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Monday, March 9, 2009

Brackets and Award Winners Set in Stone

Wisconsin secures a fourth-place finish, thanks to tiebreakers
Playing Indiana was a fitting conclusion to the regular season, akin to Wisconsin going out and buying a snazzy new suit before the Big Dance. The Badgers looked great.

Wisconsin posted a season-best 140.5 offensive efficiency rating against Indiana, which is great since the Badgers allowed the Hoosiers to shoot 54% from the field. For once, the scrubs even extended an already sizable lead. Eleven different Badgers scored, including senior walk-on and secret blog favorite Morris Cain. Kevin Gullikson also played one of his best games ever. [box score]

Joe Krabbenhoft finished up his Kohl Center strongly, with a career-high 19 points and nine boards. Thanks for being a rebounding machine for the past four years Joe! Fellow senior Marcus Landry suffered four turnovers, but grabbed seven rebounds of his owned and tied a career high with six assists. Trevon Hughes added five steals.

But the snazzy suit UW dressed up in on Sunday didn't cover up all the pimples. A pair of freshman guards from Indiana (Verdell Jones and Nick Williams) torched the Badgers for 43 points on 13-of-19 shooting. Driving the lane and getting off good shots was just too easy a task for those two. I guess we should expect that sort of thing from UW at this point, but I was a little surprised how easily Jones burned Pop at times.

More importantly, though, the win wrapped up a "bye" into the Big Ten Tournament's semifinal round, thanks to Iowa's weekend upset of Penn State (which, oddly enough, also put an end to the craziest of the final week's conference standing scenarios). Wisconsin will play as the #4 seed versus Ohio State on Friday at 1:30 p.m. CDT. If they win, the Badgers would play either Michigan State (1), Minnesota (8) or Northwestern (9).

Minnesota has tortured this particular fan enough for one season and I want nothing to do with the Gophers as a potential Saturday foe. Assuming Wisconsin is a lock to make the tournament, a chance to upset the Spartans and improve its tourney seeding would be a great opportunity, especially since the Badgers gave one away earlier in the year to Tom Izzo & Co.

All-Big Ten picks revealed
Izzo was named Coach of the Year by the coaches as the Big Ten Network unveiled the conference's postseason awards. I thought Penn State's Ed DeChellis deserved the award and apparently the media agreed.

Beyond the coaches, the all-conference selections appeared fairly on point. I thought Krabbenhoft could have gotten a third-team nod, but Marcus Landry was the only Badger to be named to the all-conference second (coaches) or third (media) teams. I agree that Landry was the most consistent of the four Badger leaders.

Krabby and Hughes managed honorable mention nods from the media, but Joe was conspicuously absent from the same list by the coaches.

It was a foregone conclusion that the Wisconsin+Bo Ryan streak of consecutive first-team All-Big Ten selections was going to end after such an up-and-down season. In my opinion, it will be tough for Wisconsin to start another streak like this seeing as all five of the first-teamers were sophomores. In all, nine of the 15 players named all-conference were in only their second season of Big Ten play. Sure Hughes or Leuer could blow up next year, but it will take some major improvement. All in all, this is a huge positive for the conference though.

Michigan State cleaned up the awards, with Kalin Lucas winning a well-deserved Big Ten Player of the Year trophy. However, if I had a vote, I would have given Damian Johnson the defensive player of the year award over MSU's Travis Walton. Remarkably, Johnson was in the top 30 nationally in both steal % and block %.

: : :

- Binghamton's top player gets blackballed by America East coaches in all-conference voting. Yet the coaches and athletic directors protested Coach Kevin Broadus' recruiting methods by naming him Coach of the Year?
- St. Mary's -- even with Patrick Mills back -- lost big to Gonzaga. But thanks to some heads-up scheduling, the Gaels get one last tune-up before the NCAAs.
- If you missed it, enjoy Wisconsin's video Senior Salute to this year's four-man graduating class.
- Mild Racine-Oregon connections lead to mild upset in the Jamil Wilson sweepstakes.

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