Wisconsin vs. Minnesota: Travel Is Scary
Well, it was a rare two nights in a row sitting in my apartment watching a game. I was cool with this, though, since Wisconsin-Minnesota was on, and I needed to untangle and organize my box of random electrical and A/V cords. Hey, if I’m going to have a couple of lame nights at home, they might as well be productive, right? Here are some thoughts on the game:
1) I’m still scratching my head in attempts to answer this question: If an opposing team fails to hit a field goal on you for15 minutes, and then comes back to nearly win the game, should you be proud of your effort for those 15 minutes, or should you be disappointed in yourself for allowing the opponent back into the game? I guess if you win, you have to be happy with the stellar 15 minutes, but the Badgers certainly dodged a bullet tonight.
2) I’m still a bit confused at how Tanner Bronson ended up in the game in the first half. I can’t wait to read what the rationale was for that, because honestly, I have no idea what it could be. His role really isn’t to give the team quality minutes in the first half.
3) Brent Musberger and Steve Lavin worked floor reporter Erin Andrews hard tonight, but my favorite moment of hers had to be when she ventured into the crowd to talk about the older couple who had season tickets behind a beam. On one hand, there was part of me that wondered how anyone could be dumb enough to spend 12 seasons paying $30 per ticket (per Andrews’ report) to sit directly behind a beam. On the other hand, I recalled the only time that I ever had the fortune of catching a game at Williams Arena. I was caught in a part of the arena where the overhang above me horrifically obstructed my view. I had to watch much of the game on the video screen that had been mounted on the overhang. There was a certain charm about Williams Arena that didn’t make this irksome, though. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred I would have been angry at having a crappy seat, but at Williams Arena, I just sort of shrugged my shoulders, smiled, and thought "It’s kind of cool being here." I have no idea why the place is so charming, but it is.
4) There are a lot of ways that you might expect to see a guy lose a tooth in the Big Ten. You could watch a bulky monster like Matt Trannon or Marco Killingsworth give someone a forearm shiver. You could watch a someone’s head accidentally getting in the way of a speedy guard like Dee Brown or Kammron Taylor. But I never would have guessed that Brian Butch would knock out an opponent’s tooth on a layup. That’s just bizarre.
5) If anyone has a running count of the number of times that Steve Lavin called Brian Butch "Polar Bear," could you forward that to me. Hey Steve, we get it–you’re proud of the mildly-sensical nickname that you gave to Butch last year. Could you get back to calling him by name now?
6) I’m not sure how Wisconsin could look so unprepared for a full-court press (which Minnesota executed nicely, by the way), but one would hope that this week’s practices will involve some work on that aspect of the game.
7) I’m not sure how I felt about Alando Tucker taking off his mask at the end of the game. On one hand, I sort of him taking an attitude that said "Screw it–we need to win this game and I’m going to take off the mask if I think that will help." On the other hand, if he really still has a nasal injury, it’s a bit disheartening to see him out there wagging his face in the open air, just waiting for a serious facial injury to keep him out of action. I’m more ticked off, though, that I’m going to have to sit though a week’s worth of articles about how the mask really is the factor that’s hindering his foul shooting. Yeah, there’s an original topic.
8) Joe Krabbenhoft was having a nice game (leaving his horrid shooting aside) before he stepped to the foul line and sunk two free-throws at the end of the game (not to mention the possession-saving pass receipt just before that), but his two foul shots were absolutely huge for a freshman. The thing I love about his game tonight, though, has nothing to do with me thinking that he’s catapulted himself to a stellar year or anything. Rather, I loved his big game because he was the last guy in the rotation to have a game where he stepped up significantly and made key contributions to a win. The thing that astounds me about this Wisconsin team is that though there are a couple of players that the Badgers can’t afford to lose (Alando Tucker, Kammron Taylor, and I would even argue Michael Flowers), every last person in the 9-man rotation brings something to the table. Until DeAaron Williams leaving the team, it actually looked like Wisconsin could go 10 deep, without a major drop off. Now that’s something you don’t see every day.
So it wasn’t the prettiest win in the world last night, but I’ll take it. Heck, I never expected to see Wisconsin at 3-0 in the Big Ten this year, anyway, so I can’t help but be happy with the win. Of course, this game also serves as a reminder that it’s more than likely that there will be a couple of ugly road losses this year.
As for tonight, it’s going to be a fun night. I’d happily stay home and watch every game on ESPN, because they’re all stellar match-ups, but UWM plays downtown, and Marquette’s on TV. So it looks like a hometown doubleheader for me.