Thursday, January 06, 2005

Wisconsin vs. Purdue--The End of the Curse, and Other Musings

So, the Big Ten kicked off last night with Wisconsin playing in an arena in which they had failed to win in their prior 29 attempts. The curse was broken on a hot shooting night, leading to a 77-68 win. My thoughts follow:

1) I hate watching Wisconsin play like this. I recognize that when the Badgers beat a team that they haven’t beaten on the road in 33 years, there isn’t much room to be upset, but I’m still not happy with their play. There are teams that win on a consistent basis by shooting 3-pointers all night, but they’re a rarity. It seems that every time the Badgers go on the road this year, they forget how to work the ball into the post. That’s what their offense is set up to do—it’s not to get Zach Morley perimeter looks.

2) Another problem that Wisconsin may have with getting the ball inside is that its guards aren’t as adept in the post as they have been in prior years. Devin Harris finished well around the basket. Travon Davis was a tiny guy, but worked post moves well. And Kirk Penney, despite playing at the guard spot, was probably the most skilled post player on the team by his senior year. Sharif Chambliss, while an excellent shooter, simply doesn’t seem to have the grace in the post that many of his predecessors did. Kammron Taylor hasn’t seen enough time for me to be clear on what type of a post player he is, but from what I can see, it’s not an aspect of the game that he really seeks out, since I can recall very few times that he’s gotten the ball inside this year. Boo Wade will have some nice moves, but has never been one to attack the basket aggressively. I knew that there would be a drop-off at the guard spot from last year, but I figured that the new guys would at least be able to pick up one of Bo Ryan’s go-to skills. So far, I’m not sure they have.

3) What even needs to be said about Zach Morley’s shooting night? Unbelievable. I’d normally rather see any of the starting five (yes, even Alando Tucker) or Brian Butch shooting the three. When you’re hot, you’re hot, though, and Morley was on fire last night. It was nice to see out of a guy that was having a pretty average start to the year.

4) Thanks to the announcers for pointing out that Kammron Taylor had 77 points in a 6th grade game once. That was pertinent information.

5) Carl Landry, of Purdue, was every bit as good as expected, even if he was forced to sit on the bench in foul trouble for a large part of the night. He has improved leaps and bounds from his days at Milwaukee Vincent, where, as the announcers last night aptly noted, he was the fourth option. Back then, Landry was basically just a ridiculous athlete, and last night he showed that he has actually has picked up some post skills. Of course, things have changed for all of his Vincent teammates since those days. DeJuante Wade lost his scholarship to UW-Green Bay and is now playing at Mid-States Technical College, a bit of a step down, to say the least. Boo Wade, the team’s three-point assassin, now elicits frightened looks from Wisconsin fans if he even thinks about shooting. Greg Brown, the team’s superstar, has seemingly dropped off the face of the earth after some juco time and commitments, I believe, to Miami and one other big-name school at various times. I, for one, am shocked at how well Landry has turned out.

6) With Landry doing so well, many Badger fans are likely salivating over his younger brother, Marcus, who’s coming to play for Wisconsin next year. My expectations are tempered a bit, though I am still excited. The only thing that worries me about expectations on Marcus Landry is that it is easy to look at him and his older brother and notice that Marcus is far superior in playing ability than Carl was at the same age. My guess is that Carl just learned things a bit later, though. So, while I expect Marcus to be very good, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect him to be far better than his much-improved brother for the rest of his life. Once couldn’t help getting excited watching someone who looks and plays like Marcus Landry fill up the hoop in a big game last night, though.

Random thoughts from last night's other games:

1) Duke’s throwback uniforms were phenomenal. When I flipped on the Duke-Princeton game, I didn’t initially notice them, since the Duke uniform has changed very little over the years. However, at one point I looked and thought to myself “Huh, I hadn’t noticed that. Duke seems to be wearing new uniforms this year. They’re not all that different, but they have kind of a classic look. I like it.” About ten minutes later one of the announcers pointed out that Duke was wearing retro uniforms for the game. The changes were so subtle that I didn’t really know that before it was pointed out, but I’d be all in favor of a switch back. For that matter, many teams today could stand to go back toa more classic look.

2) Speaking of classics, I loved the game on ESPN Classic last night. I think ESPN did something like this last year, but for the Villanova-West Virginia game, ESPN Classic did the live broadcast, but did so with 1979 graphics, and Rollie Massimino doing color. Brilliant idea, and I definitely watched more than I generally would have of a Villanova-West Virginia game. After watching that, I think I might go out and try to buy an Atari tonight.

3) I, of course, didn’t get to see any other Big Ten games, but it was quite a night, with Northwestern pummeling Indiana. Mike Davis shouldn’t even be afraid of being fired at this point—he should just accept that he’ll be done at the end of the year. And that’s not even the big story, as Michigan knocked off Iowa in what sounded like a thrilling game. Though I picked Michigan well ahead of Iowa in my pre-season predictions, I backed off of that point after I saw both teams play. I still think Iowa will rebound nicely from this, and Michigan will struggle, but apparently that didn’t matter last night. For more in depth reports, I’d check out the Big Ten Wonk, who does a pretty nice job of summarizing daily conference happenings. I haven't checked his update yet today, but I know he’s one of my big sources of info on the conference.


At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you make a comment about the guards being weak in the post and point out Chambliss and Taylor without mentioning Clayton Hansen. I know Clayton Hansen was a walk-on at one time, but he seems to be very ineffective on offense. He can't post up or shoot the outside shot this year. Although he does draw some charges, I noticed he was beat at least three times on back door cuts for easy layups. I can't believe Hansen gets that much playing time. You are correct, Chambliss can not post up. That is not his game. He is an outside shooter. I thought he played well and he put up 16 points. I think all the Badgers 3's versus Purdue was a function of the players being wide open. A wide open three pointer is a good shot for the Badger shooters.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Can't disagree that the Badgers did a nice job of hitting wide-open shots last night. They certainly did what they were supposed to. I guess my frustration was more aimed at the fact that Purdue was able to take away a staple of the Badgers' game and make them hit those open shots. It was not a traditional Purdue ball-pressure defense last night, and the Badgers reacted in the correct manner, though I doubt that would have been the way they were expecting to win.

As for Clayton Hansen, I think I sometimes give him a pass because of his former walk-on status (hence, no comments on him while I was shredding the guards' lack of post ability), but I still can't argue with his minutes. On defense, he fights around a screen as hard as anyone I've seen (there's me giving him a bit of a pass again, since that's a line that an apologist uses), and on offense, his shooting might be a bit off this year, but he's still above 40% from 3-point range (his main job). And at the end of the day, I'm not sure who gets in at guard if he's not there. The ball is still safer in Hansen's hands than Taylor's or Flowers', even if I'm hopeful that the situation chanes by year’s end.

Thanks for the good comment--you've given me much food for thought.


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