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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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