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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Paradise Jam Continues

Wisconsin survived some choppy waters this weekend, but is on course to win another Paradise Jam tournament title. The team's reward for winning two straight on the island is a game with #2 Connecticut on Monday night.

The quest began with a knock down, drag out nail biter on Friday night when UW barely escaped the matchbox gym with a 60-58 overtime win against Iona. The Badgers were lucky to survive their 19 turnovers, but were never able to get into a good flow due to tons of physical defense by the Gaels and terribly inconsistent officiating. Winning a game like that has to give you faith in UW's ability to close out games under adversity. [box score]

Tonight, Wisconsin toppled San Diego, 64-49. Topping the Toreros seemed easier thanks to much better Badger shooting (48.8%). Without DirectTV's Sports Pack, I followed the game via Patrick Herb's live blog at Herb's blogging during the Iona game also probably was the best source of info on the opening round action too, where UW shot only 27.3% in the second half.

Trevon Hughes has been the engine for Wisconsin so far in the Virgin Islands. He led all scorers with 21 points against Iona, hitting 11-of-12 free throws. Against San Diego, he again paced both sides with 22 points (8-11 FGs, 2-4 3s). [box score]

The tourney appears to be a coming out party for Tim Jarmusz. Foul trouble plagued Jon Leuer and Marcus Landry on Friday, but Jarmusz put in 30 minutes of great work. His best attributes continue to be hitting timely 3-pointers, drawing fouls and diving for loose balls -- which provides UW with some very important extra possessions. It is uncanny how Jarmusz is always "mixing it up." It was good to see Keaton Nankivil bust loose a little with 8 rebounds in the first game and 10 points tonight.

There were a few concerns, of course. The statistics do not really reflect the struggles at the charity stripe, as several different players missed front ends of bonus opportunities. Jason Bohannon has really struggled with his shot, shooting a combined 5-of-22 so far. And as a team, the threes are not dropping: 5-of-21 vs. Iona, 5-of-16 vs. San Diego = 27%.

Landry bounced back to lead the team in rebounds (7), assists (6), and blocked shots (5) versus the Toreros.

Moving on, the championship should be a great game to watch. This will be the fourth time under Bo Ryan that the Badgers have faced a team ranked second in the AP poll. My expectations are lower than the ones I had for last year's Duke game, but now that the match up is set I am definitely stoked. The Huskies have a phenomenal freshman point guard, Kemba Walker, to add to senior A.J. Price this year. Even though Pop is hot right now, he will need a lot of help.

I love the matchup between Jeff Adrien and Landry, but am not sure how we will play Hasheem Thabeet. The guy's offense is spotty, but he will be altering every shot in sight. Thabeet already has 12 blocks down there in two games! Bo could try giving some meaningful minutes to one of his own aircraft carriers, like J.P. Gavinski or Ian Markolf, but it probably wouldn't be pretty. I think Leuer is the key offensively and containing UConn's guards a must on defense.

Landry's block count: 8 + 2 (Iona) + 5 (S.D.) = 15 total/79 career*
*Moves into 9th all-time, passing Michael Finley

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