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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Head Coaching Candidate Greg Gard

With Tod Kowalczyk's departure to Toledo, Wisconsin assistant Greg Gard has become a prominent name in discussions regarding UW-Green Bay's coaching search. And reportedly Bo Ryan felt the need to vouch for Gard's candidacy personally by placing a call to Green Bay's A.D. Ken Bothof.

In the summer of 2008 when Gard earned a promotion to associate head coach, a common assumption was that Bo was taking another step to groom his successor at Wisconsin. Since then, Gard received props from Bo on national television for his prep work that enabled the Badgers to smash Michigan State to pieces at the Kohl Center. By giving Bothof a good recommendation on Gard's behalf, Bo is making no secret that he wants his right-hand man to get a shot at running his own program.

Bo's campaigning makes sense either way you look at it. Even if Bo thought Gard would make a good head coach at Wisconsin, one look at Gard's résumé would show you he's never faced that task before. Perhaps learning from the Bennett-Soderberg-Ryan transition made it clear that a successful head coaching gig would be a must if Gard ever wanted to lead the Badgers some day. If Gard were offered the Green Bay job and accepted -- even after turning down Toledo two years ago -- I suspect this reasoning would be at least part of his motivation. It makes no sense to leave it to chance that some committee or some individual might hold this lack of experience against him down the road.

Losing Gard would be a hit to the program for sure. In addition to doing at least half of the opponent scouting for the Badgers, Gard handles the scheduling and is arguably the program's top recruiter. Gard was the lead recruiter for most of the "Minnesota Badgers" in addition to bringing Rob Wilson, Keaton Nankivil and now Josh Gasser aboard. So, yeah, basically Gard led the charge in building the team's current nucleus.

As far as current recruits, Gard is working with Traevon Jackson for 2011. He has also been alongside Bo watching J.P. Tokoto.

Money will not drive Gard to UW-Green Bay, that's for sure. Above all, Gard is looking for the right fit -- with the whole athletic department and community in question. As I hypothesized over a year ago, Gard is at home in this state and it would not surprise me if he felt the shoe fits this time around. Gard would make a great head coach in my humble opinion, so I am eager to see if UW-Green Bay gives him that chance.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Where Are They Now: 2009-10

After pulling a mild upset when he was named Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball last week, Catholic Memorial senior T.J. Bray added another player of the year award to his list of accolades Tuesday when the AP announced its 2009-10 All-State teams.

Bray, who will play ball for Princeton next year, is just another example of Wisconsin's high school talent spreading across the college landscape. Every year I like to look back at how those who have left the state to play NCAA Division 1 basketball performed on the court.

Jump to: [2008-09] :: [2007-08 Pt. 1] [2007-08 Pt. 2]

This year the exercise might be more relevant than ever, as a few players from the Badger State have landed in the national spotlight at tournament time. Exhibit A is Korie Lucious, who calmly buried the game-winning 3-pointer that sent ailing Michigan State into the Sweet 16 last Sunday. The Spartans next opponent, Northern Iowa, just so happens to include Exhibits B and C. Ashwaubenon's own Koch brothers have each played a significant role in the Panthers' ascension to Cinderella media darling after toppling No. 1 Kansas.

: : : Seniors
Some persevering and accomplished seniors are finishing up their careers this year. Another, Mitchell Carter, sat out the year after transferring back home to UW-Milwaukee from South Carolina.

30+ min/g:
Andy Polka, F, Loyola (Horizon) [stats]
Polka was nothing short of a warrior on the glass. He averaged about 9 rebs/g this season and finished in Loyola's top ten all-time with 765 rebounds despite missing 20 games as junior with an ankle injury. Though Loyola (14-16, 5-13) struggled as a team, Polka enjoyed perhaps his finest season individually. The former state champ from Oshkosh West solidified the now-established Wisconsin-to-Loyola pipeline.

20+ min/g:
Jerry Smith, G, Louisville (Big East) [stats]
Many have wondered whether Smith would have developed better as a Badger, but he still was a part of 102 wins at Louisville. Smith's numbers were remarkably similar as a senior as his freshman year statistics. Unfortunately, his calling card (3-point shooting) fell off this season (28%) in a down year for the Cardinals (20-13, 11-7).

Adam Koch, F, Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley) [stats]
The eldest Koch on the UNI roster has improved his three-point (35%) and free throw (84%) shooting this season, but overall has sacrificed personal glory for team success. Yet, he was still the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. This former first team all-stater had several higher scoring games earlier in the season, but was actually blanked when Northern Iowa (30-4, 15-3) clinched The Valley tourney title.

10+ min/g:
Steve Gruber, G, Brown (Ivy) [stats]
A Whitefish Bay native, Gruber toughed it out in previous years and was rewarded with increased minutes for Brown (11-20, 5-9). He scored a career-high 14 points in a three-point loss at St. John's in November, then met or surpassed that total twice more by February.

Under 10 min/g:
Devron Bostick, G, Minnesota (Big 10) [stats]
Bostick was coming on of late, but never really found his niche in his two years at Minnesota. He started off the year with a suspension for violating team rules, but averaged nearly 15 minutes and almost 6 ppg in the final six games as Minnesota (21-14, 9-9) snuck into the NCAA tourney.

: : : Juniors
Bo Ryan and the Badgers grabbed two state players from this weaker class (2007) that has gotten even smaller as certain guys have redshirted.

30+ min/g:
Diante Garrett, G, Iowa St. (Big XII) [stats]
Garrett logged a lot of minutes again for Iowa State (15-17, 4-12) this year and took a big step forward in a couple areas statistically. He notched a career-best 164 assists as a junior, upping his assist-to-turnover ratio to 2:1. His shooting percentage went up noticeably since he worked on his long-stance shooting (up to 35% from 22% last season). If you remember him from Milwaukee Vincent, you know there aren't too many guys quicker than Garrett.

20+ min/g:
Will Hudson, F, Oakland (Summit) [stats]
The Golden Grizzlies (26-9, 17-1) blitzed through the Summit League and took a step up into the NCAA Tournament this year. Hudson remained steady with 6 pts and 5 rebs per game. This power forward from Middleton, played a season-high 28 minutes in his homecoming loss to Wisconsin on Nov. 18.

Under 10 min/g:
Matt Dorlack, C, Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley) [stats]
Dorlack hails from New Berlin and appeared in 27 of 31 games for the improved Panthers (19-12, 11-7).

: : : Sophomores
Kwamain Mitchell remains the star of the Class of 2008, but some familiar names are showing signs of life. A number of players are seizing the opportunities in front of them as sophomores.

30+ min/g:
Kwamain Mitchell, G, St. Louis (Atlantic 10) [stats]
The Billikens (23-11, 11-5) just missed the NCAA Tournament in Mitchell's second season, but he came out firing with 17 first-half points against Princeton to lead his team to the finals of the College Basketball Invitational. Building on his postseason success from last season, Mitchell's statline was impressive in 2009-10: 16.3 pts, 3 rebs and 3 assts, not to mention respectable 3-point shooting. Coach Rick Majerus' leading scorer failed to reach double-digits in only five games, dominating Missouri-Kansas City with 33 points on Dec. 22.

20+ min/g:
Korie Lucious, G, Michigan St. (Big Ten) [stats]
Lucious came to the Spartans from Milwaukee Pius XI, made a trip to the championship last season and is now forced into the driver's seat of another Sweet 16 team with the injury to Kalin Lucas. His 3-pointer to beat Maryland was priceless, though on average, he's still a streaky shooter. If Lucious does not improve, he could find himself being a four-year backup. While his minutes more than doubled, so too did his assist totals -- but he hasn't totaled five dimes since Michigan State (26-8, 14-4) lost in Madison.

James Haarsma, F, Evansville (Missouri Valley) [stats]
As expected, Haarsma had to shoulder a much larger burden for the Purple Aces this season after the team graduated it's three top scorers. Unfortunately, lowly Evansville (9-21, 3-15) suffered through a 14-game losing streak, snapped only when Haarsma went for 18 pts and 7 rebs against Wichita State. He followed that up with 12 and 8 in an upset of Northern Iowa a few games later. Haarsma was the Valley's fourth-leading rebounder this season, including four double-doubles. Key an eye on this one ...

Scott Christopherson, G, Iowa State (Big XII) [stats]
After sitting out his transfer year, I would consider Christopherson's season quite a success. Like the Cyclones, Christopherson started strong with five straight double-digit scoring games. Unlike Iowa State, however, this Mr. Basketball (shared award with Keaton Nankivil three years ago) finished well too, averaging 12.5 pts, 2 treys and over 1 steals per game over the final six contests. The former LaCrosse Aquinas star has lived up to his billing as a sharpshooter in Amesso far and seized the starting role in January.

10+ min/g:
Andrew Zimmerman, F, Stanford (Pac-10) [stats]
The pride of Oostburg played over 17 min/g after transferring in to a pretty poor Stanford team (14-18, 7-11) this year. Zimmerman was a reliable rebounding presence until a stress fracture caused him to miss six games in the middle of the Pac-10 slate.

Under 10 min/g:
John Benkoske, C, Loyola (Horizon) [stats]
With the return of Polka, Benkoske struggled to find playing time this season. His most important role to Loyola might be keeping its Wisconsin connections thriving, which landed Flavien Davis for next year.

Conor Smith, F, Richmond (Atlantic 10) [stats]
Other than a close loss to Xavier, the excellent Spiders (26-9, 13-3) didn't put Smith in the game unless it was a giant blow out.

Jake Gollon, F, Mercer (Atlantic Sun) [stats]
The Stevens Point native did indeed take a redshirt last season and appeared in nine games this year for the Bears (16-17, 10-10).

*2008 Mr. Basketball DeMarcus Phillips signed with Iowa State in November and was named Honorable Mention All-Region XI this season at Marshalltown Community College. He will have two years of eligibility remaining in the fall.

: : : Freshmen
This large, heralded class had a great buzz last year, headlined by some star power that drew national recruiting attention. So far it's been a bear market for the biggest names, but a nice start for the three Jakes.

30+ min/g:
Jake Barnett, G, Toledo (MAC) [stats]
Toledo is in a world of hurt. After being tarnished in a gambling probe last year, the basketball team suffered through it's worst season ever, leading to the head coach's resignation this month. The bright ray of hope is Barnett, a 6'5" graduate of Devin Harris' alma mater (Wauwatosa East). After spending a year at prep school, Barnett led the Rockets in scoring, minutes and FT% this past season, earning him a spot on the MAC All-Freshman Team.

Jake Thomas, G, South Dakota (Great West) [stats]
Jake Thomas was accustomed to winning at St. Catherine's HS back in Racine and those winning ways have carried over so far at South Dakota, which won the Great West Conference with an 11-1 record (22-10 overall). Thomas averaged 13.3 ppg on an incredible 44% shooting from 3-point land as a freshman. He was named an honorable mention all-conference selection in addition to earning a spot on the All-Newcomer team. Thomas already holds the single-game school record for 3-pointers (9).

10+ min/g:
Jamil Wilson, F, Oregon (Pac-10) [stats]
One of the more hyped recruits ever out of Wisconsin, Wilson failed to make a splash as a Pac-10 rookie. He played significant minutes for a young squad until the end of the year, when he failed to make an appearance in six of the last nine games, mostly due to a tweaked ankle. Wilson's season highs were 12 pts, 7 rebs and 4 assts. Oregon also fired head coach Ernie Kent recently, so there is speculation that Wilson might get "home sick."

Ben Averkamp, F, Loyola (Horizon) [stats]
Averkamp used his length at 6'8" to record 1.5 blocks-per-game in his freshmen campaign, good for second among all Horizon League players. Pretty impressive for a guy playing less than 20 mins per contest. He almost logged a double-double before Christmas, posting 17 pts and 9 rebs in a Loyola (14-16, 5-13) win.

Jeronne Maymon, F, Marquette (Big East) Tennessee (SEC) [stats]
The sorted saga of this Madison Memorial grad took the most bizarre turn yet after a loss to Wisconsin, when Maymon's dad announced that his son would be leaving Marquette immediately. Maymon (or his dad, rather) was apparently sick of Maymon playing out of position in the post. J-May was averaging a respectable 4 rebs in about 16 min/g, but did pick up quite a few fouls.

Jake Koch, F, Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley) [stats]
Jake is the at least as big (6'9", 255) as his older brother after taking a freshman redshirt. Adam's younger brother is a threat from deep (40.5%) too. Jake exploded for 22 pts and 10 rebs in a rare February loss to Evansville, and more recently, helped beat Kansas with 7-of-8 clutch free throws.

Nate Zastrow, G, North Dakota State (Summit) [stats]
Manitowoc Lincoln's Zastrow played a key role off the bench for the Bison as a true freshman. He showed a nice glimpse of things to come in a two-game, 58-min. stretch last month when he hit 7-of-13 treys for 36 points. What's more is he only committed one turnover and got to the charity stripe.

Under 10 min/g:
Johnnie Lacy, G, Providence (Big East) [stats]
Lacy was not the happiest camper this season. I wouldn't have been happy shooting that percentage either. Lacy's playing dwindled in the latter portion of the year with the senior starting PG and fellow freshman guard Vincent Council playing minutes ahead of him. Better luck next year to this Milwaukee Bay View product, via Notre Dame Prep.

Tyler Brown, F, C. Michigan (MAC) UW-Green Bay (Horizon) [stats]
Brown tore his ACL and MCL in January and then left Central Michigan to enroll at UW-Green Bay. Evan Anderson's former teammate at Eau Claire North averaged started against Alcorn State and averaged almost 10 min/g in his 11 appearances before the injury.

Jimmy Sherburne, G, Princeton (Ivy) [stats]
Bray future teammate hails from Whitefish Bay and scored one basket in six appearances.

Dan Stockdale, F, North Dakota (Great West) [stats]
An under-the-radar player from Sheboygan North remained under the radar.

*The rail-thin Antwon Oliver, a Racine Horlick grad, played it smart and took a redshirt.
**Andrew Windler, a forward/center at Samford from South Milwaukee, appears to be redshirting also.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cornell vs. Wisconsin Shot Charts

I have a lot of thoughts about Wisconsin exiting the NCAA Tournament in the second round again, but any arguments that could be made about why the Badgers lost can be summarized pretty easily. And anyone who watched both Cornell and Wisconsin play in the first round probably are not surprised at all.

For the second straight game, Wisconsin's perimeter defense was exposed, as was UW's help defense rotations. The Badger guards could not stay in front of the Big Red guards and the interior help D -- particularly by Keaton Nankivil -- was not quick enough to get in good position to cut off the penetration.

One result was early foul trouble for Nankivil, the player whose presence on the court is most indicative of the team's success. Even watching it happen, I was shocked to find out that Nankivil only managed five minutes of playing time. [box score]

Extended bench time for Nankivil effectively killed Wisconsin's chances on the boards. Cornell out-rebounded the Badgers, 27-20, and grabbed nearly 38% of its misses on offense, a figure well above Wisconsin's nation-leading average (26%).

The other by-product of the lax defense was an express lane to the hoop for Cornell. Nothing better illustrates this than a contrast between the two teams' shot charts.* Notice all the activity in the lane for Cornell versus the lack of attempts, let alone points, in the paint for Wisconsin:

Cornell - 61% (33-of-54)
Wisconsin - 49% (24-of-49)
It is no surprise that Wisconsin paid dearly all 10 times it turned the ball over, with the Big Red hitting jump shots from all angles. Trevon Hughes suffered through a really bad performance (6 TOs) in his final game.

The biggest dagger was when Pop went coast-to-coast with a nice move in the lane to get an open lay-up only to miss the bunny. What should have been a 25-23 game with six minutes left before halftime was suddenly a seven-point contest when the deadly Ryan Wittman made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer on the resulting Cornell possession. It was all downhill from there ...

*Shot charts courtesy of CBS Sports, though the accuracy of their charts has occasionally been less than 100%.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Down To The Wire With Wofford

In Friday's opening round action, #4 seed Wisconsin survived the 13th-seeded Terriers rather than tame them.

The Badgers set themselves up for a tight finish in the first half, failing to pull away from Wofford when the Terriers went over nine minutes without a field goal. An eight-point halftime lead evaporated in a hurry when Wofford went unconscious to start the second half to lead 38-37. Give the Terriers credit: they were confident and hit some tough shots. But they didn't have to face UW's A-game by any stretch.

Wisconsin's perimeter defense was lackadaisical pretty much all game. The Wisconsin guards appeared slow of foot, allowing Wofford to get into the lane at will. This opened up a bevy of pull-up jumpers in the paint. Even when they didn't go in, defensive rotations allowed the Terriers to pick up tons of easy second-chance hoops around the basket. Maybe the Badgers were looking ahead to the kind of defense they want to extend to Cornell's 3-point shooters?? Okay, maybe not ...

Jon Leuer (20 pts, 8 rebs) was the star of the day, as he was impossible for Wofford to stop defensively. It was almost criminal that Wisconsin didn't force feed Leuer in the post during the stretch run. Instead UW tried to hang him out high running a fruitless pick-and-roll routine.

Luckily Leuer kept his touch in tact. After hitting the go-ahead jumper with 20 seconds remaining, Leuer also came up with the defensive play of the game by moving his feet against the smaller Cameron Rundles and forcing a ball handling mistake out-of-bounds. He also hit two clutch free throws in a game where neither team seemed to want the freebies. [box score]

It was refreshing to see Trevon Hughes get out to a hot start in this one, which allowed UW to overcome Jason Bohannon's goose egg. Thankfully Hughes also avoided going into full-on "Bad Pop" mode and was able to find Leuer for the winning shot rather than force up a ridiculous shot.

Hughes finished with 19 points, many of them on early drives to the hoop. Amazingly, the Badgers attempted only nine 3-pointers, their lowest total of the entire season.

Bohannon really seems like an all-or-nothing guy. I liked running a specific play for him coming out of halftime. You could tell by that play that Bo knew he needed a third scorer to get things going from the outside to make life easier. I wish they had made more of an effort to get him the ball earlier.

As for J-Bo's defense, what does it say about Bo's respect for Rob Wilson's defense to not put him in at all? I cannot wait until Bo is forced to play Wilson next year. He should have gotten at least a brief audition yesterday and it's hard to believe it's the end of the season and Wilson hasn't earned Bo's confidence yet.

Oh, and props to Jordan Taylor for hustling to poke the ball out of Jamar Diggs's control from behind to a waiting Hughes, whose ensuing lay in gave UW a 49-48 lead. For that, Taylor, you earned bragging rights.

: : :

In high school hoops, the Madison Memorial Spartans will go for back-to-back Division 1 state championships tomorrow night after blowing away Appleton East, 68-48. Their opponent will be 7'1" Boise State recruit Ben Mills and his Arrowhead cronies. Arrowhead narrowly survived a comeback bid by Milwaukee Marquette by hitting a banked 3-pointer in the final seconds. Marquette had upset powerhouse Milwaukee Hamilton the night before. That's March Madness folks.

Mills has looked pretty mobile at the state tournament and might be the best prep big man in Wisconsin. Of course, it's easy for him to move fluidly when he weighs, what, about 190 pounds?! Regardless of his build, he's scored 42 points in two games and has one more to play.

In Division 3 -- you guessed it -- Racine St. Catherine's is back to face another private school in the title game. Meanwhile, Randolph looks capable of moving to 29-0 and taking home yet another gold ball, led by UW-Milwaukee recruit Kyle Kelm.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tournaments Launch Today

Getting work done gets a little harder starting today when both the NCAA and WIAA state high school tournaments get underway.

The small high schools kick things off early with the Division 4 semifinals. I saw a video clip on the news the other night about Royall's first trip to state. Unfortunately those kids face perennial powerhouse Randolph. From the glimpse I got, let's just say if high school games had point spreads, they couldn't set this one high enough.

The Division 1 quarterfinals follow. Though it lacks the overall star power of some previous seasons, there are good story lines even though there are no Wisconsin recruits among the eight teams. The state's second-leading scorer leads undefeated Antigo (24-0) against Dave Mader's nephew Sam of Appleton East. Madison Memorial (21-4) and Milwaukee Hamilton (20-3), with their respective sets of collegiate prospects, appear to be on a title game collision course and face over-matched squads in the quarters. Hartland Arrowhead topped J.P. Tokoto's Menomonee Falls team and takes on local underdog Verona.

I'd pick Hamilton, starting five talented juniors and led by former Vincent coach Tom Diener, if I were a betting man ...

: : :

With all five Big Ten teams playing on Friday, I am looking forward to the (5)Butler-(12)UTEP game tonight. If these two teams weren't matched up together, I might have made both of them my sleeper picks in my bracket. The 6-11 tilt between Marquette and Washington ought to be good as well.

The pendulum has swung back in Wisconsin's favor at some outlets, becoming a somewhat trendy pick to knock off top-seeded Kentucky out East. Statistically, the Badgers have the best chance of surviving to the Final 4 out of that region, according to Ken Pomeroy (via John Gasaway). That's pretty lofty expectations for a team that has beaten only one NCAA tournament team in the last two months. It is a sign of hard-earned respect nonetheless.

: : :

Following in the foot steps of Marcus Landry's burgeoning family, the most clichéd human interest story for Wisconsin's 2009-10 basketball team undoubtedly became Trevon Hughes' path from troubled Queens teen to a Wisconsin military school. Here's the latest piece (from the New York Daily News) to add to the collection.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Tale Of Two Cities

Heading into the NCAA Tournament, the memory of Wisconsin's last performance still has me shaking my head.

Sure, we knew Illinois was capable of giving UW fits after the Illini pick-and-rolled the Badgers to death in February. Wisconsin appeared to have its groove back, however, when Jon Leuer and Co. overcame foul trouble to stomp Illinois on its home court, 72-57. The seeds of a letdown were there though. Foul trouble. The senior guards shooting 5-of-18. Mediocre free throw shooting.

Then, 120 miles east of Champaign, Wisconsin delivered a colossal stinker of a performance in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals where they shot less than 29% as a team. [box score]

The most puzzling thing to me about the loss is enigmatic performances of Mike Tisdale. Doesn't Wisconsin watch film on this guy? If Tisdale got to face the Badgers every game, he'd be a first team All-American. Tisdale even hit both 3-pointers he tried -- on his third and fourth attempts of the season!

The Riverton, Ill. native posted monster games against Northwestern and Indiana, but in the last nine games he's had his third, fourth and sixth-highest scoring games of the year against Wisconsin. And it's the shooting efficiency (74%) against UW that is the most impressive:

2/9MadisonW 63-5637811330119311
3/7ChampaignL 72-572946880016412
3/12IndyW 58-5435810352221814

Tisdale fouled out with 10 points in the following game as Illinois fell in double OT to Ohio State.

So are there any sweet-shooting 7-footers on the Wofford squad? Hardly. The Terriers' tallest rotation player, Corey Godzinski, is listed at 6'9" and averages 3.7 pts and 1.9 rebs in 13 min/g. Temple has a couple big men in the starting lineup and Cornell has a very good 7-footer in Jeff Foote.

After Trevon Hughes missed his first 11 shots last Friday and Jason Bohannon finished 1-of-10, I hope their propensity for bricks successfully transferred to E'Twaun Moore. Moore shot 1-of-14 from the field as a struggling Purdue team got railroaded by Minnesota on the same day in the same building. Both teams hope that kind of shooting is behind them.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wisconsin Takes No. 4 Seed Out East

After failing to validate its dark horse status in the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin still fared relatively well I thought on Selection Sunday. The Badgers will be the No. 4 seed in the East region, drawing tournament rookies Wofford in the first round.

Wisconsin plays at 1:50 p.m. CT this Friday in Jacksonville, Fla.

A first-round loss would be embarrassing and shocking, so look past Wofford temporarily. Neither Temple nor Cornell scares me as a possible second-round opponent for Bo Ryan's posse.

Top-seeded Kentucky? That's a different story. DeMarcus Cousins is a load for any team, let along a foul-prone and shallow UW front court. And after Cousins you have Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton. Not to mention All-Everything frosh John Wall has a gear none of these Badgers have.

The Big Ten received five bids this year, down two from last season's seven. Conference-wise, that total ranks behind the Big East (8), Big XII (7) and ACC (6).

Need help filling out your bracket? Don't say ESPN never tried to help ya ...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Senior Night Reflections

Click here to watch this year's senior class tribute.It was a great night at the Kohl Center for Badger fans as Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon relished their final performance in front of the home crowd.

The duo scored 12 of UW's first 14 points and set the tone for one final creampuff blowout against the undermanned Iowa Hawkeyes. From there, the rejuvenated Jon Leuer had his way, scoring 10 points in a row on dunks and treys to put Wisconsin up 26-10. The lead ballooned to 20 by halftime and got as large as 30. [box score]

Action got a tad sloppy as the players smelled the blood in the water and tried to make their own highlight reel play. Pop took some wild shots that ended up distorting his FG%, but you cannot blame a guy for trying to impress his momma in the stands, who was seeing her son play live in Madison for the first time as a Badger believe it or not.

Leuer, who finished with 18 points, might have stolen the show and even got to exit the game with the two seniors. In general, the Badger big men did whatever they wanted -- Leuer and Nankivil combined to shoot 11-of-13 from the field. With such a large lead, 15 different Badgers saw aciton.

But in the end, the focus was rightly on the seniors. Hughes finished with 15 pts, 4 rebs, 4 assts, 3 steals and 2 blocks with just 2 TOs. Bohannon finished with 11 pts, a career-high 9 rebs, 3 assts and only 1 TO.

Both seniors continued to move up the career list for 3-pointers. Hughes is finally knocking on the doorstep of the UW's top ten in career assists as well. He had a few beauties that resulted in huge dunks for his big men, which had recruits in attendance like Marshall Plumlee cracking ear-to-ear smiles. Pop also passed a few legendary Badgers on his way to tying Michael Flowers for third on the all-time steals ladder.

Player - Career Steals (Season Total)
1. Mike Kelley - 275
2. Tracy Webster - 183
3. Trevon Hughes - 171 (49)
3. Michael Flowers - 171
5. Mike Wilkinson - 169
6. Michael Finley - 168

Player - Career Free Throws (Season Total)
7. Devin Harris - 362
8. Sean Mason - 332
9. Trevon Hughes - 319 (92)
10. Dick Cable - 316

Player - Career Free Throw Attempts (Season Total)
7. Joe Franklin - 476
8. Paul Morrow - 449
9. Trevon Hughes - 443 (129)
9. James Johnson - 429

Player - Career 3-Point Field Goals (Season Total)
1. Tim Locum - 227
2. Kirk Penney - 217
3. Michael Finley - 213
4. Jason Bohannon - 208 (64)
5. Trent Jackson - 193
6. Devin Harris - 187
7. Trevon Hughes - 167 (66)
7. Tracy Webster - 167

Player - Career 3-Point Attempts (Season Total)
1. Michael Finley - 631
2. Kirk Penney - 561
3. Jason Bohannon - 539 (155)
4. Devin Harris - 499
5. Tim Locum - 481
6. Sean Mason - 471
7. Trevon Hughes - 465 (165)
8. Kammron Taylor - 430
8. Trent Jackson - 430

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Senior Night

Wisconsin seniors Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes have a chance to finish the season with the most career wins of any Badgers. It will take four more victories and the task continues tonight against Iowa on Senior Night.

It is ironic that they face the Hawkeyes in their final home game since Bohannon is practically the prodigal son of Iowa basketball and Iowa was the other school on Hughes' final list as well. The butterfly effect would tell us that the quality of Iowa basketball could be substantially different today if Iowa had signed this pair.

Steve Alford and Iowa were fresh off a second-place Big Ten finish and a tournament title that year. The Hawkeyes signed a 5-man class, two being JUCOs, but only one was a guard. Needless to say, Iowa would have loved to have Pop or J-Bo or both. Could that have kept Alford from getting canned? Perhaps not. But the Todd Lickliter era would have been completely different and Wisconsin would have been worse off, especially last season.

The reality is the the power has shifted toward Madison -- Bo Ryan and his senior guards are a big reason why.

Hughes has always been one of my favorite Badgers, despite his flaws and I've enjoyed watching him grow as a leader on this team. Bohannon, on the other hand, has earned a ton of respect just this year and is currently playing the best basketball of anyone on the team. J-Bo will never light the room with a great interview like Hughes might, but both players have come up big in the clutch in their final season together.

A win would assure Wisconsin the #4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, now that Illinois has dropped to 10-7 in conference. The Buckeyes wrapped up a share of the title Tuesday in its final league contest, officially killing UW's title hopes.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Badgers' Plus/Minus And Efficiency

Earlier in the season I highlighted some plus/minus statistics for a couple of Wisconsin's Big Ten games. The data was not too useful on an per-game basis as I mentioned, but now that the season is winding down, there is a lot more data to work with.

A big thanks for this goes out to NuclearBdgr from the Buckyville forum for sharing his tempo-free individual player stats with me. He saved me a ton of time attempting to calculate the +/- and efficiency numbers you will see below. I applied the same "(On court - Off court) = Net" concept I used in January to this new gold mine of data. The results will live permanently on this site's Statistics page and will be updated regularly.

Because the available statistics include individual players' points-per-possession (PPP), I can calculate not only Net +/- but also use the efficiency margin for each player when playing vs. sitting to present a player's tempo-free Net Efficiency.

What I found is that Keaton Nankivil had the "best" numbers on the team across the board in Big Ten play. Wisconsin scores more efficiently when he is on the court by a fair margin. The Badgers are at their best defensively when Nankivil plays too:

During the 209 minutes Nankivil has been on the bench, Big Ten opponents have outscored Wisconsin by 14 points. Breaking it down by offensive and defensive efficiency, you can see why:

Then, when you subtract the data from when Nankivil is off the floor from the data from when he's playing, a crazy high Net +/- Per 40 Mins and easily the best Net Efficiency Margin on the entire team:

Now, I am not going to conclude that Nankivil is the best player on the team, though I will argue that he is pretty darn valuable because of what he represents. Nankivil is a rare commodity for Bo Ryan this season: a skilled, experienced big man ... one who is much more productive than any possible replacement from the bench. For this reason, these numbers are much more kind to Nankivil than to a guard like Jason Bohannon, who plays nearly every minute of every game (so his +/- levels out) and has two other capable guards running the show when he does catch his breath.

Big men need more rest and when Nankivil sits, the Badgers are going small, often bringing in a freshman substitute. Nankivil gathers the highest percentage of offensive rebounds, shoots over 60% from inside the arc and can stretch the defense out to 3-point range. A pretty valuable guy, even if he is a shade under 10 pts, 5 rebs per game.

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