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Sunday, April 13, 2008

The People's Choice

A poll on asking who was Wisconsin's most valuable player this season has Michael Flowers comfortably in the lead with 46% of the vote, followed somewhat surprisingly by Joe Krabbenhoft (19%), Brian Butch (16%) and Jason Bohannon (11%).

Flowers got my vote as Wisconsin's MVP as well. Lacking guard depth this season, Flowers logged a team-high 1,139 minutes and he made every one count. Despite a few statistical blemishes on his defensive record (Manny Harris at Kohl Center, Drew Neitzel in the Big Ten Tournament and the infamous Stephen Curry), Flowers delivered on high expectations defensively. He also led the team in assists for the second straight year.

Delivering the unexpected was what made Flowers so special. The senior's remarkable improvement on 3-pointers was vital to Wisconsin's success. After shooting 27-of-86 (31.4%) from deep last season, Flowers proved to be the best 3-point shooter among UW regulars this year, hitting on 49-of-119 (41.2%) attempts, including a phenomenal 44% in Big Ten play.

Some would argue that even the unexpected became expected of Flowers. A team as steady as the Badgers will not be remembered for very many glamorous plays, but this Madison LaFollette grad was behind most of them: the game-winning sequence at Texas; raining treys in the first-half at Indiana; the steal and score to beat Michigan State. When everyone was waiting to see who would step up, Flowers usually did. And that is why he was the most valuable Badger in 2007-08.

Brian Butch, Jonte Flowers attend Portsmouth

Fellow senior Brian Butch joined Mike's brother Jonte Flowers this past week at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a sort of pre-draft prep camp. Both players will need to do a lot of work over the next few months to convince an NBA team to take a shot on either of them.

Over the course of three games, Butch played fairly well, although he did not necessarily stand out from his teammates. He continued to shoot the ball very well from behind the arc (43%), though he was nearly incapable of getting to the free throw line. Butch averaged 14 pts, 7.3 rebs, 2.7 assts, 1.7 stls & 1 block as his team posted one win and two losses. Flowers' team also went 1-2 and his stats were similar (13 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3 apg & spg) to Butch's.

Even without Butch, Michael Flowers or Greg Stiemsma next season, the Sporting News has listed Wisconsin as a possible No. 1 seed in next year's NCAA Tournament. As TSN notes, the Bo Ryan has plenty of returning talent at his command, though you would be hard-pressed to find the Badgers in the top ten of anyone's early rankings. However, each list seems to be giving UW respect despite its personnel losses.

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Man, kids can be annoying can't they? I watched a video posted to Wisconsin's official website a few weeks back that shows the team practicing in Omaha for the tournament. It is pretty boring until the very end when the players are shown acquiescing to the dozens of children screaming for their favorite Badger to sign something. Some kids don't even know the players' names (some kid yells, "Hey, 45!" at Krabbenhoft). Trevon Hughes is ever the ladies man ... and autographs a girl's forehead!

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The demand for Milwaukee Bucks autographs might be at an all-time low, but the team appears to have taken a step in the right direction by luring John Hammond away from Detroit to be its new general manager. Hammond has spent the past six years as the vice president of basketball operations for the Pistons, who are closest thing to NBA royalty you'll find in the Eastern Conference these days. The connection between Hammond and former NBA Coach of the Year Rick Carlisle bodes well for the Milwaukee's future, unless Chicago snaps him up sooner.

So at least there is something to be optimistic about in Milwaukee, now that the Buzz Williams hiring at Marquette is off to a great start.

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