After last night’s loss at Minnesota, I think we can safely put the Wisconsin Badgers’ chances of winning the Big(11)Ten basketball championship to bed. Given where they’re at right now with trying to work forward Jon Leuer back into the lineup, I’m not sure those were realistic expectations in the first place. As it was, the Badgers’ performance at Williams Arena was probably their worst game since they lost here in Green Bay. And like that game at UW-GB, guard Trevon Hughes took responsibility for the loss, admitting to a lack of focus and intensity during last weeks’ practice. That’s more than a little dismaying to hear coming from their senior leader at this point in the season.

At the start of the season, I had my concerns about the Badgers’ inside game and that was before Leuer got hurt. In the interim they’ve developed into more of a perimeter team that took advantage of the strengths of their guard play. While the Badgers showed a lot of heart for surviving and sometimes even thriving during Leuer’s absence, the ensuing change in style has left them somewhat soft in contrast to their conference competition. In years past, Wisconsin routinely made more free throws than their opponents even attempted. This season, that trend has been reversed and that will likely continue considering the relative inexperience and lack of size in their front court.

The Badgers should still have a decent NCAA bid locked up and, depending on the matchups, are capable of winning one or two games in the tournament. When you recall that many so-called ‘experts’ had Wisconsin picked for a second division finish in the Big(11)Ten, this may translate into one of Bo Ryan’s best coaching jobs since he’s been in Madison.

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I criticized the Milwaukee Bucks when they traded away forward Richard Jefferson in the offseason. At the time, I thought the Bucks showed enough promise early last season when all hands were on deck that the nucleus of RJ, Andrew Bogut and yes, even Michael Redd, was worth building around. While I disagreed with the idea and prognosis of the salary dump, at least I could understand the strategy; freeing up salary cap room to allow them to make a run at a number of high profile free agents that are expected to be available next season.

This week, however, the Bucks backed off that strategy a little when they traded the expiring contracts of forwards Joe Alexander and Hakim Warrick to division rival Chicago for shooting guard John Salmons, who has a player option for next year. The Bucks later did pick up two expiring contracts from Philadelphia in another deal, but the value of those was only about half of that of Alexander and Warrick. Tack on the $5.8 million that Salmon’s is optioned for next year and the Bucks lose some of their desired payroll flexibility.

It would be one thing if the acquisition of Salmons made them appreciably better to make a playoff run but this trade makes them marginally better at best. Plus, it gives Chicago the very same expiring contracts that Milwaukee was seeking.

The point is, if Bucks general manager John Hammond wants to use the rebuilding blueprint, then he should remain consistent in his approach. By doing things half-way, he risks returning to the days of predecessor Larry Harris’ regime that will have the Bucks continuing to tread water in a pool of mediocrity.

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On Friday, we heard golfer Tiger Woods long awaited “statement” regarding his personal transgressions and possible future in golf. I’m not among those who feel Woods owes the public an accounting of his behavior. In actuality, his only responsibility is to his family. If nothing else, Brett Favre should have taught us that our sports figures aren’t who we often build them up to be. But if Woods handlers wanted his statement to be a path to public (and, more accurately, celebrity endorser) redemption, then it probably would have been more effective to sound a note of sincerity and not come off sounding like a college professor delivering a classroom lecture on public mores.

At least by next week we’ll have heard the 4 best words of the winter: “Pitchers and catchers report…..”. Spring can’t be far behind.

 

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  • Chris

    Observations:

    1. Trevon Hughes — WTF? Glad he took responsibility, but why was he screwing around in practice to begin with? That’s not the sort of senior leadership I expected from him.

    2. Great point about UW being soft in the middle. That has really come to the fore this year, and citing the relative free throw stats is spot on.

    3. A Sweet 16 appearance is possible and would be a tremendous achievement for this team, particularly as I was one of those who believed them to be a second-division conference team coming into the season.

    4. Even from my arms-length view of the Bucks, I was getting the same Larry-Harris-is-back-in-town vibe from the recent deals the Bucks made. That said, it was a quite a debut by Salmons. Maybe I am not giving Hammond enough credit.

    5. Tiger probably could have just posted that to YouTube and done away with the staged event–that would have been just as sincere. I heard someone say that Woods might have put on the event because of the demands of the 12-step program he is in, or perhaps because his wife demanded a public apology as a condition for going forward with their, ah, relationship. Whatever the reason, the circus was in town yesterday and will be every time this guy surfaces.

    6. It’s snowing here today, but the notion of pitchers and catchers kicking and throwing under the AZ sun brings a deep warming feeling to my soul.