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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Reflecting Back On Wisconsin's Exit

After getting a good night's rest, I feel better equipped to make more rational statements about Wisconsin's season coming to a close.

I want to give some props to Jason Bohannon, the one player that seemed determined to create something out of nothing when all seemed lost for UW. He scored 11 points, dished a team-high three assists and added one steal. An unfortunate year-long trend for the team has been the lack of assists. Assists can be viewed as a subjective statistic at times, but I think passing is one area in which the Badgers can be a better team next year.

The typically reliable Joe Krabbenhoft only tallied three rebounds and had three turnovers as well. If that weren't bad enough already, Stephen Curry was caught guarding Krabby many times, but Joe did not post him up successfully at all. That's inexcusable. He needs to take a big step forward offensively next year as a senior. And he will be needed inside with the departures of Brian Butch and Greg Stiemsma.

Being upset by a 10-seed was another terrible ending to a great season, no matter how good Davidson really is. Luckily, the Badgers were truly playing with house money at this point, despite their lofty top-ten ranking. If you would have told me to start the year that Wisconsin would be Big Ten regular season and tournament champs, go 31-5 and make the Sweet 16, I would have been ecstatic. That is the only thing that can comfort Badger fans at this point. Try it, it works.

As you might expect,the initial reaction by a few other Badger bloggers was much like mine--one of despondence, frustration, and surprise at seeing a totally different Wisconsin team out on the court. The Wisconsin Sports Bar actually broke down the six losses that Davidson has suffered this season and determined that a shift in the ratio of Stephen Curry's 3-point attempts to the team's 3-point attempts as a whole has made the Wildcats a better team. The other trend in Davidson's losses were foul trouble for Curry or an advantage from the line for its opponent. Last night, Wisconsin did not get Davidson into any foul trouble and therefore did not have a significant enough advantage in that area (14/21 vs. 9/12) to make up for Curry's supporting cast hitting 6-of-13 from long-range.

The play of the "other players" did not escape Davidson head coach Bob McKillop. Point guard Jason Richards played flawless basketball, but the rest of the team is talented too. In fact, Davidson was ranked higher than Wisconsin in those all-important preseason polls. With the Big Ten clearly experiencing a down year, Davidson may have been just as battle-tested as Wisconsin thanks to their pre-conference schedule.

On UW hoops message boards, expressing the usual mix of hopeless doomsday theorizing or stoic, blind support of the program. Many posters are simply giving Davidson a lot of credit. I plan on rooting for the Wildcats from here on out. My pool brackets have already flat-lined anyway.

Redemption for the Flowers family
Things looked bleak for Winona State in the first half against Augusta State in the NCAA Division II Championship game. But the Warriors (38-1) did something in the second half that the Badgers could not do in their game: play with confidence. Winona State punched back and with 10 minutes left in the game, had completely erased what had been a 16-point deficit. Led by Jonte Flowers, Winona State then extended the lead and held on for a 87-76 win.

Flowers, the tournament's MVP, pulled a mini-Curry, exploding for 25 of his 30 points after halftime, compared to Augusta State's 32 second-half points. He hit some timely 3-pointers and stepped up his trademarked defensive pressure even in the face of foul trouble. He would have been a nice addition to UW's program, but I doubt he would trade his experiences in Minnesota for anything. I did notice that Flowers missed two fast break layups off of his own steals. Mike Flowers had some trouble finishing on the break this year also -- do small hands run in the family?

Congratulations to the whole Madison LaFollette crew (Flowers, Quincy Henderson, Curtrel Robinson) at Winona State that captured its second national title in three years.

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