Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Badgers Basketball?

I'm going with the question mark in the title of this post for two reasons:

1. Does the Bucky Channel cover Wisconsin Basketball?

2. More importantly, was that truly Wisconsin Basketball we saw tonight and during other times this season?

That is the big question, and I think you can extend it beyond tonight and on to the rest of the season and even into the next few years.

Ok, first let's recap tonight's game against Michigan St as quickly as possible. Wisconsin players average in the first half, but Michigan St plays poorly. 2nd half Michigan St comes out hot and takes a brief lead. Then Nankivil and Taylor hit some key shots and the Badgers take a lead. Then a total melt down. Game goes to OT, Wisconsin still has chances, but loses anyways.

Let's take a closer look at the utterly un-Wisconsin like play at the end, up 9 with with 2:39 left and up 6 with 1:17 left.

- with 1:38 remaining, 30 seconds on the shot clock and Wisconsin up by 6 Rob Wilson attempts to finish a possible break on his own going against two Michigan St defenders and doesn't even hit the rim.

-with 1:08 remaining, Jon Leuer turns the ball over while dribbling the ball between his legs near half court, leading to fast break dunk by MSU.

- on the ensuing inbounds, Rob Wilson fumbles the inbounds pass in the corner and ends up going out of bounds.

- with 13 seconds left and the game tied Tim Jarmusz airballs a wide open 3 pointer with the clock running down.

- overtime, a couple more turnovers and some bad shots

- with 59 seconds remaining, Jordan Taylor misses the first free throw of the game for Wisconsin that could've given us the lead.

Man, that game was sickening. From the start the Badgers appeared just ok. If it wasn't for Nankivil's shooting, we wouldn't have even had that early lead. Other than the bad play down the stretch, a couple things were more disconcerting and foreboding:

Where was Jon Leuer? 3 points in the second half (with 18:28 left). He did not even take a shot in the last 8 minutes plus overtime. Is this an All-American candidate? I know players have off nights and tough matchups, but you have to make your presence felt even then. Get big son.

Second, the Badger offense was pretty poor. We've all seen times where their offense is inept and they go through huge shooting droughts, but last night it was just poor and predictable. I think I remember about 2 times where Leuer got the ball on the block and we know Nankivil will never post up. We are then left with the swing offense, but a bastard-child version of it, where it ends in the whole team just waiting for Taylor to drive or pass or force a shot.

I think these problems are indicative of the Badgers this year. I also saw the Notre Dame game and it was pretty similar, only the meltdown came a bit earlier. It was the same - bad shots, turnovers, giving up offensive rebounds, miss free throws. The UNLV game was also marked by poor play down the stretch. We weren't even totally convincing down the stretch in their wins against Marquette and Minnesota. These things are all so new to Wisconsin and Bo Ryan teams. We are usually clutch and smart and at the very least do not beat ourselves.

And I'm usually not a pessimist and know it's a long season, but from what I've seen this year, the future of Badger Basketball is not too rosy. We will be fine this year. We have a good team, which makes these loses all the more difficult. We'll get enough wins against good opponents at home and make the NCAA and maybe even win a game or two there. Next year will be tough, I imagine it being like the 2008-2009 season, where the Badgers got the 12th seed in an up and down season led by Marcus Landry. I don't see Jordan Taylor letting his team be the one that ends the NCCA tourney streak. But after that, who knows? Are Mike Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser going to lead this team? I don't know. The streak might end in 2013.

I might be taking too much from this game. Losing at a top 25 team, a Final Four team from a year ago is usually not a huge deal. But if this game is indicative of the Badgers, which I think it is, things could be tough. I'll say this, enjoy this season while it lasts. The future may not be too bright.


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