The difference in the BadgersWisconsin 89, Pitt 75Clearly, there's a difference. You don't go from being taken to OT at home by Winthrop to beating the number 2 team in the country by 14 without something being different. Well, one difference is (duh) Brian Butch. I've said some nice things about the guy but that doesn't mean I was prepared for 27 points and 11 boards in 29 minutes. Alando Tucker, of course, was outstanding as well (32-10 dub-dub with eight more minutes and six more FGAs than Butch). But we expect that from Tucker--it's his role. Butch, on the other hand, might be auditioning for a new role of his own. The other difference--and it's just as big--is offensive rebounding. On Saturday, a day when the Badgers shot almost exactly as well as they have all year, Bo Ryan's team in effect turbo-charged their offense by grabbing 14 offensive boards in 32 opportunities. (Another reason to distrust straight rebounding numbers. Pitt had 13 offensive rebounds, which sounds almost identical--but that was out of 40 chances.) Rebounding 44 percent of your misses and turning the ball over on just 11.5 percent of your possessions. That will win you some games. (No, the 44 FTA's didn't hurt either.) Not that we should make too much of this, mind you. Wisconsin had the very good fortune of getting the number 2 team in the country on their home floor in December. But for one day, at least, this team demonstrated to future opponents the importance of defensive rebounding against the Badgers. (Box score (pdf).) In today's less Wonk-ish venues.... Hoops tonight!Illinois plays Missouri tonight at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis in the 26th annual Braggin' Rights game (ESPN, 9ET). Chester Frazier reportedly has the basketball equivalent of turf toe (parquet piggie) but is going to tough it out.Ohio State plays Iowa State in Columbus. Greg Oden says his return has meant that his teammates have "kind of slowed their game down." Egad! The young man's correct! Pre-Oden: 74 possessions per game. With Oden: 67. Tempo-conscious hoops analyst Greg Oden, Wonk salutes you!Michigan State plays Belmont in East Lansing.Purdue plays Wagner in West Lafayette.And now, a tribute to hoops played while I was on hiatus. Ah, so many (box score-linked) memories....TuesdayMinnesota 74, Central Florida 63 (pdf). In Minneapolis: Told by mischievous Gopher fans that Dan Coleman is actually Carl Landry, the gullible Golden Knights send the hitherto little-noticed forward to the line 12 times, enabling him to score 29 points.WednesdayWisconsin 68, Wisconsin-Milwaukee 49. In Madison: Alando Tucker leads the Badgers with 20 points on 16 shots.Penn State 66, Long Island 45 (pdf). In State College: Geary Claxton posts a 21-13 dub-dub.ThursdayNorthwestern 41, Wheaton 39. In Evanston: The Wildcats have now played eight games and six of them have been decided by five points or less. It doesn't matter if the opponent is a "power"-conference team playing on their home floor (Stanford) or a D-III team visiting Welsh-Ryan (Wheaton). The game will be close. SaturdayOhio State 72, Cincinnati 50. At Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis: Scary thing is, this is as bad as the Buckeyes' shooting can get. And they won by 22 because the Bearcats shot like Wisconsin against North Dakota State last year. Greg Oden: 14-11 dub-dub with five blocks in 27 minutes.Butler 68, Purdue 65. At Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis: Congratulations to the Bulldogs, the first team to score more than one point per possession on the mainland against the Boilers. Carl Landry attempted just five shots from the field--Purdue opponents will take that, believe me.Drake 75, Iowa 59. In Des Moines: Ajay Calvin posts a 21-13 dub-dub as the Bulldogs beat the Hawkeyes for the first time since 1978. Handily.SE Louisiana 69, Penn State 66 (pdf). In State College: Daryl Cohen wins this week's Marchello Vealy Award for unconscionably hot shooting from a now-former who-dat. See: 29 points on 7-of-10 shooting outside the arc--the seventh of which occurred as time expired.Michigan 67, Northern Illinois 52. In Ann Arbor: Canonical blogger Brian Cook relates that the announcers for this game were saying how eagerly they anticipate an upcoming show-down between Courtney Sims (21-13 dub-dub on this day) and Greg Oden. Please. For three-plus seasons now, Sims' undeniably impressive cumulative numbers have masked the more quotidian truth: the man's a canary in the weak-opponent coal mine. If he has a good game, chances are excellent that there's a compass-point in the opponent's name. (Exceptions granted.)Michigan State 69, Chicago State 61. In East Lansing: Drew Neitzel scores 32 points by attempting 12 threes (he made six) and going 10-of-10 at the line. The Spartans cough the ball up 21 times in a 62-possession game while the Cougars haul in 16 offensive boards (out of 35 possible) and tie Boston College for the best offensive performance by an MSU opponent this year--1.01 points per possession.By the way, the official recap of this game is well worth reading:Chicago State coach Kevin Jones said he was physically challenged by guard Cam-Ron Clay at halftime and wouldn't have him back on the team. Jones wanted school officials to find alternate transportation home for Clay, whom he said should join the military if he wanted a battle.
"He has a problem with constructive criticism," Jones said. "He (swore) and wanted to fight. I'm a former Marine. But I don't want him on the bus going home. My young son will be on that bus."SundayIllinois 77, Belmont 51. In Champaign: Chester Frazier leads the Illini with 11 boards. (Yes. Chester Frazier.)Indiana 57, Southern Illinois 47. In Bloomington: At just 58 possessions, this is the Hoosiers' slowest game of the year. So A.J. Ratliff "leads" IU with just 14 points. (Kind of like Tim Doyle usually does for Northwestern.)In addition to typing words, I can occasionally speak them....I'll be talking hoops with Steve "The Homer" True on Milwaukee's ESPN Radio this evening around 6:20 ET. Tune in and listen to me wing it.
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