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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Round 1: Defense vs. Excitement

Wisconsin is boring.

There. I said it. The thing I notice watching the first two days of the tournament is that all of the exciting games feature pretty poor defense. In a couple of these overtime thrillers, there has been no reason to believe that the team holding the ball in the end cannot just come down the court and make a basket. Connecticut needed one stop and couldn't get it. Drake needed one stop and couldn't get it. Both teams went home.

So when critics call Wisconsin boring, we get upset. But deep down we know it's true. However, Badger fans have been conditioned to value a slower tempo that wins and gets critical defensive stops over a faster pace that does not get those stops and may not win those games that are there for the taking. I think we all agree that the trade-off is a good one. That has been one of the more gratifying parts to the season for me. Except for the game at Purdue, UW has seized those victories that were up for grabs. Now I just need Wisconsin to keep rolling along and getting those stops to prove me right.

It only gets tougher from here though. Wisconsin was too big and too strong for Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, evidenced by its 47-20 rebounding advantage. Despite not clamping down on the Titans for the first six minutes or so, the Badgers held the Big West champs to 36% shooting. Offensively, at least the Badgers made it to 70 points. Purdue did its part in trying to shed the "plodding" conference perception that is so rampant by throwing up 90 points. The Big Ten started out 3-0, winning by an average of over 12 points.

Joe Krabbenhoft was quite impressive with the ball. He looked eager to shoot and was fairly accurate, even sinking a 3-pointer. The threat of Krabbenhoft is one of the few missing ingredients to this team's ultimate success. After firing some ill-advised threes in the first few minutes, the team settled down and got better shots. Wisconsin finished only 3-of-16 (18%) from behind the arc after appearing to be on pace to shoot 25 or more in the game [box score].

Greg Stiemsma gave the Badgers some very good minutes as well. Hopefully he is well-rested enough to face man-child Michael Beasley on Saturday afternoon. Kansas State, only 143 miles from its Manhattan, KS campus in Omaha, are the fourth-closest to home of any team in the tourney.

Round 1 data
How the Big Ten fared: 3-1*
(5)Michigan State 72, (12)Temple 61 [box]
(6)Purdue 90, (11)Baylor 79 [box]
(9)Arkansas 86, (8)Indiana 72 [box]
*tied with ACC for third, behind Big East (7-1) and Big 12 (5-1)

How the other #3 seeds fared: 3-0
(3)Xavier 73, (14)Georgia 61 [box]
(3)Stanford 77, (14)Cornell 53 [box]
(3)Louisville 79, (14) Boise State 61 [box]

My picks: 22/32 (69%)

Top moments:
1. Western Kentucky tops gun-slinging Drake on Ty Rogers' buzzer-beater in overtime. Ultimately, the Bulldogs needed one more of their 42 3-point attempts to go in. While Adam Emmenecker was spectacular (14 assists) without making a single field goal, Hilltopper point man Tyrone Brazelton was even better -- 30 points and the game-winning assist.
2. Stephen Curry dropping 30 of his tournament-high 40 points in the second half of Davidson's upset win over perennial underachiever Gonzaga. Curry hit 8-of-10 3-pointers even though the entire stadium knew he was going to get the ball and try to shoot on each possession.
3. Belmont takes Duke to the limit. Gerald Henderson's drive to the hoop in th waning seconds helps the Dukies avoid perhaps their most embarrassing loss under Coach K.
4. Point guard A.J. Price leaves the game on crutches in the first half and then watched from the bench as his UConn teammates fall to 13th-seeded San Diego in overtime.
5. Top seeds dominate. UCLA holds Mississippi Valley State to a record-low 29 points on Thursday, followed by North Carolina hanging 113 points on Mount St. Mary's.


  1. Mississippi Valley State's 29 points, thankfully, gets the Badgers out of the 'bad' end of the record book. They had a 'Bennett-esque' 32 points in '99.

  2. Lone,
    Thank goodness those days are behind us. Didn't they strike the Soderberg year from the record books??


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