the roll. Too much dribbling Trevon!

The Boilermakers hit on an incredible 53.1% of their shots, over 20 percentage points higher (and 61.5% better) than the Badgers (32.7%). On the other hand, Wisconsin dominated the stat sheet in important categories like rebounding (43-21) and free throws (30-of-33 v.s 12-of-22). But the Boilers never needed second-chance points or freebies while shooting over 60 percent en route to a 10-point halftime lead. It made for a few exciting minutes in the, but the freebies were the only reason the Badgers were even in the game. Frankly, one of UW's finest nights ever at the charity stripe was ultimately wasted thanks to its cold shooting and 18 stupid turnovers.

Purdue has brought in some talented players who know how to shoot and have learned to play defense. All of Purdue's perimeter players have the ability to breakdown Wisconsin's defenders off the dribble and the lateral quickness to prevent the same thing on the other end.

On the recruiting issue, however, I've always fallen on the side of a Bo Ryan critic. Certain things you cannot teach. Height and natural athletic ability are two of them. Why would a teacher like Bo not want to mold the best clay? Some clay is harder to mold of course, which is probably the biggest factor in the coaching staff recruiting the kids they do. Until Wisconsin brings in some more shooters that aren't afraid to take big shots, though, the Badgers will be prone to offensive doldrums. And until Wisconsin gets better athletes at the wing positions, Badger fans will have to endure some tense mismatches against teams like the Boilers, Devils and Eagles.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

February Fever

So, the Super Bowl is over and spring training is a month or two away. That means hoops is now the apple of the media eye. That fortuitous for the Wisconsin Badgers, who staggered through the non-conference schedule but now find themselves in the top ten once again.

Wisconsin has been a formidable foe in the Big Ten conference every year under Bo Ryan. Just because the conference is reputed to be in the dumps does not seem to bother this team. Despite a loss to pesky upstart Purdue, Wisconsin is in position to finish first or second in the league for the fifth time in the last seven years. The team continues to get props from Ken Pomeroy. He has Wisconsin ranked fifth and still predicts UW to win the Big Ten with a 15-3 record.

Heading into Iowa City tomorrow (not a gimme), Wisconsin already has run its streak of 18-win seasons to 10. The Badgers are doing it with a defense that has stifled its last two opponents, Indiana and Minnesota. Wisconsin held both teams to their lowest offensive outputs of the season. The team defense is noticeably good when you watch the games.

In past years, I have been most frustrated by the Badgers in two areas defensively: getting schooled on the pick and roll and not closing out on wide-open 3-point shooters. The big men (including Krabbenhoft) have been doing an excellent job at hedging out picks and screens at the top of the key. Each player is capable of not only blocking the immediate drive, but turning the ball handler back and still recovering to their own man. You have to give a bit of credit to the guards for doing their part consistently also. As for leaving shooters wide open, Minnesota had plenty of great looks on Sunday that the Gophers just could convert. Overall, however, UW is light years ahead of where it was a couple of months ago.

Who would've thought after the Duke debacle that Bo would have this same Wisconsin team ranked eighth in the country?

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