Sunday, December 04, 2005

Wisconsin vs. Pepperdine: Kicking Off A Snowy Saturday

It was a tough weekend for picking games, since Saturday was saturated with events worth watching. The first conflict of the day was between Marquette, who was hosting South Dakota State at the Bradley Center and Wisconsin, playing host to Pepperdine at the Kohl Center in Madison. Due to a friend looking to unload some tickets to the Wisconsin game, I decided to make the trip to Madison. Neither was a marquee game, and I always try to give Wisconsin games priority, given the fact that tickets to the Badgers are a slightly tougher find as the year goes on (though thanks to an array of helpful friends, I’ve bought up quite a few of the early games). Though I must admit, the allure of Travis Diener bobblehead day was nearly strong enough to keep my in Milwaukee.

And at the end of the day, I probably should have stayed in Milwaukee. One of the most bland Wisconsin games that I’ve ever seen, combined with weather that made my drive home one of the longest and toughest ever made me wish that I had a Travis Diener bobblehead sitting on my mantle next to my Jesse Ventura “Man of Action” action figure. Nonetheless, it was a fun game, with my friend Beau, a fun guy. My thoughts below:

1) I love going to games with my friend Beau because he’s the one guy who can put my basketball nerdiness to shame. Case in point: As we arrived at the entrance to our seats in the arena, I told Beau that I was going to stop at the restroom and meet him at the seats. Once I got to our seats, I saw Beau sitting there reading a printout that he had made from Pepperdine’s website, complete with his own notes for guidance. You can call Beau a lot of things, but you can never say that he’s unprepared when he goes to a basketball game.

2) In pre-game, they were showing shots of the Wisconsin players warming up, with various stats on the screen. When they showed Joe Krabbenhoft, who’s probably hovering at around 10 minutes per game so far, his on-screen stat was (and these numbers are probably somewhat off, since I don't take notes at games) “averaging 1 rebound every 3.4 minutes). Not that that’s not an admirable stat or anything, but it seemed to me that they were really trying to force a Krabbenhoft stat in there. Particularly when they next cut to Alando Tucker’s impressive (and ever-growing) career point total.

3) Alando Tucker’s wearing one of those protective masks in order to protect a nasal injury that he suffered against Wake Forest. Whenever I see one of those things, I wonder how it would work for me if I broke my nose. Would I be able to wear my rec specs over the mask, or would I have to get some sort of prescription mask? Then it occurs to me that if I broke my nose playing basketball, I’d probably just stop playing basketball for awhile until I was healed. The Big Ten championship isn't exactly hinging on whether I can play 30 minutes of 3-on-3 with some buddies.

4) I’m typically more down on Kammron Taylor than most Wisconsin fans. Of course, I also recognize that the Badgers' lack of depth at guard this season might just make him the player that the Badgers can least afford to lose. And if I may heap some praise on him for a moment, he’s a joy to watch this year when he’s slashing through the lane and throwing lay-ups off the glass. I’ve seen very few players with his ability to play with angles and arc and always make tricky lay-ups go in.

5) Early in the game Beau looked at me and said “If you were just looking at the guys on the floor right now and you didn’t know anything else, who would you guess is the worst player on the floor? I pointed to Brian Butch, and Pepperdine’s Michael Gerrity, since they were the most awkward-looking and smallest player, respectively. Of course, they’re also Wisconsin’s second most effective offensive threat and Pepperdine’s leading scorer, respectively. Strange looking people are starting to take over the game of basketball.

6) Though this game ended up far from the most exciting game that I’ve ever seen, it had all the signs of an intensely fun game in the first five minutes or so. I can recall at least two plays where 4-5 players were diving for a loose ball on the floor. So the effort was there from both sides, even if it wasn’t a particularly alluring matchup.

7) At one point Brian Butch received the ball in a position to start a fast break. Of course, Mr. Butch then proceeded to start something that I believe would more appropriately be called a “slow break.” I’ve never seen an entire floor of people catch up to someone that far ahead of everyone to start out.

8) I was kind of disappointed when I saw the woman sitting in front of me with her husband and child break out her knitting needles and begin making some sort of garment as the game began. Why do you even come to the game if you’re going to ignore the action on the floor and knit? You’re essentially paying to sit in a cramped stadium seat and do something that you could have more comfortably done at home. And you’re garnering silent hostility from guys like me, who don’t have the kind of bankroll to even get an application for season tickets (In case you’re wondering, a $2,500 donation gets you and opportunity to request seats at Wisconsin, and currently every seat in the building is held by a season-ticket holder. Looks like I should have gotten my foot in the door a few years ago, before such a donation was a prerequisite.)

9) If Greg Stiemsma can learn to stay out of foul trouble, he’s going to be one heck of a shot blocker.

10) Despite being the leading scorer, it was a quiet game for Alando Tucker. In the post-game show, Bo Ryan attributed that to a slow start to Tucker adjusting to using his protective mask. And while that’s partially true, I think another part of it is that Tucker just tends to pick his spots to explode. Pepperdine wasn’t giving him anything easy on the defensive end, and there was no reason to force the issue. He’s one of those superstars that you can’t help but love, because he’s not a guy that needs 20 shots per game in order to be happy.

11) Pepperdine was a decidedly smaller team than Wisconsin. Because of this fact, one could not help but notice that they weren’t doing a lot of outside shooting. Particularly given that the Waves got down a few points almost immediately after the game started, it was sort of surprising that they didn’t roll the dice and jack up a couple more threes. The box score afterward revealed that they only put up eight shots from behind the arc. That’s a pretty minuscule total even if your team’s not at a size disadvantage.

And with the end of the lackluster game, I loaded into my car and headed out onto the snow-covered Wisconsin roads. Driving in some of the worst conditions I’ve encountered in recent memory, I didn’t even get the chance to stop at home before continuing on to some evening basketball. But the quest continued, as you’ll see below...


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