A convincing 39-minute win for WisconsinFollowed by 60 seconds of peril....All was was right with the world last night in Madison, Wisconsin, at about 10:05 Central Time. Wisconsin led Ohio State 69-59 with 54 seconds to play off two made free throws by the dependable Kammron Taylor. The capacity crowd was jubilant in a relaxed way, awaiting the inevitable desperation fouling by the Buckeyes and the serial trips to the free throw stripe by their Badgers. And a certain analyst working the game for ESPN, having long since lauded the veteran Wisconsin team for their victory, was well into the third paragraph of a wide-ranging discussion that took in Nick Saban, the Jimmy V Foundation, and the proper naming of streets on the campus of the University of Florida.Then a funny thing happened. Ohio State made this a game--and so, of course, did Wisconsin, missing four free throws. One miss was contributed by Marcus Landry, one by Joe Krabbenhoft, and two by Taylor. (Going 75 percent from the line has never looked so tenuous as it did last night with Taylor, who shot 16 free throws (!) and led the Badgers with 25 points.) Meantime the Buckeyes scored 10 points in the last 54 seconds off of Ron Lewis threes and Greg Oden dunks (two of each). Jamar Butler missed a three at the buzzer that would have sent the game to OT. Your final: Wisconsin 72, Ohio State 69. Ivan Harris made 5-of-11 threes and led OSU with 17 points. The Buckeyes almost won. Wisconsin almost lost. Despite miserable shooting by Ohio State in the first half. Despite militantly quiet nights offensively from Oden (10 points), Daequan Cook (five points on 1-of-8 shooting), and Othello Hunter (two points). What an odd game....If I were an Ohio State fan, Ron Lewis would be driving me absolutely crazyIndeed, it's an open question who had the worse game this week: Lewis or Troy Smith. And that's with Lewis's two huge threes in the final minute, mind you. Fine, that's six points. But there was, to say the least, some meaningfully contrapuntal preamble to those six points. There was, for example, Lewis leaving his feet with four minutes left in the first half as a cold-shooting Alando Tucker made a shot fake outside the arc, resulting in an easy two. (BONUS pro bono advice for Big Ten defenders! If you're guarding Tucker and you think you've coaxed him into shooting a three, you briefly fall to your knees in thanks and weep tears of joy. Then box him out.) Then there was Lewis flailing about listlessly as Tucker blew past him for the easy two on the final play of the first half. Most maddeningly, there was Lewis guarding Krabbenhoft on the left wing with less than two minutes left, Ohio State down nine, and Wisconsin deep into the shot clock. Lewis again left his feet, crashed into Krabbenhoft, and gave Wisconsin a fresh 35. Ay carumba....I saw Ohio State leaving its feet on the perimeter against Indiana last week but let it pass without mention because it's ontologically impossible to talk about players leaving their feet without sounding like Grandpa Simpson. But it happened again last night, so allow me to adjust my Miracle Ear, hitch up my Depend Undergarment, and state the following for the record: In my day, defenders stayed on the ground! And another thing: when I was your age, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em! "Gimme five bees for a quarter," you'd say! Alando Tucker is a great college basketball playerAnd not just for the unbelievable mid-air adjustment he made on that Oden-deflected shot in the lane with 11 minutes left. No, it's because he makes his team better even when he's not shooting particularly well (8-of-18). Tucker doesn't really do assists as a matter of course but, as it happened, that's what his team needed of him last night. And he led the Badgers with four of them, each of which had me nodding in pre-score "that's the right play" approval. Jordan-esque selfless leader and star Alando Tucker, Wonk salutes you!Martin Heidegger would say Greg Oden is a great defender
If you're Thad Matta, having Oden on the floor means simply this: you can have Lewis guard Tucker most of the night (the Buckeyes started the evening playing zone) without paying anywhere near the price you would ordinarily pay if Lewis were guarding Tucker. Oden's very presence, as opposed to any overt acts, kept Tucker from posting up Lewis in the lane. (Oops, sorry. His very Presence.) How Heideggerian!I knew Mike Conley was good, but...Even I wasn't prepared for the sublime spectacle that presented itself with three minutes left in the first half. With Oden, Cook, and Hunter all on the bench with two fouls each, Ohio State had the most meekly benign lineup imaginable on the floor and would have been forgiven had they merely held on for dear life until halftime. Instead, Conley attacked, penetrating the lane and dishing a sweet assist to...Matt Terwilliger. When you set up Matt Terwilliger for an easy score amidst the interior defense of Wisconsin, you've done something.Marcus Landry is the hoops equivalent of a syringe of adrenaline straight to the heartOden had six quiet blocks last night but Landry had four thunderously loud ones--plus a couple threes. Against Marquette and again last night against the Buckeyes, Landry has wreaked chaos for opposing offenses in the lane. In the lane--hmmm....The best matchup of the year in the Big Ten may just be between the Landry brothers.(Box score.)In today's less Wonk-ish venues.... There are, in fact, other teams in this here conference....Hoops tonight!Purdue plays Indiana in Bloomington.Northwestern plays Michigan State in East Lansing.Iowa plays Illinois in Champaign.COMING Friday!The unveiling of the All-Wonk Team (1.0). Speaking of which.... Wonk back! Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me! Lobbying continues (to continue) for the All-Wonk Team (1.0)! The ever-alert readers are making some strong cases....Pardon my DAD (and Illini homerism) but Jamar Smith should get some kind of honorable mention for All-Wonk. He is, after all, posting the third-best offensive rating of any player in the Big Ten, behind only offensive side-shows Chris Lutz and Othello Hunter. This despite taking 27.5% of shots while in the game, despite not having any teammates who are threats to create open shots for him, and despite missing the softest part of the schedule with a sprained ankle.OK, I don't think Smith is a good enough defender or consistent enough on offense to warrant inclusion on the All-Wonk. Instead, I would pick Tucker, Neitzel, Landry, Oden, and Haluska. But my point is that we should keep a collective eye on Smith.Dave S.Wow, offensive rating, percentage of shots--dig that crazy Pomeroy-speak, man. Thanks, Dave!BONUS note on the nomenclature! After last night, I'm not sure sufficient specificity still inheres where the proper noun "Landry" is concerned.