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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Big Ten Opener: Ohio State @ Wisconsin LIVE



Pre-Game Thoughts
The last day of the decade brings a brand new season of Big Ten basketball to Wisconsin, as the Badgers welcome the Ohio State Buckeyes to town. Join us for the live blogging event that will begin about 15 minutes before the 1 p.m. CST tip time.

Since Evan Turner's injury, OSU junior David Lighty has been needed to pick up the slack offensively. As the team's best defender, it will be interesting to see how that affects the other half of his game. I assume Lighty would be charged with checking Hughes or Bohannon, since "locking up" Tim Jarmusz would kind of waste his skills.

Thad Matta has kept his rotation very shallow even after losing Turner. He only seems to be playing six guys regularly in the last four games. Jon Diebler has missed Turner the most, since he is primarily a spot-up shooter that benefits from someone like Turner breaking down an opponent's defense. Conversely,sophomore William Buford has picked up the slack in many areas. Either way, Matta's key players are playing a ton of minutes.

Jon Leuer will face an imposing interior defender in Dallas Lauderdale. But I am already having visions of Leuer dumping the ball off to a lurking Keaton Nankivil for a dunk. At the very least, one of the two Badger big men should be able to corral a few second-chance opportunities in this contest.

While Leuer and Jordan Taylor continued to excel in the final tune-ups against Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Illinois-Chicago, Trevon Hughes faded to the background somewhat. Against the Buckeyes, Hughes will need to turn the switch back on. As I mentioned earlier, Lighty is a plus defender, but I'm not sure P.J. Hill and Jeremie Simmons are going to stop a locked-in Hughes.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Who Is the New Badger Villain?

While completing my holiday hibernation, I agreed to answer a few questions for the Wisconsin preview that is up now at From The Barn. The impressive Minnesota basketball blog is compiling thoughts from around the league as we prepare for the conference season.

The toughest question for me to answer was an unexpected one about which Badger is most likely to rub Gopher fans the wrong way. It's no secret that guys like Brian Butch, Greg Stiemsma and especially Joe Krabbenhoft have been disliked by rival fanbases over the years. The feelings usually stem from the way the players look and alleged dirty plays to the fact that the guys are successful players who simply seem like they've been on the team forever. Most Big Ten fans would call this the Jess Settles Theory.

A few names are already popping into your mind right now, but you will have to read the preview to find out who I selected. After you do that, send me some feedback on these two questions:

  1. Who is your most despised "villain" on any Big Ten opponent's current roster and why?

  2. Which current Badger player do you see playing the role of villain in other fans' minds?

: : :

As far as the Badgers recent performances are concerned, it was nice to see Jason Bohannon break free a bit against Illinois-Chicago, hitting 5-of-6 from deep en route to 15 points in 31 minutes. I hesitate to say it was his best game of the year because he did more damage against Maryland, plus he was one of several Badger guards who coughed up a possession in uncharacteristic fashion against the Flames on Sunday. Jordan Taylor had one such mental error (a bad pass) that still has me scratching my head. The Badgers need to get serious in a hurry after feasting on a couple of non-conference appetizers because hosting Ohio State on New Year's Eve is an important task.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hughes and Bohannon Leaving Their Mark

Senior Trevon Hughes pushed his way onto Wisconsin's all-time Top 10 for career steals earlier this season, one of two categories in which I expected him to leave a permanent mark before he leaves the program. Right now he is eighth on the thefts list and has a shot to catch guys like Devin Harris, Michael Finley and even Michael Flowers if he excels.

The way things are progressing, however, I could be wrong about Hughes winding up on the all-time assists ladder. It's more likely that he will enter the school's top ten lists in the 3-point and free throw categories actually. When it comes to dimes, Jordan Taylor is this team's leader. Taylor is also well ahead of Hughes' career assist pace and could be headed onto that list in a few years himself.

Player - Career Steals (Season Total)
5. Michael Finley - 168
6. Devin Harris - 164
7. Trent Jackson - 151
8. Trevon Hughes - 141 (19)
9. Hennssy Auriantal - 133

I keep forgetting about Jason Bohannon since he has been pretty quiet this year, but he is obviously one to watch as he rises up the all-time 3-pointer charts. Against Cal Poly, J-Bo drew into a tie in the Wisconsin record books for both 3-pointers made and attempted [box score]. Hopefully he can break free in both categories against Milwaukee.

Bohannon is on pace to finish fourth and third, respectively, on those lists in addition to being a near-lock to hold one of the highest FT shooting percentages in school history when he is done.

Player - Career 3-Pointers (Season Total)
6. Tracy Webster - 167
7. Sean Mason - 166
8. Kammron Taylor - 163
9. Andy Kilbride - 162
9. Jason Bohannon - 162 (18)

Player - Career 3-Pt FG Attempts (Season Total)
4. Tim Locum - 481
5. Sean Mason - 471
6. Jason Bohannon - 430 (46)
6. Kammron Taylor - 430
6. Trent Jackson - 430

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Checking Back In

Returning from a tropical vacation to the same mountain of snow I left was not the only rude awakening I got earlier this week. It was an interesting time to be cut off from the information super highway to be sure.

I followed Wisconsin's shocking first-ever loss to UW-Green Bay on the web (again) before I skipped town, leaving me worried about which group of Badgers would show up against Marquette. Though Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer willed the team into overtime against the Phoenix, and Ryan Evans seemed to play well, the turnovers and inability to lock down Green Bay's outside shooters were disconcerting. Wisconsin really had no business being in that game.

The worrying was all for naught though. While I was away, Leuer continued to catch fire. The junior forward is averaging 27 pts-per-40 mins in his last three outings, including a 24-point, 12-rebound masterpiece in 38 mins against Marquette. [box score]

Marquette was one of several teams in the region to hit a personnel snag over the last two weeks. The Jeronne and Tim Maymon circus pulled out of Milwaukee in search of greener pastures (Tennessee?) just days after the loss to Wisconsin. Iowa's Anthony Tucker showed he hasn't learned a thing, getting suspended indefinitely after a second arrest involving alcohol. And finally, the Royce White saga at Minnesota took a bizarre twist when he announced in an overly dramatic YouTube video that he was leaving college basketball. I'm sure the last chapter in that story is yet to be written.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten Conference "announced" it was going to consider expansion again. Well, the Chicago Tribune certainly took the bait and went hog wild with coverage of potential scenarios and implications. Count me as one who thinks Missouri is the most logical target due to proximity and an existing rivalry with Illinois. However, I promise not to get too worked up against the Rutgers and Syracuse suggestions since any expansion is pure speculation right now.

With their Big Ten brethren looming, the Badgers will try to avoid taking another dive when they host UW-Milwaukee tomorrow night. After piling on Cal Poly last Wednesday, Wisconsin has risen to No. 14 in the Pomeroy rankings even though it's still on the outside looking in at the traditional Top 25 polls. The Badgers have proven themselves thus far to again be exceptional defensive rebounders who take great care of the basketball, despite the occasional misstep against a Horizon league foe. Wisconsin has delivered an offensive efficiency above 113 for each of the past six games, only stumbling when it surrendered a 118.7 offensive efficiency on the road to Green Bay.

Since Pomeroy's individual ratings are now online, it was good to see that Jordan Taylor has cut down on his fouling while still dishing out the assists. Hughes, on the other hand, is drawing 6.7 fouls-per-40 mins -- good for 68th in the country. That is the most on the team since Alando Tucker's hey-days.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bo Ryan Goes For 200th Win At Wisconsin

Life is good for Bo Ryan's squad. The national media has done the expected about-face and are now gushing over the Wisconsin Badgers after their impressive win over Duke.

Step two was to avoid a letdown, which UW did by beating Grambling St. last Saturday in dominant fashion, 79-46. Trevon Hughes continued his stellar play and was rewarded by being named the Big Ten's Player of the Week. Perhaps more importantly, Jason Bohannon found his shooting touch and Jordan Taylor continued to emerge as a vital cog in the Badger machine (11 pts, 7 rebs, 5 assts). [box score]

Now comes step three: the first true road game. The Badgers might even get some assistance on this task. Thanks to blizzard-like conditions in the area, who knows how many fans will show up in Green Bay tonight at the Resch Center or whether it will amount to any type of home court atmosphere for the Phoenix.

The game will be the first of two important back-to-back contests versus in-state opponents. If the Badgers are successful tonight, Bo will have earned his 200th win as UW's head coach. In his nine seasons at Wisconsin, Bo has compiled a 199-74 record, with a Big Ten winning percentage (71.2) that is better than any other conference coach with at least five season under their belt. He is now approaching 600 wins overall as a collegiate head coach.

Then on Saturday, Wisconsin tries to snap a two-game losing streak to Marquette at the Kohl Center. The Badgers will need to handle possible changes in expectations, adapting from the hunter to the hunted once again. It is yet another chance for Wisconsin to show the nation that it's for real ... potential recruits included.

: : :

Hughes' ascension as an All-Big Ten caliber player is obviously a huge reason the Badgers are back on the radar. In hindsight, Hughes probably deferred a too much to seniors Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry last year, which meant the Badgers lacked that alpha dog on the court. While Hughes has always made a splash in the non-conference schedule, I expect Hughes to play well against the in-state opponents and continue doing so for the rest of the season thanks to his own increased sense of ownership of this team.

When a player like Hughes has success under Bo on a national stage, it only strengthens Bo's credentials and can elevate the perception of the program, maybe even with recruits. Specifically I mention Hughes because he was unique: a highly-touted guard recruit; big city kid with a flashy style of play; starter from day one of his sophomore year. Bo has won with rosters full of guys much different than Hughes.

You could see the growing pains as the head coach broke down his point guard for three years, Bo often kept Hughes on a short leash and the Queens native struggled through a couple of roller coaster seasons. He was hesitant at times, out of control at others. Some folks, myself included, wondered if Bo hadn't hollowed out a talented player by removing his flashy instincts. Meanwhile, some of the better high school recruits in recent years avoided Madison as their basketball home, occasionally citing style of play or atmosphere.

Fast forward to today and the leash is off entirely. Hughes leads the 20th-ranked Badgers as they restake their claim as the premier Division 1 basketball program in the state. Now instead of pointing to Devin Harris, who is sooo five years ago, the coaching staff can show aspiring ballers another lead guard with an A-game. This ain't no fluke, it's a promise: You will win at Wisconsin, you will become the best you can be, and yeah, you can even look good doing it (cue the faux-hawk).

Bo Ryan has built a perennial winner and is working toward a great tradition and legacy. Two hundred wins will do that for you. Recruits beware.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wisconsin Stares Down the Devils

Nearly perfect.

That's the only way I can describe Wisconsin's wire-to-wire, 73-69 victory over No. 6 Duke to all but clinch the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. In fact last night, I could not even articulate the joy when Jordan Taylor's free throw fell true with two seconds remaining.

Sure, I gave the Badgers a chance in this game, but realistically, I did not expect the Badgers to put together the perfect game it would take to beat the Dukies. As it turned out, UW only turned the ball over five times, including once on a shot-clock violation. That is perfection in my book. Wisconsin turned Duke over 11 times with some timely blocked shots and steals, which the Blue Devils (6-1) could not duplicate with their own defense.

Even so, Wisconsin (5-1) didn't need everything else to be flawless after all. For example:

- It's hard to believe Wisconsin, who started the game shooting nearly 70% from the floor, wound up with lower FG, 3FG and FT percentages than Duke, but still won. [box score]

- It's hard to believe that while Kyle Singler scored at will in the first half (7-of-10 FGs) and scored a game-high 28 points, Wisconsin still won. Just as surprising was that Bo Ryan did not hesitate to throw different defenders at him. Even when it seemed Singler was wearing through a new Badger defender, the combinations eventually wore him down.

Bo has an infinitely wiser basketball mind than me, but is often so set in his upperclassmen-centric, man-to-man ways that his fairly short leash on junior Tim Jarmusz was refreshing. The second attempt was redshirt freshman Ryan Evans, who also couldn't slow Singler in the first half. As Jay Bilas pointed out at halftime, Bo's most effective defense was actually the smaller, quicker Taylor at the end of the first half. But to start the second half, there was Keaton Nankivil isolated on Singler. Then Bo switched back to the Evans & Taylor duo that got the job done down the stretch.

- It's hard to believe that even though Jason Bohannon could not buy a bucket from outside (0-6 on 3-pointers) or keep up with Andre Dawkins (who hit three straight treys in a 1:40 stretch) at the end, and Jon Leuer went ice cold in the second half, Wisconsin still won. God bless Trevon Hughes.

Hughes was mercurial in victory. He did not have a single turnover. He took a lot of shots from every range, but hit them (68.7 eFG%) for a career-high 26 points. The threat of his penetration allowed a few 3-point daggers from the bigs. My only gripe is that he didn't demand the ball on the final possessions, when UW got a bad shot from Evans and a lot of dribbling from Taylor.

- It's hard to believe that without the eight free throw attempts that came when Duke was deliberately fouling, Wisconsin was again on its way to attempting fewer free throws than its opponent made. And UW still handed Duke it's first-ever loss in the Challenge.

The most important factor in beating Duke was the 19-9 lead the Badgers quickly built in the first five and a half minutes. Apparently Wisconsin does remember how to play with a lead (unlike last year). Hughes said it best in the post-game when he talked about the team staying very loose in the early going, which enabled the Badgers to hit all their open looks. This was possible thanks to great passing and ball movement from each player, highlighted by the team's season-high 17 assists.

Oddly, the only one of my pregame keys to winning that Wisconsin accomplished was rebounding, where they battled Duke to a 32-32 draw. When you consider that several clutch rebounds to preserve the win came from the inexperienced Evans and the 6'2" Bohannon, you can see even more clearly the total team effort.

An almost unbelievable win.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

T-Minus Duke And Counting

There was a point on Tuesday when it looked like Indiana could pull off a mammoth upset and push the Big Ten out to a 4-0 start in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, with a capable Michigan State squad yet to play.

We all know what happened after that. With the ledger knotted at 3-3, it will come down to games like Minnesota-Miami, Wisconsin-Duke, and Ohio State-Florida State to determine if the midwest's finest can claim it's first victory in this 11-year battle. So far, things have gone according to chalk (my own predictions are only 5-1).

Duke brings the nation's 6th-ranked team into the Kohl Center for a game where Wisconsin has nothing to lose. But that doesn't make the task any easier, it just makes failure more acceptable. Jon Leuer played admirably two years ago in defeat and should be the team's first offensive option. The visitors will get an athletic upgrade in their own front court, however, if freshman big man Mason Plumlee can play big minutes in his return from a wrist injury.

In typical Bo Ryan fashion, the Wisconsin head coach is downplaying the significance of UW's rematch with the Blue Devils:

"We've faced a lot of teams with good three-point shooters, and you can't make up a defense just for one game. You know, you get your matchups, you get your tendencies, just like we do against every other team, and you play it from there."
It's refreshing to hear that the players let on a little, though.

"[Bo] is telling us don't overthink the game, that it's just another one on the schedule," senior Trevon Hughes said. "But everyone knows the implications of this game."

The team is probably just glad to get a home game again in this series. To earn the upset, the Badgers will have to get to the free throw line, rebound well and hit their shots. The Blue Devils do not turn the ball over, play great team defense and have been rebounding well. Duke is also one of the most efficient offensive teams in the land. Sound familiar?

But the Dukies struggle to get to the charity stripe, much like the Badgers. Nolan Smith can get to the rim, but is not quite as skilled as other perimeter players who have given Wisconsin fits in the past. Newcomer Andre Dawkins has also given Duke a lift at guard. But I don't think either player can handle Hughes.

For a Duke perspective, check out the Duke Basketball Report.

Sign of Things to Come?

Eau Claire North opened its 2009-10 season with an 11-point victory over undersized New Richmond. Wisconsin recruit Evan Anderson scored 19 pts and grabbed 6 rebs in the win, the first for the Huskies under new head coach Aric Carpenter.

The program has been notorious for winning in a very deliberate manner under Pat Hammond for the past few decades. Badger fans have been interested to see what effect the coaching change will have on Anderson -- in particular what defense the team runs. I have not heard yet if Carpenter abandoned the trademark zone defense, but hopefully Anderson's good outing is the first of many this year.

Links:
- Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reviewed the increased viewership of the Big Ten Network during football season. Expect this trend to continue through the basketball season too.
- The New York Knicks had pinned 100 points on Phoenix by the end of the third quarter on Tuesday, which meant plenty of 4Q PT (12 mins) for Alando Tucker. And he put the biscuit in the basket to the tune of 12 pts.

Monday, November 30, 2009

2009 Big Ten/ACC Challenge Tips Off

It's time to wake up basketball fans. Maybe you find yourself still sleeping off the tryptofan that you gorged yourself on over the Thanksgiving holiday, stuck in football mode and awaiting the bowl matchups. If that's the case, your missed a slew of great season-opening tournaments on the hardwood.

Even though the Big Ten did not fare as well as expected in those tourneys, the conference gets an immediate mulligan starting tonight. Virginia hosts Penn State in the first game of the 2009 Big Ten/ACC Challenge at 6 pm CT. ESPN is advertising the Challenge on air, but there has been no hype for it online. And I don't blame them since the Big Ten has never won the event.

This is a stretch of games that can change national perception. Though the Big Ten is traditionally viewed as a plodding conference (especially when compared to the ACC), its teams have actually been playing at a fairly average pace through the first weeks of the season.

Tonight's game is one of the toss-up games that most people feel needs to swing the Big Ten's way in order to snap the ACC stranglehold on the challenge. Virginia (4-2), who played uptempo last year, is now coached by Wisconsin's favorite son Tony Bennett -- who has been known to lead slow-paced teams. By early indications, Penn State (4-2) is playing slower than average yet again.

The Challenge's marquee matchups begin in earnest on Tuesday, with the Wisconsin-Duke contest slated for 8:15 pm CT on Wednesday to help conclude the event.

So if you still want to sleepwalk through the college basketball season until March Madness, watching the Big Ten embarrass itself again in a BCS bowl and sobbing over Brett Favre's success, you can check online football odds at BetUS.

If you'd rather watch potential history in the making, check out ESPN for the next three nights. Even though it's still early, we will learn a lot about how the Big Ten can live up to its preseason hype and starting making some definitive statements about what problems each team will face this year. I am holding out hope for the conference, but don't have the best feeling about this one. On the bright side, if I go under .500 on my picks, there's a 50/50 chance the Big Ten pulled this thing out:

: : : Monday (predicted winners in orange)
6:00 CT - Penn State @ Virginia (ESPN2). Virginia might be rebuilding, but Penn State is the type of team that a Bennett-coached club will beat.

: : : Tuesday
6:00 CT - Wake Forest @#4 Purdue (ESPN). Purdue is carrying the Big Ten's banner right now. They have the talent and experience to get the job done. Wake just has Al-Farouq Aminu.
6:00 CT - Northwestern @ N.C. State (ESPNU). No Coble, no problem. The 'Cats are playing well and play their throwback style well, while the Wolfpack's resume is pretty weak.
6:30 CT - Maryland @ Indiana (ESPN2). Maryland is ripe for the picking, but Indiana is not quite ready for prime time.
8:00 CT - #9 Michigan State @ #10 North Carolina (ESPN). This one will hurt the most. If MSU can win the battle behind the arc, the Spartans can win, but UNC's front line is special.
8:30 CT - Virginia Tech @ Iowa (ESPN2). No words necessary.

: : : Wednesday
6:15 CT - Illinois @ Clemson (ESPN). Déjà vu? The Illini are reeling right now and Clemson is always playing well at this time.
6:15 CT - Minnesota @ Miami (ESPNU). Minnesota's 4-2 record is not as bad as it looks, since they fell to two decent teams. I believe in Tubby's guys to quiet the rising storm in Miami (6-0).
6:30 CT - Boston College @ Michigan (ESPN2). Big Blue must bounce back.
8:15 CT - #6 Duke @ Wisconsin (ESPN). I reserve the right to change my mind come Wednesday. Who guards Kyle Singler?
8:30 CT - #21 Florida State @ #15 Ohio State (ESPN2). This should be a nice game. Having at least one big man will help OSU slow Solomon Alabi, and the home court pushes the Buckeyes over the top.

ACC 6, Big Ten 5 ... miss it by *that* much.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bucks Break

Eying the return of Michael Redd from injury, I have witnessed both rookie sensation Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks as a whole hit a mini-skid (coinciding with higher quality opponents). Jennings is hitting 29% of his shots since Redd reappeared and the Bucks are 0-4 in that span.

Could it be that the team is having trouble integrating Redd back into the flow in the aftermath of BJ's ascension as the team's top dog? Or maybe Andrew Bogut is actually a very valuable piece of the puzzle after all.

Fortunately, if the season ended today, Milwaukee would still be good enough to earn a 6-seed in this year's NBA Playoffs thanks to the ghastly Eastern Conference. Until they clinch an actual spot, I suppose I will keep flipping by the games on TV only to be disappointed by the sight of Luke Ridnour playing instead of Jennings. I have had little luck in catching Jennings play this year.

Despite a good start to the season that has increased their chances of advancing to the playoffs, the Bucks are still far from a favorite, odds-wise. When browsing a sports book online betting site, I see that Milwaukee (+15,000) is still behind 20 or so teams when it comes to odds of winning an NBA title this year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Maui Invitational: Game 2

Gonzaga coasted to victory over a slower Wisconsin team Tuesday night to advance to the Maui Invitational championship game. The Bulldogs proved they were an underrated team, one which will probably be ranked for much of the year.

Even though the Badgers avoided the foul trouble that plagued them the night before, they still got beat up on the inside. And not just by big man Robert Sacre. No, it was Gonzaga's penetration that manhandled Wisconsin. None of Wisconsin's guards could stay in front of Steven Gray or Demetri Goodson. In fact, the Zags' three starting guards combined for 42 points with only one 3-pointer among them. [box score]

Overall, way too much scrambling on defense throughout the contest. And more subpar shooting. Wisconsin shot under 40% for the second straight night and is hitting threes at a dreadful 24% clip (18-of-74!) through four games. The Zags made 33% more free throws (21) than the Badgers attempted (14). The unlikely trend gains momentum ...

The game commentators hit it right on the head when they were discussing how Wisconsin's offense comes within the confines of the system because the team lacks playmakers besides Trevon Hughes and perhaps Jon Leuer. Guys like Tim Jarmusz and Jason Bohannon can only take what the defense gives them. When the opponent gives nothing, those players give the Badgers nothing.

Even last night's stars had bad games. Hughes failed to get to the free throw line and had zero assists in 30 minutes. Keaton Nankivil had a tough night from the floor, including another missed dunk that may have brought down the house. My conclusion is that he must have small hands; I'm not sure how else he keeps clanking these.

The stats will show that Leuer shot under 50% from the field, but watching the first 35 minutes of play, you would have thought he hit everything. Leuer, who scored 18 points, found a real rhythm inside, especially with the short baseline jumpers. I would not mind if he stopped shooting treys altogether.

Early on, you could see bits and pieces of Hughes' style in Jordan Taylor's moves to the hoop. He continued to build on some those successfully drives and wound up with a career high 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Pretty impressive and encouraging considering how much the team will need him to fill that role next season.

Tomorrow's title game matchup between Robert Sacre and Cincinnati's Yancy Gates should be fun to watch. Wisconsin will play Maryland in the 3rd place game at 3:30 pm CT. Three quality opponents to start the season in my opinion. By the way, SI.com's Luke Winn wrote a good article about the recent evolution of the preseason tournament scene and how it has been influenced by the Worldwide Leader.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Maui Invitational: Game 1

Wisconsin's 65-61 opening round victory over Arizona in the Maui Invitational was hard to watch, but watching Keaton Nankivil finish made it worthwhile.

Nankivil was looking plenty aggressive with a couple of dunk attempts gone awry in the second half. But he converted with authority when it counted -- the final two minutes. Even though I'd have traded the aggressiveness of the missed dunks for four points in a heartbeat, those plays set the stage for his strong finish, when Wisconsin absolutely had to have a big man on the attack. The junior is averaging 10 points and 7 boards through three games.

It was great to see the senior point guard seal the deal in the end also. Trevon Hughes seized the moment with his fourth steal -- off a missed free throw -- to regain possession with four seconds left and ensure victory. He paced the Badgers with 24 points and overcame some shaky free throw shooting and questionable shot attempts to make another big play. Even more encouraging was the chemistry he seemed to have with Nankivil in this whistle-fest that is now typical of the tropical early season tourneys. [box score]

On the very same day that a report about biased officiating hit the media, 55 fouls were called in this game. After one half, Wisconsin would probably agree with the researchers findings that referees call more fouls against the team that is leading. Fortunately the calls evened out in the second half. (Amazingly, the Wildcats lost three players to fouls in the end while only Jon Leuer fouled out for the Badgers.)

Last, but not least, freshman Mike Bruesewitz made a huge impact in covering for the decimated front court. Wisconsin had the best player on the court in Hughes, but the toughness that Bruesewitz brought to the table was the second-best thing to happen to the Badgers. He tore up the boards (6), tipped rebounds to others, took two charges and got on the floor for loose balls. I love the way he sets screens. In general, he just got you excited that he's playing this year.

My favorite play of the game was when Hughes picked up a deflected ball, accelerated to get in front of his man and then handed the ball off to Bruiser for a two-handed jam. It was a very smart move by Hughes to get the youngster an easy bucket to reward his hustle and get him involved on both ends of the floor after his rough debut back in Madison last Wednesday.

The second best play of the night for me was when Hughes found himself in a mismatch guarding Arizona's post player, yet stole the entry pass with a clean deflection.

Wisconsin came out with a lot of energy, opening a 13-0 lead, while Arizona lacked direction. But after building the lead UW lost its focus. The Wildcats got back into the game when the Badgers started running too much and taking quick shots. Arizona frosh Derrick Williams owned the paint for the majority of the game, putting both Leuer, Nankivil and even Ryan Evans into foul trouble from the start. His parade to the charity stripe led to a game-high 25 points.

The dark side of this win is that last season's reversal of free throw fortunes continues. Arizona nearly made as many freebies (26) as Wisconsin attempted (29). Even these numbers are skewed because Arizona had to foul in the final minute.

Outside shooting is another concern. Wisconsin needs a third shooter since Nankivil's 3-point shooting has come down to earth this season. Neither Tim Jarmusz nor Jordan Taylor look capable yet. Inside, Jared Berggren still looked out of place. Uncomfortable. Plus, he missed a box out that lead to one of the Wildcats' few first half buckets. Although, with all the bricks being thrown up, Wisconsin really did a great job of rebounding in the first 20 minutes, considering their true bigs were both on the bench.

Wisconsin faces Gonzaga tomorrow night in round two of the tournament.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grizzlies Come Calling In Early Test

Wisconsin Hosts Another Summit League Foe

As a part of ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon that concluded Tuesday night, No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Michigan State both survived challenges by unranked non-BCS heavyweights Memphis and Gonzaga. Prior to that, UCLA lost to Cal-State Fullerton to begin the event.

The takeaway is that the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies will be a good early season test for the Wisconsin Badgers at a time when anything is possible.

Oakland returns five starters this year, including one from 2007-08 who took a medical redshirt last season. The Grizzlies beat Oregon and UW-Green Bay on the road a year ago, but in general struggled away from their home court where they were undefeated.

Local fans anticipate a Big Eight reunion between UW's Keaton Nankivil (Madison Memorial) and Grizzlies forward Will Hudson (Middleton) in the renewal of a match up in which Nankivil usually excelled in high school. Hudson set an Oakland school record for field goal percentage (68.2%) as a sophomore.

The Grizzlies have some strength inside, but I like the inside-outside-midrange games of Nankivil, Jon Leuer and Jared Berggren in this game. If the Badgers can make the extra pass, Jason Bohannon could find himself some open looks from deep.

Once again, the only way to see the game is by paying the Big Ten Network a $2.99 fee. Bah humbug.

Big Ten: Land of Triple-Doubles?
The Big Ten has suffered some serious blows to its supremacy this year, chiefly the complete collapse over in Iowa City and Northwestern losing Kevin Coble to injury for the entire season. On the bright side, two Big Ten players -- Michigan's Manny Harris and Ohio State's Evan Turner -- have posted triple-doubles already. I can see both players duplicating that feat at some point, but who else has a shot at this feat?

At Wisconsin, the official x-factor, Ryan Evans, appears to be the closest thing to a stat-stuffer we have. The Badgers traditionally do not block a lot of shots, nor do they get credited with many assists.

In my mind, that leaves these potential candidates in the following order:
  • JuJuan Johnson, Purdue (he almost had one last season)
  • Robbie Hummel, Purdue
  • Ralph Sampson III, Minnesota
  • Demetri McCamey, Illinois
  • Damian Johnson, Minnesota
  • Dallas Lauderdale, Ohio State
  • Verdell Jones, Indiana
: : :

In a refreshing bit of recruiting news, Wisconsin appears to be full-speed ahead going after guards in the 2011 class. The word on the street is that Bo Ryan has offered Traevon Jackson, son of ex-OSU star Jim Jackson. It is the second offer reported this week, after George Marshall's offer over the weekend. While this means Wisconsin has probably seen the writing on the wall with Chasson Randle, there are plenty of talented youngsters in this class that can help the program.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prospect Profile: Traevon Jackson

Traevon Jackson, SG
6'2" :: 205 lbs.
Class of 2011
Westerville (OH) South HS
AAU: West Virginia Wildcats / All-Ohio Red

::: CONTENT UPDATED JUNE 21 :::
Rankings
Scout: 3 Stars * * * (SG) Previous: 1 Star
Rivals: NR (PG)
ESPN/Scouts, Inc. grade: 87 (#77 > #79 SG) Previous: 88 (#54 SG)


Honors
2010 Second Team All-State (Div. 1, AP)
2010 First Team All-Metro (Columbus Dispatch)
2010 First Team All-Central District (Div. 1)
2010 Ohio Capital Conference Player of the Year (Cardinal Division)


Recent Press
6/21: Westerville South's Jackson bound for Wisconsin - ColumbusLocalNews.com
4/6: All-Ohio Red gets it done in Wisconsin - JJHuddle.com
2/13: Like dad, the son shines - Madison.com
1/30: Westerville South holds off Jerome - Columbus Dispatch
1/23: Jackson stars for Westerville South - Columbus Dispatch
1/6: Wildcats' guards come up big - Columbus Dispatch
12/9: Westerville South's Jackson packs the stat line - JJHuddle.com


The Verbal
Jim Jackson's son among two commitments for Badgers - WiSJ (6/12/10)
UW basketball receives two oral commitments - JSOnline (6/12/10)


The Hype
Who are the state's top players by position? - JJHuddle.com (6/9/10)
Action Jackson leads Westerville South over North - High Major Scoop (1/6/10)
Son Of Ohio Legend Making His Own Mark - RedHawk Insider (8/27/09)
The Real Jacko! - High Major Scoop (8/14/09)
South shares the load - Columbus Dispatch (1/24/09)
South poised to improve on last year - This Week (12/3/08)
He's Jackson's boy, all right - Columbus Dispatch (1/29/08)


Audio/Video
Highlights: Traevon Jackson (2009-10) - Future Gems
Highlights: Traevon Jackson Higlights - Westerville South - Class of 2011 (2/19/10) - YouTube
Game: Westerville South 71, Westerville North 55 (2/11/10) - YouTube
Interview: Jackson Discusses Play-by-Play Classic Win and Recruitment (1/24/10) - YouTube


Stats
2009-10: Area Leaders - Columbus Dispatch (updated 2/9)

Additional Info
2009-10 Schedule :: Columbus Dispatch

Photos

Monday, November 16, 2009

Prospect Profile: George Marshall

George Marshall Jr., PG
5'11" :: 175 lbs.
Class of 2011
Chicago (IL) Brooks College Prep
AAU: Mac Irvin Fire / Illinois Warriors

::: RANKINGS UPDATED JULY 5 :::
Rankings
Scout: 3 Stars * * * (#22 PG)
Rivals: 3 Stars * * * (#26 PG/#130 overall) Previous: #24 > #25/#112 > #27/#130
ESPN/Scouts, Inc. grade: 91 (#35 > #34 > #31 > #33 PG)


Honors
2010 Honorable Mention All-City (Sun-Times)
2010 Honorable Mention All-Area (Sun-Times)
2009 All-City Team (CPLBCA)


Recent Press
2010 ChicagoHoops.com Spring Tip-Off Classic - ChicagoHoops.com (3/29/10)
Arizona, Wake Forest Interested in George Marshall - MidState Hoops (1/15/10)
Marshall Adds a Big 10 Scholarship Offer from Wisconsin to his Collection - ChicagoHoops.com (11/16/09)
Chicago Brooks Star Enjoys a Strong Unofficial Visit to Wisconsin - ChicagoHoops.com (10/20/09)
No NU offer ... yet - PurpleReign.com (7/15/09)


The Verbal
Chicago point guard commits to Badgers - Madison.com (1/19/10)
Bo Ryan, Howard Moore and the UW Strike Again in Chicago - ChicagoHoops.com (1/19/10)


The Hype
George Marshall Among Best Student-Athletes - MidState Hoops (6/16/09)
Grades & Game - 773 Hoops (4/24/09)
Marshall plan: Soph leads Brooks rally - Chicago Sun-Times (3/13/09)
Super sophs carry Brooks - Chicago Sun-Times (12/26/08)
Are these young Eagles ready to soar? - Chicago Sun-Times (6/28/08)
Brooks rolls past Harlan - Chicago Sun-Times (1/22/08)
George Marshall Journal #1 - IllinoisHSbasketball.com (1/6/08)


Audio/Video
Interview: A Young Man Chi-Town Can Be Proud Of - YouTube (2/1/10)

Stats
None

Additional Info
2009-10 Schedule :: Chicago Sun-Times

Photos

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

National Signing Day

Welcome Evan Anderson, Josh Gasser and last-minute commitment Duje Dukan to the Wisconsin family officially as all three signed their national Letters of Intent today. Dukan verballed to Bo Ryan on Tuesday to give the Class of 2010 one ballhandler, one shooter and one big man. The class is not wowing the media, but a classic and balanced group of Badgers.

While in past seasons Wisconsin has been ahead of the curve in recruiting, the team only has one 2011 verbal commitment at this time, with many more scholarship spots to fill. In addition to this year's high school juniors, the staff will be hitting the pavement hard in the 2012 class as well, going after guys like Peoria's Bobo Drummond.

And, oh yeah, Wisconsin spanked UW-Superior in their final exhibition tune-up on Wednesday, 80-47, behind the near triple-double of Trevon Hughes. [box score] I don't put much stock in these exhibition games. Since I didn't follow the game I cannot comment on it, but the regular season is now just a few days away.

I was not able to catch the game since I am in New York all week, but I was able to watch ex-Badger Marcus Landry for the first time as an NBA player. It was also my first trip to the basketball mecca that is Madison Square Garden. The New York Knicks found another way to give a game away. Landry saw action in the final minute or so, and thankfully avoided entry into Club Trillion. He played just enough to commit one foul, corral one rebound and hoist one jumper. It was a good time -- $10 tickets and plenty of room to maneuver courtside after halftime.

On a final NBA note, Milwaukee rookie Brandon Jennings continues to remove all doubt that he will be a star in this league, scoring 32 points in a win over Denver. Most of the internet is abuzz over this early candidate for Rookie of the Year [video], though not all agree. Jennings he may end up being a shoot-first point guard, but so what? He is actually bringing *gasp* excitement back into the Bucks equation. I would buy a ticket to a "Jennings game" any day over a "Michael Redd game."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

So It Begins

A new season is finally underway, as the 2009-10 Wisconsin Badgers step into "real" action for the first time against Bemidji State, a name which hockey fans are already familiar with. In fact, I am listening to the game right now. Wisconsin premiered out a full-court press early in the first half and Ryan Evans is having a personal block party from the sound of it.

The biggest storyline heading into the game was whether fans would pay the $2.99 to watch the game on BigTenNetwork.com or just listen to the radio like me. For what it's worth, when you cannot do either, you can always count on the in-game blog at UWBadgers.com.

Duje Dukan, the 6'8" sharpshooter who received Bo Ryan's latest scholarship offer, is supposed to be in attendance tonight. Who knows, maybe Wisconsin will have another verbal commitment by the morning. With future backcourt depth still in flux, the latest 2010 scholarship offer was a curious one. Dukan would be a great weapon to have, but definitely is not the combo guard that many are looking for.

Another option for guard depth next year could be dismissed freshman walk-on Jeremy Glover. According to the Wisconsin State Journal today, Glover could potentially return to the team as a "practice-only" player if he wins his recent appeal.

Big Ten media day archive
In case you missed it, here's a collection of links from last Thursday's Big Ten Media Day in Chicago. There are no new coaches in the league this year. That stability can go a long way in determining how well the conference measures up to all the preseason hype.

Preseason Favorites and All-Big Ten First Team (BigTen.org)

Interviews
Coaches, via Big Ten Network:
Bo Ryan
Tom Izzo
Bruce Weber
Matt Painter
Thad Matta
John Beilein
Bill Carmody
Ed Dechellis
Todd Lickliter
Tom Crean (n/a)
Tubby Smith (not in attendance after recent death of his father)

Complete Coaches Transcript (BigTen.org)
Badger Interviews (Sports Bubbler)

UWBadgers.com
Here's the quote that got everone giddy from this News & Notes piece:

"One of things Coach Ryan mentioned to the Big Ten Network that might surprise people is that he's excited to see Hughes and Jordan Taylor get out in transition a little. While I wouldn't expect the Badgers to run-and-gun, the team might have the athleticism this year to push the tempo a bit. The team actually played with a 25-second shot clock when they were playing pick-up ball over the summer. The idea being to look for a shot quicker and remove the tendency to walk the ball up the floor."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Prospect Profile: Duje Dukan

Duje Dukan, SF
6'8" :: 195 lbs.
Class of 2010
Deerfield (IL) HS [team site]
AAU: Full Package / Chicago Elite

::: RANKINGS UPDATED MAY 4 :::
Rankings
Scout: 3 Stars * * * (#32 SF) Previous: 1 Star (SG)
Rivals: NR > 3 Stars * * * (SF)
ESPN/Scouts, Inc. grade: 89 (#42 SF)


Honors
2010 Second Team All-State (Class 4A, IBCA)
2010 Second Team All-State (Tribune)
2010 All-Area (Sun-Times)
2009 Hardwood Classic MVP


Recent Press
4/7: Future looks bright for Deerfield basketball star Dukan - CSL Insider
3/11: Dukan ranks high in regional final - Chicago Sun-Times
2/22: Dukan on the rise - The Capital Times
2/14: Dukan, Deerfield extend win streak to 18 games - Chicago Tribune
12/22: Duje Dukan helps Deerfield erase deficit in win over Vernon Hills - Chicago Tribune
11/23: Sons of gunners Dukan, Kukoc are next generation - Chicago Tribune
11/17: Wisconsin figures to be good fit for Dukan - Chicago Sun-Times
11/4: Recruit to attend exhibition game tonight - Madison.com
10/31: Red-hot Deerfield Star Adds a Scholarship Offer from Wisconsin to His Collection - ChicagoHoops.com
10/23: Duje Dukan Receives Pac 10 Scholarship Offer - Illinois Prep Bullseye
9/26: Duje Dukan Interview - The Lobo Lair


The Verbal
Dukan hopes to continue blooming with Badgers - Madison.com (11/10/09)

The Hype
Deerfield's Dukan should be a Mr. Basketball contender - Chicago Tribune (2/15/10)
Late bloomer could complete Sendek's 2010 class - azcentral.com (10/30/09)
Finally! Dukan gets first high-major offer - City/Suburban Hoops Report (10/23/09)
Top marksman talks RedHawks - RedHawk Insider (9/2/09)
Deerfield's Dukan continues to leave his mark - Deerfield Review (2/12/09)
McGee has solid effort in tourney finale - Deerfield Review (1/3/08)
Duje, Big Ham and the Kings - City/Suburban Hoops Report (7/16/09)


Audio/Video
Interview: Duje Dukan and Ryan Davis - Deerfield Highlights (2/26/10) - YouTube
News Feature: Prep Star of the Week: Duje Dukan (2/16/10) - Fox Chicago News
Highlights: Duje Dukan (Deerfield) Highlights (11/21/09) - YouTube
Interview: Daniel Poneman Chats with Duje Dukan About Arizona State Offer (10/28/09) - YouTube
Interview: Daniel Poneman Chats with Duje Dukan at Full Package Exposure League (9/14/09) - YouTube


Stats
Junior: 2008-09 (Deerfield) - RedHawk Insider

Additional Info
2009-10 Schedule :: Chicago Sun-Times :: CSL Insider

Photos

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trevon's Team

In Bo Ryan's first eight seasons at Wisconsin he never had the same full-time starting point guard three years in a row. Now, in his ninth season as head coach, he has senior Trevon Hughes.

Remember that even though Devin Harris started as a freshman, Travon Davis was the starting point guard in Bo's first season. So Hughes, the kid from Queens, has bragging rights among Badgers in the Ryan era.

The 2009-10 Badgers have some good things going for them and Hughes is chief among those. But this year's team also has the burden of answering a lot of questions about it's own identity and whether last year's struggles were just bumps in the road or an indication of things to come.

When Hughes burst onto the scene as a sophomore, some fans saw him destined for the NBA; as his career unfolded, others blamed him for everything that went wrong for the Badgers. Hughes probably has been one of the more polarizing talents in recent memory.

Here what we know: Hughes will finish his career in Wisconsin's Top 10 all-time in steals and assists. He has been honorable mention All-Big Ten the last two seasons. Last season he posted career highs in minutes, 3-pt FG and FT percentage, assists, points and rebounds per game. His assist-to-turnover ratio has improved significantly.

In his second year as a starter, Hughes developed the knack for the big play, as his game-winning shots in the final seconds beat both Virginia Tech and Florida State last year. His teammates call him Pop, but you can call him the "ACC Killer." (Duke even brought in it's next point guard a year early to prepare for Hughes).

There is room for improvement, no question. Hughes must improve his shooting from the dreadful 34.4% mark (32% on threes) he posted in Big Ten play last season. He needs to be more vigilant in probing the defense, especially when the team looks to him to create as the shot clock winds down. Too often in the past two seasons, we have watched Hughes milk the clock before firing a bad 3-pointer. Those shots kill his shooting percentages and do not tax the opposing defense. Wisconsin will also need Hughes to play his best defense consistently.

Maybe most importantly, the coaches are expecting more leadership out of their senior guards. Hughes has learned how to be a leader from both Joe Krabbenhoft and Alando Tucker. He said he is up to the challenge.

"That's part of being the point guard; it comes with the territory," Hughes said on Media Day. "Joe was more outspoken and I like to lead by example. The team always looks to the point guard so I have to be on top of my game each and every day. I need to be more vocal."

On the court, Hughes led his team last year by pacing the Badgers in scoring 11 times. Only 13 times was a player other than Hughes or Marcus Landry (10x) the leading scorer. With Landry gone, you know teammates will be expecting Pop to lead the way again.

Bo Ryan runs the show off the court, but between the lines the proverbial buck stops with Hughes. It's his team and his time.

: : :

To see more of Hughes' career accomplishments, check out these resources:
Wisconsin Basketball 2009-10 Prospectus [pdf]
Wisconsin Men's Basketball Record Book [pdf]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Red & White Scrimmage

Without the hoopla of a midnight madness event, this year's public Red & White Scrimmage was a relaxing, albeit brief, first look at the team.
The running clock made for a quick, low-scoring affair that the White squad won, 45-36. I was surprised because it seems like the more talented team usually loses. The White, in this case, consisted of Hughes, Bohannon, Nankivil, Gavinski, Evans, Bruesewitz and Smith, which seemed like a better bet than the Red's collection of Leuer, Jarmusz, Taylor, Wilson, Markolf, Berggren, Valentyn and Fahey.

General thoughts: Treys were dropping for both sides to start the game. It was encouraging until everyone started gunning and the percentage plummeted. A few bad passes were scattered throughout as well. I only counted a small handful of fastbreaks in the whole game. Defenders seemed to be switching on ball screens more often than usual, rather than trying to fight through the pick.

Since the only players I had not seen before were freshmen Bruesewitz and walk-on Dan Fahey, I did not watch anyone in particular. A few players -- Nankivil, Evans, Wilson, Berggren -- stood out anyway.

Seniors:
Trevon Hughes :: #3
Hughes had a couple assists and a couple turnovers, but looked totally in control as you might expect. What I really liked watching from Hughes was how he was crashing the boards. Pop swished a half-court shot on his first try to quickly end a post-game fan contest.

Jason Bohannon :: #12
Tried to get his midrange game going, with some success. Scored a quiet 10 points.

Juniors:
Keaton Nankivil :: #52
Nankivil performed well again this year and hopefully that confidence will carry over into the regular season. The Madison Memorial grad led all scorers with 13 points (5-of-8 FGs), including two 3-pointers. He got the White out to a good start early on, used his quickness to blow past Markolf for a reverse and did not hesitate to pop his jumper. Cleaned the glass decently; also noticed how low he made his center of gravity when guarding Leuer.

Jon Leuer :: #30
The big guy looks to be in great shape, but always seems to struggle in this showcase. This time, it was a 2-for-11 shooting performance. I think he should make his baseline turnaround jumper from 10 feet his go-to move. He did have a nifty pass to Fahey amongst the trees that resulted in a layup.

Tim Jarmusz :: #24
You know the story here: solid competitor, can stroke it from deep when he decides to shoot. Except this year he avoided dumb passes and the 3-pointer he nailed was right in Bruiser face with a quick release. I liked it.

J.P. Gavinski :: 44
Still just along for the ride. Got more minutes than Markolf, but showed me even less than last year.

Wquinton Smith :: #2
Another guy who looks more comfortable out there, but didn't do anything besides hit one 3-pointer.

Brett Valentyn :: #15
Only player who did not score. Showed some bounce on a warm-up dunk though!

Sophomores:
Jordan Taylor :: #11
I was a little disappointed in Taylor. His shot was off and he picked up a number of fouls, continuing last year's trend. Taylor was outplayed by the senior guards, thus the game's outcome.

Rob Wilson :: #33
Wilson's aggressiveness stood out in the game. I remember after making a 3-pointer, he then took Smith to the block and totally abused him for an easy lay in. His added weight will help him finish and absorb contact. True, he missed a lot of shots too, but he is what he is.

Ian Markolf :: #50
Markolf really does seem to be a decent athlete for such a giant. He showed real effort on his defensive positioning. I still hold out hope that he logs some meaningful minutes before he's done in Madison.

Freshmen:
Jared Berggren :: #40
Berggren was impressive in a couple ways. First, he knows how to put the ball in the hoop. He can score with a variety of moves in the paint. Secondly, we got confirmation that his footwork should be solid enough on the blocks to play defense for Bo Ryan. He was active in fronting the post. Needs work on going after rebounds from what I recall.

Ryan Evans :: #5
We learned the more about Evans than any other player, since he played so little in last year's scrimmage. Evans forced his way into the limelight with two second half dunks that were the high point of the night. The first was an alley oop from Hughes. A few seconds later, the second came a run out break where a bad outlet pass forced him to the far wing, allowing Leuer to catch up. No problem -- Evans flushed it over Jon's head with authority. Beyond that, he has the same nose for the ball that you see in Jarmusz, which resulted in a number of rebounds. His handle is still waaaay too sloppy, which might keep him from getting many minutes. Evans showed the potential to disrupt passing lanes and start a break off a turnover. Still, he forced too much offensively. His other highlight was making up for a moment of laziness in transition by hustling back on defense to block a Jarmusz jumper.

Mike Bruesewitz :: #31
Bruiser did not stand out too much, but then, I don't think that will ever be his role. He is a very smart player, twice using a reverse layup to keep bigger defenders at bay near the rim. Bruesewitz also blocked a fastbreak lay up by Wilson, though it might have been goaltending. But that play was a compliment to his hustle. He looked comfortable on the floor with everyone, willing to mix it up as we've all heard.

Dan Fahey :: #10
Slipped behind the defense to convert a great pass into a layup, but Fahey hardly played in the scrimmage.

Per Wisconsin's agreement with adidas, the team will wear updated uniforms this year. The baggier look is a net gain, in my opinion, mostly because of the sharp-looking dual piping down the side of both jersey and shorts. I was not a fan of the adidas stripes and motion W in the neck area, however, and I dislike the return of red (or white) patches on top of the shoulders.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Update: Pro Badgers Around the Globe

Since everyone has been keeping an eye on Marcus Landry's attempt to stick on an NBA roster, it seemed like a pretty good time to review which ex-Badgers are still playing professionally:

Marcus Landry
- After finishing up the preseason schedule, Landry will find out Monday if he will be staying with the New York Knicks. The Knicks currently have 13 players with guaranteed contracts and Landry is up against two other players with partially guaranteed contracts -- Joe Crawford and Chris Hunter -- for the final roster spot. Keep your fingers crossed. [edit: He made it!]

Greg Stiemsma
- Stiemsma played in South Korea, Turkey and the D-League last year and has been in Sioux Falls, SD, and the Madison area this month. According to reader Stephen Chung, however, Stiemsma was the #2 overall pick in the Korean Professional Basketball League's international player draft this summer. If you have a Korean character set installed on your 'puter and speak Korean, here's an article!

Brian Butch
- Butch landed in Athens, Greece and got off to a decent start the other day. His coach with the Ilysiakos club has instructed him to only shoot 3-pointers! You can follow the Polar Bear's adjustment to Greek living on his Jump Around blog for the Big Ten Network.

Michael Flowers
- Flowers is ballin' in Holland with Matrixx Magix Nijmegen. He's teammates with the Great White Flight, Henry Bekkering. Brother Jonte is doing well in France's top league. [stats]

Alando Tucker
- Tucker is struggling to find his stroke and playing time in the preseason. [stats]

Kam Taylor
- Kam is killin' it in France with STB Le Havre, which I believe is in the top French league also. After three games, Taylor is one of the league's scoring leaders. [stats]

Mike Wilkinson
- Wilkinson is back in Turkey after a year in Russia.

Devin Harris
- Harris is injured (strained groin) ... again. But you can buy a personal appearance -- and Nets tickets -- for $25,000!

Kirk Penney
- In case you had not heard, Penney was the Australian National Basketball League MVP last season. He is playing with the New Zealand Breakers again this season.

Michael Finley
- Meanwhile, Finley scored 20 points the other night to lead San Antonio to victory. His game has aged quite nicely.

Others
- Jason Chappell (Austria), Ray Nixon (France), Zach Morley (Spain), Rashard Griffith (Romania)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On the Stove Top: Media Day Edition

Edited 10/22 to include Media Day videos & additional content
Wednesday was Media Day, so folks got to ask Bo some questions after his first few practices of the season. We know what to expect Bo to give the media at this point: nothing specific. He said that practices have been very competitive though.

Two small things stood out after seeing video of the session. First, Bo was asked if he has been able to identify this early who the defensive stoppers might be on this year's team. He talked about Jordan Taylor and Tim Jarmusz specifically. No mention of Rob Wilson, which was slightly disappointing to me. Secondly, Bo said that the staff pointed out to both Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil that those players were not exactly where the team needed them to be physically last year. It seems the two guys have responded. The coach noted how Nankivil in particular "blew up" the Hill this off-season. Leuer says he has bulked up [video] to 228 lbs. (up from 190 as a freshman):

"I've put on about 15 pounds. Playing in the Big Ten, it's a physical league and there are a lot of guys that are bigger and stronger than you are, so you have to deal with that. If you haven't worked to get stronger, you're going to get pushed around. That was a major emphasis for us this offseason--getting stronger in our legs and core so we couldn't get bumped around, especially in the post."
Some early season previews have the Badgers falling well out of the Top 25 this season, but often still as a tournament team:
: : :

UWBadgers.com has profiled the team's two redshirt freshmen, Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren, leading up to the new season. Nothing hard-hitting, but it's still twice as much as you've heard from either of them so far.

The Sports Bubbler also posted video interviews with all the non-seniors from Media Day and I picked out a few in addition to Leuer's that were interesting. Berggren was named the player to watch by most of his teammates. To see the whole video series, visit SportsBubbler.com.

: : :

Illinois Wolves director Mike Mullins spoke with Talking Illini yesterday and they discussed the Diamond Taylor situation for about three minutes or so [audio: start at 38-min mark]. The comments from Mullins reinforced that Taylor's dismissal was handed down from above Bo Ryan and the Athletic Department. The interview covers Chasson Randle also, whom Mullins says is no longer accepting scholarship offers, so his decision is creeping closer. Wisconsin is not expected to be a finalist for Randle's services at this point.

: : :

Speaking of the Class of 2011, a few of the high school juniors who have drawn interest from Bucky decided to verbal to other teams today. Luckily, nothing heartbreaking, but Villanova and Penn State will both be getting nice players.

Removed the following prospects from the recruiting sidebar:
: : : Class of 2011
SG Achraf Yacoubou, New York [s] [+] [+] {Villanova}
PG Trey Burke, Columbus OH {Penn State}

Do you like the NCAA tournament's new 8-team "first-round" format?

What should Wisconsin do with the newly vacated scholarship?

Poll: Who will win the Big Ten?

Poll: Who was Wisconsin's first-half MVP (thru 16 games)?

Poll: How Many Regular Season games will wisconsin win in 2009-10?