Monday, November 12, 2007

Opening Weekend: Two Purdues, But No Matt Painter

Big opening weekend of hoops for me, as I checked out Marquette’s season opener on Saturday night, and followed it up with a rare trip to the Kohl Center to see the Badgers in person in their season opener on Sunday night. My thoughts are a bit less well-formed as usual, as I never quite recovered from a 5:30am wake-up call to do some football tailgating in Madison (my offseason diversion) on Saturday. Thus, my sleep-deprived brain was jello-like for good portions of the weekend. Add to that a second round trip to Madison on Sunday, and I’m dragging a bit. But I still noticed a few things. We’ll alternate Marquette and Wisconsin points today:

1) I went to watch Marquette open their season against IUPUI this weekend, and followed it
up the next day by going to see Wisconsin play IPFW. I consider that a pretty good weekend--two season openers, two P's, and a grand total of three I's. Not to mention that I started the day at a 7:30am football tailgate drinking a Jaguar, and ended the day watching a team whose mascot is the Jaguars.

2) Brian Butch looked like he did in high school en route to posting 24 points and 13
rebounds. That is to say that I spent a lot of time wondering how a guy who looked sort of physically awkward could be scoring so consistently. Butch still isn't what you'd call strong around the hoop (if he was, he’d have easily had 30 last night), but as he showed last night, he does have some decent offensive moves, and you don't want to give him multiple chances at layups (I didn't know that was possible either), as IPFW stunningly did at times last night.

3) The big news of the Marquette opener was that Scott Christopherson had knee surgery in
the afternoon before the game. Such a surprise was this that I was the only one of my friends at the game who had heard about this news beforehand. I kind of like the idea of Christopherson redshirting as he recovers from the injury. While he would have, and perhaps still will play, this year, he's clearly the number 6 guard on the team this year, and could use some time to develop. And who wants to lose a huge chunk of any year to injury, anyway.

4) Trevon Hughes can do things with the ball that I haven't seen a Wisconsin guard do in some time. It was sort of fun seeing someone who could get into the lane for the Badgers. For a brief moment, I felt like I was watching a Marquette guard.

5) The story of Scott Christopherson’s injury is eerily similar to Trevor Mbakwe’s. It’s not like either one blew out their knee in practice. Rather, both had some pre-existing issue that no one knew about, and after it was discovered, people openly wondered how they were able to function on a basketball court without extreme pain. What are the chances of that happening to 2/3 of your freshman class? Part of me is wondering if the team doctor is a Louisville grad, and he or she just keeps telling guys that there’s something wrong with them in order to give the Cardinals an edge in the Big East. I’m not convinced of this conspiracy yet, but if you see Jerel McNeal in street clothes next game because of a skull fracture that he’s had for 5 years, but has just been discovered now, I’d say it’s time to look into this theory.

6) Despite talk of Bo Ryan using a deep rotation, he essentially stayed with his top seven guys for the bulk of the game, save for a brief Kevin Gullikson appearance in the first half, and an appearance by Jon Leuer that stretched just a bit longer than garbage time. I was mildly disappointed by the short bench, but still suspect that things will go a bit deeper as time goes on. I just don’t see how Leuer and Keaton Nankivil go the entire season without getting meaningful minutes. Though given the Badgers rough play in the first ten minutes, I can understand the impulse to try and stick with known entities.

7) Marquette’s halftime competition of fans playing lightning wasn’t bad, but it’s still no musical chairs.

8) Attendance at the Kohl Center seemed surprisingly low for the season opener. That’s all relative, since most teams would kill to have the number of butts in the seats at Wisconsin did for an early season game against a non-descript opponent (the fact that IPFW’s coach is Dane Fife, notwithstanding). But it’s still sort of weird to be sitting in seats as nice as the ones I had last night (it was a rare night in the good seats for me!) and be able to stretch my legs because my neighbor was nowhere to be found.

And with a drive back to Milwaukee with my trusty sidekick Beau after the Badger game, I promptly jotted down a few thoughts and went to bed. The season’s finally here, and I’m going to need to be well rested...


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