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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fine-Tuning the Tourney Machine

The goal for the Badgers during the Big Ten Tournament is to get another shot at Purdue and avenge their only two conference losses. Doing so would provide a most valuable boost of confidence for Wisconsin and display real improvement in adjusting to a quality opponent's more aggressive style. Proving themselves to themselves in such a scenario is even more important than impressing any selection committee.

Sure, this mostly worthless weekend is good for working out the kinks in a tournament setting, but there is no reason Wisconsin should slip up as in years past. Bucky's first victim, the Wolverines, have warmed up already, though they certainly did not get hot. Wisconsin and Michigan begin a busy Friday for the tournament and unfortunately the game is at 11 a.m. Central, which means Big Ten Network or not, most people won't be seeing this game live.

With the field pared down to eight to start the day, I see the only possible upset being Minnesota over Indiana. I know, I know ... that is crazy talk, considering Minnesota had to come from behind to beat Northwestern. But Tubby's team just needs to continue the play on both ends of the court that led to its 34-18 second half yesterday. It's tough to beat a team three times and Indiana has lost two of its last three games. The toll of the Kelvin Sampson saga is sneaking up at the worst possible time for the Hoosiers.

Plus, Minnesota has something to play for. If they win the Big Ten tourney, they're in! More realistically, the Goofs are jockeying for a position in one of the other postseason tournaments. Something that hasn't gotten any mention around Madison (and hopefully never does) is the brand new postseason tournament that will compete with the NIT for the bubble scraps. The College Basketball Invitational will be a 16-team field featuring a three-game series for the final round. Despite it's ugly stepchild persona, the NIT could always claim the bright lights of Madison Square Garden in its corner when it came to drawing teams after the NCAA selections. The CBI hopes to counter this lure by allowing teams to host up to five home games in the tournament. Fox will broadcast the games through its three college sports outlets (FCS Atlantic, Central and Pacific).

Update: Recruits, state tournaments, etc.
Jordan Taylor and Jared Berggren both notched big wins last night. Taylor blew up with 29 points for BSM in a 74-57 win over Washburn. The Red Knights will play second-seeded Academy of Holy Angels (notable alum: Larry Fitzgerald) next Tuesday in a sectional final. The two teams played a nailbiter earlier this season that BSM won thanks to another big game from Taylor. Princeton beat Annandale 62-41 in the Section 5 quarterfinals behind 24 points from Berggren. The Tigers play again on Saturday.

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Diamond Taylor's team was eliminated fairly early in Illinois's IHSA playoffs but Lenzelle Smith, Jr. is a name Badger fans might be hearing more very soon. Smith is a very athletic 6'3" shooting guard that Hoops Marinara has been tracking on the recruit list for 2010. His team, Zion-Benton, has advanced to the final four of the 4A state tourney. I guess he opted to skip the slam dunk contest, in which Isiah Nunn participated. Ah, few places do high school basketball better than Illinois.

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It looks Royce White might not have any trouble playing next season after all, according to speculation by Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

"Look for 6-foot-7 Royce White, considered the top high school junior basketball player in the state and recently dismissed from DeLaSalle for behavioral issues, to switch residences with his mother and become eligible for his senior season at a suburban Twin Cities school. The Gophers, who have offered a tender, remain in the recruiting hunt."
Even so, it was a somber moment when I officially removed White [Rivals :: Scout] from the list of UW's 2009 prospects. From the game recaps I have read this season, White seems to excel more in the AAU environment than a structured team scenario. (3/14 EDIT: Cooper, Hopkins and St. Bernard's are the basketball powers being mentioned now as likely destinations)

And if you think I've lost my mind with all this recruiting nonsense, something called Midwest Future Hoops Report is ranking 8th graders!

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