All the people gripping over Wisconsin’s early exit from the Big(11)Ten basketball tournament should feel a little better this morning after seeing Minnesota beat Purdue and Illinois take Ohio State to the limit before losing in double overtime. The Big(11)Ten is a highly competitive conference and the Gophers and Illini probably played themselves into NCAA tournament bids with their performance. In the end, these games often come down to who needs them more. As it was, Wisconsin’s loss at Conseco Fieldhouse probably didn’t hurt them much, if at all. ESPN “Bracket Guru” Joe Lunardi still has them listed as a 3rd seed in the NCAAs and, even if he’s wrong, I can’t see them falling below a 5. For a team like Wisconsin, seeding generally doesn’t matter as much as the matchups.

That being said, no one other than Illinois cared for the way Bucky played on Friday. They lacked their normal aggressiveness and were way too content to settle for jump shots, even after it became painfully obvious that there was a lid on their basket. The fact that they were able to come back and challenge at the end should be encouraging for Badger fans (and a little disconcerting for IL) but Wisconsin will certainly need to bring a better focus and energy level to their next game. If nothing else, they’ll have a couple extra days of rest and no doubt coach Bo Ryan will have their full attention in practice this week.
Speaking of Illinois, add Illini center Mike Tisdale to Robbie Hummel’s name on the list of Big(11)Ten opponents that have become a thorn in the Badgers’ side. When Illinois is moving the ball, the Badgers have a terrible time defending the ‘high pick and pop’ that they run between Demetrius McCamey and Tisdale and the 7 foot stringbean has been deadly with that jump shot against them. Frankly, I hope neither they nor Purdue is in Wisconsin’s NCAA region.
Who said General Manager Ted Thompson is stingy with the Packers’ money?

Thompson committed $75 million in contract extensions to impending free agents Chad Clifton, Ryan Pickett, and Nick Collins all in the past week. Reports also suggest that the Packers are close to a deal to bring back veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher as well.

While the moves were necessary to keep 3 important players on the Packers’ roster, it doesn’t eliminate the need for more help along the offensive line and in the secondary. Given Green Bay’s unique situation in the National Football League, I also worry about the impact these deals could have regarding upcoming free agents and the Packers’ cash reserves considering the uncertain future of revenue sharing in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the player’s association.

At least no one can accuse Thompson of not wanting to pay to win.

One more thought about Ted: It seems his detractors are always quick to look at his failures without considering the overall picture. I wonder how many of those people would like their lives judged only by their weakest moments? That’s certainly not a light in which I would care to be painted.
One career I’ll be watching with interest is the fate of now former Milwaukee Brewers farmhand Hernan Iribarren, the second baseman who was released by the Brewers yesterday and claimed by the Texas Rangers. Iribarren always hit well and even learned to play the outfield during his stint in the Brewers’ minor leagues but was never able to stick with the big club. You’d think there would be a place for a consistent hitter with a decent on-base percentage with the Brewers but he was always blocked by others even though he represented himself well in his cup of coffee with the team. At least GM Doug Melvin was classy enough to release him early in camp to give him an opportunity elsewhere.

While I’m on the Brewers, I read where one of the drills new pitching coach Rick Peterson is working on with starting prospect Manny Parra is having Parra pitch with his eyes closed. Apparently, Peterson has already grasped that Parra’s biggest problem is in his head. Lord knows, plenty of Brewers fans wanted to close their eyes many times when he pitched last year.
Finally, congratulations to the UW-Green Bay women’s basketball team on a fine season. Unfortunately, they probably won’t make the NCAA tournament field after losing a thrilling overtime game to a hot shooting Cleveland St. team in their conference semifinal. Despite losing four starters and having no seniors on the roster, the Phoenix managed to win their 12th consecutive Horizon League regular season title.

I would like to have heard an explanation from coach Matt Bollant on why he didn’t use his final timeout at the end of regulation, but the future still looks bright for the lady Phoenix.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


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  • Chris

    Strong takes here, particularly on Iribarren. He would have been a nice, cheap utility guy for a long stretch.

    Beyond the substance, what I like best is having a weekend column of this sort — which seems to be becoming a regular feature — to complement Wally’s daily piece.