Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Midweek update

Dead air kills ... here are a few juicy links:

Brian Butch is out 4 to 6 weeks. A quick recovery, then, gets him into some Final Four matchups. A slow recovery might have him ready for the national title game, or could keep him out of the season completely. What a rough break, not for the Badgers, but for him. You work so hard to be part of a high-achieving team ... and then this. I feel for you, Brian. I really do.

The hockey team got swept at Michigan Tech. All that buildup from a couple weekends ago is gone now. Hopefully they can close out the regular season in graceful fashion this weekend when they visit Minnesota-Duluth.

Big Ten Wonk thinks that Ohio State is overachieving. Their raw talent does indeed make them a prime candidate to be that 1-seed or 2-seed that doesn't make the Sweet 16.

The Sports Frog watched the OSU game and (surprise!) takes issue with something Billy Packer said!

The Wisconsin Sports Bar, with no trace of sour grapes, ranks the reasons why the Badgers lost to the Buckeyes:

1. Luck

2. They were on the road.

3. {An injury}

4. Home court officiating, again. Had the Badgers enjoyed their normal foul-shooting advantage they would have won.

5. Stupidity. How did they not get the ball at half court for the final play?

6. Bad free throw shooting. Kammron Taylor, you could have won the game.

Also, guys ... they got outplayed by one of the best teams in the nation. Just sayin'.

Michael David Smith at the AOL Fanhouse has a post all about Thad Matta's gum situation.

Nicole at Cute Sports wants you to join her March Madness Challenge.

Finally, why couldn't Drew Neitzel have caught the flu a week earlier than he did?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Losing streak

Unlike the pathetic contest with Michigan State, it's tough to sit back and instantly know what went wrong with this one.

Well, one obvious thing was having Kam Taylor at the free-throw line with a possibility to change a one-point lead in the dying seconds of the game to a three-point lead, only to have him miss the first shot of a one-and-one. The Badgers weren't doing great from the line to begin with (they didn't get there very much in the first place) but with a senior on one of the top teams in the nation, who has the sixth-best free throw percentage in the conference ... you just HAVE to make that shot.

This game was memorable for a lot of reasons. It was officiated very loosely; the referees "let 'em play," that's for sure. Greg Oden committed about twelve fouls and was actually called for three, which in my book means the game was called really fairly. (Seriously ... he didn't get away with as much as he usually did. Hell, they called him for a travel on a pivotal possession! What more can you ask for?) Then we had several replays of Brian Butch's injured elbow, a nice shot of Joe Krabbenhoft picking his contact lens off of the court and putting it in his mouth, then Thad Matta doing the same thing with a piece of gum. Jason Bohannon went off while the nation watched -- he'll ably fill the hole that Kammron Taylor leaves when he graduates.

So, the game ended with a blocked shot after a pretty finger-roll by Mike Conley, and the Badgers have now lost two in a row. It's funny; this is possibly the best team Wisconsin's ever fielded, and they're not even going to win the conference.

A Florida loss keeps some hope for a one-seed alive, and the Big Ten Tournament title is still definitely within reach. But this is a bad penultimate regular-season game result, and now the Badgers will have to go where they're going without Brian Butch's services.

So, now we sit and wait, and hopefully beat Michigan State at home. Hopefully there's some fun left for the Wisconsin Badgers this season.

(If you want to relive the game, the Capital Times has a liveblog up.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Basketball Q&A with Around the Oval

Prepare to be Buckeyed: Sean over at Around the Oval thought it might be fun to do some basketball Q&A since this weekend's game is going to be bigger than Cats. His answers to my questions appear below; my answers to his should be up at his blog in a short time. Go on over and check out his fine site. You'll get all kinds of good info and commentary from the other side of the matchup as you anxiously await this Sunday's tip!

1. Michigan State beat the Badgers on Tuesday by doing three things, all of which were related: (1) They clogged the lane and didn't allow the Badgers to penetrate; (2) they forced Wisconsin to take a season-high 28 three-point shots, many of which they missed, and several of which occurred as the shot clock was expiring; and (3) they rebounded extremely effectively on both ends of the court. Which, if any, of these sound like hallmarks of Ohio State's game?

Number three is definitely a part of the Buckeyes' game; according to the Big Ten Wonk, the Buckeyes rank second in offensive rebounding percentage and first in defensive rebounding percentage. Number one is kind of a part of OSU's game. Players can penetrate the OSU defense, but as long as Oden's in the game and standing under the basket, those guys will generally either get their shot blocked or realize going inside was a bad idea and kick the ball outside. Number two is related to the first point in that Oden's presence forces a lot of threes (in Purdue's first game against the Buckeyes, Carl Freakin' Landry was jacking up threes). However, teams have been making enough of those threes for it to be worthwhile for them. It's great to see an opponent forced to shoot threes, but when they make 40% of them? Not so much.

2. What cost the Buckeyes the game when they came to Madison? Have you seen improvement in that area since then?

I'd say it was Greg Oden playing injured and being rusty, and the lack of a second quality big man. Oden had an okay game (ten points, seven rebounds), but OSU needs better than an okay game when they play one of the top teams in the country. He wasn't as dominating as you'd (or rather I'd) like to see. Some of that was because he was playing injured, and some was because of foul trouble. He's still not the absolutely dominating player you expect, but he's playing better, and he's playing smarter, so there has been improvement there.

If memory serves, Oden picked up at least a couple of those fouls defending pick-and-rolls away from the basket. Pulling Oden away from the basket like that was a good move: he doesn't defend nearly as well when he's not in the low post, and it freed up the inside, leading to Kammron Taylor driving to the basket over and over and getting put on the line sixteen(!) times. Now, if a team tried that, OSU would probably put Othello Hunter, a 6'9" forward who's really improved over the season, on the big man that sets the screens and have Oden just stay under the basket.

But on the other hand, the Buckeyes played pretty well in Madison. They shot well from outside, they contained Alando Tucker, they spread the scoring load. OSU has looked far worse in some games since then (in particular, they haven't shot threes as well as they did in Madison). So the improvements noted above may be offset by the Buckeyes playing worse in other facets of the game.

3. What's with the close calls to Penn State? The Badgers had no problem with them, and the Buckeyes seem to be a very solid team, and (possibly most importantly) the game wasn't on TV in Wisconsin, so I'm curious.

That's a good question. In the first game, the Buckeyes blew a big first-half lead, so the consensus was that the Buckeyes just took PSU too lightly and eased up in the second half. But then the rematch happened, and Penn State was in the game for its entirety, even leading for a while. I think the Buckeyes just had trouble with the Nittany Lions' 2-3 zone, especially the shooters, who didn't shoot well enough to take advantage of the openings given by the zone. Additionally, Oden didn't get the ball enough, particularly in the second game, though I'm not sure whether that's a result of the zone or Buckeyes players choosing to ignore the 7', 280 pound guy going up against 6'5" Jamelle Cornley in the low post. Overall, I'd chalk the close games up to a lack of focus by the Buckeyes (something the Badgers probably won't be able to take advantage of) and trouble handling a zone (something the Badgers might be able to take advantage of, if they so desire).

4. Rapid fire prediction time! Give me the percent likelihood of the following: Ohio State wins the Big Ten regular season title; Ohio State wins the Big Ten tournament; Ohio State makes the Final Four; Wisconsin goes farther in the NCAA tournament than the Buckeyes.

Regular season title: 60% outright, 95% co-champs with Wisconsin (assuming that, as in football, a team can share the title with a team that beat them)

Big Ten tournament: 40% (several teams will have more to play for than the Buckeyes and might pull off an upset, then there's the possible re-rematch with the Badgers)

Final Four: 30% (16 of 40 one seeds have made the Final Four in the past ten years (40%), then a deduction because the Buckeyes could be a two seed and because they aren't a dominating team like many of those one seeds)

Wisconsin going farther: 55% (I'm still hoping the Buckeyes reach their potential and play like a great team, but the Badgers have been more consistent and more consistently impressive this season)

5. Fill in the blank: Greg Oden will play basketball in Columbus for _____ season(s).

I gotta go one season. Oden could improve his game by staying for another year (or more), and college is fun, but he has nothing to gain financially by sticking around, and he'd be risking injury or slipping down draft boards Leinart-style. As much as I'd hope otherwise, and regardless of what he says, I still expect he'll make the safe financial decision at the end of the day.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Women's hockey: in a position for huge embarrassment

I might be late to the party on this one, but I just noticed that women's hockey is hosting North Dakota this weekend for some WCHA playoff action. And guess what:

Wisconsin won the WCHA regular season crown with 50 points and a 23-1-4 record in conference play. North Dakota finished the regular season 0-27-1 in the WCHA.

Can you imagine if the Sioux were able to knock off Wisconsin this weekend? What an enormous embarrassment.

Go get 'em, Badgers!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In non-losing-to-Michigan-State-news

Two things: football offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, rumored to be headed to any number of NFL teams as a coordinator, will in fact stay in Madison next year. There's an Ash Wednesday joke about Chryst in there somewhere, but that's not up to me to find.

Also, it appears that the University has bullied a few high schools in Iowa and forced them to give up their versions of the Motion W logo. Way to protect that trademark!

Looks like the AP voters were wrong

Brent Musberger said it first, and everyone else on the planet has repeated it by now: this Sunday's matchup between Wisconsin and Ohio State will still be a #1 versus #1 affair, since the polls don't come out till Monday. But I can say with relative confidence that the team that we saw playing the Michigan State Spartans last night has a long way to go before they can be considered the top team in the country.

First, let's look at the consequences of this loss. Obviously it gave UW a second conference loss, which means that Ohio State now has sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. It most likely got the Spartans into the NCAA Tournament, which is a bad thing since they're obviously a dangerous squad and they'll have a low seed. They might cause some chaos in those March brackets. And finally, it reduced the Badgers' claim for a #1 seed in the Big Dance (although I think it would take another loss to cost them completely).

So, why did the Badgers lose last night? There were plenty of reasons, some of which were under their control and others that were not. The spark that ignited the Spartans was Drew Neitzel, who kept the Spartans in the game during the first ten minutes by scoring 13 of Michigan State's first 15 points and who nailed clutch shots throughout the second half to keep the Badgers at bay. That's one of those things you can't control; a guy is going to get a certain number of open looks every game, and if he converts on ten of the seventeen shots that he tries, you simply can't stop that.

But one hot hand is not sufficient to derail the Badgers. And the Neitzel situation was most certainly not the biggest reason for the loss. The two things that absolutely killed the Badgers was their inability to get inside due to a pesky Spartan defense, and their propensity for taking stupid shots. Down the stretch, the typical Badger possession looked something like this:

* Get the ball
* Pass it around the perimeter until the shot clock get to about 8
* Fire off an errant triple
* Watch the Spartans get the rebound because all the Badgers are busy watching from beyond the arc

Mix in a couple uncharacteristic Alando Tucker travels for variety, and voila: the perfect recipe for a road loss to a tenacious team.

The inability to penetrate combined with the frantic three-point shooting kept the Badgers off the boards and forced them into coinflip situations; either come away with three big points, or surrender the ball after one field goal attempt.

Kammron Taylor didn't make a shot all night, which didn't help matters, but Marcus Landry came up huge. It looked like he was ready to will the team to victory, but the team wasn't ready to follow. And that's too bad.

The Ohio State game was a must-win before; now it's a really really really must-win. The Big Ten regular season title WILL be won on the floor on Sunday.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

(Over)reacting to Number One

It's the classic admonishment, the finger-waving warning to those who wish to be graceful winners: "Act like you've been there before."

Well, the Badgers haven't been there before, so we get things like this:

Yes, you can go to Bucky's Locker Room, plunk down $18.99 plus tax and shipping, and celebrate the fact that a near-plurality of members of the media thought the Badgers should inherit the number one spot.

After weeks and weeks of enduring complaints of no respect, even the most stalwart complainers had to recognize that the national media are, in fact, paying attention to the Badgers. Everyone has something to say, and everyone is searching for a fresh angle; some frame the #1/#2 tandem of Wisconsin and Ohio State as a point of pride for the conference, others are playing up the takedown factor the opponents are salivating over, but ultimately the news of the #1 ranking becomes the story, and the result is full-on exuberance. In their state of freewheeling euphoria, the mainstream media has even sunk to the level of reviewing the reaction from homers on the internets.

So, excuse us for not acting like we've been here; we haven't.

Also of note: Greg Stiemsma has co-opted the hockey tradition of the playoff beard; Big Ten Wonk urges the Spartans to be wary of turning the ball over and fouling the Badgers; a messy weekend has kept the hockey team's postseason hopes alive; Alando Tucker is good at basketball, even on the road; Nick Polczinski, captain of the 1990 football team, has died at age 39; and MGoBlog takes a hilarious look at a hockey game at Lake Superior State.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Hey Badgers -- please don't look past Michigan State!

"Could we please stop with the talk about Sunday's Wisconsin at Ohio St. game until after the Badgers play at Michigan St. tomorrow night?" asks Lance Burri of the Badger Blog Alliance, echoing a thought I had as I watched the Spartans dismantle Iowa at the Breslin Center on Saturday. And one that Bo Ryan had, too, apparently:

Well, I just talked to the AP guy, with a New York accent, so I figure he’s from out East. And I told him, he asked me, when I was told by Brian what my reaction was and everything, and I told him, my kids have this number one red foam rubber thing in the house, in the closet, and it was a party favor from New Year’s Eve, those things you blow on, it rolls out. And I tore up some newspaper and threw that in the air, blew the thing, and ran around with the No. 1 sign, and then went back to my office and saw Michigan State go up 30-some on Iowa. Slowly went to the closet, put that away, put the party favor away, cleaned up the paper and went back to work. That’s what happened. So I was pretty excited until I saw the Iowa/Michigan State game, but then, of course, I told him that’s what ran through my mind.

Uh ... OK.

After MSU's lackluster performance for 80% of the game against Michigan, I wrote the Spartans off, thinking that this just wasn't the usually-competent squad's year. And then they came alive against Iowa, taking a 44-17 lead into halftime courtesy of an 18-0 run and an unbelievable 65% shooting percentage.

There are numerous reasons for taking the Spartans seriously, both current and historic. They're one of the greatest success stories of the past decade, appearing in the Final Four in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2005. Indeed, in odd-numbered years, Michigan State has had success; the odd year that's missing above is 2003, the year when the Spartans were bumped from the tournament after reaching the Elite Eight by the Texas Longhorns. Let's not forget that one of the wins the Spartans had en route to their national title in 2000 was over another Big Ten team that made the Final Four ... the Wisconsin Badgers.

This season, while they already have six conference losses, MSU is the only Big Ten team other than the Badgers and Ohio State that the Big Ten Wonk would consider as having a good offense AND good defense. With the crafty Drew Neitzel (who averages 18 points a game and is a 90% free throw shooter) and stellar freshman Raymar Morgan (who's scored in double figures in 15 of the 20 games he's participated in), this is a team to be reckoned with.

The storylines surrounding this visit to East Lansing don't bode well for the Badgers. Michigan State is a historically strong program with a proud tradition, and they'll be eager to help the Badgers shed that #1 ranking. They've got two games against UW in the next couple weeks. Since the Spartans are not assured a bid to the NCAA Tournament at this juncture, you'd better believe that those two games are looking like opportunities just waiting to be seized. Their coach, the wily Tom Izzo, has led teams into the fire before; he undoubtedly knows exactly the right words to use to motivate his current group of players. It's going to be a loud, intimidating environment for the visiting Badgers tomorrow.

Still, the Wisconsin players have given me no reason to believe that they won't go in to the Breslin Center and return to Madison victorious. Their focus has been superb; if they were able to get up and dominate Minnesota and Penn State last week, they'll be able to get up for the Spartans as well. They faced adversity on the road against Indiana, and now that they've been tested, they'll be prepared to enter hostile environs and succeed. Their big men, Goran Suton and Drew Naymick, aren't fit to carry the towel of Brian Butch, Greg Stiemsma, or Jason Chappell; indeed, I'd wager that any of our three bigs would start over Suton and Naymick. They have no answer for Alando Tucker, and if they try to clog up his lanes, Kammron Taylor will pick them apart instead. And -- maybe most importantly -- the Spartans are the most turnover-prone team in the Big Ten ... and the Badgers are the least turnover-prone. Turnovers will kill tomorrow night. Hopefully the trends of the year to date continue.

The Badgers have the superior talent, tons of momentum, and a coach who just might be ready to take over the title of the league's best. They go to East Lansing and they win. Maybe not by a lot, maybe not in beautiful fashion ... but they do.

Number One

The AP voters have tabbed the Badgers as the top team in the nation for the first time ever.

Stupendous. The Badgers can widen their margin over #2 Ohio State with a win on Sunday.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Two seasons get interesting down the stretch

The men's basketball season is getting out of hand. With their 26-point walloping of Penn State, these Badgers became the first in school history to win 26 games, they've run the all-time record at the Kohl Center under Bo Ryan to a ridiculous 90-5, and with the Gators losing, there's an outside chance that the Badgers' play this week will help them leapfrog Ohio State to get the #1 ranking in the nation. (I suspect, though, that the Buckeyes will trounce Minnesota on national TV this afternoon, and the voters will see that and give them the top spot.) Even if they don't, only the Michigan State Spartans stand in the way of an epic clash between #1 and #2 on February 25. But the Badgers did it with three-point shooting yesterday, connecting on shots that had simply not been there for them most of the season. The last thing they need to do is convince Alando Tucker that free throws are worth sinking, and this team will be ready to go.

Meanwhile, the Spartans bombed Iowa back to the Stone Age, and Michigan stole a victory from Indiana in Ann Arbor. What once looked like a clear-cut postseason picture became muddled in a couple hours' time yesterday. The team with the best conference record outside of Madison and Columbus is Indiana, whose 7-5 stands a hair above Iowa's 7-6 mark. Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue all come in at 6-6. If a couple of those teams ends the season on a tear, we might see very different teams dancing than those whose fates were declared certain a couple weeks ago.

And speaking of interesting conclusions to the season, the hockey Badgers did it again this weekend, using their last home series of the year to take 3 of 4 points from #4 St. Cloud State. Last night's 2-2 tie, coupled with other key league results, put the sixth-place Badgers two points out of a tie for fourth place in the WCHA with Colorado College and North Dakota. The Badgers close out the season with series against teams that are below them in the conference standings -- on the road against Michigan Tech and Minnesota-Duluth. However, given the fight that Minnesota-Duluth put up against North Dakota this weekend, this is very much an uphill battle, though a winnable one.

Here's to watchable endings!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Trading the Big Ten

The guys over at PROTRADE contacted me a few weeks to talk about how the market for various Big Ten teams was looking. If you're not familiar with Protrade, it's a sports stock market that is free to play. You sign up and they give you $25,000 to spend on various individual professional athletes or NCAA basketball teams. Then you get paid based on how the athletes/teams do. Here's how the payoffs break down for basketball teams:

* $3 for each Div I regular season win
* $5 for each conference tournament win
* $5 for each NIT Tournament win
* $20 for each NCAA Tournament win
* $10 for qualifying for the NCAA Tournament
* $10 for making the Final Four
* $10 for making it to the Championship game
* $10 for winning the Championship

And here are the teams and how they're trading right now:

Trading at: $218.45
Analysis: What you're paying for when you purchase shares of Wisconsin is a national title game appearance. If you think they're going to go that far, spend away. This price is going to fluctuate based on the way the Ohio State game goes on the 25th. Think the Badgers are going to win that one? BUY now (or, wait and see if they barely squeak by Penn State or Michigan State; their stock may drop and you might be able to pick them up for less.)

Trading at: $204.55
Analysis: With games at Minnesota, against Penn State, against Wisconsin, and at Michigan, the Buckeyes will finish the season 3-1 at worst or 4-0 if they knock off the Badgers. That would give them 26 regular season wins. Even with a Big Ten Tournament win and an undefeated regular season, you're still looking at losing money unless the Buckeyes make the championship game. I don't see that happening so I'd say SELL.

Trading at: $108.25
Analysis: The Hoosiers have 17 wins right now and should finish the season with 21. They'll make the tournament and get a couple Big Ten tourney wins as well. That projects to $83. After last night's loss to Purdue, their stock dropped considerably (hurting my portfolio), but if this team makes the Sweet 16 you're virtually assured a profit. IU could be one of those six-seeds that nobody wants to see, and as they've shown with the Badgers they're a threat to beat anyone, any night. I'd BUY their stock.

Trading at: $94.39
Analysis: This is a tough call to make. The Spartans have two shots to get marquee wins against Wisconsin before the end of the regular season. They only have one sure-thing win on the schedule, though, and I really feel they'll be in the NIT when all is said and done. However, they'd be a real threat to win that tournament. And if they do get to the Big Dance, they're a threat to win there too (although they won't be taking the whole thing.) I think the Spartans are currently a BUY, but maybe it would be best to wait on that till after the Badgers beat them.

Trading at: $81.68
Analysis: Probably a BUY as well. They could very well not realize a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament, and a first-round win might be the extra $5 they need to push their stock into profitability. Right now, the Illini have 18 wins, so a NCAA tourney bid and a single win would put them at $84 -- higher than where they are right now.

Trading at: $72.99
Analysis: Here's the deal: the Boilermakers have 17 wins and four games remaining. Those games are against Iowa, Northwestern, and twice against Minnesota. That smells like three wins to me. A win in the conference tournament and a NCAA Tournament bid makes them profitable. Even with the bump in price from yesterday's win over the Hoosiers, I'd say Purdue is, again, a BUY.

Trading at: $71.18
Analysis: This team is in a full-on meltdown, giving up over 80 points to Minnesota at home, and dates with Michigan State and Ohio State won't help that. They have 17 wins and are generally a good bet to win a couple NIT games, but for now I think they're very much a stock to avoid. SELL.

Trading at: $49.00
Analysis: If the Hawkeyes can find two more wins, anywhere, they'll be profitable. I can see them winning two of at MSU, Purdue, at Penn State, and Illinois and stealing a win in the Big Ten tournament as well. Hell, they might even get a couple in the NIT. I find the Hawkeyes to be a good BUY.

Trading at: $40.91
Analysis: In order to make money off the Nittany Lions, they'd have to win four more times. With away games against Wisconsin and Ohio State and three conference games after that, this is not going to happen. No chance. You'll lose money here. SELL. NOW.

Trading at: $35.47
Analysis: The 'Cats need to win twice more to be profitable. The secret is that they're playing Texas Pan-American, which has recorded losses to North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Utah Valley State. That's a win. They get one more, you profit. I just bought a few shares of Northwestern. I say BUY.

Trading at: $32.42
Analysis: Do you think the Gophers have enough left in the tank to get two more wins? Maybe they beat Michigan at home, but I doubt it. The Gophers are cooked. SELL.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Badgers 75, Gophers 62

In the beginning, the game looked like it was going to be one of those last gasp upset bids, those everything-but-the-kitchen-sink efforts that a team that's going nowhere somehow pulls out against a contender in the final weeks of the season. The Gophers were hitting triples, minimizing Wisconsin's scoring chances, and went into the locker room down only four, and, maybe more importantly for a team that had been on the wrong side of eighty-plus-point efforts in consecutive games, having only given up 28 points total.

But the Badgers came back and did what they do: hit big shots, wear you down, leave your arena with a win. Alando Tucker put up a gaudy 29 points (despite a cold run in the second half where he went 0-for-5), Kam Taylor and Michael Flowers scored in the double digits, and Jason Chappell shut down the Gophers' most potent scoring threat, Spencer Tollackson.

The Badgers were helped out by Gopher miscues, but ultimately this was a win that they created on their own. The most encouraging thing to take away from last night's game was that the things that went wrong went wrong because of the inherent inconsistencies in basketball. Some nights, you have a half in which you shoot 29%. Some nights, your star misses a couple layups. But if your team is strong enough and doesn't commit errors, you'll win. And that's what the Badgers did.

Looking at the two-point victory that the Buckeyes squeaked out over the Nittany Lions, Saturday's matchup with Penn State would appear to be more of a showdown than anticipated. With any luck the Badgers' effort on Saturday will look more like their Wednesday game, and not the Buckeyes'.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why don't you go check out the greatest website of all time?!

It's called "Around the Oval" and it's right here! A friendly Buckeye saved me hours of linking and I am tremendously grateful. I didn't even think to use Google's cache; I saw that the site was not on my computers and not backed up at and figured I had a bunch of work ahead of me.

Not so! Thank you, Sean!

Daily Cardinal wins today's headline contest

On the Minnesota game tonight: Valentine's Day Massacre Possible.

They also have a short snippet from Alando Tucker, talking about mega-talented Longhorn Kevin Durant:

It doesn't matter, Tucker said. If you are doing the things to help your team win, if you have all the ability, then I don't think there should be an age limit on that. [Durant] put himself in a position to be a candidate and that's fine with me.

Good, but I would've preferred, "I'm not thinking of Player of the Year. I'm thinking about winning the Tournament with my team."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Technical difficulties

I clicked some stuff and now all my links are gone. If anyone has a way to restore those, please, PLEASE let me know.

Damn it.

One week of basketball, one good quarter

All I have to say right now is that the Penn State game was awful, and that the way the Badgers played last Wednesday would be the perfect way to ensure an exit from the NCAA tournament at the hands of a Missouri Valley or Conference USA team. Kudos to Kevin Gullikson and Michael Flowers for having big games and adding a couple bright spots to an otherwise dull game.

Probably the best thing to happen to the Badgers this week was the halftime deficit they experienced in the Iowa game on Saturday. That sparked a huge second half that featured brilliant defense and sound shooting.

I have a feeling that the games this week will feature more of the same; with the Gophers and the Nittany Lions on the slate, Badger fans can be forgiven if they fixate more on Alando Tucker's chase of Michael Finley for the all-time Badger scoring lead than the actual games themselves. I don't think the outcome of either is in doubt.

Indeed, the only game the Badgers have any business losing is that away date with Ohio State. I watched the Michigan-Michigan State debacle tonight, and the best parts of that game were when ESPN mercifully cut away to the ending of the UNC/Virginia Tech tilt. Michigan is an embarrassment to the conference yet again, that we know; but man, the Spartans are almost as awful as the Wolverines. That might be refreshing if the Badgers didn't have their number year in and year out, but as it stands UW could use some quality competition to prepare them mentally for their NCAA tournament run. What they get instead is Drew Neitzel, Raymar Morgan, and a bunch of scrubs.

It's nice to see UCLA, North Carolina, and Texas A&M laying eggs down the stretch and helping the Badgers look more and more like a lock for a one-seed, but let me tell you this: if Wisconsin loses to Tom Izzo and his crew of hacks, even on the road, they should be seeded no higher than second just on principle.

(By the way, even though the Grateful Red might indeed be the stupidest student section name in all of college basketball, at least it's not made up solely of morons. I pose the question: is there a student section that is stupider than Michigan State's Izzone? Maybe it's just because it was Michigan night in East Lansing, but I've never heard a home team booed so much. Especially in a game that they ended up winning! If you've got the first half recorded, just listen to the crowd. Wow.)

If the Spartans go 8-8 in the conference, they probably will get a bid to the Big Dance. That'll be for two reasons: Tom Izzo, and name recognition. If they make the field of 64, use ink and write their opponent into the second round.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

This is the wrong place to look for Signing Day news

I find recruiting completely uninteresting, and I don't care how good a player was in high school. Years and years of unheralded recruiting classes were good enough for 12-1 this year. Bielema, by all accounts, is a great salesman. Plenty of talented kids should want to play for a 12-win Big Ten team. That's all I've got.

Places that will tell you more about recruiting are here, here, and here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hockey and Football ... together at last!

Much as I'd like to see those 300-pound linemen strap on some skates or see a field goal kicker try to convert from forty yards out on a sheet of ice, this post is actually just a collection of links about hockey and football. Sorry for any disappointment.

As far as hockey goes, the Badgers basically need to with the WCHA tournament to have a shot at defending their crown. They're well out of this tournament projection (thanks Western College Hockey) and would probably be a 4-seed even if all the necessary miracles were to occur. Maybe the world's worst refs could see us into the field of 16. Or maybe one of the people/computers/coin-flipping machines that create the bad bad naughty Pairwise Rankings could maybe forget to carry a 1 somewhere and let us in. Given the odds, I'd advise the hockey fans out there to simply enjoy the end of the regular season.

On to football: National Signing Day is coming up on Wednesday, and I know zilch about recruiting. Well, a little more than zilch; I know that a certain percentage of zealous fans will hate a high school kid forever if he chooses the wrong school, and a certain percentage of those actually seem to enjoy recruiting more than the actual football. But Wisconsin isn't hemorrhaging in-state talent as it has in years past, although the very large O-line recruit Josh Oglesby is going to need time to heal. He'll be on the shelf with Andy Crooks and PJ Hill. For up-to-the-minute recruiting, rumor-trading, and panicking, this is your link.

Basketball Miscellany

Do you hate moving on? Maybe you'd like to retread the Badgers' loss to Indiana with the very linkable Big Ten Wonk.

The WSJ has a piece about Jason Bohannon that's worth a read.

While I was away, ESPN's Pat Forde wrote a nice piece about the state of UW basketball. (Thanks to Nicole for pointing it out.) I do take exception to the insinuation that Wisconsin suffers from a lack of basketball tradition. Anyone here familiar with the 1912 national champs? The one-loss team of 1915? The 1941 tournament champions? In the end, though, the selection committee will probably be too mired in the present to recognize the Badgers' greatness; they tend to prefer teams that have a history of performing well in the field of 64 and pay a little less attention to the field of 8 of six decades ago. Let's put it this way; if it looks like the Badgers and UNC are going to be vying for the last #1 seed, I would be shocked if UW wound up as anything besides a #2.

Can we please end the season today?

Finally, the loss to IU cost the Badgers their #2 ranking. They're now #4 in both polls, just behind #3 Ohio State. That ranking makes a lot of sense, because the Buckeyes have one more loss than the Badgers and lost the head-to-head matchup. Hopefully the Selection Committee does a little better than the coaches and the sportswriters when seeding time comes around.

Bret Bielema Arm Candy Watch

The fact that the Wisconsin State Journal ran this story on Bret Bielema and his date, one Sabrina Holtzman (don't Google-stalk her, you'll just get her half-marathon time), at the 2007 Frostiball (read: prom for upper-middle-class-and-better adults who live in the Madison area) makes it acceptable -- nay, it obligates me! -- to post about it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The latest

The basketball team won on Saturday, beating Northwestern 69-52. You wouldn't figure they'd won by 17 based on this headline from ESPN: "Wisconsin avoids upset bid." Upset bid? Evidently, the only part of the game the writers saw was the 14-0 run that Northwestern put together in the second half. What they should've taken into account was that at the beginning of that run, the Badgers were up by 24, and when the Cats pulled to within 10, they came back to life and pulled away again. That 14-0 run, in my opinion, doesn't say as much about UW as the 24-point lead that preceded it. Don't sweat the technique.

The hockey team got swept by Colorado College, so they'll need to win the WCHA tournament to secure an NCAA tourney berth. If I have time I'll take a look at how the tourney (the Big Skate?) is shaping up. Don't hold your breath.

Also, PJ Hill will be having surgery on his shoulder. Come back stronger, big guy.