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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.

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