Wisconsin vs. IPFW: Opening The Year on My Couch
Finally this weekend we got to the basketball games that count. And finally, we had the last Wisconsin home football game of the year. The latter fact would not be significant for basketball purposes, save for the fact that I have Wisconsin football season tickets, and not having to wake up at 5am anymore to go tailgate will leave me a lot more time and energy for watching basketball. This weekend, my early wake-up time led me to decide not to head downtown on Friday night for either the Marquette or UWM season openers. Thus, I’m still looking to get my first look at the Golden Eagles, and I’m still waiting to see the Panthers in regular season action (and with Ricky Franklin). Fortunately, I was able to take in Wisconsin’s season opener on TV last night. It was a bit of a struggle, since I was freakishly tired last night, and had to wait until 8pm to cue up the game on my DVR due to dinner plans interfering with my ability to watch things live. But I sucked it up and stayed awake until 10pm to finish the game. My thoughts below:
1) I’d made it my goal to write all of my game thoughts without referencing IPFW coach and former Indiana standout Dane Fife, who most of us only know from his time as a player. But here we are in the first point, and I’m referencing him already. If you have this year’s Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook (and if you don’t, you really should buy one), it’s worth giving IPFW’s profile a read just for Fife’s candor about playing prominent programs on the road. Long story short, he doesn’t like getting repeatedly pummeled at the start of the year, but is required by the school to bring in money for the program through games like this. Granted, anyone with half a brain knows that this is how most coaches of mid-major programs feel, but most other coaches in Fife’s role would say something like “The challenging early schedule will really help prepare us for our Summit League schedule.” Fife simply comes clean, and I like that. (FYI, his thoughts on his former coach, Bob Knight, were mildly amusing, too, though they were brief.)
2) I’m not a fan of the design of the IPFW uniforms for one reason–the front collar that had one side that was white and one side that was blue. I don’t know what they were going for there. Perhaps because the team mascot is the Mastodons, the pointy end of the white side was supposed to imply some sort of tusk (though even that hackneyed attempt at an explanation makes no sense, as a mastodon would have two tusks, one on each side). I’m certainly not a guy that has the expertise necessary to design a good uniform, but I feel like those that do should have learned by now that abandoning symmetry seldom results in a good looking uniform.
3) Perhaps just a bit of an exaggeration when the announcing team referred to Tim Jarmusz as “one of the greatest high school players in Wisconsin state history.” Of course, if you were paying attention to the broadcast, you later on realized that this was an exaggeration when they revealed that Jarmusz is a business major. In Wisconsin basketball-speak, “business major” means a guy that already realizes that he’s not going to play pro basketball and has gotten an early start on the process of preparing to get a good job that doesn’t involve throwing a ball through a hoop.
4) I enjoy watching a good defensive mismatch, even when it’s a situation that does not benefit my team. And last night contained an entertaining mismatch situation where Trevon Hughes had to defend an IPFW post player on one of the blocks. Normally, this results in the little guy either getting completely dominated, or him making scrappy moves that ultimately just end up resulting in a foul. Either way, it’s amusing to watch a small guy defend a huge beast. But last night, Hughes actually showed off some legitimately good post defense on a guy much larger than him. I suppose this should come as no huge surprise, given that a big part of Wisconsin’s system involves guards knowing how to post up on offense, but I can honestly say that I haven’t seen a point guard look as comfortable on the blocks as Hughes did last night since Travon Davis improbably turned into the greatest 5'10" post threat ever during his senior season.
5) Despite plenty of fine things about his game, I’m undoubtedly going to complain a lot this year about how I have very little confidence whenever Jason Bohannon puts up a three-point shot. So in the interest of fairness, I have to note how impressive it was when he calmly sank his three-pointer at the buzzer to close out the first half. Nice job, Mr. Bohannon–hopefully we can make this begrudging praise thing a more regular thing.
6) Nice work by the announcers working in the tidbit that the father of IPFW forward Oleg Kovalov was a former captain of the Soviet water polo team. If you’ve ever wondered why I love media guides so much, it’s randomly amusing factoids like this one.
7) That’s two early-season games, and two contests where I’m feeling good about Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil. I wasn’t sure what to make of Leuer and Nankivil coming into the year. Nankivil was a guy that started for much of last year with little impact, and Leuer was a guy who was occasionally brilliant, but generally never saw much more than 20 minutes per game. So far, both are looking like the most efficient players on the floor, and the guys that I’m most confident in when I see them putting up a shot (curiously, Leuer seems to be logging noticeably more minutes than Nankivil, though). This early in the season, part of that is undoubtedly due to the fact that they’ve been defended by players that are smaller and less skilled than they’ll see as things go on, but at this point I feel like both are taking a leap forward this season. So far, so good...
8) Best random exchange of the night between play by play man Jay Wilson and color commentator Shon Morris: Morris proclaimed that he had seen Lynard Skynard in concert 37 times. Wilson then asked very appropriately and very simply “Why?”
9) Was that a random Wquinton Smith siting with about 9:30 left in the game? I have no idea what that was about. Did Bo Ryan misread the clock?
10) Shon Morris was pandering to either Wisconsin fans or guys that like watching the movie Hoosiers when he proclaimed how much fun it is to watch “solid, fundamental basketball.” While I appreciate that Wisconsin’s emphasis on fundamentals helps them consistently be a winning team, even I must concede that it’s often a bit more fun to watch guys who have a slightly less solid handle on fundamentals, but who can dunk over two defenders in traffic.
11) I’m happy that Jon Leuer had a great game last night, but I’m also sort of bitter that he registered four blocks on the evening. Because had he not, I’d have been able to say “It’s official–Jason Bohannon leads the team in blocks so far this season.” Mark that down at the last time Bohannon records three blocks in a game.
12) No Mike Bruesewitz last night in the blowout win, so let the speculation that he’s redshirting begin.
So that’s one game down. So far, the Badgers look encouraging, I’m falling in love with every player that I thought I wouldn’t like, and I’m seeing nothing of interest from any of the players that I was most excited about heading into the year. Right now, though, I’m not complaining about how wrong I’ve been about things so far. Here’s looking forward to a good first week of hoops, and here’s hoping I can get some rest tonight and beat down the budding illness that seems to be attacking me. I’m going to need some stamina if these rumors about ESPN showing 24 straight hours of live basketball tomorrow are true.