MU GOLDEN EAGLES RAH RAH, AND UW BADGERS TOO
Artie: I don't know how much more of this tournament I can take.
Frank: Because there's no rooting interest since Syracuse stifled MU in the Elite 8?
A: No, the basketball is terrific. It's the dang TV timeouts! I've seen enough commercials to whet the capitalist appetite of every commie in North Korea and Cuba. You can include the Taliban to boot—if they watched what we have to during the timeouts, they'd be on the outskirts of Kabul dreaming of visiting a Mercedes showroom and making a down payment on a McMansion in Waukesha County.
F: Somebody's gotta pay CBS so it can pay the NCAA.
A: But jeez, those timeouts never end! It's like there's three minutes of ads for every minute of hoops.
F: We know that in baseball the half-inning breaks are about 30 seconds longer in the post-season. And during one NCAA game I saw, when a coach took out a star player I heard the color guy say it was smart because he would get extra rest with one of the “longer tournament timeouts” approaching.
A: How much longer?
F: I'm not sure what the difference is from the regular season, but I timed a few of the MU-Syracuse timeouts off my DVR and each took more than 3 minutes for play to resume.
A: Besides numbing a viewer's butt, these long breaks really can affect a game. Say Marquette has a team on its heels with all the pressing defense and up-tempo offense, or the Badgers are wearing down a team by making them play D for the whole shot clock. Those opponents can count on the longer breathers to regroup better.
F: Playing the whole shot clock is just what Syracuse's 2-3 zone forced MU to do on offense—which the Golden Eagles didn't handle well.
A: That was just amazing. I kept counting orange shirts to make sure there were only five on the floor.
F: And yet MU dealt with the 2-3 well enough to win by three points in February at home.
A: That night Davante Gardner made 7 of 7 shots from close range and 12 of 13 free throws. Gardner had a little run in the paint late in the first half Saturday, but the 'Cuse soon clamped down. If they keep playing that kind of D they'll be extremely tough to beat, unless they run into a really hot-shooting team—which Michigan can certainly be—or they go really cold.
F: Actually, the Orange shot worse Saturday than at the Bradley Center—and a lot worse than a year ago when they eliminated UW. They hit only 38% overall and 29.4% on threes.
A: But that's en fuego compared to MU's numbers—22.6% overall and 12.5% from beyond the arc. It's too bad Vander Blue did his Brandon Jennings imitation.
F: Ah, your favorite Bucks target.
A: Blue was 3 for 15 and that night Jennings was 3 for 13 against the Thunder.
F: So our college teams are done, but when the season began I doubt anyone expected that MU would tie for the Big East regular-season title and win three games in the Big Dance.
A: Or that UW would go 12-6 in the Big Ten, reach the conference tournament final and compile five wins against Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State. As usual, I'm left to contemplate how much I'd have made if I'd gone to Vegas in November and made those bets.
F: Sure, MU was lucky to win the tourney opener against Davidson. But when you play hard every minute you make some luck for yourself. MU and UW both do that.
A: Besides, just getting to the NCAAs is a big deal. You don't think fans of teams like Iowa, Purdue or Xavier wish they'd had a stake in the tournament?
F: More good news is that both MU and UW look solid for next season.
A: MU has Blue, Gardner and Jamil Wilson returning and an excellent recruiting class led by two Milwaukee kids, forward Deonte Burton of Vincent High School and point guard Duane Wilson of Whitefish Bay Dominican.
F: Wisconsin has Ben Brust, Sam Dekker and Traevon Jackson returning, also point guard Josh Gasser presumably back from his knee injury...
A: And an heir-apparent in Bronson Koenig from La Crosse Aquinas, who led his team to two WIAA titles in three years.
F: No need to worry for Bo Ryan or Buzz Williams—assuming Williams resists whatever offers come his way.
A: He sure won't do badly by sticking around.
A FEW MORE BOUNCES
F: By the way, do you think the UW and MU results support your theory about post-season play?
A: Um, what theory is that? I have so many.
F: The one about it being better for teams to lose early in their conference tourneys to get more rest for the NCAA. UW played three games in three days in Chicago, then was one and done against Mississippi. MU got dumped quickly in New York by Notre Dame, then got to its third straight Sweet 16 and first Elite 8 in a decade.
A: Well, it's not a tried and true Einsteinian law or anything. I think it depends a lot on the style of the team. With MU playing up-tempo and going 10 deep in every game, the longer rest may well have helped. But there's really no way to measure.
F: All these players are, after all, young and mighty fit.
A: I noticed Buzz and his guys played a tried and true card going into the Syracuse game, talking about how no one gave them any “respect.” Hey, they got bounced in the Big East tourney but still got a No. 3 seed. That ain't exactly disdain. But it's what every team likes to do for motivation.
F: One last thing about Williams. I really liked his quote that ended Michael Hunt's game story in the Journal Sentinel.
A: Which was?
F: “Anytime we get beat I say we get beat. I think that's part of the problem with the world and in our industry...”
A: An interesting term for college hoops.
F: He went on, “If you get beat, say you got beat and don't come up with a litany of excuses on why it didn't work. They beat us from start to finish...”
A: Well said, Coach.
F: It's looking more and more like the Bucks are headed for a quick playoff exit against the defending champion Heat. They broke a four-game losing streak by beating the Lakers but fell to Oklahoma City and entered this week at 35-37, two and a half games behind Boston for the No. 7 spot in the East.
A: With only 10 games to play. Maybe the NBA can ease the pain by making the April 9 game in Miami a playoff game, so they'll only have to lose three more.
F: The Bucks also seemed to have a crisis brewing, or already brewed, involving your guy Jennings. He was mighty angry with coach Jim Boylan after getting benched in the second half against Philadelphia for lazy defense. Jennings said, “I don't see any all-stars in this locker room so I think everybody should be held accountable like anybody else... So don't put me on a pedestal and just give everybody else the freedom to do whatever they want.”
A: That doesn't sound like a point guard who wants to be a team leader.
F: Boylan's response, in part, was, “When you play that position there comes a lot of responsibility... So you have to bring it every single night, at both ends of the floor. If that's not happening, you need to do something.”
A: I know what to do: Say goodbye to Jennings when he becomes a free agent this summer and hope that Monta Ellis takes his $11 million option to stay. He's been pretty dang good in a new role that puts him on the point at times. I think he's a solid team guy.
F: Jennings isn't helping his cause by shooting under 40%.
A: He could have done something about that last summer. If he worked on it, it sure didn't amount to anything.
F: So you and your nephew Bart haven't softened your views?
A: We'll be happy to show Brandon the door.
Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek has been watching basketball and commercials for a mighty long time.