As MSU visits Madison without a Big Ten loss, UW is getting nothing but respect
You know what is missing from the 2009-10 basketball season? No, not Bo Ryan's red blazer. Not the stupid "Stand up old people" chant. I'm not even talking about the lack of a pre-game meal for the media.
No, what's missing is all the disrespect. All the Wisconsin "haters" out there. All the whining about how boring the Badgers are and how watching a Bo Ryan coached team is like going shoe shopping with your girlfriend.
So what has changed? Because it's certainly not the type of basketball being played. The Badgers are still running the same old slow, defense-first basketball. Maybe it's because they beat Duke. Maybe it's because they beat Purdue. Maybe it's because they looked good in the Maui Invitational.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's because the Badgers are a good basketball team. They have been for a decade and they will be as long as Bo Ryan is the head coach. The other coaches always knew it, but the analysts (specifically the boo-yahs) and fans outside the state of Wisconsin are finally realizing it. Or at least, they are starting to admit it.
Hell, I even heard Doug Gottlieb say something good about the Badgers this season.
Try this on for size. Wisconsin lost its only game last week and stayed put in the polls. A lot of writers actually moved the Badgers higher. One writer jumped UW from No. 12 to No. 7 after losing to the Boilermakers.
Go ahead and check out what other fans are saying on opponent blogs before, during and after games against Wisconsin. In a way, they are still complaining about how Wisconsin plays, but their tune has changed a little bit. They are giving the Badgers a lot of credit. And more importantly, they are scared of playing Wisconsin, not just annoyed about it.
This is from the Purdue blog Hammer and Rails today:
Yeah I went hunting once. Shot the deer in the leg. Had to kill it with a shovel. Took about an hour. Why do you ask? - That is what it feels like when you are trying to beat Wisconsin. They just refuse to die, especially if you have any kind of a lead on them at the Kohl Center. If they top Michigan State tonight it would be their third win over a top 10 team in Madison. Thank goodness we don't have to go back. Their schedule is relatively simple if they can get past the Spartans, but a home and home with Illinois could be tricky.
How about from tonight's opponent? This is from The Only Colors' preview of tonight's matchup at the Kohl Center:
So tell me if this is about right:
Take a team that went 10-8 in Big Ten play in 2009, subtract the team's leading scorer and leading rebounder (two different guys), add two freshman role players playing a combined 21.1 minutes per game, and you get . . . a team that starts the season 13-3 overall and 3-1 in conference play.
Now go ahead and knock the team's new star out with an injury--a guy who had emerged as the team's second leading scorer, top rebounder, and a legitimate contender for the conference player of the year. Now, of course, you have . . . a team that still managed to win 3 of 5 games to find itself in a second-place tie in the Big Ten standings.
My point? The Wisconsin basketball team, as coached by Bo Ryan, defies rational analysis.
It's true. It does defy rational analysis. I guess I'm glad I get to break down Michigan State instead of Wisconsin.
Keys to tonight's game
- Rebound, rebound, rebound. The Badgers are still No. 1 in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, which is surprising considering they haven't outrebounded an opponent in any of their last four games. Michigan State won the rebounding margin 41-27 in the first meeting between these two teams and it pretty much decided the game.
- Get J-Bo going. Ever since Jon Leuer went out with his wrist injury, opponents have decided that Jason Bohannon is the guy they need to shut down. He's not getting good looks and he is missing the few good looks he gets. He's only 7-of-29 from behind the arc with Leuer out of the lineup.
- Get a lead. Wisconsin's formula for winning at home includes protecting an early lead. It worked against both Duke and Purdue, who like Michigan State, were ranked No. 5 in the country when they came to the Kohl Center this season. Falling behind at home might be OK against Michigan and Penn State, but it won't work tonight against the Spartans.
Wisconsin 65, Michigan State 61