Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Final thoughts on the UW basketball season

Thanks to my superiors at the Capital Times, I got to handle the game blogs all season long for the Wisconsin men's basketball games. Even though their record was pretty despicable in games I blogged - at my count, the Badgers won just six of those 16 games, including the entire six-game losing streak - it was an unbelievable experience to cover the team in a completely different way; giving play-by-play updates and constant in-game commentary that was mostly knee-jerk based on what was going on in that moment. One of the coolest parts was seeing the comments from readers grow week by week, and they were not only very respectable but also had great insight on the team that I learned from. Throw in my responsibilities of conducting the post-game interviews with Cap Times columnist Mike Lucas - an old-school student of the game and an absolute stathead, always cool in my book - as well as my first IM basketball action (419ers, represent) and I felt like I learned so much about the game of basketball this winter.

Here's my basic take on the team this season: they missed Brian Butch and Mike Flowers more than people realize. I think it could be one hell of a debate in a newspaper or on "Sidelines" with Lucas and Tom Oates and Jeff Potrykus and those guys: which athlete caught more unnecessary flak during his playing days and was never appreciated for his truly astronomical value until after he graduated, John Stocco (UW quarterback, 2003-2006) or Butch (UW basketball center, 2003-2007)? Without Butch aka The Polar Bear, the team was way too small, and lacked a clutch-time scorer as well as an emotional spark-plug. And without his mentor Flowers, Trevon Hughes was a lone gun out there; a role player masquerading as "the" guy for the entire season. No offense to Pop, but he's not consistent enough to be the first, second and third option on the offensive end.

The scoring droughts absolutely killed this team's season, and the fact that the Badgers led late in 10 of their 13 losses speaks both to their offensive inefficiency and their obvious dropoff from the 2007-08 club that ranked tops in national defense. I think fans should be happy with the nice upset victory against Florida State that not only validated UW's place in the NCAA tournament, but also got the Badgers to 20 wins and made this a B-minus season and not something in C-ville.

Quick look-ahead to next year: look for that three-guard lineup to be a regular thing. Jordan Taylor will likely become the starting point guard, with Hughes and Jason Bohannon as the shooters. Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil will be the forwards, with Tim Jarmusz, Rob Wilson, and any mix of freshmen Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren and incomer Diamond Taylor rounding out the rotation.

Ben Voelkel of thinks that the team I just outlined will be a top-15 squad in 2009-10. I say nay; still not enough offensive firepower, and the Big Ten is only gonna get better top to bottom. Love to hear what you guys think on this.


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