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Wisconsin Sport and Culture

A Program on the Decline?

Yeah, one game…true.  UW lost to Gonzaga on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Maui invitational.  Relevance?  Consider this, Gonzaga is a team that is similar to Wisconsin.  A system team that has to out scout and depend on regional and international recruits.  Both teams have magnificent coaches and are great programs.  This game revealed that Gonzaga is better in 2009, so…?

So.  Gonzaga has shown the ability to “reload” to find tremendous athletes in areas that are off the beaten path of major programs.  What Wisconsin has found previously in Kirk Penney, Devin Harris, and Alando Tucker, Gonzaga has found in players such as Ronny Turiaf, Adam Morrison, Josh Heytvelt, and Dan Dickau.  The difference lies in the past three-five recruiting cycles.  Both programs have to recruit in areas that only have one primary in-state rival.  Milwaukee has produced far less than Seattle given the incredible woes of the MPS system, so Milwaukee has really proven to be non-existent where as Gonzaga can count on Seattle and its suburbs producing rich talent year in and year out.   UW should be a slam dunk in recruiting.  Great university, tremendous campus, famous coach, and a great conference affiliation.  What has happened?

Jerry Smith would have been a marvelous addition to Wisconsin basketball. Yet in the end despite a close relationship with the UW staff took his fortunes to Louisville.

Consider the recent past.  Five years ago it was Wesley Matthews the Madison Memorial product turning his back on the Badgers.  Jerry Smith turned to Louisville despite his desire to follow in the path of former Tosa East star Devin Harris.  Then the Vander Blue saga.  Vander commits to UW, blows up, gets advised by the Maymon family (teammate Jeronne headed to MU) on his decision, waffles on his commitment, decommits, then is chastised in the Madison media for his lax academics and goes to Marquette.  Three elite guards, 0 for three.  Consider the current situation.  Wisconsin has three “true guards” on its roster.  Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon, and Jordan Taylor.  Two will graduate at years end.  Leaving a backcourt for next year of Jordan Taylor and true Frosh Josh Gasser.  In reserve they will have swing guards in Rob Wilson and Tim Jarmusz.  UW has recruited some very promising front court players.  Mike Brusewitz looks very impressive early.

Duje Dukan, son of a Chicago Bulls scout is a tremendous offensive talent. Scouts don't dispute these attributes, one scout noted that he might be the best shooter in the country amongst high school seniors. Does he have the quickness to be effective defensively? That remains to be seen.

Evan Anderson is a high ceiling player, everyone is a abuzz about the scoring potential of Duje Dukan.  But where are the guards?

Larry Bradley has been a highly thought of prospect for sometime.  However, criminal charges have his future in doubt.

Larry Bradley a highly thought of guard from Tosa East was an elite prospect whose career is at a cross-roads due to criminal charges.

It must get better?  Right…well.  Diamond Taylor thrown out school.  Potential UW recruit from Tosa East and star guard Larry Bradley is currently under investigation for armed robbery.

Current HS sophomore J.P. Tokoto is a potential McDonalds All American who currently holds offers from Duke, Wisconsin, and pretty much every school in the country.

JP Tokoto could potentially replace Joe Wolf as the most coveted recruit in Wisconsin Basketball History.

JP Tokoto could potentially replace Joe Wolf as the most coveted recruit in Wisconsin Basketball History. Can he reverse UW's misfortune in recruiting Wisconsin?

Keeping him home will be a significant task.  One that UW has proven it may not be up to.  With the big ten’s smallest recruiting budget for the past 8 years, this staff seems a bit disinterested in playing the games that other schools do. One result has been an inability to keep the states best home.  UW will always have a difficult time in mining Illinois.  The landscape in Minnesota has changed.  So it is imperative that UW keeps its best at home.  There are good players here.  Josh Gasser a great example he figures to be a terrific addition.  A player who can do a great many things on the floor, but is he a difference maker?  At this time that would appear doubtful.  Landing Tokoto has become an absolute necessity.

Decline?  UW had back to back thirty win seasons and that hasn’t proven dividends in recruiting.  UW will remain a very good basketball team as long as Bo and his staff are there.  But after Kirk, Devin, and Alando no star has emerged.  The team has lacked the explosive athletes it needs to take their game to the next level.  They will decline based only on the basis that they haven’t improved and the rest of the conference has.  The Big Ten has some great coaches, programs on the rise and they are escalating their ability to bring in elite players.  Where does this leave UW?  Stagnant, they will be an NCAA team year in and year out.  They will win some big games, have that great home court, but in the end they have not compiled the athletes to improve on their current situation.  Thus they seem bound to simply be a very good team who will make the tournament, occasionally make a run to the sweet sixteen, maybe getting to the elite 8 if they get hot.  This is fine, but it isn’t what we hope for.  Not improving while those around you do…is a recipe for disaster.  UW needs one of the underclassmen to explode to change that grim scenario.

UW can no longer afford to make recruiting blunders like JP Gavinski and Ian Markholf disrupting their chance to strengthen their roster and improve their athleticism.  UW had a great relationship with the nations #1 recruit Harrison Barnes, yet they ran out schollies.  One can only wonder what might have been had former UW lean Evan Turner had cast his lot with the first team offer him?  I’ll leave that to you.  You can’t win them all, but you do need to win some.

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November 25, 2009 Posted by | Badgers | 1 Comment

Packers @ Lions Pregame

Flex scheduling would have moved this game to Monday night!

Flipping through my Sunday Ticket channels Sunday, I was shocked to see the Lions-Browns game was actually on.  I knew it was blacked out in Detroit, but I would have figured the NFL could have done everyone a favor and blacked it out entirely, or even cancelled it.  As it turns out, it was the most entertaining finish of the weekend.  In fact, it’s the Game of the Week replay on the NFL Network this week.  If you’re a Lions fan, you still had more negatives then positives.  The positive is you won and Stafford was NFC Player of the Week.  The negatives are: you gave up 37 points to a team that hadn’t scored 37 points all season, you had 3 turnovers and a safety, and your franchise QB almost had to cut his left arm off at the shoulder following the game.  The loss of Stafford this week hurts the Lions a lot more then the two defensive injuries the Packers sustained Sunday.

As I have stated earlier on this site, so much of professional sports is showing up.  The Packers learned their lesson three weeks ago, so there is no chance in my mind that they think they can coast through this game, even with Culpepper at the helm.  On the other hand, there isn’t any real reason to be worried about this game.  The Lions slashed one of the worst defenses in NFL history.  Culpepper would have slashed the Browns.  Big deal.  I’ll tell you the real matchup of the year: Cleveland vs. Washington.  Too bad they’re not scheduled.

Keys to the Game

Who gets him Sunday? Woodson? Williams?

1) Contain Calvin Johnson.  He was inactive in the first game, and he’s coming off a 7 catch, 161 yard performance.  This is a monstrous test for Dom Capers and the newly configured secondary.  Normally, this would be Al Harris all day.  The problem now is if you roll coverage over to help on Johnson, Pettigrew, their rookie TE, could have a field day.  If you noticed last week, every time Woodson went off of Vernon Davis, they threw him the ball because he was WIDE OPEN.  We’ll see how Capers defends this mess.

2) Continue the offensive balance.  Last week, Green Bay had 32 rushes and 45 passes.  For the Packers, that’s balance.  Goal for Thursday is to be a little better than last week.  Needs to happen to make up for the losses on defense.

3) Get off to a great start.  If the Browns can score 24 points in the 1st quarter, just think what the Packers are capable of.  Three things working in Green Bay’s favor here.  Last week, the Packers had 17 first downs in the 1st half, the 49ers had 1.  That stat is real.  Secondly, the Lions defense is absolutely brutal; 31st overall, 32nd against the pass.  Thirdly, Packers are 1st in the NFL in turnover margin, the Lions are T30th.  On paper, the halftime score should be 67-0.

Step it up D!

4) Build defensive chemistry with the new group.  These guys need to be on the same page and every one of them needs to step up their game.  This is the perfect game to get started with that.  Unfortunately, we will be subjected to more Jarrett Bush then is recommended by the World Health Organization.  Hopefully, he doesn’t infect the entire Packer Nation.  Are there shots for this?  Yep- whiskey.    

Prediction- Green Bay 47, Detroit 17

November 25, 2009 Posted by | Packers | , , , , | Leave a comment

Packers vs 49ers Postgame

One of two huge losses yesterday

Quote from my pregame post last week: In a perfect world, the Packers get out of Sunday’s game with a win, limited bumps and bruises, and a Browns win in Detroit.”  We live in an imperfect world.  At least the first one, and most important, of the three happened.  The loss of Harris and Kampman in huge, but it’s pretty clear which one is the bigger loss.  Losing Harris wrecks the game plan that has been working.  It will be interesting to see how Capers adjusts his scheme with one of two bookend cover guys gone.  Does he move Woodson back to corner?  It’s evident after yesterday that Jarrett Bush will not get the job done.  Kampman, on the other hand, is a replaceable spoke in the wheel at this point.  We didn’t notice his absence last week against the Cowboys, but he is still a Pro Bowler, and the Packers D will miss his presence.  Let’s see how my Keys to the Game panned out.

1) Contain Davis and Gore.  Besides the long run, the first half was great and they gave up 3 points.  The second half, not so much.  Davis gashed the Packers down the seam and they accounted for two of the three 49ers touchdowns.  Hit this one on the head.

Grant with a big day on the ground

2) Run against one of the best in the NFL.  Definitely a huge part of the win.  I’m liking their confidence in the running game right now.  Grant had 21 for 129 for a 6.1 average and broke tackles.  He’s really starting to look like his first year.  Hammered this one on the head.

3) Get to Alex Smith.  3 sacks, 9 QB hits and 1 interception.  Not bad.  Smith looked pretty solid in the second half, but he made some critical errors as well.  The pick to Collins turned out to be a monster play.

4) Rodgers’ poise against his hometown team. 32-45 for 344 and 2 TD.  He looked very calm and confident out there yesterday.  The solid performance Packers fans have come to expect.  

Some other observations:

1) The Packers had six different guys with at least 3 catches.  As Harry Sydney would say, that’s “undefendable.”  13 catches between Jermichael Finley and Brandon Jackson is a great sign.

2) Special Teams had another critical error yesterday, again on KO coverage.  It’s getting old.

A punt? The play of the game? YES!

3) People need to lay off Jeremy Kapinos.  43.4 average with two of his three punts inside the 20.  Besides a couple of low punts every once in a while, he’s doing his job.  You’re not finding anything better on the street anyways.

4) The 49ers had 43 offensive plays.  The Packers threw 45 passes.  

5) Play of the game- It’s really the decision by Mike McCarthy to punt from the 38 in the 4th quarter instead of trying a long field goal or going for it on 4th and 12.  Kapinos’ punt was downed at the 1, next play was the Collins pick.  The eventual Grant TD made it 30-10.  

Short turnaround for the Packers this week, who, for the record, now control their own destiny for the playoffs.

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Packers | , , , | Leave a comment

Packers vs 49ers Preview

The guy has his own language

In honor of the Packers-49ers game this weekend, I was going to write this blog entry as if Harry Sydney was saying it.  Unfortunately, when I tried to use spell check, my computer blew up.  If you live in the Green Bay area, you understand why.

As a Packer fan, you should love our chances Sunday.  In looking over the 49ers, there are three points of concern, but there are areas of weakness the Packers should be able to attack.  This is a key game going into a short week.  In a perfect world, the Packers get out of Sunday’s game with a win, limited bumps and bruises, and a Browns win in Detroit.  Having 4,000 fans at Ford Field on national television Thursday should finally convince the NFL to do away with the Lions on Thanksgiving.

Some stats, courtesy of packers.com…

1) The Packers have won 6 straight and 11 of 12 against SF

2) The 49ers have lost 4 of 5, and if Jay Cutler wasn’t colorblind, it would be 5 in a row.

3) Green Bay leads the NFL with a +13 turnover ratio.  In 2005, the year before McCarthy took over, the Packers were -24.

4) The 49ers rank 3rd in the NFL in rushing defense, the Packers rank 4th.

Keys to the Game- (besides the obvious- offensive line)

Gore had the only offensive TD against the Bears

1) Concerns 1 and 2- The 49ers have two weapons offensively; Vernon Davis and Frank Gore.  Contain both and there’s no way the 49ers score an offensive touchdown.  The 49ers have 18 offensive touchdowns.  Davis and Gore have 14 of those.  Davis has turned into a stud in his 3rd year with 45 catches and 7 TDs.  I would assume the Packers will lock Woodson up on Davis.  Gore is a home-run threat, something the Packers do not have.  He is averaging 5.2 yds per carry with 6 TDs.  He also is a threat in the passing game with 26 catches.  In the last six games, the Packers are only allowing 75.3 yds rushing per game, so it’s a battle the Packers can win.

2) Concern 3- As stated earlier, the 49ers rush defense is 3rd in the league.  If we want to be a playoff team, the Packers have to find ways to pick up yards on the ground against solid defenses.  Last week was a great example of what the Packers are capable of.  Downhill, between the tackles, 4 yds a pop.    Nothing flashy, nothing explosive, but effective. 

3) Get to Alex Smith.  The 49ers have allowed 28 sacks this season.  If we can take care of Gore, we should see a repeat of the Cowboys game; lots of pressure.

Remember Aaron, never pee against the wind

4) Rodgers needs to control his emotions.  The 49ers, Rodgers’ favorite team, caused him a great deal of pain on draft day and he can’t turn this into a pissing contest between him and Alex Smith.  In those types of situations, the wind usually changes and you end up pissing all over yourself.

Prediction- Green Bay 23, San Francisco 10

November 20, 2009 Posted by | Packers | , , | Leave a comment

Playoff Update

What a difference a week makes.  Last week at this time, there was no hope for most Packer fans.  Now, they’re breaking down the next few weeks to see where the Packers could be standing in the wildcard race.  Let me say this:  If the Packers win the five games they’re supposed to, in that they will probably be favored in every game except Pittsburgh and Arizona, that would put them at 10 wins.  Here’s the current rundown of teams and toss-up games  (one of the East teams will win their division.)

NFC East- Dallas 6-3 (@ NYG, SD, @NO, PHI) Projection 11-5

              NYG 5-4 (ATL, @DEN, DAL, PHI, CAR, @MINN) Projection 8-8

              PHI 5-4 (@CHI, @ATL, @NYG, SF, @DAL) Projection 9-7

NFC North- GB 5-4 (SF, BAL, @CHI, @PITT, @AZ) Projection 10-6 

               Chicago 4-5 (PHI, @MINN, GB, @BAL, MINN) Projection 6-10

NFC South- Atlanta 5-4 (@NYG, PHI, NO) Projection 11-5

                Carolina 4-5 (@NE, MINN, @NYG, NO) Projection 8-8

NFC West-   SF 4-5 (@GB, JACK, @SEA, AZ, @PHI) Projection 8-8

This means 7 teams are vying for two spots.  Chicago sucks and they have to play the Vikings twice, so I’ll take them out.  Down to 6.  The Giants schedule is BRUTAL, so I’ll take them out.  Down to 5.  Right now I have Atlanta @ Dallas and Green Bay @ Arizona in the first round.

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Packers | | Leave a comment

Giddy about Jennings

What can you say about the kid. 55, that is right, 55. One month ago the Bucks appeared to be headed to a 25- 57 season with Coach Scott Skiles milking those 25 wins out w/ good defense and decent rebounding. TODAY all has changed in the great city of Milwaukee.

At the time of the 2009 Draft, I really believed that this was a good pick and he was by far the best player available at #9. Thank you, Knicks!! However, I never would have thought that Brandon Jennings would be this exciting and “GOOD”. It was hard not to be synical with the past five years of complete ineptitude in Milwaukee.

Holy Crap! This guy can play. Jennings is one of those rare lottery picks that has come into the league without a posse, a Billion dollar shoe deal, or a prison record. I read that he would actually text assistant coach, Kelvim Sampson to meet him at the gym at 11PM so he could get in 300 shots before bed and that Sampson would be at his beckon call pretty much 24-7. WOW!! How many times do you think Joe Alexander has done this. Nevermind, Joe probably hurt his thumb in the middle of the text.

Jennings cannot maintain his current level of play. He is shooting over 50% from 3 point range. He will not finish at that level, but that is not the key to his play thus far. It is his raw energy, ability to play off of his teammates, play with confidence and be a floor leader at 20. Not since the days of Big Dog, Ray Allen, and Cassell have we been able to get excited about a Bucks game day. What will “the kid” do next? Kind of reminds you of what it might have been like in Chicago in 1984.

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Bucks | , , | Leave a comment

Brewers Hot Stove

I’m back, baby, I am back! Quite the HS football season, but now it is time to blog a little Brewer Blog. This should be quite the offseason for Melvin and the Brewers. The recent JJ Hardy trade cleared a little more than $14 million dollars off the book, gave us a Legitimate Defensive CF to replace an aging Mike Cameron, and the hope for a Starting rotation that doesn’t serve up the Home Runs like a buffet serving up Mangino.

First and foremost, thank you JJ Hardy for being one of the classiest Brewers to ever wear a uniform. 99% of MLB players and agents would have thrown an infantile tirade about his demotion 1 day shy of getting an extra year of service. He lost one year on his chance to cash in for the big bucks. We salute JJ on his class and honor. On the field, his effort and attitude were second to none. The guy was known as a defensive player, but still had some monster hits in his career and quite frankly was the blue collar type player that Milwaukee covets. That being said, it was time for him to move on as Escobar looks like the real deal. Speed is one of the toughest things to defend on a baseball diamond and the kid Escobar has tons of it. He will not hit for Power like JJ but will certainly get on base and cause some havoc while increasing our range at SS. We have dramatically increased our speed up the middle.

As for the new found $. What pitchers will we spend it on. Here are my hopes and wishes. First of all, Edwin Jackson from Detroit has always been on my wish list. Four years ago, the Brewers had talks with the Dodgers that included Matt Kemp and Edwin Jackson…Dude, could you imagine that. What kind of package would we have to entertain for Jackson is the question. Detroit has plenty of ML starters…we have none…so we should be a great match up for a trade. Is Matt Gamel worthy of this trade. I say, whole heartedly, YES!! Jackson is only 26 years old and has improved every year in the Majors.

Pitching Statistics
Career: Batting | Pitching | Fielding
SEASON TEAM G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO W L SV HLD BLSV ERA
2003 LA 4 3 0 0 22.0 17 6 6 2 11 19 2 1 0 0 2.46
2004 LA 8 5 0 0 24.2 31 20 20 7 11 16 2 1 0 0 7.30
2005 LA 7 6 0 0 28.2 31 22 20 2 17 13 2 2 0 0 6.28
2006 TB 23 1 0 0 36.1 42 27 22 2 25 27 0 0 0 0 5.45
2007 TB 32 31 1 1 161.0 195 116 103 19 88 128 5 15 0 0 5.76
2008 TB 32 31 0 0 183.1 199 91 90 23 77 108 14 11 0 0 1 4.42
2009 Det 33 33 1 0 214.0 200 93 86 27 70 161 13 9 0 0 3.62
Total 139 110 2 1 670.0 715 375 347 82 299 472 38 39 0 0 1 4.66

You put Gallardo and Jackson at the front of your rotation….we are now back in the wild card race.

 We are not done yet, however. I would really like to see add two more pitchers. First of all, Mark Mulder, John Smoltz, or Bartolo Colon. They are all veterans of big games and none of them will cost a whole lot. Mulder is the favorite as he has a relationship with new pitching coach Rick Peterson, but the Brewers have nothing to lose on any of these guys.

Finally, I would like them to add one mid-level free agent. I hope to God it is not Doug Davis. I just fell asleep thinking about it. Hell no! John Garland, Jarrod Washburn, Joel Piniero, or even Carl Pavano.

These moves would really clean up the rotation and give us the needed shot in the arm to possible keep Prince around for a few more years.

While we are at it, why don’t we offer Prince the $100 million for 5 years???

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Brewers | , , | Leave a comment

Packers-Cowboys Postgame

The Packers D brought the energy Sunday

FINALLY!  The Packers beat their first team over .500 since November 16th of last year when they beat the 5-4 Chicago Bears.  That is a long time coming, but after reading of the events that took place Monday morning, I had a strong feeling the Packers were going to win.  The offense had it out in their Monday meeting.  Driver spoke, Tauscher spoke and Rodgers spoke.  Enough was enough.  They finally realized the severity of the situation they had put themselves in.  Backs were against the wall.  A loss pretty much knocked them out of playoff contention in Week 10.  There was an obvious sense of urgency.  So much of professional sports is showing up.  For most of these teams, the talent level is remarkably close, so it comes down to energy, and harnessing that energy into making plays.  You can tell when a team shows up to play and when they are there for the paycheck.  I figured Sunday was going to be one of those show up games for the Packers, and it was. 

Talking with buddies last week, I was really the only one who felt the Packers were going to win.  My reasons were twofold.  One, the stuff I mentioned above, and two, our defense.  The Packers D was ranked #4 in the NFL and has the ability to shut teams down, which in turn keeps our inconsistent offense in the game.  They had shut down two crappy teams, but this was a test and they passed with flying colors.  Some keys to the game…

Your 2009 Defensive Player of the Year!

1) If the Packers make the playoffs, Charles Woodson will win Defensive Player of the Year.  It’s ridiculous how good he is.  Besides Jared Allen, who has almost all of his sacks against the Packers, name another player who is getting the publicity Woodson is getting.  Look at this line from Sunday: 9 tackles- 8 solo, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT.  One of the most dominant performances by a DB I have ever seen.

2) Dallas has a solid defense, but we committed to the run.  28 carries and Ryan Grant averaged 4.2 yards per carry.  Everything was between the tackles.  Hopefully, they have thrown the stretch play out of the playbook.

3) It was nice to see the McCarthy understand the team he has.  His offensive line sucks.  He finally put in a game plan to make up for it.  There were no deep patterns Sunday.  There isn’t enough time for the receivers to get into their deep routes, so everything was short.  Worked fine.  25 completions for 189 yards.  Not pretty, but effective.

Celebrating the play of the game

4) Play of the game- The touchdown pass to Havner.  Driver had dropped a TD on first down and after a short run it was 3rd and goal from the 2.  Touchdown makes it 17-0, field goal makes it 13-0, keeps Dallas within two scores, and gives them a little momentum because of the goalline stand.

5) Our linebacking crew could be together for a long time.  Pretty exciting, isn’t it?

6)  NFL officials suck.  22 penalties enforced, 7 first downs by penalty.  It’s getting insane.  On a side note, did you see the game last night, when a Browns DL was flagged for a personal foul on Flacco for tackling him below the knees?  Where exactly can you hit a QB now and not get a penalty?

7) I’m feeling a shutout Sunday against the 49ers.  We can put a wildcard contender out to pasture.

November 17, 2009 Posted by | Packers | , , , , , | Leave a comment