Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wisconsin vs. Indiana: The Ultimate Insult

To say that my last two nights have been fun would be an understatement. On Monday, I sat at the MECCA and watched a UWM team that back in December I was just hoping wouldn't finish last in the Horizon League take the number 10 team in the country to overtime by hitting a semi-ridiculous three-pointer at the end of regulation. Then last night, I saw an even more exciting game on TV, where Wisconsin banked in a three-pointer to beat Indiana after a long, hard-fought game. The way things are going, I’m going to be disappointed if the game I’m going to tonight doesn’t end with someone drop-kicking in a shot from half-court at the buzzer. Thoughts on Wisconsin-Indiana below:

1) I can't really imagine what it feels like to be an Indiana fan right now. My best guess is that it must feel like the exact opposite of the euphoria that I felt watching Wisconsin hit their final shot, but multiplied by about 20. The day starts off with the news that your program's likely going to face sanctions next year, your current coach probably isn’t going to last through the week (not to mention that your athletic director is also now on shaky ground), your team gets screwed when referees miss an obvious travel by your opponent in the final minute of your game, and to top it off, a pale, goofy-looking 7-foot guy hits a bank shot to steal a win from you at home. Has a fan base ever had a more upsetting day? And has there ever been a fan base that deserved this less? I mean, at least half of Indiana’s fans were upset when Kelvin Sampson was hired, since they knew he was trouble.

2) Though it was nice to see Jason Bohannon and Michael Flowers hitting their three-point attempts, there are few things that scare me more than watching Wisconsin depending heavily on the three-point shot. There are some teams that are built to be able to routinely score the bulk of their points from long range (Duke often falls into this category), but as Bo Ryan alluded to in his interview while leaving the floor at halftime, layups are more Wisconsin's style. So while it's nice to know that Wisconsin can hang in a game where they don't score a two-point field goal until ten and a half minutes, I don't exactly find myself hoping that they'll be forced to play like that again.

3) I've not seen a performance as dominant as D.J. White in the first four minutes of last night’s game since Charles Jefferson took the field for the 1982 Ridgemont High football team.

4) There are few things more pathetic to watch in a division one basketball than Brian Butch taking DeAndre Thomas off the dribble.

5) Over the last five games or so, Brian Butch's legs have officially been replaced by Marcus Landry's goggles as the thing most likely to get slightly dinged up and cause a stoppage in the game. I'm not sure how the durability of Landry's spectacles had dipped so quickly, but lately it seems that every time he hits the deck he comes up looking for someone to fix a problem with his glasses.

6) Memo to Eric Gordon’s dad: If you’re wearing a jersey at a basketball game (one of the few places that it’s at all acceptable as a fan to wear a sports jersey), nine times out of ten it’s a good idea to wear the jersey of the team that you’re supporting. You know, they might even make one with your son’s number…

7) It would appear that Kyle Taber is Indiana's version of Joe Krabbenhoft, in that he's a guy that looks utterly unwilling to shoot the ball 90% of the time that it comes to him.

8) Speaking of Krabbenhoft, it seems that a not-so-clever trend is beginning whereby announcers attempt name him to their all-something team. Against Purdue, it was the all-tough guy team, since he's tough. Last night, Shon Morris put Krabbenhoft on his all-duct tape team, because like duct tape, Krabbenhoft can do everything (thanks for letting us know that you can hem pants with duct tape, Shon). I like that Krabbenhoft is getting the recognition that he deserves for doing the little things, but I wish there was a less cheesy way of that happening. I blame Dick Vitale for his all-Marco Polo (I can't remember if that referred to transfers or foreigners, or perhaps just guys good at playing Marco Polo) teams of the early 1990s.

9) Nice to see the Big Ten Network up its ratio of actual advertisements to promos for the Big Ten Network and Conference last night. I'd venture to guess that with two top-15 teams on the floor, nearly 40% of the space filled during gaps in the game went to actual advertisers, a much higher percentage than usual. What's that the Big Ten Network was saying about cable companies being able to make up the cost of the Big Ten Network from local advertising revenue?

10) It’s pretty obvious that Eric Gordon is a tremendous talent, and I want to be totally clear that I’d take him on my favorite team in a second. That said, down the stretch I felt like he was trying too hard. There were times that Indiana came down the floor and you could just see that Gordon wanted to take the big shot. It wasn’t in that “Michael Jordan is great because he takes the big shots” way, though. It was more like he figured he was the best option (which to be fair, he usually was), so he was just going to get whatever shot he could, rather than giving someone else a chance at a better look at the basket.

11) Looked like freshman Tim Jarmusz was in street clothes last night. Not a major issue if he's not available this year, but nonetheless, let's hope his lack of uniform indicates just a minor injury or illness.

12) The Brian Butch three to win it? Yeah, that made me sick to my stomach for half a second. The thing that’s so unique about Butch is that while he has an unbelievable touch with his shot, he’s also not the most accurate guy in the world. Consequently, you typically know the moment a ball comes off his hand whether it’s going to bounce around on the rim for awhile and have a chance, or if it’s going to go three feet to the left of the hoop and entirely miss the apparatus. Butch’s winning shot appeared to be the latter. But for once in his life, his inaccuracy was a benefit, bailing him out, and giving Indiana its final insult of the day.

Yep, that was a classic. The Big Ten may not be a great conference this year (they both played well last night, but I still contend that Wisconsin and Indiana are both over-ranked), but even so, it’s still fun to see Wisconsin chalking up wins. As for Indiana, I only hope they can pull through the larger mess. Their fans and their players don’t deserve any of what they’re about to start dealing with.

Back tomorrow (hopefully) with some thoughts on yet another game. Can you tell that this has been an excellent week for me?


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