Friday, January 12, 2007

Desperate to find fault

Much has been made of a blog post by FOX college basketball writer Jeff Goodman, and rightfully so. He entitles his post "Badgers still aren't elite" and then proceeds to inform us that he's "taking nothing away from Bo Ryan's club."

Goodman says that the Badgers beat Ohio State because they are older and more experienced, and they were at home. One gets the impression that Mr. Goodman looked at the ESPN Bottom Line, saw that the Badgers only won by three, and fired off this post. Says he:

Has Alando Tucker's supporting cast improved all that much? Brian Butch is still inconsistent. Michael Flowers is still a good role guy. Sure, they added a couple of solid freshman guards in Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes, but is it enough to warrant a No. 4 ranking?
Well, if you buy into the notion that OSU is the #5 team in the nation, and the Badgers beat them, then the answer appears to be yes.

He then goes on to make this specious argument:
The bottom line is that Wisconsin will probably be the same team in six weeks when the two teams square off again while Ohio State will likely make major strides because of their youth and the fact that Greg Oden will be 100 percent by then.

Thad Matta will have fully integrated Oden into the offense by the time the Big Ten's top teams meet again - on Feb. 25 in Columbus.
At this point, if you're not thinking, "Are you KIDDING me?" then your name must be Jeff Goodman. Let me get this straight: the Buckeyes, led my Thad Matta, are capable of improving as the season goes on. The Badgers are not.

I respect Greg Oden's game, and I think he will be a difference maker, but teams will still be able to shut him down. The Buckeyes' MO is obvious; if you can't heave up a triple, get it inside to Oden. They give up a lot of the court that other teams (like the Badgers) use successfully in order to take high risk, high payoff shots. Get Oden into foul trouble (which -- some people are already grumbling -- is tough to do. I don't buy into the notion that NCAA refs are told to "protect" stars, but if it happens in the NBA, it's formally a possibility at the collegiate level too) and you take away half of the Buckeyes' game. Guard the perimeter effectively and you shut down the rest. This is something the Badgers did successfully for over 35 minutes on Tuesday, but if all you're looking at is the final score (coughcough Jeff Goodman coughcough) you don't really see that.

Bottom line is that before the Badgers intentionally softened their defensive scheme at the end of the game, they absolutely shut down Ohio State. If one of the three-pointers that the Buckeyes put up in the final minute hadn't gone in, or if a couple more of the four free throws the Badgers bricked in the same time period had been successfully converted instead, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. But some people only saw the forty-second ESPN highlight that showed that final OSU triple clunking off the back of the rim, and valorous defenders of the Badgers are forced to defend their team's performance when it was obvious to all viewers that for greater than 95% of the game the Badgers were firmly in control.

As further evidence, I point you to Big Ten Wonk, whose credentials meet or exceed any "real" columnist's as far as college hoops are concerned.