Wisconsin vs. Ohio State: The Main Event
For the last few days, it seemed like Tuesday night would never come. While there have been some games at the Kohl Center with bigger immediate implications than last night’s Wisconsin-Ohio State game, the #3 Badgers playing the #5 Buckeyes felt like about as big an event as had ever taken place in Madison. Did I consider making the trip to Madison for the game? Not for a second, after learning a few weeks back that one of my friends had sold his two phenomenal seats for $681 on eBay. When that type of dough is being thrown around, I’m content to watch the game at home, or at a bar with friends, the latter of which I ended up doing. And it was a joyful night, as we watched the Badgers take down an Ohio State team that just a month earlier I would have had a hard time believing that Wisconsin could beat. My thoughts on the game:
1) And as the game began, 75% of the world got very excited when they noticed that Dick Vitale’s microphone was not turned on. Roughly 1.5 seconds later, that same 75% of the world sighed in disappointment, when ESPN turned the mic on.
2) Yesterday I expressed confidence that Wisconsin’s deep bench of potential players to throw at Greg Oden would do a nice job of holding the big man in check, but I sure didn’t expect things to happen exactly as they did. Most notably, I sure didn’t expect Jason Chappell to come out, play way over his head, and do the best job on Oden of anyone. Chappell was brilliantly physical, leading my friend Austin to accurately note about him at one point that his play on Oden resembled one of the characters from A Night At the Roxbury aggressively dancing with a woman. Ultimately, this worked for Chappell (and others), since being able to throw Chappell, Greg Stiemsma, Marcus Landry, Brian Butch, and even Kevin Gullikson, in a pinch, at Oden meant that no one had to play in fear of fouling out. But it sure would have made more sense if Stiemsma had been the guy carrying the night with his physical play. Instead, Stiemsma saw lots of bench time and Chappell showed me that he’s come a long way from just being the bench-warmer that I made fun of for looking as if he was high all the time.
3) Was there anything more perplexing than the fact that coming out of the first half, the most damaging thing that Ohio State was able to throw at Wisconsin was...Ivan Harris’ three-point shooting? I know Harris is proficient from behind the arc, but there seem so many more legitimate ways for Ohio State to beat you.
4) I seldom get to pat myself on the back for pre-game predictions (partly because I’m so awful at them that I typically just forgo making pre-game predictions), but I got a lot right in my pre-game comments yesterday. Most notably, I made the point that while Wisconsin’s big men vs. Greg Oden was a nice sub-plot, guard play would decide this game. I offer big thanks to Kammron Taylor and Michael Flowers for having arguably their best games of the year, and making me look mildly intelligent. I hope they’re each packed in ice today, though, because neither one came off the floor much, and they must be tired and sore. I want them good and rested for an always-more-frightening-than-expected Northwestern team on Saturday. (And while I'm patting myself on the back, my prediction of a 76-71 win for Wisconsin wasn't too far off from the actual 72-69 score. Nice work, me.)
5) My friend Ferd would like to pass along the following message to ESPN: If you’re going to have Erin Andrews talk about something, the least you could do is have her on screen at all times when she’s talking so that we can see her. Fair enough point, I suppose.
6) I was mildly surprised to see Brian Butch have such a rough night tonight. While it doesn’t shock me if Butch has an off night here and there, since he’s a streaky player, I figured the new elbow pad that he was wearing would allow him to mix it up down low. Excitement over this ability to bang with the other big guys should have led to a confident and productive night. Instead we got the lower-end of streaky-Butch. Not bad timing, though, all things considered.
7) Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale discussed multiple times the fact that Greg Oden and Mike Conley have played basketball together since 6th grade. Given this fact, you just know that there’s some guy like me out there getting tons of mileage out of the time that his 7th grade squad stayed within 20 points of their team, and he "held" Oden to 23 points. Of course, I only know this is true because I can still name some of the guys that lit me up in 7th grade. Unfortunately, my friends Beau and Kevin are probably the only people that would recognize any of those names.
8) Was there anyone in America less excited than current Milwaukee Bucks star and former Ohio State star Michael Redd when the camera found him in the second half with OSU way down? And how about Erin Andrews following this up by asking him what he thought of Greg Oden, on a night when Oden had no field goals prior to the question? Redd forced a nice answer, but this wasn’t one of those nights where everyone ended up in awe of Oden. Sure, it was the only night like that in recorded history, but it still made for an awkward question.
9) Is it wrong that I’m just about numb to the spectacular ability of Alando Tucker to hit bizarre running shots, and toss the ball off of his hip while falling away from the hoop, only to have it fall through the basket? At this point, you just sort of have to accept that Tucker’s going to hit a handful of shots that look like something that no other player in the country could pull off on a regular basis. Sure, I got excited after Tucker tossed in that ridiculous shot where he seemed to pull the ball from where his knees were at, but afterward I thought "Well, that’s just what he does."
10) Prior to the game, my friend Josh informed me of the news that Bo Ryan had been using former Wisconsin Badger center, Rashard Griffith, to play on the scout team in practice in preparation for this game. Two things strike me about this situation. First, Bo Ryan is a genius for getting perhaps the best possible faux-Greg Oden who’s not playing in the NBA to play the role of Greg Oden for his team. There are limited things that a massive center who’s had lots of success in a Turkish league is perfect for, but this is one of them. Secondly, if you had told me that Rashard Griffith had any sort of affinity for the Wisconsin program, or Madison in general back when he was in college, I would have told you that you were nuts. But given that there seems to be a story ever few months about Griffith coming back to town for something, you’d have to think that there is something that he genuinely likes about his alma mater.
11) The bar that I was at had side-by-side TVs showing the Wisconsin-Ohio State game, and the Alabama-LSU game. I wasn’t sure whether to be excited or sort of embarrassed when I briefly glanced over at ESPN2 and caught them at commercial of the Alabama-LSU game and showing a highlight of the Wisconsin-Ohio State game that consisted of Jason Chappell scoring on a hook shot from the lane where he just sort of lofted the ball up in a frightened manner. It’s good that Chappell scored, obviously, but ESPN couldn’t have found one of the clips of the Badgers scoring in a cooler manner for SEC fans to see?
12) On those same side-by-side TVs, it seemed like every time I glanced over to the Alabama-LSU game, Glen Davis was somehow writhing in pain. I’d like to go for the low-blow and say that he was living up to his nickname, "Big Baby," but given that Davis was in a car crash recently, and that I saw a graphic at one point in the second half crediting him with 20 points and 17 rebounds, I guess I can’t be too critical of the guy.
13) When the game looked safely locked up for the Badgers, Dick Vitale made the point that Ohio State did a nice job of not giving up, even though things looked bleak. My friends and I sort of laughed at this point, but ultimately conceded that Vitale had a point, because even down 10 points, the Buckeyes really were throwing everything that they had at trying to get back into the game. Even we weren’t expecting them to eventually end up with a shot at the buzzer that could have sent the game to overtime, though. Say what you will about Ohio State, but they proved that they play until the buzzer, no matter what.
14) I’ve almost gotten through all of my points, and I just realized that I haven’t really mentioned Joe Krabbenhoft at all. That’s because he’s just always sort of there, filling in holes, and taking care of whatever needs to get done, even if most people aren’t noticing him. Have I mentioned lately that I love his game?
15) Could Ohio State have any tougher schedule to start the year? As I’ve noted about them in the past, I am really excited to watch the Buckeyes play, but it seems like all that I ever see them do is lose. But then again, those teams that I’ve seen them lose to are North Carolina, Florida, and Wisconsin, ranked numbers 1-3 in the AP poll. Those are all of their losses. And let’s not forget that all of these losses have come on the road. That struggle to beat Indiana is also looking a bit less troubling, after Indiana laid into Michigan State on Sunday. So Ohio State’s probably the most legitimate 13-3 team ever. Too bad that the three games that most people have seen them play are also their three losses. With a roster full of freshmen gaining experience, they’re still going to be super-scary come March.
After breathing a sigh of relief that Ohio State wasn’t quite able to force overtime after amazingly clawing their way back into the game with 30 seconds, my friends and I left our viewing location, and went on our separate ways. I typically hate nights like these, when I have a bunch of things to write about after a late game, and end up losing sleep as I type things up before they leave me brain forever. Last night, though, I sat happily typing away, unable to keep my eyes open as I articulated my points to the screen in front of me. On a night that wonderful, a little extra time awake hurts a lot less.
And as if the Badger win last night wasn’t enough, Marquette takes on perennial power Connecticut tonight. It seems like big-name foes are around every corner this week, and Marquette pulling an upset to get back on track in the Big East would be a nice way to fill out the week. Let’s hope that the Golden Eagles have been working on their foul shooting, and are ready to rebound from Sunday’s Syracuse game.