Monday, January 29, 2007

Basketball presides over two demolitions

The last couple of wins have been a nice change for the basketball team. The wins against Michigan and at Iowa came much more easily than those that made up the early stretch of Big Ten play, and it was nice to see what this team is capable of even while on cruise control.

The Michigan game looked ugly early, when the Badgers spotted the Wolverines nine points and kept putting up bricks. But then they got their heads together and went on a tear, closing out the half with 33 points to Michigan's 17, and finishing the game with appearances from 5'11" former walk-on and manager Tyler Bronson and walk-on Morris Cain, whose only other Big Ten action came in the trouncing on Minnesota. The game was only as close as it was (13 points) because Tommy Amaker kept some of Michigan's starters in while the Badgers' rarely-utilized bench players (see, I didn't call them scrubs!) got some playing time. Take away those nine early points for Michigan and you can see what a slaughter this game actually was. How a school like Michigan has maintained this protracted period of futility is beyond me. (Not beyond the Wonk, though.) I couldn't believe that the guys they put on the floor were juniors and seniors. It's clear that Amaker has no idea how to go about developing players; they played a sloppier game than almost any other I've seen all season. And on Saturday, they got killed by Indiana, although that was more a function of the Hoosiers draining something like 20 3-pointers. But still.

And the Iowa game ... well, after the Badgers went on a 14-0 tear in the first half, the lead never got smaller than four points. They went on the road and got a home-game performance out of the trip, which was highlighted by UW-Platteville naming their court after Bo Ryan. Alando Tucker had a brilliant game, scoring 27. Good enough for Big Ten Player of the Week honors. Brian Butch is really starting to emerge as a spark for the Badgers; his 13 points and 14 rebounds provided the difference in this game, and his hustle after a ball that sent him into the Hawkeye bench and three-point shooting should be mandatory viewing for every big man who thinks his job is to sit under the basket and make easy dunks.

So, 21-1. Better than even the legendary season of 1915-6. 17 straight wins. #2 in both polls.

But we're only halfway through the Big Ten campaign. Save the "what-ifs" for late February.