Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
The Badgers probably gave one away to the Gophers in Minneapolis on Thursday night. But in this year's Big Ten, the margin for those kinds of losses is much, much slimmer.
The morning after Wisconsin's loss to Minnesota at the Barn, it's still no easier to digest.
Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the Badgers should've won, and I agree.
Jim Polzin says it wasn't surprising that the Badgers lost, but how they did, and I agree.
After the game, Jared Berggren talked about UW's lack of execution. "If we execute the way that we're capable of and the way we have been recently down the stretch," he said, "we probably survive and get out of here in regulation with the win."
True, but several of Wisconsin's most critical issues on Thursday night weren't new. We'll grant Mike Bruesewitz a reprieve for walking the baseline when he wasn't allowed to, turning the ball over to Minnesota with 22 seconds left and a flimsy two-point lead. In my mind, Bruesewitz played alright against his hometown team -- five points on 2-of-6 shooting, six rebounds and three assists. Sure, his 1-of-5 shooting from 3-point range left more to be desired, but Wisconsin went just 7-of-28 (25 percent) from deep anyway.
Instead, Badgers fans are left to ponder yet another head-scratcher from Ryan Evans (six points on 2-of-8 shooting, 2-of-8 shooting from the free throw line and 11 rebounds.) Even setting aside his shooting struggles -- you can't, really -- Evans' moves were predictable in the paint and his defense lagged as the game went on. Rodney Williams had a solid 10-point, five-rebound game on 4-of-9 shooting, and Evans was often out of position on the Gophers' second-leading scorer.
Traevon Jackson also continued to struggle, notching seven largely forced points on an incredible 3-of-14 shooting. Many of those attempts came off wildly forced drives to the hoop, not the least of which was Wisconsin's final attempt in regulation where Jackson waited too long to initiate the offense. A couple of screens later, he was hurtling toward the hoop and clanking a brick off the side of the hoop. His 1-of-6 shooting from 3-point range also stood out, though I'd venture his three turnovers -- he now has 13 in this last three games -- were just as critical.
Evans' struggles are voltatile -- while Badgers fans aren't necessarily expecting a 20-10 game anytime soon, would it really surprise you if we get a classic F*** This game from him down the stretch? Also, Bo Ryan can't really continue to weigh Evans' defense and rebounding as warranting him more minutes than Sam Dekker... right?
Thus, it seems as though Priority No. 1 for these last six games should be fostering some consistency at the point guard spot. George Marshall played only eight minutes and didn't score any points or notch any assists, though as uncleg pointed out last night, Marshall also didn't force any turnovers. Jackson's determination to get to the hoop is admirable and even required given the Badgers' limitations in that area. But if all Wisconsin can generate in the last play of regulation, with 20 seconds left and the team coming straight out of a timeout, is a poorly executed, full-speed ahead chuck at the rim? After blowing a six-point lead with five minutes left? Something's got to change.
A quick stats post from Polzin. The most glaring? Wisconsin went 11 consecutive possessions without a point during the stretch that began with five minutes left in regulation and extended into overtime.
Potrykus grants a few more paragraphs to the struggles of Evans and Jackson.
Let's get away from basketball: Wisconsin released the salary information for some of the new football assistant coaches. Highest-paid among them are offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda with annual pay of $480,000 and base salaries of $300,000. Potrykus also shares the salaries of last year's assistants, so feel free to juxtapose and provide your assessments in the comments. WWBS (What Would Bielema Say)?
From the other side: the Gophers haven't been looking ahead to Sunday's game at Solider Field.