Well, at least the ACC won't sweep...
Wisconsin vs. Maryland. It was a game that the Badger faithful had been waiting for, coming of a bad loss to Pepperdine. It lived up to billing, and was a huge win for the Badgers. But you know that, so let’s get into details:
1) Okay, I know that one game doesn’t mean everything, and that there’s still a lot to be proved, but to everyone that I’ve spoken with that has said things like "Brian Butch is going to be a bust," or "If Brian Butch had any heart, he never would have redshirted," I hope you watched last night’s game. Butch was active, displayed some talent and court savvy, and showed a tremendous competitive spirit during his time on the floor. He still showed that he’s tremendously slow, but if games like last night become the norm, he will be a big contributor for the Badgers.
2) Continuing on the Brian Butch love-fest, I couldn’t help but double over laughing when I heard the comparisons that commentators Brent Musberger and Steve Lavin were making for Butch. Lavin early on compared Butch to former Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton, falling into the classic trap of comparing two guys with dissimilar games, simply because they are white and have (mildly) similar heights. Later, Musberger saw Butch chin a rebound and called him and enforcer, much like Maurice Lucas or Wes Unseld. This was perhaps the most overstated point that I’ve heard during a basketball game since Bill Walton referred to Sam Perkins as "the greatest offensive weapon of his generation." Wes Unseld? Last year Butch was struggling to crack 200 pounds–I’d hardly compare him to Maurice Lucas or Wes Unseld, two bullishly strong players. Maybe is was Brian’s angry face that made this remark occur.
3) Maryland is going to be a tough team to play, even though they could get lost in the fray of a ridiculously strong ACC this year. As a Badger fan, I never felt safe because I knew they could get a few quick buckets with their press. They are going to be a tough out all season, and could be very underrated by the end of the year if they get beat up on by their conference foes.
4) Another great Brent Musberger moment–as Zach Morley was on the foul line, he commented that "Morley has one of those Beatles-style haircuts. They’re big with kids in the Northeast." Aside from that being incredibly superfluous information, is this even correct? Is there an influx of teens in Boston trying to look like Ringo? Did Musberger even notice that Morley is from Missouri and would not be representative of this trend? Brent may be a painful announcer, but at least he’s outlandish enough that these questions will arise.
5) It was, of course, very obvious, that neither of the Badger point-guards, Kammron Taylor and Michael Flowers, spent much time on the floor. I hope that one of these guys starts picking it up in practice, since Sharif Chambliss still is not a point guard, no matter how well he played last night. I give Flowers another year of learning to handle the ball more effectively (his main weakness right now) before all Badger fans start falling in love with him.
6) Back to Chambliss. He’s the one guy on the Badgers that seems to take reckless shots, and work outside of the flow of the offense. I should hate this lack of discipline, but really, I love having this guy around. It’s nice to have one guy that’s willing to say "Screw it, I’m shooting this one," and toss up a mildly ill-advised shot. I would never want more than one, and I wouldn’t want anyone who shoots the ball worst than Chambliss, but it’s nice to have opposing teams off balance wondering what the crazy guy’s going to do.
7) I loved Bo Ryan’s coaching in the final minutes. Brian Butch was hot in the second half, and a lot of coaches would have kept riding him. Musberger even noted that Butch’s extended absence after his early burst was unusual. But down the stretch in the final 5 minutes, there was only room for two post players not named Alando Tucker, and Ryan went with Mike Wilkinson and Zach Morley. Wilkinson, though of late in a bit of a scoring slump, was a no-brainer. There’s no one more consistent and dependable. A lesser mind might have thrown in Butch for Morley, though. Ryan stayed with Morley, the senior, who grabbed rebound after rebound and generally caused good things to happen on the offensive end. Although, part of that decision might have been due to the fact that the Beatles-style haircut is popular with coaches from the Northeast.
8) Well, the Badgers did their job, so where’s the rest of the Big Ten? Minnesota almost pulled one out, despite their no-name roster. This leads me to believe that Dan Monson is only an effective coach when his team has absolutely nothing going for it. Once he gets a few star players, he’s not going anywhere, but give Monson a couple of walk-ons, a team-manager, and a handful of guys he found at the rec center, and he could challenge for a finish in the top half of the Big Ten. Michigan notably got drilled by Georgia Tech, as Tech’s guards apparently dominated the game, as I predicted yesterday. And Michigan State dropped a tough one to Duke, which I hope to watch on my DVR box sometime in the next week.
9) As I tend to overlook the obvious, I'll save my last comment simply to note that Alando Tucker had one of the more incredible halves of basketball that I've ever seen in the first half. That is all.