Friday, March 25, 2005

Battle of the Homers 2005: Wisconsin vs. N.C. State

Well, it’s finally here—the March Madness 2005 Battle of the Homers. Here’s a recap of what this is all about: Wisconsin plays North Carolina State tonight in the NCAA tournament. In honor of this event, we’ve posed four questions to two men. One of these men is a rabid Wisconsin fan who lives in Madison. The other is an equally rabid N.C. State fan who resides in Raleigh. Names will not be used, to protect the participants’ anonymity (though anyone who knows me personally will likely know the person that I asked to take the Wisconsin point of view). Each participant has been asked to give short answers to each question, and not to be afraid to show their bias or look like a homer. Neither has seen the other’s answer ahead of time. What follows should give us some insight into how the game tonight will go, and give us some idea of what concerns the most dedicated of fans.

And with that, I give you the questions and answers. All answers are posted undedited, as I received them. In fairness to both participants, the Wisconsin participant will lead off Questions 1 and 3. N.C. State will get first crack at Questions 2 and 4.

1) We all know that each team in the N.C. State-Wisconsin showdown has a star player (Julius Hodge of the Wolfpack, and Mike Wilkinson of the Badgers). Without referencing either of these men directly, what will propel your team to victory and prove them to be the better squad.

Wisconsin Fan:
Ah, where to begin? First, I think our system gives us an advantage. To score against our defense takes a lot of patience and a willingness to work hard. And to defend against the swing offense takes a lot of discipline…anyone of the starters is capable of leading the team in scoring on any given night, depending on what the defense gives up. You’ve got to be prepared to play disciplined team D for 40 minutes, and not many teams are.

Along those lines, our versatility is a key. Any one of 6 guys can lead our team in scoring…Wilkinson, Tucker, Morley, Chambliss, Taylor, or Hanson. You can’t slack off against the Badgers. Look at our 2 tourney games thus far. The first game, Northern Iowa packed it in, so we were lead to victory by our guards, as Wilkinson and Tucker combined for only 13. Against Bucknell, there was more room inside, so Wilkinson, Tucker, and Morley combined for 55 points. Similarly on the defensive end, we have the depth to match up a number of different ways. Julius Hodge is a tremendous player and will obviously be a force to be reckoned with. Expect to see him matched up against Morley, Hanson, Tucker, or Nixon. Because we can show him so many different looks, we should be able to keep him in check.

The Badgers are also peaking at the right time. After struggling through their senior years, Morley and Chambliss have stepped up their games in the tourney. Kam Taylor has been solid, and Wilkinson and Tucker have continued their top-notch play. That’s a recipe for success.

N.C. State Fan:
Winners of 8 of its last 11. Each player on the NC State roster since about mid-February finally figured out what each others role was and has accepted it, thrown personal goals out the window and consistently stepped up each game. The Pack has advanced to the Sweet 16 without its 2nd leading scorer Tony Bethel and seen limited minutes from another Senior starter Jordan Collins who averaged around 14 ppg his last 4 games before hurting his shoulder vs. Wake in the crotch punch game. Point being that each player on the team has stepped up his game and helped the team in some way get the Pack to the Sweet 16 despite a little adversity. The Pack has been playing relentless defense (other than JJ dropping 35 in the ACC Tourney), they are doing a great job of making adjustmentsand being everywhere on the defensive end. They just held Charlotte to 63 points and UCONN to 62, well below each teams average. Overall what will propel 10 seeded NC State to victory will be itstenacity on the defensive end and its ability to be patient with itsoffense and continue to take great shots each possession.

2) Herb Sendek and Bo Ryan are each solid coaches. What makes your guy better?

N.C. State Fan:
The 2004 ACC Coach of the Year Herb Sendek does a fantasic job ofgetting his teams ready for their opponent. His teams are thoroughly prepared for whatever situation a team may throw at them. He does an excellent job of scouting and has proven to make key in game adjustments to help give his team an advantage. Overshadowed in this area by some guy whose last name starts with K and Roy boy, but doesn't care, he just goes about his business working hard believing in his philosophy sticking to it thick and thin and building NC State Basketball into a solid ACC program that our fans should be proud of.

The guy tells stories about Budda in his press conferences for cryingout loud. Come on give him some originality points for that!!

Wisconsin Fan:
Well, first, his name is better. Bo sounds tough; Herb sounds like someone who’s going to sell you car insurance.

One thing that I really feel sets Bo apart from the rest is his ability to keep his players on an even keel. Over a 30+ games season, you really have to treat the next game as though it’s the most important game of the season. If you start getting really jacked up for the big games, you suffer lulls and get beat by the inferior teams (see Marquette and Tom Crean). Bo keeps us focused night in, night out.

Bo also gets players to buy into his system. If you don’t, you won’t see the floor. Because of this, you don’t see players making, to be blunt, dumb plays. Everyone on the floor understands their role and what they need to do to get the W.

Along those lines, Bo coaches a system that gives you a chance to win every game, even if it’s an off night. Play tough team defense, don’t foul, get to the foul line, and take care of the damn ball. And we do a great job at each of those items. Because of that, we win games with less than Carolina talent. We can win games when the shots aren’t falling. Most importantly, we can win games.

And finally, Bo has won championships. Granted, they were at the DIII level, but winning is an attitude. Some coaches know what it takes to get their players to the top, regardless the level of competition. Bo is one of those coaches.

3) Please explain to us any peripheral factors (i.e., coolness of mascot, attractiveness of dance team, random fan hand signs) that you feel elevates your program over its opponent.

Wisconsin Fan:
A few items come to mind that clearly demonstrate the superiority of the Badger program. In no particular order:

· The sweaty European factor: Anyone who has watched the Badgers run through their pre-game warm-up knows what I’m talking about. The Wolfpack may have Evtimov, but we’ve got Andreas Helmingk. If there’s one thing you can count on during every Badger game, it’s Andreas sweating through his jersey DURING WARM-UPS. He’s like the old, sweaty guy in rec league…do you really want to get close enough to guard him?

· Mike Mahnke’s player introductions: Specifically, his introduction when Andreas is in the starting line-up. Turns out Mr. Mahnke (I’m really not sure if I’m spelling that right) studied in Germany and speaks fluent German. This allows him to announce the Austrian-born Helmingk entirely in German. His spitting, slobbering intro is un-speakably cool, and is a perfect lead-in for Andreas as he stands there drenched after the shoot-around (see my first point).

· The girlfriend/fiancée hot-ness factor: This point is based pretty much on Senior Day, when both Helmingk and Wilkinson walked out with parents and girlfriend/fiancée in tow. Everyone knows Alexis Schrubbe (Mike’s woman), as she tends to get more face-time than Bo Ryan during Badger games. Despite this over-exposure, she remains a very attractive young woman. More surprising was Andreas’s woman. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Mr. Helmingk is a particularly attractive man. But I’m telling you, Andreas has done very well for himself in the girlfriend department…definitely over-achieving. With the promise of post-game lovin’ from women like this, how can we lose?

· We travel well: This may sound like a bit of a lame answer to this question, but it’s true. If our women’s intramural water polo team were to make the Final Four (if one existed), we’d have a band and a drunk student section there.

N.C. State Fan:
Well I do have to admit I enjoy watching the Badger student section Jump Around at football and I am also a big fan of the Budweiser song (Ga Tech plays it also). But the fast fight song played at the last media timeout is sure to give any State fan chills while everyone in the arena is standing and clapping. We also put the Longhorn hook em symbol to shame with our random fan hand sign of the Wolf. See attached picture of Julius Hodge. (Editor’s note—see preceding post for picture. Scroll down now, as not to lose the effect. I’m still bad with computers, otherwise I’d find a way to put it here.)

4) Since your team will obviously be advancing to the next round, and then the Final Four, please detail what will happen in your teams' defeat of North Carolina (assuming they advance to have the honor of playing you).

N.C. State Fan:
How NC State will beat Carolina huh? Hmmm... well for starters it islate March and Roy Williams is the coach of the Tarheels now, so theodds of a classic Roy Williams choke job increase with each round thatthe Holes I mean Heels advance. Head to head NC State will control the tempo and limit the Tarheel possesion count. NC State will go bonanza from 3pt range knocking down 12 or more 3's. Sean May will get in foul trouble and Raymond Felton is due to have one of his 8 turnover or more games. What better game for that to happen than a regional final! McCants will pout the whole game while #24 takes him to school. Overall NC State will want the game more and somehow survive to the Final Four, maybe an Ilian Evtimov scoop to the hoop at the buzzer for the game winner.

Wisconsin Fan:
This may sound, well, retarded, but I would love to see the Badgers play Carolina (the real Carolina, not some lower-class tech school like in this round). Nation-wide, the Badgers don’t get a lot of attention or repect, though I saw yesterday we’re one of only a handful of teams to make the tournament each of the last 7 years. I was actually a little disappointed that we didn’t get to play Kansas in the second round, though you can’t complain about the Sweet 16. Match-ups against these “legend” programs give the Badgers national exposure and a chance to test themselves against the best. But I digress…

Why can we beat NC? Why not? We played Illinois (the consensus #1 team most of the year) 3 times and held our own every game. In fact, we it not for that 6’-10” stiff Ingram pulling 2- 3’s out of his arse late in the game here in Madison, we would have beaten them. My point is that we’ve experienced the pressure of playing against the best.

Next, to beat Carolina, you have to play great team ball, and no one does that better than the Badgers on both offense and defense. To put it simply, you can’t match-up talent-wise with the Tar Heels. I mean, their 6th man could be the #1 overall pick if he went out this year! Man-for-man, the Tar Heels are at the top. So to beat them, you’ve got play some great, helping defense, because you’re certainly going to get beat off the dribble more than occasionally. Sound like any team we know? No teams moves and helps (apologies to Washington State) like the Badgers. And on offense, our versatility can keep us in the game. Obviously, Mike (Wilkinson) is our star, but Tucker, Morley, Hanson, Chambliss, or Taylor are all capable of leading us in scoring on any given night (and they all have at some point).

Also, Carolina will have a hiccup at some point. No teams makes a run to the title without getting challenged in at least one game along the way. It hasn’t happened thus far, and I don’t think that it will against Villanova. These “hiccup” games tend to occur against teams that play some sort of un-orthodox system. A perfect example is UW-M’s run to Sweet 16. Their run-and-gun, pressing style knocked off both Alabama and BC. While the Swing offense isn’t complete 180 degrees from what most teams run, it’s tough to prepare for in just a day or two.

So how will the game play out? The Wilkinson-May match-up will be a draw. They’re both too good to completely shut down. May will score more, but Mike will get his, too. Mike will also help open up the lane by taking May outside. Mike is a very capable jump-shooter, and playing outside the paint is not in May’s best interest, as he’s a bit plump. Felton and McCants are better than our guards. I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone. This will be a key match-up. In 3 games versus Illinois, the combination of Clayton Hanson, Kam Taylor, Sharif Chambliss, and freshman Michael Flowers did an admirable job of keeping the Illini’s big 3 in check. The Illinois guard trio played well, but they didn’t just go off and dominate the game the way they do more often than not. The game will come down to the Badgers secondary scoring threats. The Tar Heels will focus on stopping Tucker and Wilkinson, as every team does. Clayton’s a good spot-up shooter, but he won’t win this game for us. We will need Kam Sharif hitting from outside to open up the middle and win this game. So my prediction? Tucker and Wilkinson hit their averages for points. I don’t think Hanson will do much…NC is just too quick. The key will be Morley, Kam, and Sharif. I see them combining for around 45. Final score, Badgers 77, Carolina 72.

And there's your battle, folks. Both participants make good points, and our N.C. State fan went so far as forcing me to learn how to post a picture in order to ensure fairness. Our Wisconsin fan loses a point or two for referencing both Wilkinson and Hodge in his answer to question 1, despite a specific prohibition, however I'll forgive him. As I said a few days ago, I think we're all winners in this event. However, if you wish to choose your own winner, leave a comment below or drop me an email. I'll report back on the five votes that I receive later.

And finally, I should note that each participant, though they did answer the call and explain what gives their team an edge, at some point did privately express a healthy respect for its opponent in tonight's contest. So this should be a great game! And since I have primarily a Wisconsin-based group of readers, for more info on the ACC, check out the ACC Basketblog.

And as an aside, post-game UWM vs. Illinois commentary will come this weekend. There's just not enough time right now to make notes about the game containing the best opening 4 minutes that I've ever seen.


At 10:29 AM, Blogger Marquette Hoops said...

Wisconsin will win this game convincingly.


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