Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Madness in Review

Sorry for the month in between posts. This graduation thing is really putting a damper on my blogging plans and a trip out to Las Vegas last week - and this goes without saying - kept me away from the computer for a few days. What have I missed? March, and all that March offers is, well...madness. The last time I swung by BBB, I got my feelings out about Ryan Braun and although myself and the state of Wisconsin are likely the only ones who share those views, I couldn't really give a damn. It's time to move on from the miserable stretch that was Braun's appeal, but before moving on from March Madness, let's look back at the stretch that pumped false hope into millions of Badger fans and Warrior fans.

Both Wisconsin and Marquette were knocked out of their conference tourneys and this normally isn't really cause for concern - except this time, specifically for MU. The last team to reach the Final Four that got knocked out in the first round of their conference tournament was...hmmm...turns out no one has ever done it. There's a first time for everything, but it just wasn't meant to be for the Warriors to be the first to do this. The seeds handed out to Marquette (3) and Wisconsin (4) were to be expected unless each had made better runs in their respective conference tournaments.

To my great chagrin, I was forced to miss the ending of BOTH first round matchups involving my two favorite college basketball teams, neither of which I favor above the other for the record. Instead, I had the privilege of taking one of the more difficult exams my young mind as ever been challenged exam that I pulled a B out of my ass for. Don't ask how that happened. Thankfully, UW and MU had my back and easily took care of business in round one (don't give me this "actually it's round two" crap). As the first round of the NCAA tournament was winding down, so were my hopes of winning any money as my Final Four "lock" of Missouri lost to Norfolk State (and thank goodness, because their second round game against Florida was THRILLING). Believe it or not, I'm still doing quite well in the two pools I'm entered in that involve money, but there is little chance I win anything.

Round two rolled around, and now Wisconsin and Marquette had to bear down. Both did just enough, with Bucky barely holding off Vandy in a thriller...a team I picked to roll into the elite 8 and final four in one bracket (whoops again)...and Marquette pulling out an ugly one against one-loss Murray State. The Badgers looked a heck of a lot better than the Warriors did and this should have been a sign of things to come in the round of the Sweet 16. Even though it had appeared that Marquette was done a favor by WHAT THE NorFOLK State, the Florida Gators were a team on a mission. The Badgers would square off against Syracuse in what is perhaps one of the top three games of the tournament thus far.

I did in fact make a couple bets on March Madness during my time in Vegas, but neither involved the hometown squads (I picked Kentucky to cover and NC State +8 against Kansas - winner, winner, chicken dinner). We walked over a couple of delicious pitchers of Miller Lite and sat down in the sportsbook viewing room to watch the first game - Syracuse v. Wisconsin, a game being played just miles away from Cuse in Boston. While I said earlier in the year that it was the relying on the three point shot that would do in the Badgers eventually, it was the 3-ball that kept Wisconsin in the game. They made 14 threes! Unheard of. They went on stretches draining three after three, a shooting clinic. That was nice and all, but as Jordan Taylor would say at halftime (and what I was screaming at the television about) was that the Badgers needed to get the ball in the middle to collapse the defense and then kick it back out right away. The baseline was also an open area on the floor against the Orange zone, but the athleticism of Syracuse was overpowering and any attempt to score down low resulted in turnovers and blocked shots. Getting the ball to Jared Berggren in the high post led to more open looks and was the driving force behind the Badgers getting back into the game. Wisconsin would finally grab a lead on a Ben Brust trey to go up 3 with about eight minutes left. From there, several nails were worn down and the Badgers only scored 2 points in the last four minutes. However, after the Syracuse missed a one-and-one, Wisconsin had 15 seconds to bring the ball up and win the game. There was just one problem: Berggren, who was 6 of 7 shooting on the game, NEVER CHECKED INTO THE GAME! Well that's okay, the Badgers had a timeout left so they'll just use that and...oh crap...they aren't using it. They never used it. Rob Wilson had an open look, could have even driven down the lane, but the SENIOR got wet feet, passed it off to Taylor, who heaved a prayer, and that was it.

Syracuse 64, Wisconsin 63. Why in God's name Bo Ryan didn't get Berggren in the game will forever puzzle me.

But at least there was still hope, for Marquette was up next, the favorite in a game against the Florida Gators. Who would have ever thought that the Badgers would be more entertaining to watch in this tournament than the Warriors? I mean, seriously? This Florida-Marquette game was flat out brutal to watch. All that really needs to be said is that MU couldn't shoot the damn ball, and that's why they lost 68-58 to a team that very well should have reached the Final Four should they not have had an epic collapse at the hands of Louisville two days later. It was disappointing because it could have easily been the Warriors in the Final Four - heck, it could have very well been Wisconsin in the Final Four. There was a legitimate chance of each happening. The Badgers did all they could to get there. Marquette...did not.

Next season may look bleak for the college basketball landscape in Wisconsin. Taylor, Jae Crowder and DJO are all moving on, but there is reason to keep your hopes high. The Badgers will lose Taylor but bring in highly touted freshman Sam Dekker, who did this a few weeks ago and is still the reigning top play on SportsCenter. He's a top 20 recruit at 6'8" and should contribute immediately for Wisconsin. For Marquette, they will actually return some legitimate size down low with Davante Gardner and Chris Otule coming off of his ACL injury. Jamil Wilson, who can jump out of the building, will also be back and the Warriors are bringing in three recruits with grades higher than 80 according to ESPN.

It's sad to see March Madness go, but it will lead us right into baseball season and my beloved Milwaukee Brewers. Their preview is up next, so stay tuned.