Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ohio State-Wisconsin, and Other Thoughts

My thoughts on the Wisconsin-Ohio State game? Well, I suppose you can’t separate those thoughts from the roster events of yesterday for Wisconsin, so let’s begin. Obviously, the Badgers found themselves a bit shorthanded, losing forward Marcus Landry and center Greg Stiemsma yesterday to an academic issue and a medical issue, respectively. And pretty clearly, the most difficult road game, featuring Ohio State and Terence Dials, was a pretty bad time to end up thin in the frontcourt (not to mention that Stiemsma, the team’s best post defender, likely would have matched up with Dials more than anyone else). When Brian Butch sprained his ankle near the middle of the first half, well, that was just left me wondering further if God hates the Badgers.

Indeed, it’s a bit jarring when a team that had, as recently as two weeks ago, been nearly working with a ten-man rotation, gets cut down to six players. But ultimately, I don’t feel like this game was lost by the roster shake-ups. It was lost because Wisconsin was supposed to lose one of its first five games. No one in the Big Ten is supposed to run away with things this year. And frankly, though I may be more pessimistic than most with regard to this year’s Wisconsin team, I had this one penciled in as a loss well before the bad news about the roster hit the media. Wisconsin’s great at home, but they’ve always had some struggles on the road. And given that their schedule is fairly soft the rest of the way, it seemed to me like a loss was necessary to keep the universe in proper alignment. Furthermore, I still think Wisconsin will drop one road game this season that they have no business losing.

I actually made a series of predictions for myself before the game about what would happen in light of the lack of depth at the forward spots. One of them was that Terence Dials would score no less than 25 points. It’s a credit to Wisconsin that this didn’t happen. Dials is a player that I respect tremendously, and along with Marco Killingsworth, is about the last person I would want to face without a great post defender. Jason Chappell did an admirable job on Dials, who didn’t abuse Wisconsin in the post as I had suspected. In fact, a good number of Dials looks came on pick and rolls. Not exactly how I was expecting him to beat the Badgers.

My other prediction is that Joe Krabbenhoft was about to take a big step forward, and I think that happened as well (just not to the extent that I had predicted). The last two weeks have brought about major signs of progress from Krabbenhoft, and more came last night, as his shot actually fell a couple of times. Need proof that Krabbenhoft is starting to make a mark? Look no further than announcer Steve Lavin’s call for someone to give Krabbenhoft a nickname (a strange request, given that he did so well with deeming Brian Butch to be "The Polar Bear") I’m liking this guy more and more.

Ultimately, all that I think happened was that Wisconsin only played a good game when it needed to play a great game. Nearly everyone that got in the game did something significantly positive. As I’ve noted, Krabbenhoft and Chappell really stepped up their games. Brian Butch showed great toughness (and a really goofy grimace all night long) by returning to the game after hurting his ankle. Kammron Taylor showed flashes of those times when he’s able to toss the team on his back. Tanner Bronson didn’t commit any horrific turnovers during his brief stint on the floor. And Alando Tucker, despite missing a lot of short shots, still got to the hoop with regularity, and generally looked like he was Alando Tucker. All in all, how can I complain about that?

But it still hurts, since if the Badgers had stolen this road game, it would be a pretty sweet place to be sitting in. But I guess tied for the Big Ten lead isn’t that much worse than having sole possession. Let’s just hope they get back up to full strength soon.

And because any day would be incomplete without a couple of bullet points, here’s a handful from other games that I was watching:

1) I caught bits and pieces of the Memphis-Tennessee game on CSTV last night. First off, I think this may have been a miracle, since it’s the first time that I’ve ever come across a game worth watching on CSTV, a channel that usually shows downtrodden mid majors, or simply neglects basketball altogether in favor of re-running women’s lacrosse games and documentaries about college marching bands. Secondly, can you think of any game that could have better matched two head coaches (John Calipari and Bruce Pearl) about whom you sense there’s something unsavory about, but lack any real facts to back up that feeling?

2) Because I was stuck at the office until 7pm last night, but pretty much done working by 6pm, I decided to watch the UWM-Detroit game for a bit on my computer. The announcer for Detroit noted early in the game that Adrian Tigert has had chronic back problems throughout his career at UWM, and now as a fifth year senior, he rarely practices anymore. Now, I haven't been to any UWM practices or anything, but I find this hard to believe for several reasons. First, Tigert still looks to be in much better shape than he was two years ago, so he's got to be doing something physical on a consistent basis. Second, basketball's not a game where you can be comfortable with your teammates unless you play together on a regular basis, and Tigert works well with his teammates. Finally, UWM's running an entirely new system this year, with an entirely new coach. One would need to practice to learn these things. Of course, I could be wrong, since the Detroit radio announcer is likely privy to more information than I, but it just seems to me like he's making this up in order to have a good aside during the broadcast.

3) The highlight of the Detroit-UWM broadcast? That would have to be the Detroit radio guy's noting that UWM backup forward Michael Bendall had entered the game, and then trying to pronouce his hometown of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. It came out something like this: "In comes Michael Bendall, a sophomore from (roughly 3 second pause) Oca...Oca_____nom_____a__woc." And yes, he ultimately pronounced it wrong, just as I regularly do in attempts to throw off people who are new to the area.

4) Finally, I got home to catch part of the Duke-N.C. State game that I’d been wanting to watch all day. Great game, but all I really want to say about this one is that the play-by-play man (whose name escapes me at the moment) had the best line of the night when, noting that the refs had just missed two obvious travels by each team, stated "I thought an NBA game broke out here for a moment." Perhaps the only thing more validating to me than that statement was that the Duke-N.C. State game was broadcast in HD, but the ESPN NBA game that followed, Denver vs. Cleveland, was being broadcast in standard definition. I definitely like where ESPN’s priorities are.

Until tomorrow (or perhaps Monday, depending if I catch any late games tonight)...


At 11:49 AM, Anonymous duke said...

I can't believe that you missed out on the Brian Butch (BB) highlight of the game. I think that it took place after the injury, where he spun to his left around the defender and put home a two hander. My wager on him not dunking this season is now gone, as I was very surprised that he finally dunked with some authority.

At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoy your breakdown Chris...
Tucker's post position was great but missed way too many bunnies. I was not that impressed with Nixon especially on defense. With the lack of bench it was Nixon's opportunity to step up and I think he failed the test.
Good Stuff - On Wisconsin


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