Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State: Ouch

Wow, that was a stomach punch. After a week and a half of basketball that included an improbable decisive UWM victory over Butler and a spirited Marquette win over longtime rival Notre Dame, I managed to re-find my focus just in time to watch a Wisconsin-Michigan State game that ended in dreadful fashion (assuming that you, like me, are a Wisconsin fan), as the Badgers blew a 9-point lead in the closing minutes and lost in overtime. I’m not sure what was a worse feeling–the loss, or the realization at the end of the game that I needed to go out and shovel snow in the dark. Such is life. Game points below:

1) I’ve come to greatly respect Michigan State’s defense over the years, so it was a bit disappointing to me to see the Spartans almost immediately allow Keaton Nankivil a wide-open look from three-point range, near the top of the key. Anyone who’s even vaguely familiar with Wisconsin’s recent games knows that Nankivil has been on fire from that area.

2) Obviously people are going to lay a good amount of blame on Rob Wilson for his dunk attempt during the midst of Michigan State’s comeback. And deservedly so. Wilson is a talented, fearless player. And while that’s a great trait to have at many points in the game, it’s not so great near the end of the game when you’re attempting to hold a fragile lead. I question why Wilson, not known as one of the more “safe” guys on the team was even in the game during the final minutes. I understand that he thought he had a good opportunity to nearly seal the game with a dunk in a 2-on-1 situation, but pulling the ball out or drawing the Michigan State defender (who, to be fair, played things perfectly) to him and passing off to a well-spaced Jon Leuer would have been a much better call. It doesn’t take a great basketball mind to see this.

3) I’m not sure what to make of the fact that for the first time in Bo Ryan’s tenure at Wisconsin, he can’t seem to settle on a regular starting lineup. In past seasons, he seemed stubborn almost to a fault with refusing to deviate from the starting lineup that he began the year with (Jason Chappell’s starting role seemed almost ceremonial at times). But this year, I think Jared Berggren is the only player in the regular rotation that hasn’t seen a start. Is this merely because Ryan is becoming more flexible in his old age, or simply because he’s not sure who to trust from game to game? I would hope for the former, but I suspect and fear that it’s the latter.

5) It’s something that I think every time I see a game in East Lansing on TV–I really need to get to the Breslin Center for a game. Rounding out the rest of my top-five arenas that I’ve never seen a game at, but would like to, are: The Dean Smith Center (North Carolina), Gallagher-Iba Arena (Oklahoma State), Phog Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas), and The Carrier Dome (Syracuse).

5) Is it disturbing to anyone else that the two best three-point shooters in Wisconsin’s regular rotation are the Badgers’ starting center and power forward?

6) Big credit to Delvon Roe’s defense on Jon Leuer. Last night was the first time all year that I’ve seen someone make Leuer look that uncomfortable. He was still able to make some moves, but when it came time to shoot, there were no easy looks last night.

7) For all of the great things that I can say about Jordan Taylor–and there are many–I found myself frustrated with him last night whenever the shot clock was running down. I don’t expect him to be able to break guys down and get into the lane like Trevon Hughes could last year, but it seemed to me that Taylor tended to panic a few seconds early, and consequently ended up launching long-range desperation shots with about 5 seconds left on the shot clock. The same thing happened at the end of regulation when he couldn’t quite find a way to crack Michigan State’s defense in time.

8) Losing a game in the manner that it occurred last night hurts. It always hurts as a fan when your team blows a tough-to-overcome lead in the final minutes. But it hurts a little bit more when you’re playing a tough team in a building that’s very tough to win in. And it hurts even more when it’s Michigan State. If history is any indicator, you know that the Spartans are only going to get better as the season goes on, so it would have been nice to steal one early on.

9) I’ve not watched enough televised basketball this year to really get a feel for things, but am I nuts for starting to really like Dan Dakich as an announcer? Obviously, despite his Indiana ties, Dakich is no Bob Knight. But I really like the way that he’s able to describe what will happen next on the floor before it actually happens (and he was on fire with reading tendencies last night). Kudos to ESPN for stealing another coach away and making him into a broadcaster. (And yes, I say that in spite of him completely confusing me when he got the white board in his hand to draw up a play late in the game).

10) I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–I’m that rare Badger fan that likes Michigan State. Last night’s game is a perfect example of why I feel this way. Wisconsin lost to Michigan State in large part because of the Spartans’ hard-nosed style of play that made nothing easy. In short, Michigan State does the same sort of thing that Wisconsin does. I value the consistency and toughness of both teams. So while I don’t like losing, I’d much rather see a loss to a Michigan State team that wins by out-working you, rather than an Ohio State team that simply out-talents you.

So that’s last night’s game for me in a nutshell. On the plus side, with Monday night officially putting an end to college football, it seems like ESPN is really ramping up the intriguing basketball matchups this week. So I should get a chance to see a few more good games in the coming days. If nothing else, I’ve seen a number of amusing basketball-related television programs in the last few days, so I should have something to get me back to writing a bit more.

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