Big Ten 1, ACC 0: Wisconsin vs. Virginia Tech
We've got an early leader for game of the year. Yesterday I predicted a possible overtime finish for the Wisconsin-Virginia Tech game, showing that on rare occasions, I can come close to the truth. I’m glad that Trevon Hughes kept things from heading to an extra period, though. This was an important game, though, as it marked the first time that I spent the night yelling like an idiot at my television as a game unfolded. Yep, all it took was one fantastic game to start tugging at my emotions again. Thoughts on what I saw below:
1) Currently, Keaton Nankivil isn't exactly performing as the pure power player that he is. Last night's game was seemingly the fourth or fifth game in a row where Nankivil botched a scoring opportunity by failing to go up as strongly with a shot as he should have. You need to go strong when finesse isn’t your game. I've still got extremely high hopes for Nankivil, though, so I'm hoping that this is just a temporary bump in the road.
2) Virginia Tech freshman Victor Davila looked dominant during the brief stretch during which he scored 6 straight points in the post. And it's a good thing that he's really good at basketball, because otherwise people would just know him as "that dude without a chin."
3) While it normally irks me when people complain about foul differential in Wisconsin games, I have to admit that it sure didn't seem like the refs were doing any favors for Virginia Tech last evening. I can't help but feel sorry for forward Jeff Allen, who managed to foul out on three questionable fouls and one infraction (the final one) that came about only because he tripped. i can't recall the last time I saw a guy foul out without getting at least one good hack or charge, but Allen managed to pick up nothing but weird fouls.
4) One of Allen's fouls came as he readied himself to challenge a Rob Wilson drive down the lane, and Wilson grazed Allen as he leapt to take a shot. Color commentator Bill Raftery praised Wilson for his presence of mind in drawing a key foul on Allen to send him to the bench. However, based on what I've seen of Wilson, I suspect that this play was more reflective of his always-attacking mentality than any sort of crafty plan that he had in mind. Either way, it worked out just fine for the Badgers.
5) It's not basketball-related, but since it was constantly on the ESPN2 crawl at the bottom of the screen I have to ask--is there anyone having a worse week than Plaxico Burress? I can't fathom what it would be like to not only shoot myself, but to get arrested and charged with a crime because I shot myself, and have that story running non-stop on ESPN.
6) The announcers praised it ad nauseum, but since it was so right and so important, it bears noting that Wisconsin was remarkably patient in their offense last evening. Virginia Tech is not an easy team to break down on the defensive end, and Wisconsin needed nearly every second to find a shot on most of their trips down the court. Undoubtedly the biggest factor in the Badgers taking home the win was the fact that no one on their team panicked when they saw 10 seconds left on the shot clock. (Okay, Trevon Hughes occassionally forced something with 8-10 seconds left, but that's also sort of his job.)
7) Did anyone else have tons of video hiccups during the broadcast of the game, or do I just need to get the position of my dish checked out?
8) Virginia Tech's trapping 1-3-1 defense that they broke out on a few occasions during the game was pretty scary to watch as a Wisconsin fan. I'm very thankful that the energy required to run that defense would have had Virginia Tech's guards collapsing with heart attacks if they had to run it all game, becuase on the few defensive stands when the Hokies pulled the 1-3-1 out of their bag of tricks, it was apparent that Wisconsin was working even harder than the Hokies just to avoid a turnover.
9) I can't heap enough superlatives on Virginia Tech's A.D. Vassello and his performance last night. Simply awesome. As if his being nearly automatic from three-point range down the stretch wasn't enough, he also made a number of key plays on the defensive end. I can't imagine that we'll see a better performance in the next two days of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. I’ve seen few better in the last few years.
10) Deep into the second half, I thought Virginia Tech just did a nice job of screening for Vassello and finding ways to get open, but I do have to admit that earlier in the evening it looked like Joe Krabbenhoft had a few moments with Vassello and otherwise where he was a step slow on defense. Fortunately, Krabbenhoft came through when it mattered, but it appears that not even my favorite player is infalable.
11) I know that A.D. Vassello pretty clearly earned the respect of Wisconsin, and that he also came away with some respect for the Badgers. How do I know this? Very simple--lots of man hugs during the post-game handshake line. You don't go the extra mile and lean in for the one-armed hug unless you really appreciate your opponent.
And with that, the Big Ten put themselves up 1-0 in the Challenge, and I went to shovel some snow and test out my new roof rake. This Big Ten lead shouldn’t last, assuming history is any sort of guide. In the meantime, here are my picks for the next two nights of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (winners in bold):
Wake Forest vs. Indiana: Is there really any question here? Indiana nearly lost to Chaminade in the last place game of the Maui Invite. I'm putting the over-under on Indiana players that transfer at the end of the year at three. On the plus side, I can only assume that Tom Crean already has players recruited to fill those spots.
Clemson vs. Illinois: I don’t know enough about either team to talk intelligently, so I’ll fall back to my old crutches and pick Clemson both because I have a cousin that went there, and because Champaign is maybe the most disappointing Big Ten city that I’ve had the opportunity to visit.
North Carolina vs. Michigan State: Michigan State is a pretty good team. So was Notre Dame. North Carolina is a great team, and they destroy good teams. But at least the fact that this one's being played at Ford Field should make things interesting.
Duke vs. Purdue: I'll take Purdue. As a Wisconsin fan, I feel a kinship with Purdue, the Big Ten's other team that's successful, but not flashy. Wisconsin couldn't get the job done last year, but Purdue wins this one for all the boring teams out there.
Boston College vs. Iowa: I'm still waiting for Todd Lickliter to get some more talent into his programs, so for now, I have to take BC.
Ohio State vs. Miami: Miami destroyed a decent San Diego team and B.J. Mullens has yet to start following in Greg Oden and Kosta Koufos’s footsteps for OSU.
Virginia vs. Minnesota: Minnesota stays unbeaten as Tubby Smith continues to make the Gophers relevant again.
Maryland vs. Michigan: Michigan comes into this one extra motivated, wanting to steal some bragging rights after Maryland beat their in-state rival, Michigan State, and takes the win.
Florida State vs. Northwestern: You know, I feel like having Northwestern in this thing every year really puts the Big Ten at a disadvantage.
Georgia Tech vs. Penn State: You know, I feel like having Penn State in this thing every year really puts the Big Ten at a disadvantage.
So I've got the ACC taking yet another year of the Challenge 7-4. I'm hoping that the Big Ten can prove me wrong, though, and finally steal some measure of respect from the ACC. We'll see how things turn out...