Wisconsin vs. UW-Superior: The First Look
As alluded to earlier, last night was my first chance to get a look at this year’s Wisconsin team. With Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft gone and leaving big holes to fill, it was finally interesting to see a Wisconsin team that needed to mix in some new blood. So with the best tickets that I’ll get to enjoy this year, I headed to the Kohl Center to get a look at some of the fresh faces and see how they mixed in with the holdovers.
1) Usually, I like to work in a few thoughts about the opposing team in exhibition contests. However last night’s opponent was UW-Superior, projected for 7th in the WIAC this year and located in a region of the state that I have no familiarity with. Thus, I knew none of the players in advance, and didn’t feel the need to learn much about them last night. So last night I focused solely on the Badgers. Given the play of the Yellowjackets last night, I’m okay with that decision.
2) During the last couple of years, Wisconsin has shown a highlight video just after player introductions, when both teams are getting ready to start the game. It’s maybe a minute in length and is set to high-energy music. Last night my friend Todd and I both felt old when he commented to me that he thought the music was too loud, and I responded that I simply thought the song used was not all that great. In my defense, I think part of my dismay was due to the fact that the prior versions of the pre-game music were so well done. It’s tough to match the excitement of a Brian Butch fist-pump that’s set to the Black Eyed Peas.
3) Trevon Hughes was sporting a mohawk similar to the ones worn by a bunch of UWM players when I went to the Panther game last week. Hughes has gone with this look before, and it’s generally not a great one. I will give him credit, though, as his mohwak actually looked pretty cool in the video shown during player introductions, during which he seemed to be sporting a fresh haircut. I guess it must just be a hair style that starts out awesome, and begins to look ugly after about 3 days of growth.
4) There were a few things that I was pretty wrong about when I wrote yesterday about things that I was anticipating. The most glaring thing was my caution with expecting too much from Ryan Evans. He was the first guy off the bench last night, and brought tremendous energy, his best moments coming on an alley-oop dunk and two impressive blocks. His shot is one of the ugliest that I’ve ever seen on a division one basketball player, but it doesn’t matter–he does enough good things that he will see the floor plenty this year, and will definitely be better than the 9th man. He, not Rob Wilson, may be the guy that brings the “wow” factor this year. The fact that Evans’ high-top fade haircut makes him look the same height as Keaton Nankivil is just the icing on the cake.
5) During a break in the action, I happened to catch an announcement about the greatest promotion ever, being put on by the women’s hockey team: Snuggie night. Wear your Snuggie and get $1 admission to the women’s hockey game on whatever night they were promoting (Though it’s a great promotion, there’s still no chance I’m going to be able to squeeze in a women's hockey game anytime soon. Hence the reason that I don’t know when Snuggie night is.). I’m hoping that they do this for other sporting events throughout the year, as it just so happens that my Snuggie is red. I never thought that choosing the right color on that thing would be important.
6) My excitement over Jared Berggren is still there, but there wasn’t much to tell about him last night. He failed to finish once amongst a bundle of outstretched Superior arms, but remained ready and willing to face contact, as expected. Mostly last night he simply wasn’t needed, as Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer both pretty much had their way whenever they were on the floor. If both of them play like they did last night all year long, I won’t be complaining if Berggren doesn’t see as much time as I’d been hoping for.
7) It was a rough shooting night for Jason Bohannon, who’s always inspired less confidence in me than most guys who are the go-to three-point shooters on their teams. Overall, I imagine Bohannon’s numbers from beyond the arc are better than I’d expect, but I sure don’t get that feeling when he’s open that his shot is probably going to fall (as I did with a guy like Steve Novak).
8) I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen the pace of a Wisconsin game go as quickly as the first half did. And that’s not just taking into account game clock–when I looked at my watch on the way out of the game, I found that the game had wrapped up by 8:45pm. You don’t see a lot of college basketball games staying that far under two hours.
9) Trevon Hughes wasn’t spectacular last night, but he was probably the most interesting player to watch. His demeanor in the second half reminded me of the first time that I saw him in high school, when similarly, his team was significantly better than its opponent. In that high school game, you could almost see a moment where Hughes got bored simply winning the game, and looked for a challenge to make things interesting. He then proceeded to repeatedly break a full court press without passing the ball. Last night, he got that same look in his eye in the second half when he knew that Superior was outclassed. You could see his eyes surveying the floor with more intensity, looking for great pass opportunities (one of which was a bounce pass that connected with Keaton Nankivil in awe-inspiring fashion). I’m hoping that opponents this season aren’t so dreadful that Hughes finds himself getting bored very often, but even if there are some blowouts, at least I know that there will always be entertainment to be found in watching Hughes challenge himself.
10) I don’t take too many lessons away from this game, because Superior was not amongst the better division three teams that I’ve seen play in exhibition games like this, but it was tough not to enjoy the Badgers’ passing and hustle last night. I knew that the ball was moving well, but at one point in the second half I saw on the scoreboard that 20 assists had already been handed out. That has to make a coach happy, regardless of who it happens against. And as for the hustle, I can’t recall too many times that there was a loose ball and a Wisconsin player didn’t come up with it. It was a desire for the ball that I more frequently associate with Marquette, and it was nice to see from a Badger team.
11) And as anticipated, I enjoyed the end of the game last night, as Bo Ryan went with a twin towers lineup down stretch, allowing J.P. Gavinski and Ian Markolf to see action in the final two minutes. Nothing much to say about either, other than that it appears that Markolf appears to be putting in his work in the weight room, as he looked slimmer and had stronger arms than I had remembered. (Then again, there’s not much to remember from last year, so I could be totally wrong in that assessment.) Here’s looking forward to getting another look at both guys a year from now.
With my first Wisconsin game of the year in the books, I headed on out and used my extra free time from the game letting out so early to head to Woodman’s on the east side of Madison and clean them out of sparkling water as I returned home. Why? Because I had the time, I’m a cheap, cheap man who likes sparkling water, and Woodman’s sells Klarbrunn at a remarkably reasonable price. All in all, I’d call that a good night.