Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Fruitful Voyage

Lots of stock this weekend was put into Saturday, as Friday night's basketball viewing became a casualty of my office Christmas party. On the plus side, I drank for free all night and had the opportunity at the end of the night to enjoy refreshments at the Wisconsin Club, an establishment that would normally stop the likes of me at their door and make me leave. On the negative side, two of my friends headed out to Carroll College to see the Carroll-Grinnell game, and I was unable to finally see the vaunted Grinnell offense. Though, according to my friends, Grinnell is lacking in their actual ability to play basketball this year. I guess the novelty of sprinting up and down the court for 40 minutes is lost if you can't shoot the ball.

So there was lots to make up on Saturday, and fortunately, I had a loose plan. The plan revolved around the UWM-UW-Green Bay game to be held in Green Bay that evening. Two Horizon League powers, a couple of coaching staffs that aren't too friendly, and a mild intra-state rivaly of the state's "other" teams added up to fun. Plus, a trip to the game would mean an excuse to see my buddy Nick, who lives in Green Bay, and as a result, I see much too rarely. This game, the centerpiece of my plan, became a rock-solid proposition once Nick emailed me on Wednesday to inform me that he had illicitly used his job connections to obtain free tickets for the two of us and his fiancee. With that in mind, I set off for Green Bay at noon, with only a radio broadcast of a Marquette game and several Fox Valley shopping stops keeping me from my destination. Reflections on not just the game, but my whole freaking day below. Enjoy:

1) Since I was in the car, and likely would have been anyway, I was not at all upset about the fact that I would have George Thompson and Steve "The Homer" True calling a game for me on my way up to Green Bay. However, it did mildly outrage me was that the Marquette-St. Louis game was not on televison in Milwaukee. It astounds me that a major college team in this day and age, with as many channels as we have, could actually have a conference road game that's not televised back home. Not to mention in this instance that the Golden Eagles were playing St. Louis, who's coached by former Wisconsin coach Brad Soderberg. You can't tell me that there wouldn't be people who'd be willing to watch this game. I'll never understand the TV industry.

2) Well, it turns out that Travis Diener has a stress fracture. I wonder how long he's had that. I don't wonder how tough he is, though. It's a good thing someone finally sat him down for his own good.

3) A shopping update as I take a break from the game--Geoffrey Beene may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy if I buy any more clothes from them, since I walked out with the largest bag of merchandise I've ever gotten for $40 at a non-second-hand store. Apparently no one in Oshkosh likes to pay more than $12 for dress pants.

4) George Thompson kept guaranteeing things during the broadcast, and because I was in and out with my side shopping trips, I didn't hear all of them. I bet he was hovering around 50% on his guarantees. Perhaps my favorite, though, came at the end of regulation when Marquette had the ball and called a timeout with 20 seconds left and the score tied. Thompson said he wasn't sure how the game would play out, but did guarantee that Tom Crean would get Marquette a good shot (ignoring, of course, that the offense this year hasn't been very adept at creating good, quick shots, particularly without Diener in the game). So Marquette got the ball and ran the clock. Dameon Mason had the ball at 9 seconds and had it until the end as Homer counted down the clock and defeatedly announced "Mason fires one up from half-court, and we're going to overtime." Thompson, for what I would have to guess was the 6th time in the game, was blatantly wrong (at least he was probably correct 6 times or so, too, on his guarantees). And I have to ask--even though I'm somwhat cynical and didn't expect a good shot from Marquette, how does one hold the ball for the last 20 seconds and end up with the ball at halfcourt? No one in Milwaukee can tell me, because the game wasn't on TV!

5) The first overtime finishes up as I'm pulling into the Jansport outlet in Appleton. Since there's about a minute and a half left and I don't want to miss what could be the end of the game, I sit in my car trying not to look like a creepy guy stalking people that like to buy backpacks. Eventually the game goes into another overtime and I head in to purchase apparel touting random colleges. I picked up a Bemidji State t-shirt in honor of a transfer student from Bemidji State who lived across the hall from me my sophomore year in college, and a SUNY-Ulster sweatshirt in honor of my mother, a proud product of the State University of New York system. The beauty of such random items ending up at an outlet store in Wisconsin is not lost on me, particularly when they're dirt cheap. But there was no time to reflect--I still had to get to Green Bay.

6) Back in the car--Marquette wins in double overtime! Thank goodness the boys won, since I'm not sure the program could have easily handled another loss following the 47-point drubbing this past week. Double overtime against St. Louis still leaves me praying for a Diener return in the near future, though at least Steve Novak cracked 20 points.

7) I guess I didn't mention it, and I don't have any specific examples, since I was driving and not writing these things down, but George Thompson was in rare form on Saturday--even for George. For those of you who didn't hear the game, you're just going to have to trust me on this point.

8) We'll jump ahead a bit (the rest of the drive was pretty uneventful), and take you to the Resch Center in Green Bay as I wander in with Nick and his fiance, Megan. As we're walking to our seats, Nick points out to me what he refers to as "The Unfortunate Ivan Drago Pole." On the second floor of the Resch Center, there's a pillar with UWGB coach Todd Kowalczyk's picture on it. Kowalczyk's scowl truly does make him look like Rocky's Soviet foe in the fourth installment of the Rocky movies, which still stands up today as perhaps the finest Cold War propoganda film ever.

9) The Resch Center's crowd, which would later be announced at close to 9,000, appears solid. Lots of UWM fans also made the trip. You could tell that this was going to be a fun one even before the tip.

10) One of the things that I take for granted in Milwaukee is that we're much closer to the cutting edge on warm-up music than a place like Green Bay. I might not generally listen to hip-hop music in my daily life, but it does seem to work well as a warm-up helper, setting a nice mood for the game. At Green Bay, there's still a lot of 1980s hard rock playing during openings and timeouts. I guess I don't necessarily think that this is a lesser way of doing things--it's just different than what I'm used to. It also shows me a glimpse of some insight on the difference between Milwaukee and the rest of the state of Wisconsin.

11) Having not seen UWGB, save for one public television delayed broadcast of a Wisconsin game against them, I feel the need to make some observations on a few individual players: Brandon Morris: Wasn't with the team when I last saw the Phoenix, but is a nice little scorer; Tyler Koenig: I later heard he played 18 minutes, but I could swear I didn't see him after the first 3 minutes. I thought he was injured. Maybe I'm just blind; Javier Mendiburu: His cool name still makes me giddy when I hear it, but he's not athletic at all. That's rough when you're a point guard, but at least he's heady; Matt Rohde: He's still around? It's been quite the career for the former small Wisconsin high school standout. Looks like he's gotten a haircut recently.

12) Green Bay forward Josh Lawrence did one of the better acting jobs in taking a charge at one point in the second half. Well, actually, it wasn't that great, but the ref bought it. I think Lawrence oversold it at bit. You want the ref to think Joah Tucker's backing you down, not shooting you in the chest with a rifle. I've honestly never seen anyone fall down as quickly as Lawrence did on the play in question.

13) I have nothing special to say about him, but UWGB's Benito Flores was the best player on the floor down the stretch, so I think he deserves his own point in my write-up. Nice job, Benito!

14) UWGB eventually won, knocking UWM back to two wins and keeping the Panthers from running away with the Horizon League in hand as the season draws nearer and nearer to the end. The building was as mildly electric as I could imagine at a mid-major showdown in and oversized arena. I think some of this electricity carried over into coach Kowalczyk's post-game show, where he started on a string over overstatements with regard to his team. Now, it was bad enough when Kowalczyk said that his team closes out the end of a game better than anyone in the country, but he just compounded his overexcitedness when he looked forward to the Horizon League tournament and said that UWGB and UWM were clearly the best teams in the league. I won't even dignify the first statement with a comment, since I'm betting that there might be a few better teams in the country than UWGB when it comes to closing. With regard to the second comment, I think UIC, Wright State, and Detroit might have something to say about Kowalczyk's comments. Each of those teams might be a few games back in the standings, but the Horizon is a league that could be won by any of the aforementioned 5 teams. I'll give Kowalczyk the benefit of the doubt, since he just beat a coaching staff that I doubt he likes much and a team that beat his guys by 30 last time they played, but if he keeps up the the hyperbole all season, I might sour on him.

15) Alas, the game ended, and I had to return home, where I planned to finish the night off by watching the Wisconsin-Penn State, which was sitting comfortably on my DVR box. I bid Nick and his lady farewell, and began my journey. Normally, I'd pop on one of the sports channels on my XM radio (which I ironically won several years ago in a radio promotion, effectively ending any listening that I was doing to the station which awarded me the prize), but I needed to keep from hearing the Wisconsin score in order for the drama to remain intact. Thanks to consumer advocate Clark Howard on WTMJ, I was able to do just that, and learn a thing or two about things I can do to keep my water bill down. Seeing as my landlord pays the water, it was a pretty dry trip, but at least I savored the drama of the game.

Finally, at 11:30pm I arrived home and fired up the game. I enjoyed it, but after a long day, fell asleep somewhere in the second half. I'll refrain from commenting, since I later read that Jason Chappel got into the game, and there's got to be something to make fun of when that happens. Sunday brought snippets of a few games (for my friend T.J., big win at home for the Irish, even if Chris Thomas has progressed 0% as a player in 4 years of school), but mostly just work as our office prepares to close a deal on Monday. It was a glorious Saturday, though, with the opprotunity to take in games of all the division one state teams. And to see an old friend. And as usual, I'll try to top the experience in the coming weeks. Happy viewing!

Friday, January 28, 2005


I've got nothing to add to the mix today. If you want to blame someone, look no further than my downstairs neighbor, who has done about 7% of the shoveling this year at the house in which our apartments sit. Last night was no exception, as I returned home at 9:15pm to a still snowy driveway. When faced between the end of the Memphis-Depaul game and not having to walk through snow in my good shoes the next day, I chose the latter. I can't wait to own a home so that I have no one to be bitter at but myself.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hammered: The Marquette-Louisville Story

A 47 point loss? A 47 point loss? Wow, it doesn’t get much worse than that. There isn’t much of a bright side to look at in this game if you’re a Marquette fan, but I suppose the only two positive things I can say are that a) The game was played without the services of the team’s leader and All-American level point guard, and 2) Mississippi State lost by 49 to Alabama not too long ago and are still in the top 25 (which I find inexplicable). Let’s get to my game thoughts:

1) I’ll start off with my most important thought of the day. Hear me out on this one—Tom Crean did a smart thing in holding Travis Diener out of this game. I don’t have any illusion that Diener agreed to rest his ankle, so you know that Crean had to tell him to sit down last night. Now comes the bigger challenge for Crean. I also don’t believe that Diener’s totally healthy yet. However, you know he wants to play, and a 47 point loss is a pretty motivating reason to let him back on the court for the upcoming St. Louis game. If he’s not healthy yet, though, giving in to this temptation could be the difference between a reasonable season, and a mediocre, or even poor one. A terrible week is a lot better than a lost season.

2) Where have you been Todd Townsend? Last night we not only got Todd Townsend’s one fantastic dunk that used to come around every 3 games or so, but now only comes every 5 games or so. We also got a couple of 3-pointers out of him. He was playing like sophomore Todd Townsend, who was ready to take a leap into becoming a solid starter, before his complete and inexplicable loss of confidence. I sure hope this guy shows up again, since he didn’t look like this year’s bad version of Townsend, and his dunks are pretty cool.

3) If I’m Joe Chapman or Niv Berkowitz, I’m not feeling real good about myself right now, since it appears I’m not the backup point guard after all. Dameon Mason took the reigns last night, instead, though he is clearly not a point guard. And he promptly put up 6 points and 3 assists before fouling out with 12 minutes to go. So if I’m Chapman or Berkowitz, not only am I not the backup, I’m behind a guy who’s not that great at what’s said to be my position. I suppose that only consolation is that Chapman’s still getting minutes at off guard, and Berkowitz still has to know that he’s not ready after coming aboard second semester.

4) Watching Louisville start the second half, I tried to imagine what Rick Pitino said to his squad at halftime. Whatever it was, it likely centered around increasing the already furious tempo and running Marquette into the ground, because when the Cardinals came out in the second half, they were flying like I hadn’t seen before.

5) I was hoping to say that in the defeat, we at least got to see some players who don’t normally get in get some minutes. And it was nice to see Berkowitz, who didn’t overwhelm anyone, but didn’t look bad, either. However, I was highly disappointed by Mike Kinsella, who looked soft, and took several shots from no more than 5 feet away from the basket without making one. I hope he’s still reeling from his injury, because if he’s not, Marquette got sold a bill of goods. Of course, I’m not so quick to judge injured guys after seeing a healthy Marcus Jackson this year.

6) Someone get a bucket of water—Larry’s O’Bannon’s on fire! Sometimes you just can’t stop a guy, and O’Bannon hitting his first 5 three point attempts was a good sign that he was such a guy last night. It’s a bad sign when someone other than a team’s two best players gets this hot. When O’Bannon’s going off for 30 points, Marquette’s generally not winning. They definitely aren’t without their best player.

7) The defining play of the game? That would have to be in the second half when Ryan Amoroso turned the ball over by passing it to Steve Novak as Novak was preparing to check back into the game from his spot on the bench. The only way it could have been a more telling moment is if Amoroso had passed it about 5 feet to Novak’s right to Travis Diener. At least we know now that Novak cuts hard when he goes to the scorer’s table.

8) Rick Majerus did his best to be cordial to his alma mater, but after awhile he sure was struggling. There was a lot of talk about showing heart and not quitting, which I suppose happened, but I think Majerus was just trying to come up with something positive. I commend him, as it’s pretty tough for me to do so today.

9) At the end of the day, it occurred to me that the Marquette-Louisville games weren’t so different. Both UWM and Louisville used tempo and press to wear out their foes. Both Marquette and Purdue have teams that rely too much on one player. Unfortunately for Marquette, unlike Purdue, their player was in street clothes.

And thanks to the magic of DVR, I was done in just enough time to watch the end of the Duke-Maryland game. Rough night for the Golden Eagles, and hopefully they can bounce back in the near future. I’m just glad the Big East isn’t here until next year…

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Panther Fever: Catch It

So UWM took down a Big Ten team (Purdue) tonight. Not a good Big Ten team, but a Big Ten team, nonetheless. And they looked good doing it. They continue to solidify their spot as one of my favorite teams to watch. Like every other team tonight, though, UWM was playing nowhere near me, so I took in all the action on my living room TV. What was important or interesting about the game? Here you go:

1) Earlier in the day, I saw that UWM was a 1.5 point favorite in this game, for those who enjoy wagering. Now, I'll grant you that UWM is a very good Horizon League team, and Purdue has thus far proven to be fairly overmatched in the Big Ten, but I still didn't think I'd see the Panthers as the favorite on the road at Purdue. And I'm a UWM fan. I guess the oddsmakers know more about the sport than I do, though.

2) Purdue, as per usual, based its entire offense around how many ways it could find for Carl Landry to score. And for the most part, it worked in the first half. However, I think coach Bruce Pearl unwittingly found a way to slow down Landry, literally. As the second half wore on, Landry clearly wore down. I actually didn't notice it until normally worthless color commentator Rock Rote (for you non-Milwaukee residents, yes, that is his actual name) pointed out that Landry was laboring to get up and down the court, and event to leap for rebounds. The Panthers frantic pace took its toll on Landry, and with the exception of a couple of points in the last 2 minutes or so when Purdue was trying to play catch-up, Landry was a non-factor. There was actually one stretch when I thought he was out of the game, and then realized he was still roaming around. So, if you want to beat the Boilermakers, you can do it by running their star player ragged. Or you can just pick one of the 50 other ways.

3) Along the same lines as my last point, UWM got their press working early, and kept it intense, causing several turnovers and easy buckets. I know UWM usually presses for most of the game, but there's a certain point where they just hit another level with their trapping, and they started out at that level tonight. And Pearl didn't let his guys let up. The guards played an inspired game.

4) James Wright is always a favorite of mine to watch, and tonight was no exception. Wright drew great praise for his defensive effort on his former high school teammate, Carl Landry, and probably deserved at least some of it, though fatigue was likely the better defender. However, Wright had the comical play of the game when he steaked down the court ahead of the defense on a fastbreak and prepared to dunk the ball. As he took his last step and took off, in mid-air you could see the thought "Oh crap, I forgot I can't dunk!" run through his head. Actually, Wright can dunk, but he was nowhere near the rim on this one and tried an awkward uncontested layup that missed. Fortunately for him, Joah Tucker came in behind to clean up the play in grand fashion, as the play-by-play man for the Panthers exclaimed "Look at the athletic ability of Tucker!" Were I the color commentator, I would have followed up with "And the lack thereof of James Wright!"

5) UWM did some nice things and all, but at the end of the day, Purdue can probably look in the mirror if it wants to know why it lost. The Boilermakers should have, if nothing else, dominated the boards. UWM did perhaps the worst job I've seen this year by a credible team of getting position for rebounds, particularly in the last 6 minutes or so. Nonetheless, the Panthers were able to slap the ball away from Purdue's big men and still go on a game winning run. You've got to take care of the ball to win.

6) I love the commercial that always runs during UWM games where Bruce Pearl is in various places in the MECCA Arena telling us things like "There's been a lot of great basketball played in this building, and we're carrying on the tradition." It always just sort of seems funny to me that Pearl is saying that, and really a good portion of that "great basketball" is attributable to Marquette, who I would have to guess Pearl doesn't particularly like given past difficulties in attempting to schedule a city of Milwaukee showdown. At least he's not lying about sort of carrying on the tradition. As soon as Pearl's out of town, though, I have a sense that there might be a move back to the Klotsche Center, if history is any guide. The ride is really fun while it's lasting now, and might even lead me to take in a game or two at the Klotsche when the bottom drops out.

Again, big win for the Panthers over a weak, but not absolutely terrible Purdue team. I'm actually heading on the road this weekend for their intra-state showdown with UW-Green Bay this weekend, so I'm hoping that the momentum continues.

As for the rest of the night, I think I might need to sleep on the Marquette game for a bit. Or at least block the pain of that game out of my mind for a bit. There's lots to be said about it, though. And I just watched Duke lose. Indeed, it's been an action packed, and bizarre night.


Apologies for a late update--the website was really slow this morning for some reason...

What can I say about the Illinois-Wisconsin game that hasn’t been said. Except for an occasional lapse, that was one of the best played games that I’ve seen this year. If I wasn’t sure about the ability of Wisconsin before, I am now. And Illinois really does have the look of a great team—something that I hadn’t completely taken the time to notice before. To have that many superstar guards in one place, working together, is incredible. I certainly enjoyed it, along with a couple of friends, from the comfort of my living room. My points:

1) You can’t be a Wisconsin fan and not have noticed Ray Nixon’s performance last night. I’ll certainly remember his first half when he got hot and drained three 3-pointers nearly in succession, but I’ll also remember him jacking up two of the most ill-advised 3-pointers of the game. I’ve also seen him defend better. Nonetheless, there were flashes of brilliance, and I can’t help but think of how great it would be if he hadn’t refused to take a redshirt his freshman year.

2) Similar to Nixon stepping up, where did Jack Ingram come from? Does he normally shoot threes? I didn’t expect the Badgers to have their hearts cut out from behind the arc by a backup forward. I guess that’s what players on great teams do, though. Even the non-superstars.

3) Memo to ESPN announcers, since you didn’t get my first one: We get it—Mike Wilkinson has an attractive girlfriend. We don’t need to see her every spare moment in the game. Move on.

4) It was frustrating to watch the Badgers uncharacteristically miss foul shots. I used to watch a lot of that with Dick Bennett, but the times have changed. And Clayton Hanson was the biggest offender. If Clayton Hanson isn’t there to shoot 3-pointers and sink foul shots, why else is he there?

5) Much like Travis Diener, who I think should sit tonight and the next few games for Marquette to heal, Bo Ryan should shut down Alando Tucker for a few games. He re-injures himself every game that the Badgers play, and it’s painful to watch him impact his health like that. I know it’s tough to shut down what should be your top offensive threat, but Tucker needs to do something to get himself healthy. Of course, I also have a sneaking suspicion that Tucker my never again be truly healthy, which also saddens me. I wouldn’t wish Bill Walton-feet on anyone. Not even Bill Walton himself.

6) I would like to officially apologize to Deron Williams. I don’t know that I ever said it publicly, but I never understood people touting him as the Big Ten’s best player. I get it now. Illinois seems to have a new team best player every year, with the title shifting from Dee Brown in 2002-3, to Williams in 2003-4, to Luther Head this season. With all due respect to Brown and Head, if I’m picking teams, I’m taking Williams before them. Weaknesses are hard to find on that guy.

7) Speaking of Williams, it was nice to see Bo Ryan toss Michael Flowers in the game to slow him for a bit. Though I thought Flowers got abused (well, if you can be abused in 2 minutes) against Michigan State, he gave some nice relief last night, and generally seemed to stay with Williams. I still think we Badger fans are going to love Flowers in 2 years. Even if he’s inept on offense right now.

8) I don’t like to see the Badgers lose, but I have to admit that it was cool to see James Augustine make a tremendous cut for a dunk in the final minutes of play, and then follow it up with a dunk off of a gorgeous assist to him under the hoop the next time down the floor. I’ve always liked watching Augustine’s game, and after seeing him seem to lose all confidence in the closing minutes against Iowa last week, it was good to see him put in a position to regain confidence. I just wish it wasn’t against my team. In any event, could the Illini have asked for a better scenario? Their guards stay strong and their solid forward regains his lost confidence. I can’t ask for a much better win than that.

9) Memo to Nick Smith: Next time you play the Badgers, don’t be afraid to shoot more.

10) Normally I’m a lot more critical of the Badgers when they shoot a lot of 3-pointers, but it was okay with me in the first half. Most of them came within the flow of things. And of course, I still love having one guy, Sharif Chambliss, who has no conscience and may fire one up at any time.

11) The thing that I like most about Illinois is that they play like champions. They got down 8 with less than 10 minutes to go in the second half. Did they panic? No—they just kept coming up the floor and doing their thing, like great teams do. When North Carolina is on its game, I’ll still take them over Illinois, but Illinois isn’t going down easy to anyone this year.

Television is packed tonight with good games, as Marquette heads to Louisville (okay, this might not be good, but it interests me), UWM heads to Purdue (I am officially intrigued), and Duke and Maryland face off in the ACC. And with nothing on my slate tonight (we’ll have to delay my next trip to Sam’s Club), I should be able to get 2 of them under my belt without a problem.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Gyro Night

Well, the day is finally here—Wisconsin vs. Illinois. The unbeaten team vs. the team that doesn’t lose at home. Two of only 3-4 legitimate contenders for a Big Ten championship. Something’s got to give. And if that wasn’t enough to tell you that it’s important, Dick Vitale has the call tonight. That has to be a red flag.

Why a preview today? Not a lot of legitimate viewing got done last night. As I was about to sit down after some clean-up shoveling of my driveway, my friend Kosta invited me over for gyro night at his apartment. He cooked the meat while his roommate The Franchise painstakingly heated the pitas. That man sure can heat. I can give three quick reactions from some side trips I took to check out ESPN during the gyro-making process:

1) The “R” on Rutgers’ home court is far too big. I’d go so far as to call it comically large.

2) Great play at the end of the Rutgers-Syracuse game when Rutgers inbounded the ball for a final shot to win the game. I don’t know if it was possible for them to get a more open look. The shot was close, but rimmed out. Nice effort by a team that no one gave a shot to win heading into the game.

3) Oklahoma State—ouch. Yes, they got killed by Oklahoma last night, but I wouldn’t want to be the Sooners heading to OSU’s court later this year. OSU’s got a tough home court (which incidentally makes my list of top-3 places I’d like to see a game), and the Cowboys are bound to be mad.

Back to previewing tonight’s game. Originally, I wanted to do a basic matchup breakdown, but I figured the Journal-Sentinel would have that covered (and I’m told that they do, though I won’t look at it, as to keep from tainting my preview). So I’ll break down some of the matchups in some of the lesser points of the game:

1) Coach’s Roots: Bo Ryan and Pennsylvania vs. Bruce Weber and Milwaukee
--Ryan’s hard nosed Pennsylvania confidence and blue collar work ethic serves him well, but Weber’s from my hometown, and isn’t some guy that went to a bunch of private schools and had a cushy life. He’s one of the people. Edge: Weber, because you can’t deny a Milwaukean.

2) Prior Coaching Experience: Bo Ryan’s Resume vs. Bruce Weber’s Resume
--Ryan gains points for his numerous D-3 championships, but loses points for his prior time spent as a Wisconsin assistant when the Badgers were really bad. Weber loses points for staying too long as an assistant to Gene Keady at Purdue, but gains points for his rapid rise to tops in the game upon taking on his own program. Edge: Ryan—his parade of championships makes up for any affiliation he had with Steve Yoder.

3) Goofy Looking Substitute Factor: Brian Butch vs. Nick Smith
--Butch has gigantic ears and a body that doesn’t quite fit. Smith has a bad mustache and really tiny arms. Both have potentially harmful tempers, and like to shoot from the perimeter more than your average 7-footer. Edge: Butch, because he has slightly more game, and is a better tackler.

4) Badass Factor: Wisconsin vs. Illinois
--This one’s tough to gauge, since I don’t actually know any of these guys. Actually, this would have been an easy call 5 years ago, back when Illinois players still spent more time in the weight room than on the court of play. Of the stars in this game, Mike Wilkinson’s out, since farmers aren’t badasses. Deron Williams is out, since he looks like a very nice young man. Illinois’ best badass is probably Dee Brown, since he has always had the potential to become a team cancer, and has some badass hair. For the Badgers, I’d have to go with Andreas Helmigk, since he could very easily be a European special agent, and that’s pretty badass. Edge: Draw—Helmigk doesn’t really scare me, and Brown has become a model teammate. Neither of these teams is particularly badass.

5) Uniform Attractiveness and Functionality: Illinois Road Orange vs. Wisconsin Home Whites
--Wisconsin has relatively plain uniforms, as does Illinois. But there’s just something very attractive about the color orange. Plus, after last year’s meeting in Champaign, Wisconsin fans are likely to still be angry over the Illini’s decision to wear orange uniforms at home, making the orange vs. red matchup nearly impossible to decipher on television. Edge: Illinois—anytime a team’s choice of uniforms can draw the ire of opposing fans, you’re doing something right.

So, those are my five irrelevant keys to the game. I’m predicting a game that should be pretty tight throughout. I can’t say that I know who’ll win, but I sure hope the boys from Madison come out on top. However like the Marquette loss to the largely Wisconsin-native DePaul squad last week, a Badger loss to a Milwaukee-native coach would sting less for me.

Happy viewing this evening!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Snow Problem? No Problem.

Sometimes in life you need to make adjustments. Sometimes when you're a basketball fan in Wisconsin, you need to make adjustments as well. My Saturday was proof of that. The day was circled on my calendar as the perfect day to pull off the trifecta--watching three games with intent interest during a single day. I may drift in and out of any number of endless games on any given weekend, but its rare that I can find three games in a given day to stir my emotions and keep me busy. All was looking well. And then Milwaukee had 12 inches of snow dropped on it. I knew it was coming, but figured that it would be an easy fix. So long as I was outside shoveling by 9:30am, I could get my car out of the driveway, and be downtown to meet my friends at a bar to watch Wisconsin take on Michigan before heading to the Marquette-Charlotte game at the Bradley Center. Then I'd take a break from the action and head back to my place for a little shoveling before heading to the Waukesha North-Sheboygan North showdown to determine which city had the better north side.

Of course, it didn't happen that way. I got up to shovel in time, but due to the length of my driveway, it took much longer than an hour to shovel out. And my downstairs neighbor wasn't tons of help, either (An aside--the downstairs neighbor has decided that it's a bad idea to try and dig our garbage carts out so that we can take them out to the curb for collection and that we should leave our trash in the basement until things thaw out. I'd say that that's his worst idea ever, but he's also the guy that likes to leave the back door unlocked so that he can get in and out more quickly.) By the time the driveway was close enough to being shoveled for me to find a way out, it was after 12 o'clock. I arrived at the bar a 12:45, just in time for the last 10 minutes of the Wisconsin-Michigan game, the first 3/4 of which had become a casualty of the snow. I suppose Mike Wilkinson had a great game, but I wouldn't know, since he put in 22 points while I was still trying to dig my car out. So the trifecta was effectively done by noon. The night game was also out of the question, too. I'd like to say that that's mainly because the game was cancelled (which it was), but truth be told, given the weather we were having, I would have backed out anyway. I had also forgottten the Whitefish Bay-Nicolet showdown (I wrongly thought that it would be this coming Tuesday), which was also to be that evening, and which I was supposed to attend with my friend Kevin. Fortunately, Kevin called to tell me of that cancellation, as well, meaning that there's lots of good basketball to be made up in the coming weeks.

Of course, one thing did work out, as I was able to get to the Marquette game. Sadly, it's probably the one game that I didn't want to see, given that it ended with a Marquette loss. Game thoughts follow:

1) Two great comments made my day on the walk from Water Street to the Bradley Center as it was windy, and still snowing intensely. First, from my friend Amy: "Do you ever feel like you're in one of those Burlington Coat Factory commercials?" And if you've ever seen the guy in the blizzard in that commercial, it's the closest that I've ever felt to being him. The second comment came from my friend Josh as we were freezing and crossing the last street before the Bradley Center: "I don't even like Marquette." No, Josh really doesn't like Marquette, which made the trip he and his wife Chris made from Madison to see the game a phenomanal effort to see friends on their part. They get the co-MVP award on the day from me.

2) I was excited to get to the game in time for Tom Crean's opening talk on the Jumbotron, which I figured would include multiple references to the snow and several expressions of gratitude to fans willing to get themselves to the game. Sadly, these topics were largely glossed over, since the weekend was some sort of alumni event, and Crean was intent on recognizing the former players that would be honored at the game that day. The guys who were honored certainly deserved their place in the talk, but I was a bit disappointed, since after the 2+ hours that I spent digging my car out to get to the game, I actually wanted some thanks from the head coach.

3) I give Marquette fans lots of credit for their attendance on Saturday. While it wasn't the greatest attendance that I've ever seen at a game, considering the weather, there were far more fans that I expected to see at the Bradley Center. It probably helped that it was designated as a big weekend for alumni, but nonetheless, having this many people at the Bradley Center during the tail end of blizzard showed what has happened to the Marquette program in recent years. When I was a kid going to games with my dad, the then-lukewarm fan base would have never come out in numbers like I saw on Saturday. Then again, I probably wouldn't have been in attendance to judge either.

4) Marquette announced their starting lineup and (gasp) Steve Novak wasn't in the lineup. Instead, Ousmane Barro got his first start. Marcus Jackson rode the pine to start things off, as well. Jackson was apparently struggling with an illness, thus the reason for his missed start. Novak has been struggling with an illness, but also struggling with his shot, defense and inside scoring ability, so his missed start was more suspect. I hope he's back in the lineup soon, though, since sitting him down can't help his confidence, and when he's confident, he's the best spot-up shooter in the country. He's still not much of a defender or interior presence, but his shot is pretty to watch when he's in the zone. He didn't exactly get back in the zone on Saturday, though, and finished with only 6 points. He was only a small part of the problem Saturday, though.

5) Chris Grimm accomplished something that I thought not even he was capable of when he committed two fouls less than a minute and a half into the game. Some of you, I'm sure are thinking "But it's Chris Grimm--he fouls all the time. That's not that unusual." The astounding thing about these particular fouls, though, is that both of them came away from the ball on screens. Two off-the-ball fouls in 1:30 is tough to do, and I may never see the feat duplicated again. Then again, Grimm still has another year of eligibility.

6) How did Marquette lose this one? The story is pretty much the same as the DePaul game--the opposition controlled the rebounding. I haven't seen a Charlotte offensive rebounding total, but it had to be pretty obscene. Charlotte did shoot well from the outside, but this game was won on the boards. Charlotte's Curtis Withers was pretty much unstoppable, even when he was just rebounding his own misses. Whatever happened to Marcus Jackson getting 15 boards?

7) Heads up play of the, make that the year, goes to Travis Diener. In the second half, Charlotte missed the first end of a one-and-one. Diener, who was standing back behind the shooter, reacted everyone else seemed to think that a second foul shot was forthcoming, streaking down the lane to strip a Charlotte player and lay the ball in. Nine other guys on the floor had no idea what was going on, and Diener scored easily on a play that he wasn't even in a position to be realistically involved in. I'm going to miss watching this guy when he graduates.

8) Ryan Amoroso continues to score big points, be in the right spot on the floor, play physical basketball, and not exceed 20 minutes in any given game. Is there something I'm missing? I don't want to make the token complaint that every idiot fan in Milwaukee seems to be making, but where are more minutes for this guy? I guess he probably wasn't the best rebounder available on Saturday when that was what was needed, but Chris Grimm wasn't exactly cleaning up on the boards either.

So with another rough defeat, I took down a few Miller Lites at the Lodge with a few friends, and returned home, where I caught the innaugural basketball version of ESPN College Gameday. The show has promise, as did the evening. However, still pouting from my loss of the trifecta for the day, rather than watching all of UConn-Pitt, I only watched bits and pieces, opting instead to watch a movie. I woke up revitalized on Sunday, though, and didn't understand why until the next day. I had fallen asleep at the end of the evening with my headphones on and my iPod on "shuffle." When I scrolled back to see what had been playing as I drifted off, a little tune entitled "One Shining Moment" appeared on the screen. So I'm ready for more ball. Bring on the Tuesday night Big Ten showdown between Illinois and Wisconsin!

Friday, January 21, 2005

Inattentive Viewing

Last night I was again busy lowering my bowling average (I think I may be down to 122 by now), but there was still time for basketball on TV. Some of my best basketball memories have come at bowling alleys, which is somewhat shocking, since until this ridiculous league, I never actually bowled much. That still didn’t stop my from taking in the 1992 miracle Duke win over Kentucky at the now demolished Sport Bowl near my parents’ home. Yeah, I should have been home watching the game, but I was 14, and bowling with my friends seemed more social. I wasn’t always the shut-in that I am now.

Anyway, I wasn’t the most attentive viewer, but here are my thoughts:

1) Illinois-Iowa had me running back and forth between my lane and the bar so that I could finish my game, and watch the big game on TV. I did a pretty poor job of both, actually, but it was still fun to see the Hawkeyes take Illinois to overtime. My only observation was that whenever the Illini entered the ball to James Augustine, you knew he wasn’t going to shoot. I guess that’s no major surprise, but at the end of that game, I didn’t even think there was a 10% chance he’d put a move on a guy.

2) My buddy Curl, who was sitting at the bar, took a moment out to make fun of Nick Smith with me while we saw him in the huddle during a timeout. Nice to see that I’m not the only guy who likes to make fun of the skinny Illinois big man. Sadly, his game doesn’t seem that different from that of Brian Butch of the Badgers, so I may be defending a much maligned player for 3 more years.

3) Marquette vs. DePaul. What to say? I guess I’m a bit scared for Marquette now. They again brought the team that I saw play in the early season, and I’d like to again see the team that played against Arizona and Wisconsin. Where’s the hard-nosed defense? Where are the timely shots? Where’s Marcus Jackson’s rebounding? They’d better get better by Saturday—I don’t want their mid-afternoon game to be the weak spot in the trifecta of games I’m watching that day.

4) Like I said yesterday, at least Marquette got beat by a team comprised of lots of native Wisconsin players. I can at least feel a small connection with any team containing Quemont Greer.

5) Now here’s where I complain about Marquette, a bit. I’ve never been a fan of Marquette’s offensive schemes (those of you who know me well know that this is a criticism of mine going back at least as far of the Final Four year). If you’ve ever been in a bar with me (let’s face it, there’s a good possibility that’s happened), I’ve probably at some point broken out the salt & pepper shakers and a ketchup bottle to mimic the three-man weave offense. And don’t even get me started on how the 250+ set plays that the team has ruins any semblance of flow to a game.

6) And my final, biggest pet peeve of all. Last night I was driving home listen to the always entertaining Marquette radio crew. The game had ended, and they were promoting the post-game show, where they always announce that they will be joined by “Tom Crean or a member of his staff.” As I noted back in my November 15th entry, Crean’s the first coach I can remember to use the “or a member of his staff” provision, and he generally only breaks out a staff member after bad losses. Upon hearing last night’s promo for the first time, I actually said aloud to myself in the car “It’s going to be a member of his staff tonight.” Well, I was wrong—no one came out at all. Frankly, I’m fine if Crean doesn’t want to do the show at all, but if he says that he’s going to do it, he should make sure that someone always shows up. And though I still think it’s weak for him to throw a member of his staff out on bad days, if he says someone should be there, they should show up. The radio guys, Homer and George, are pretty loyal guys, and aren’t going to run anyone through the ringer. Here’s looking forward to hearing Crean thank the crowd after a win against Charlotte on Saturday. He’s good at facing up to the positive.

Didn’t mean to end on such a downer. Hell, UWM won last night, so not all was lost. Let’s look forward to a big slate of games on Saturday, including the aforementioned Marquette game, the Wisconsin-Michigan game, UWM trying to avenge its loss to Detroit, UWGB taking on Horizon power UIC, and an undisclosed high school gem that I’m hoping to check out. Happy viewing!

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Due to a series of errors on my part last night, there will be no update today (though since most of today's originally anticipated update is already written, there should be a bonus weekend update). I will simply leave you with 2 thoughts in anticipation of tonight's Marquette-DePaul showdown:

1) If I was DePaul's Quemont Greer, I think I'd want my nickname to be "Q-School." I'm not sure why, since I doubt Greer golfs, but I still think it would be a kick-ass nickname.

2) I think I'm rooting for Marquette tonight, but I'm not sure, since DePaul seems to be hoarding Wisconsin players. Between the aforementioned Greer (Milwaukee Vincent), Drake Diener (Fond du Lac) and Draelon Burns (Milwaukee Custer), it's tougher than usual to hate a team from Illinois.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

ESPN and Chicken

Stayed in last night despite a couple of high school games that I would have liked to have gotten to. Milwaukee Vincent was playing at home, and their home venue is always a somewhat safe City Conference gym, even when North Division, the most frightening school in the district is playing there. Milwaukee Marquette was also playing host to Madison LaFollette, which intrigued me, since it was probably my only chance to see LaFollette’s high-scoring David Dubois (who didn’t impress me at all when I saw him last year). Plus, I always like to take in a good Marquette game ( I see Alexis Pease tossed in 27 last night). It was not to be, though, since the cold of the evening, combined with the fact that I haven’t spent a night at home since the previous Wednesday and coerced me into staying in and cooking a meal. And luckily, while the chicken was good, the basketball on TV was also entertaining. After work and a few errands, I didn’t get home until after 7pm, but there were two good second halves to catch: Michigan State-Purdue, and Wake Forest-Florida State. My concentration was on the Big Ten game, but I flipped back and forth a bit. My thoughts:

1) Well, it looks like it’s official to me: Carl Landry is Purdue’s offense. Pretty much everything that Purdue does seems geared toward dumping it to Landry in the post. Given the fact that Landry was playing against one of the better interior defenses in the league last night and dropped 31 on them, it might not be a bad idea. Again—I had no concept of how good this guy could be when I saw him in high school. Back then he was just good for one ridiculous dunk per game.

2) Tom Izzo had to be sweating as Purdue hung with his Spartans well into the second half. It can’t be a good feeling being in danger of dropping one to a bottom-half team at home after going on the road and losing to a team for the sixth time in a row. Things worked themselves out, though. Although, Purdue had almost as many chances as Wisconsin to turn this game the other way—they only capitalized on 75% of them in the closing minutes, though.

3) Great shot at one point of Gene Keady joking around with referee Ted Valentine right after complaining about a call on the prior play. Though he looks like a guy you wouldn’t want to hang around with while he’s patrolling the sidelines, I’ve always heard that Keady is a very nice guy off the court. Even so, I probably still couldn’t keep from laughing at his hair if we were having coffee together or something.

4) So let me get this straight—Wake Forest beat North Carolina this past weekend, and then goes on to lose last night to bottom-feeder Florida State in overtime? I know FSU has a history of doing these things (and if I didn’t, ESPN sure wasn’t shy about pointing it out last night), but that was truly bizarre. The ACC just got even more fun to watch this year. Say, when does Duke start playing the legitimate teams, so that they’re run as an undefeated can come to an end?

5) I thought things were done for Florida State at the end of regulation. Wake canned a tough three-pointer to tie the game, and then went to the foul line to attempt a 4-point play because of a dumb foul by one of FSU’s freshmen. The game should have been won right there, but the foul shot missed. I figured Wake had the game in overtime, though. They’re the more confident team, they’ve got more on the line, and that last shot should have given them momentum. And I was absolutely wrong about everything. Florida State didn’t seem to miss in overtime. I think they shot 125%. The NCAA should look into whether flubber was involved. It was unreal. Wake never had a chance, and was pretty close to losing by double digits.

6) I didn’t watch Mississippi State vs. Alabama, since by the time ESPN cut over to the game, it was already apparent that Mississippi State was in for an ass-kicking. I’d still like to see Lawrence Roberts, the best player I’ve never watched, but the Buldogs lost by 50 last night. I stand by my decision to watch High School Reunion on the WB. Basketball’s good, but not quite as good as 28 year-olds bickering about how someone ruined their fake prom.

7) After re-arranging my bookcase last night, the basketball guide section has grown to two shelves. I’m actually thinking of going to the book bindery that I used to work at in college to start getting these things bound into yearly editions. Now that would be an impressive library.

Likely another night in for me tonight, unless I get motivated to head out for a nearby game that I have some interest in. Duke’s on TV, though, so my closet Duke fan tendencies and love of my wok should keep me home.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

UWM-Wright State

UWM-Wright State last night, with UWM pulling out a win in a hard fought contest. I’m enjoying attending these games more and more, due to the style of play, and the general atmosphere of the MECCA. On to my key points:

1) In perhaps the most bizarre moment of the night, I was approached by a scalper outside of the MECCA asking if I needed a ticket. Now, it could have just been a guy trying to get rid of a spare, but he was also asking people if they had any extras. This guy was a real scalper. This boggled my mind. It was 6 degrees outside on a Monday night in Milwaukee, with a high school basketball tournament going on next door at the Bradley Center. And this was a UWM game. I’d have to look at the box score, but I doubt there were more than 2750 people in the stands. Who’s going to the scalper in this situation? And what kind of money is such a scalper pulling in? In 6 degree weather, I’d venture that he’s not pulling in enough to make it worthwhile.

2) Ed McCants sure isn’t shy. I need to get a look at a box score, but he put up a plethora of shots. If anyone gives him a second to think about it when he’s beyond the three point arc, the ball’s going up. He wasn’t in a groove like he was when I went to the Detroit game, but he wasn’t bad, either.

3) UWM isn’t as deep as I once thought. They’re deep enough for most average teams, getting quality minutes from 6-7 guys on the roster, any of whom could start, but after that, there’s a noticeable drop-off. That’s fine if you’re, say, Wisconsin, and you’re trying to get into your halfcourt offense, but UWM runs a ton, and needs 9 guys, minimum. And I suppose Mark Pancratz fills that 9 slot with some energy, but he’s not Boo Davis.

4) Speaking of team size, UWM dressed 16 guys last night. And that, of course, doesn’t account for guys in street clothes. I’ve said it before, but I’ll ask again—does Bruce Pearl have some deal with the NCAA where he gets to use 25 scholarships?

5) I’m noticing a pattern in the last couple UWM games that I’ve gone to. UWM games are like a network television drama. Things start out okay, and UWM gets a bit of a lead. Then, the other team charges back, and there’s conflict, in the form of a sizable deficit for UWM. Then the Panthers turn it on again and resolve the problem, winning the game by a small margin, but keeping it interesting all the way to the end. That’s one of the reasons why these games are so fun.

6) Last night the cheerleaders handed out those long, skinny balloons to the UWM student section behind the basket to wave during foul shots, as many schools do. UWM’s students, however, quickly began twisting their balloons into misshapen hats and deformed balloon animals. By the end of the first half, all of the balloons had morphed into one uber-hat. Yes, these are Milwaukee’s great young minds.

7) Wright State’s coach needs a definite style makeover. He had a 1980s Gordon Gecko look about him that was tough to ignore. Well, except for the fact that Gecko would have made fun of anyone wearing a navy sportcoat with three brass buttons running up each side on the front.

8) This isn’t really basketball related, but during one timeout, I glanced at the banners behind the student section in the MECCA. They were for the Milwaukee Wave soccer team, and there were two banners proclaiming the Wave “World Champions” in consecutive seasons. Isn’t this a pretty tenuous claim? The U.S. isn’t exactly a world leader in soccer, and I’m pretty sure that the Wave isn’t playing any German teams. I know we do it in other pro sports leagues, but the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball do seem to at least be the world’s top pro leagues. Is the Wave’s league even the top indoor soccer league in the U.S.? I don’t really know the answer to that, but I would venture to guess that someone in the world could knock them off, so I wouldn’t go around calling myself a world champion. Maybe a league champion—that’s still pretty good.

9) Much like against Detroit, UWM started to gain momentum when they started pressing and turning up the pressure on defense. It makes me wonder why Bruce Pearl doesn’t mix some occasional high-pressure defense into the game before he gets down by 12, rather than just ratcheting things up when the picture starts to look bleak. But he’s the coaching genius, so I suppose I’ll continue to defer.

10) If I ever become instantly wealthy, I think one of the first things I’m going to do is donate a whole bunch of money to the UWM basketball program and get courtside season tickets. They can’t cost as much as some of the major programs, and even though the arena’s not as nice, the team isn’t as good, and the cheerleaders aren’t as attractive, there’s still basketball going on. And given that no one seems to care about the Panthers, you also know that they’re going to need you more than say, Marquette or Wisconsin needs their boosters. Why be one of hundreds of Wisconsin donors when I can be the man at UWM?

That’s it for today. Still not sure what I’m watching tonight, but it should be good.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Wisconsin-Michigan State: The Streak Continues

Saturday morning I headed from Milwaukee to Madison with my friends Brian and Ferd to take in the Wisconsin-Michigan State game. Ferd had tickets with his brother, and Brian and I ended up buying scalped tickets that, despite their location behind one of the baskets (the scalper lied and told us they were at halfcourt, but neither of us were truly shocked by the real location), actually gave us a pretty good view of the action. As a Badger fan, it was truly a magnificent game. When you can beat a team as good as Michigan State 6 straight times, something is definitely going right. My thoughts:

1) Since Brian and I arrived at our seats 15 minutes prior to the game, we got to take in the pre-game spectacle. There was a video montage that was somewhat reminiscent to the ones that I have seen at Marquette games. However, unlike Marquette games, there was no historical footage—it was all from last season. Given Wisconsin’s lack of a historically good program, it would have been a bit awkward to show footage from 1941, and then gloss over the next 50 years. I generally liked what they had, though Marquette still produces a better pre-game video experience.

2) Mike Wilkinson and Paul Davis are probably very, very sore this morning. Their wrestling in the post was exactly what I expected, though, since that’s generally what happens when they’re playing one another. With the energy that Wilkinson spent trying to front Davis all game, I’m surprised he was standing upright at the end of the game. It was a fun battle to watch, though, with two of the Big Ten’s better players.

3) Speaking of Paul Davis, how good is that guy? I was a little down on him because he doesn’t seem to square up on his turnaround jumpers, but everything he shot early on seemed to go in. Turnaround jumpers, hook shots, and even a three pointer. I think I even saw a good Sikma move out of him. Again, I know that next week he’ll probably go out an have a 6 point, 5-rebound performance against someone, but when it happens, I doubt I’ll see it.

4) Now we get to the section where I slam guys that I like. Let’s start with Brian Butch. Ouch. I love the guy, but he looked terrible yesterday. His best move all day was his shoestring tackle of Paul Davis, which resulted in an intentional foul. I recognize that Michigan State doesn’t play a game that’s real suited to Butch’s style, but he’s got to be able to adjust. I saw an occasional glimmer of hope with regard to his defensive game, but overall, Butch took a bit of a step back on Sunday.

5) Continuing on, I’m as big of a Michael Flowers advocate as there is. In the pre-season he seemed likely to develop into the best lock-down defender that the Badgers have seen since Mike Kelley. That said, he didn’t look so hot in the 3-4 minutes he got. In particular, he was inserted as a defensive sub with 10 seconds left in the first half and Michigan State with the ball. Chris Hill began circling the floor, and was well ahead of Flowers at points. Hill did that to him a lot at other points, too. Flowers will still be good, but he was a step or two off on Sunday.

6) The halftime show alone was almost worth the price of admission. I commented to my friend Brian on the way in that I was hopeful that we would see the gymnastic team billed as “North Dakota’s Official Goodwill Ambassadors,” a team that performs at Badger games each year. Well, Sunday was the big day for the girls to show up. Some of my favorite memories of my days in the student section were sitting in the second row for these performances, and as the human pyramid that the girls would vault over got bigger and bigger, screaming at them “No, don’t do it! It’s too dangerous!” Those 14 year old girls thought my friends and I were hilarious.

7) With the new scoreboard in the Kohl Center this year, they were able to break out an arena staple: the kiss cam. Perhaps the best kiss cam moment of the day was the appearance of Governor Jim Doyle on the scoreboard with his wife. Doyle looked so reluctant to participate in the stadium hijinx that for a moment, I gave question as to whether he was there with his wife, or some other mystery lady. In the end, though, the governor sucked it up and kissed whatever woman was sitting next to him.

8) Getting back to the game, it bears noting that Michigan State really impressed me. Their ability to get the ball downcourt quickly (a staple of Michigan State basketball) was the best I’ve seen since the Spartans won the 2000 national title. I feel like Tom Izzo finally has enough players that aren’t overrated head cases to make his system work again. They may have lost Sunday, but it’s not going to become a regular thing for the Spartans.

9) Okay, let’s talk about the final two minutes. Is Michigan State cursed? All I could think about was what must have been going through Tom Izzo’s head during that time. He was up 59-51, and closing in on an end to his 5-game losing streak and a chance to beat his arch rival, Bo Ryan, a man he has never beaten before. Then the wheels began to fall off. Michigan State missed two front ends of one and ones. They traveled while being lightly pressed. They missed shots. They gave Kammron Taylor (who had a nice game, by the way) perhaps his easiest path to the basket all season. Meanwhile, Wisconsin sank clutch shots. They played hard-nosed defense. And they snuck back in and stole the game. Michigan State largely gave this one away, but the Badgers did everything correct to receive the gift. Wisconsin played as well as Michigan State played poorly. As great as it feels to have this win as a Badger fan, I can’t even imagine what a punch in the gut this was for Spartan fans.

10) And finally, the crowd was great at the Kohl Center yesterday. There will never be an atmosphere for a game like I used to experience when the Badgers played in the old Fieldhouse, but the Kohl Center was as loud as I’ve ever heard it yesterday. And the team certainly deserved the enthusiasm.

And with the win in hand, the boys and I drove home. Exhausted from another weekend of basketball, and carrying heavy objects, I went to sleep early, thinking about the UWM game that I would attend the next day.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Boring Part of My Weekend Roundup

Well, as usual, the plate of games was full this weekend, and I didn't get to sample nearly as much as I wanted, taking in only two live games, only one of which was a particularly exciting game. My entire Saturday was shot due to a freight moving odyssey, and my hosting of 3 out-of-towners at my apartment, so I missed North Carolina-Wake Forest, and UWM-UW-Green Bay, the latter of which I almost certainly would have attended otherwise. I also had to turn down my friend Nick, who expressed some interest in heading to the Marquette-South Florida game on Saturday night. Nope, I was busy, but I still managed to catch a few games during my other down time, taking in Wauwatosa East playing host to Brookfield East on Friday night, and Michigan State at Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon.

Since it came first, I'll make my notes on the high school game. Even if it wasn't all that exciting, I was there.

1) I hadn't been overly exicted to see Tosa East and Brookfield East square off, but I wanted to have a low-key Friday night, my frequent partner in crime Dez is a Brookfield East grad, and Brookfield East was sitting atop the Greater Metro Confernce 3-0, so it seemed logical to check out the game. Since Brookfield East was undefeated in conference and had taken down Marquette in overtime, it this had the potential to be a decent game, unlike previous encounters between the Spartans and Red Raiders. And it sort of was. Brookfield East was never really out of striking distance, though I also never got the impression that they were going to make any sort of a run and win the thing. I've seen worse games, but I've certainly seen better.

2) Brookfield East doesn't have anyone over 6'5", and other than a few good shooters, not much stands out about them, but they play hard, and they are going to hang around with most people they play this year. If nothing else, they are well-coached. And as a bonus, their coach, Andy Farley, is someone that I have a vague memory of from my basketball playing days. I never met him, but I'll always remember him as the best player on the Elmbrook Middle School Silver team back when I was playing in middle school. Elmbrook had two teams--the Maroon and the Silver. The Maroon was the greatest collection of middle school athletes that I saw in my eighth grade year. The Silver seemed to be the leftovers. It kind of perplexed me that Farley played on the mediocre Silver, as the Maroon squad blew people off the floor, and he would have fit in nicely. Either way, both teams beat my team, the Longfellow Middle School Black squad, which won only two games the entire year. It's never a good sign for a team when I'm the starting center.

3) One guy on Brookfield East sort of perplexed me. He sat on the last seat on the bench, but only after they found another spot to place the water dispenser. He was the only guy on the team not to take his warm-up jersey off after warm-ups. At one point during the first quarter he was sent away from the bench to the locker room to retrieve water bottles when the game was still going on! Tough to keep the confidence up when this is your role on the team. I know being a 12th man can be difficult, but at some point you have to draw the line and keep some dignity. Even if your guys are thirsty, surely someone else can get the water bottles.

4) Jerry Smith, you ask? Well, he didn't take this one over. As per usual, he played a largely subdued game, and didn't hesitate to defer to teammates. And he threw down two dunks--including one high-flying alley-oop. But bigger than the alley-oop was his ability to fit-in on the court. In this game he showed that he can be a part of an offensive system. The first two minutes of the Marquette game (and much of the second half of that one, as well) showed that he can take over if necessary. So Smith continues to grow on me, despite my cautiousness towards his game for some time.

5) Speaking of dunks, Tosa East's Joe Kapp sort of threw one down on a fastbreak. It's not every day that you see a guy who's probably about 6'3" and 135 pounds, with arms no thicker than my wrist toss one down. Sort of. Nonetheless, Kapp is developing into a dependable scorer for the Red Raiders.

6) I wish I still had my roster from Friday night (sadly, I cut myself while doing dishes Saturday morning and bled all over it, forcing me to throw out the bio-hazard) because one of the Brookfield East guards deserves mention for blowing by Jerry Smith on a cross-over move at the top of the key and tossing in a lay-up. It's one of those moments that that kid will be talking about for years, like my friend Beau when he tells his story about Terry Black threatening him during a game. Well, except this will be a story where the storyteller doesn't end with "and then he only scored 24 points on me." Seriously, though, how cool would it be to just be some average guy watching a big-time college basketball player a few years from now and being able to say to your buddies "Yeah, I crossed him over and took him to the hoop back in high school."

7) Word had it that after the game Jerry Smith was flying down to check out the Wake Forest-North Carolina game, though I can't confirm that this is true. If so, he must have had some weekend, as I'm told he was in Madison on Sunday for the Wisconsin-Michigan State game. Not a bad weekend for either school to play host to him, as both had huge wins. Not a bad weekend for Smith, either, since I can't think of two games I would have rather attended this weekend. (Edit: Smith, in fact, was not at the Wake Forest-UNC game Saturday, as it was later confirmed for me that this was a false rumor.)

Notes on Michigan State-Wisconsin to follow when I get a chance.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Marquette vs. Memphis Recap

Man, it’s been a busy week. Thankfully, last night game me just enough time to catch the Marquette game on ESPN, even if the outcome wasn’t what I might have hoped for. Last night was my bowling night, so after bringing my 123 average down even more, I took in the game with my teammates. It was tight, but we managed to wrap up our match fairly quickly, and I first glanced at the action when Marquette was down 20-9. It would have been sooner, but I always make sure to get in a game of pinball after doing some bowling. It has to be done, even if it’s at the expense of 2 minutes of basketball. My game reactions:

1) Seeing Travis Diener play like that last night pissed me off. I’m not pissed off at Diener per se—instead I’m more pissed off at the fact that a national television audience didn’t get to see the Diener that I know. He was still easily the best player on the floor, but he wasn’t on that other level that he’s been on all season long. He committed some bad turnovers, and his jump shots weren’t raining down constantly on Memphis the way that they have against many of the other teams that he’s played against this year. My jaw didn’t drop to the floor like it usually does, and with the whole country seeing him, I had hoped it would so that All-American talk would heat up even more. I guess I’ll just have to wait for more nationally televised games. The law of averages says Diener will eventually blow the country away.

2) Unlike the rest of his team, Ryan Amoroso had another solid game. That’s two big games in a row for the big freshman. I hope he can keep this up, because he’s at the point that I thought he would be at this year. I still really like this guy long term.

3) Only those of you who were at the Marquette-Stevens Point game in the pre-season will appreciate this: Gene Mueller has forever ruined my ability to enjoy myself while watching Dameon Mason. Any time his name gets mentioned, that stupid chant-type thing that Mueller did was running through my mind.

4) What’s up with Marcus Jackson wearing a gold t-shirt under his blue road uniform? I’m not a big worrier about uniform problems, but this one was pretty glaring. Doesn’t the NCAA have some sort of rule about keeping your t-shirt the same as the dominant color in your uniform? If it doesn’t, it should. Jackson looked dumb last night with his non-matching shirt.

5) Well, unfortunately, the Marquette team that I saw in the first few games of the year showed up last night. A poorly designed offense, lack of timely shots, and turnovers galore all added up to an awful showing. On the bright side, this is the first time that I’ve seen this Marquette team in quite some time, so there’s a good chance that we’ll see them continue to play like they have in their handful of other semi-big games this year.

6) Njoya Simplice takes the award for top basketball cheap shot that I’ve witnessed this year after his sternum elbow to Travis Diener. Then again, I didn’t see that guy from Texas and his cheap shot against Memphis last week, which sounded much more blatant. Since Memphis sort of passed the cheap shot on last night, though, I wonder if this is some sort of cheap shot train? What are the odds that Travis Diener passes it along by giving a cheap shot to his cousin Drake in the Depaul game next week?

7) Brad Nessler and Rick Majerus got talking about Travis Diener’s parents at one point, and their furious travel schedule as they drove around the country heading to games that Travis and his sisters, also division one basketball players, were participating in. I don’t think I could imagine a more fulfilling life.

8) I like to end on a positive, so I’ll say this—Marquette never quit. It would have been easy, because the game seemed over real early on, but the kept charging right until the end. Maybe this team is tougher than I thought.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Ripon, Carroll & Play-Doh

Well, because of a late work night, I only saw the second half of North Carolina beating the snot out of Georgia Tech, which didn’t surprise me, given B.J. Elder’s absence for Tech, and the fact that I’ve said all along that I think North Carolina’s the best team I’ve seen this year. Sorry, Illinois, but you’re just not at that level, though I might argue that you’re a tad more consistent. Kansas’s struggle against Iowa State was next on the docket, and the Jayhawks looked somewhat out of sync trying to fit their injured players back into the lineup. Enough about two of the top teams in the country, though. I’ve still got a D-3 game to recap. We’re going to again gloss over the Wisconsin game due to time constraints. You’d almost think that I don’t like the Badgers, but you’re wrong—I had a great time watching them on TV on Tuesday, but it was on TV, and I saw Ripon-Carroll live. And so, here are my key points, which given the D-3 nature, will focus largely on peripheral happenings:

1) Since I had not been to the Carroll College campus since I was 15 years old and attending the Hugh O’Brien youth leadership conference (why did I do this stuff when I was 15?), I checked Mapquest to see where I was going. When I saw the route, I thought to myself “Oh, I know where that is—it’s right by Discount Liquor.” I’m not sure that it’s a good thing that I’m finding a college campus in location to my favorite liquor store, but it did help me find the gym.

2) So I walked into the Carroll College gym on Tuesday with a $20 bill in my left hand ready to buy my ticket for entrance at the table at the door. Instead, the table was simply the spot where they were taking entries for the drawing for the halftime shooting competition. Admission was free, which automatically made this game better than the high school game I otherwise would have gone to, and dropped $3 on.

3) The D-3 viewing crowd is really a different animal than most other basketball crowds that I’ve been around. Granted, I’ve only been to two D-3 games so far, but they’ve been unique experiences. When I went to my first D-3 game at Lakeland College a few months back, the gym was full of hoops junkies, I assume partly because they were playing Stevens Points, the nation’s top ranked team, and partly because there doesn’t seem to be much to do near Lakeland College. The game at Carroll was different. There were really two types of people there: fans of a particular school, and people who didn’t seem to know what they were doing there. Ripon had a surprisingly loyal following for a school that isn’t all that near Waukesha, and I was impressed by their fan base. The rest of the people kind of annoyed me, especially the woman who sat down next to me and seemed to be wearing a perfume that smelled very similar to Play Doh.

4) One of the things I love about games like the Ripon-Carroll game is warm-up music. In high school games, there’s usually some guy on the team that takes the initiative to make a kick-ass mix tape with all the tunes of the day to warm up to. In Division 1 games, there’s some department that’s generally responsible for this sort of thing, or else there’s a band playing. In non-descript division 3 games (and also in the Badger Classic high school tourney that I attended a few weeks back), they just play whatever is lying around. Popularity and warm-up appropriateness are not a factor in deciding what goes on the PA system. Tuesday night brought such gems as Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” during warm-ups. Aside from the fact that both songs are over 15 years old, I don’t think Billy Joel ever produced a song that should be used for warming up in any era. As for “Beat It,” I was sort of hoping for a choreographed knife fight to start the game, rather than a jump ball. Alas, the rules were not thrown out for Michael Jackson’s signature song. Things didn’t get much better as the teams took the floor for shoot-around at halftime to the sounds of…the same two songs. I guess Carroll spent all their money on uniforms, and couldn’t license another song.

5) Carroll, much like another state D-3 power, UW-Platteville, is known as the Pioneers. Also like Platteville, their colors are orange and blue. I don’t completely understand why orange and blue is apparently the color scheme that teams with the moniker of Pioneers logically think of. When I think of Pioneers, I don’t really think of those colors. I don’t really think of any specific colors, other than perhaps brown, which is never a good school color (except for maybe at Brown). But two state teams wearing orange and blue and sharing the name “Pioneers” can’t be a coincidence. Can it?

6) Actual basketball, you ask? Ripon’s guards were really good. And upon glancing at the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook when I returned home, it made sense, as the three standouts were the three returning starters on the team. Tom Becker was probably the teams best player, though just looking at him wouldn’t lead you to the conclusion that he’s much of a player. My friend Dez, a Ripon alum, informed me that he was the third of three Becker brothers to star at Ripon. Becker was sneaky good for most of the first half, but got going in the second, and almost engineered an impossible comeback, scoring 9 points in the final minute of the game. David McMullen was the other excellent player for Ripon on Tuesday night, displaying a fine outside shot, and cool headband. The program noted that McMullen is from Houston, begging the question of how a black guy from Texas even found a small liberal arts college in rural Wisconsin, and why he would want to go there. Jarred Massen was the other solid guard for Ripon, and was perhaps most notable on Tuesday for his lack of mistakes, and excellent goatee.

7) Going into the night, the only player I had sort of hear of on either team was former Wausau East standout Bo Johnson. My understanding was that Johnson was having a pretty good year, but he didn’t show too much of that on Tuesday night. Instead, he was part of a Ripon front line which, as I noted yesterday, was constantly getting beat by Carroll on the blocks. If I was coach Bob Gillespie, my next practice would be largely spent on making sure no one could cut across the lane on my post players. Of course, if I was the coach, my team would also probably be pretty bad, since that’s about all I could tell them to do.

8) Carroll actually had a bit of a student section at the game. It was maybe 30-40 people, and very enthusiastic throughout the game. Looking at the group, it reminded me of the time that I needed to shoot a crowd scene for the movie that I had to make for a high school class. We gathered up a bunch of people, put them in some bleachers, and told them to go nuts in 20 second increments so that we could tape. Carroll was this enthusiastic all night. I was also impressed with their “That Was Stupid!” chant, which left me scratching my head as to why more people hadn’t thought to do such a chant. The syllables make it obvious.

9) There were plenty of timeouts in the final minute, as Ripon almost overcame an impossible margin in the final minute and a half of the game. During the last few timeouts, and after the game, the PA system began playing a really generic song which had a chorus proclaiming “This is my house!” It was really slowed down, and other than the lyrics, didn’t seem to be appropriate to the tone of a basketball game. I’m thinking they should have gone with “Beat It” in this situation.

So I left the gym and headed home, no less wealthy than when I arrived. I had now seen several decent basketball players that I had never heard of before, and taken in the talents of the then-11th ranked Ripon Redhawks. I could actually see myself making the trek out to Carroll College again sometime, though unfortunately, it won’t be for the January 28 showdown with Grinnell College and its gimmicky up-tempo team, since I have my office holiday party then. When I do return, though, I’ll make sure not to sit next to anyone who smells of Play-Doh.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Action Packed!

Wow, last night was full of thrills, as I took in the Ripon-Carroll game at Carroll College, watched the Wisconsin-Ohio State game on television, and had a friend/correspondent update me on the play of Hartland Arrowhead sophomore Charlie Chapman. With this much basketball, I didn't get much time to write last night, and contrary to popular belief, I actually do have a job and like to sleep occasionally, so due to my viewing ending at 11pm last night, I can't give a comprehensive update on the evening until later. Until I can get to doing a complete write-up this evening, though, I will give one quick thought on each game:

1) Mike Wilkinson is, in fact, a god.

2) Ripon lost to Carroll last night, pretty much ensuring a drop from their #11 national ranking. Ripon definitely had more talent, but also had some frightening interior defense problems. Then again, most of its talent was at the guard spots, so I suppose that's not too shocking.

3) Correspondent Kosta's take on Hartland Arrowhead sophomore Charlie Chapman: Not that impressive, and scored a number of his points in garbage time. I'll still wait to pass judgement until I see him personally, but Kosta's input is always a valuable starting point.

Back tonight, if I can get my oil changed in a timely manner.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Nothing New To Report

Well, today’s update doesn’t actually bring anything new to the table. Last night I only saw a few minutes of the UConn-Oklahoma game, and I caught about 10 minutes of the Wisconsin-Indiana game on my DVR box. Blame it on me managing to be social without the aid of basketball for a change this winter. Anyway, since I don't want to leave a total gap for my Monday night activities, here's a few things I forgot to note from yesterday's update, and other random thoughts:

1) A look over at the Tosa East crowd last evening garnered a bit of a surprise when I noticed that one of the students was wearing The Big Shocker. (For those of you unwilling to link, it's a big foam finger in the shape of the infamous "shocker") Now, don't get me wrong--I think The Big Shocker is a hilarious concept. I've ordered it as a gag gift several times. I also don't think it's appropriate at a high school basketball game. Then again, in order to confront the student in question, there would have to be a bit of an awkward moment for the authority figure handling the situation. So yeah, it was probably best to let that one go and let the 10 or so of us in the adult section who knew what was going on laugh our heads off. And the fact that I did know what was going on helps to keep me believing that I'm not all that old yet.

2) I forgot to give props to the Wauwatosa East JV squad, on a big win last night. I wasn't paying as close attention as I should have been, but later that night when a few of my friends and I ran into the coach, an acquaintance of ours, he was beaming with pride and telling us how they had won with two starters out for the game. Way to go, young men.

3) Again, I forgot a key moment in Saturday night’s game. The guys behind me were talking hoops throughout most of the game, and didn’t seem all that uninformed, but did manage to make one of the more laughable comments that I’ve heard all year. At one point Marquette came out in a 1-3-1 zone. The guy directly behind me looks at his neighbor and says “Hey, Marquette’s in a 1-3-1 zone.” So far, valid observation, but then he continues “I haven’t seen a team play the 1-3-1 in years.” Really? Have you watched much basketball lately? I see the 1-3-1 all the time. It’s probably the second most common zone that I see. Sometimes I honestly wonder what people are watching.

4) I’m hoping to be able to plow through the Wisconsin-Indiana game tonight so that I can give some thoughts. I’m noticing a bad trend where if Wisconsin loses, I tend not to update. And as much of a homer as I am, I don’t want to be a blind homer.

5) Why haven’t I seen the Wisconsin game yet? Part of it has to do with an exchange at the local tavern after the Marquette-Tosa East game. I ran into my buddy The Franchise, who decided to forego his ticket to the game so that he could get 4 more drinks down, and shortly after my arrival he talked a bit about Marquette University’s victory over Tulane. He then looked at me and asked “Do you want to know what happened in the Wisconsin game?” Since I had it recorded, I, in fact, did not want to know what happened, since half the fun of watching a game is the drama of not knowing the outcome. I began to request that I not be told, but then quickly realized that the Badgers had lost and asked for details. My friend Kosta looked at me and asked “How do you know that the Badgers lost?” The answer, of course, was simple. The Franchise hates Wisconsin, and the fact that he was asking if we wanted to know the score could only mean that he wanted to bask in the glory of a Wisconsin loss. He simply is not the kind of guy that’s going to tell you about a 10 point win for a team he hates, because it doesn’t benefit him in any way. Yeah, he bothers me sometimes, but I do respect the fact that he’s one of the few people that knows how to get under my skin when it comes to sports.

6) This weekend also brought a new innovation to my household for basketball viewing in coming months and years. My new beer delivery system has made it possible for me to abandon my cooler, affectionately known as "the coffin" for any living room viewing parties that I may host in the future. Things should be up and running in plenty of time for my 2nd annual 4-television March Madness viewing party. And in a surprising show of fiscal responsibility, my expenditure on the new beer delivery system has also ensured that I will refrain from upgrading to a big screen HDTV for one more year. Only one more year, though, because that is the last device that I need to get grandfathered into my life before I meet a good woman.

7) Saturday night closed with me falling asleep to a Dick Bennett team taking on USC, with former Brewers and XFL announcer Matt Vasgersian calling the game. I can think of better ways to end a Saturday, but this isn’t actually that far from the top of the list.

Hopefully I should have something new for you tomorrow, after I take in a division 3 game at Carroll College hosts the surprising Ripon Red Hawks. And with that, it’s time to confirm with my traveling partner for the evening.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Marquette High vs. Wauwatosa East, Among Other Things

It was yet another outstanding weekend of basketball. Everywhere you looked, you could find some more basketball. Each one of Wisconsin's division 1 teams played on Saturday, and except for Wisconsin, they all came away victorious on the road. North Carolina pummelled conference foe Maryland and gave notice to the rest of the country that it will be very dangerous, something I've known since about the second week of the season. Legendary coaches matched up in key games, as John Chaney's Temple squad took on Coach K and Duke, and Eddie Sutton's Oklahoma State crew matched up with Bobby Knight's boys at Texas Tech. The Big Ten conference season kicked off. Upsets across the country took place, as Arizona fell to Stanford, with former local standout Dan Grunfeld scoring 29 for the Cardinal, and the mighty Gonzaga lost to a sneaky St. Mary's team. And for desert, Kansas and Kentucky played a late Sunday afternoon game for people who were not interested in the NFL playoffs. Indeed, it was an orgy of basketball.

And all of that happened before one even considers Wisconsin high school basketball, which was also full of key games this past weekend. Waukesha North took down conference foe Pius to take an upper hand in the race for the Classic 8 Conference championship. Two top-10 teams in the state met as Milwaukee King beat Milwaukee Bradley Tech by 22 points, serving notice that Sectional 8 will be theirs to lose this year, and receiving a breakout 10 point game from overly-hyped center Mitchell Carter, and 14 from freshman phenom Korie Lucious. Sheboygan South surprisingly took down Sheboygan North at one of the huge games played each year at the local Armory. However, in my mind, there was only one high school game taking place this weekend--one of the two yearly conference meetings of Marquette High and Tosa East.

Always a competetive game, Saturday evening's meeting between the Hilltoppers and the Red Raiders took on increased significance, as conference foe West Allis Hale, the only other legitimate contender for a Greater Metro Conference championship, lost on Friday night to Brookfield Central. The race for the championship heated up even more. I didn’t expect to attend the game, but due to a number of odd changes in my plans on Saturday, I was able to go. Fortunately for me, my friend Kosta used his inside connections to secure me a ticket to the game, which is always an early sellout. We departed early to find decent seats at the game, and take in what is perhaps the premier public vs. private school rivalry in the state. What happened next, can, not surprisingly, perhaps best be described by a series of bullet points:

1) During the JV game, Jerry Smith was spotted wearing a winter hat with a Wisconsin logo on it. I doubt that it means anything, but feel the need to mention it, since some will certainly think this will give insight as to where Smith wants to go to school. I simply mention it because I’m glad that when I was 16 that my choice of stylish headgear on any given evening did not have the potential to spark heated discussion among legions of sports fans. I love the ridiculous things that we talk about sometimes.

2) Saturday provided me another chance to see one of my favorite high school players in recent memory, Marquette’s Alexis Pease. Pease did not disappoint, dropping 31 points on Tosa East. Incredibly, though he scored well over half of his team’s points, I almost feel like Marquette didn’t go to him enough, as most of his points were not too hard to come by after he put one move on his defender. I’ve said before that I feel sorry that the guy isn’t 3 inches taller, because he could be going to a solid division one college if that was the case. However, if the rumors that I heard that Pease will be playing at Harvard next year are true, then it’s tough to feel sorry for him, even if I’m more of a Yale fan.

3) Marquette’s other big man, Matt Mulcahy had a rough night, scoring only 6 points and fouling out with 4 minutes to go in the game. Part of his difficulties were likely related to Marquette’s inexplicable unwillingness to get the ball to its inside players. Mulcahy, though not historically a man who sits in the post, should have been able to dominate along with Pease if the Hilltoppers had forced the ball inside a bit more. Instead, the big guys roamed around away from the basket. It’s the same story as the last 3 seasons, and frankly, I’d have figured their offensive ideas might have changed a bit.

4) I seem to say this every week, but the game’s officials were poor. I hate to keep harping on guys that make next to nothing for a night of work, and get rewarded by guys like me bitching about them, but there were some glaring errors in the game. Jerry Smith received a surprisingly quick technical foul for questioning a 10-second call, after one of the refs went out of his way to talk to Smith immediately after the violation. As my fellow fan Kosta noted, the refs shouldn’t be seeking out the players so much, or talking to them as constantly as these guys were. An even worse call took place shortly thereafter, though, as Matt Mulcahy picked up his 5th foul of the game while he was essentially just standing around trying to box out. With 4 minutes to go, Marquette really got hurt by losing one of its stars. The one other highly suspect call of the game fortunately took place when the game was out of reach, but with 3 seconds on the clock, one of the more bizarre jump balls that I’ve ever seen took place. As usual, the game was called consistently bad both ways, but I can’t help but think Marquette got the raw end of the deal when they lost Mulcahy.

5) The opportunity on offense that Marquette did not miss was running the floor. Tosa East was terrible at getting back on defense, and got beat down the floor for easy buckets and fouls not only on fastbreak opportunities, but also several times after dead balls. One would hope that that will be addressed in practice before the next meeting.

6) The fan support in the game was surprisingly tame, though I’ll dole out some of the blame for that in my next point. From a rivalry that has produced fan chants ranging from Marquette’s “Jesus Loves Us” to Tosa East’s “We’ve Got Girls,” I was disappointed not to hear any cutting remarks from the stands.

7) You want blame for the lack of fan chants? Look no further than a group that I used to think greatly enhanced a high school basketball game: the pep band. It’s tough for me to say this as a former pep band member myself (hey, I was just looking to get into the game for free), but the fact that the band played during every timeout took away many great chanting opportunities. And of course, a pep band takes up a great amount of space that cheering students could inhabit. I don’t even need to comment (though I will) on the band’s playing of “Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Goodbye” while Tosa East held a 2 point lead with 13 seconds to go, and Marquette had the ball. It’s not a song that’s played before the game it out of hand, people.

8) Time for the obligatory Jerry Smith update. Smith does not look much like the player that I watched for the two years prior to this one. He gets to the hoop less, especially against good defenses, but has finally adapted so that he is able to shoot either a nice pull-up mid-range jumper, or a three-pointer when open. Shooting is now a legitimate weapon for Smith, whereas formerly he was only a threat to slash down the lane. And of course, he looked dominant for periods during the game. After the opening tip, I think he had collected 4 points and 4 rebounds within 2 minutes. And his return from the bench after his technical foul resulted in him putting in 13 straight points. I can’t believe he’s still a junior.

9) The end of the game was poorly executed by Marquette. After getting the ball back down 2, they called timeout with 13 seconds left to draw up a play. Inbounding from the sideline, the Hilltoppers nearly took a 5-second penalty, and then tossed the ball directly into the hands of a defender. Two or three of the Marquette players didn’t look like they even knew what was going on. It was a very poorly executed play, and rightfully led to the loss for the Hilltoppers.

So the Red Raiders walked away with a 57-53 win in perhaps the worst played game I’ve seen in the series between the two schools. While I don’t foresee either team giving Milwaukee King a run for its money on the way to state, they’re evenly matched with each other, which should result in at least one more thrilling (if not perfectly played) game. I know I’ll be there. Will you?

Friday, January 07, 2005

The End of the Boo Wade Era at Wisconsin

So, Boo Wade is gone from the Wisconsin roster, and from the Wisconsin student directory as well, as he’s left the team and the school. I have no idea why Wade is packing his bags (though I suspect, given the timing of things, that academics must play some role), there’s not a lot to feel good about in this situation. Wade leaves school with lots of upsetting questions around him, will need to go elsewhere if he hopes to finish out his pursuit of a college degree, and doesn’t get to be around basketball, a sport he purportedly loves. And to top it off, the 5 minutes or so that he played during his comeback have ensured that he will essentially lose his junior year of eligibility should he ever catch on elsewhere. It’s not quite a worst case scenario, but it’s probably not a high point of Wade’s life. Hopefully he can find a way to make something positive happen in his life very soon, since it looks like he’s at a point where he really needs to.

On a side note, where does Wade go from here if he wants to continue with basketball? The logical choice, given his Milwaukee roots, and a huge stable of guards arriving soon at Marquette, is UWM. I don’t know that Wade’s game fits with UWM’s style, though, so I wouldn’t bank on him ending up there. Bruce Pearl seemingly has about 27 scholarships to give out at any given time, though, so I would think he could make a play for Wade if he wanted to. Where he goes, if anywhere, is anyone’s guess, in my mind.

Turning to the less significant basketball point, how will this affect the Badgers? Because Wade played only about 5 minutes this season, I think this will hurt Wisconsin’s season more than anyone will ever understand.

As most know, I was never a gigantic Wade fan. It was largely because his game was very plain. He handled the ball without turning it over (even if he never actually appeared to be strong with the ball). He shot from the outside only when he was absolutely wide open (Though, as I noted yesterday, he was a three-point specialist in high school, with range out to the coach’s box. If you don’t believe me, come over to my place and I’ll show you some tape.). He defended well. In short, his game was solid, but unspectacular. Playing behind Devin Harris, though, solid but unspectacular didn’t seem so fun.

However, this solid but unspectacular game that Wade possessed is exactly what the Badgers needed this year at the guard spot. Stability has not been a strong suit of the Badger guards so far, and Wade could have brought that. Kam Taylor and Michael Flowers, though they show flashes of brilliance on the offensive and defensive ends, respectively, have not performed at their highest levels on a consistent basis. Clayton Hanson puts out a great effort, and can be dangerous when he gets hot from behind the arc, but probably is a guy you’d rather have as a key reserve than a starter. Sharif Chambliss is doing an admirable job as point guard, but it’s not his position, and he could probably do even better things if he didn’t have to shoulder this load. Wade’s biggest contribution would have been giving Wisconsin a point guard that they wouldn’t need to worry about. He’s not a guy that would have put up 15 points per game or dished out 7 assists every game, but he would have provided a defensive boost, and generally been safe. And safety in the backcourt often goes underrated.

As I said, though, I doubt that most people will ever see things this way, as Wisconsin isn’t playing badly, and hasn’t had Wade for most of the year. To most, this loss will be the loss of a guy who was nothing more than an average point guard. With this, I agree, however, I also think that an average point guard is exactly what the Badgers need this year.

And because it was a late night, I’ll save my few, brief comments on UWM’s overtime win at Butler. Go Panthers!

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