Yesterday was the annual Wisconsin/Marquette basketball game and while some on our ‘staff’ apparently don’t view it as a ‘true’ rivalry (no offense, Brian ;)), it was a typically intense contest with Wisconsin hanging on at the end for a 69-64 win at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.  Even though the Badgers led through most of the game they were never able to assert complete control over the home team until the last second ticked off the clock. 

It’s hard to know what to expect from either of these teams.  The Golden Eagles played a respectable game early in the season against top-ranked Duke yet struggled to get by UW-Milwaukee, whom the Badgers defeated rather handily the other night.  Likewise, the Badgers have some pretty obvious flaws of their own and the teams are eerily similar in terms of experience. 

Both teams start freshman guards; MU’s Vander Blue being the more prominent over UW’s Josh Gasser largely because the Madison native was a blue-chip prospect who spurned Wisconsin in favor of the Golden Eagles.  Blue and Gasser both had big early baskets and had almost the same playing time but Blue was barely heard from in the second half while Gasser helped the Badgers play some solid defense down the stretch.

Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor picked up two quick fouls, relegating him to the bench for much of the first half but the Badgers were able to carry a 2 point lead into the locker room at the break.  When senior forward Jon Leuer collected his 3rd foul early in the second half, it looked like the Badgers might be in trouble.  It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

For most of this season, the Badgers have been looking for a 3rd option to assist leading scorers Leuer and Taylor and their absence provided an opportunity for the Badgers to get some productive minutes out of Keaton Nankivil, Rob Wilson and Jared Berggren.  Wisconsin was able to maintain the lead with a strong effort on the offensive glass, leading to 21 second chance points.  UW also didn’t commit a turnover in the second half until there was only 2:41 left in the game.

Still, there were plenty of anxious moments throughout the game for the Badgers.  Wisconsin uncharacteristically had 7 turnovers in the first half.  It would help if they had a true point guard to help take the pressure off Taylor, who would be more effective if he could play more off the ball.  Wisconsin also missed some free throws in the final minute that could have salted the game away.

If nothing else, with only a game left against UW-Green Bay, Wisconsin has pretty much clinched the ‘state D-I championship’.  It remains to be seen if they can carry that momentum into the Big(11)Ten season.

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Apparently, it was a slow news week in Packerland as a number of corners have seen fit to take issue with quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ onfield comportment.  On Wednesday, Packers’ beat writer Tom Silverstein published an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel detailing a couple of incidents from last week’s win over the 49ers in which Rodgers visibly expressed his frustration with teammates directly after plays.  It’s a position that a few prominent bloggers in the Packers online fan community have championed for awhile.  From there, the debate evolved into a comparison of Rodgers with more accomplished quarterbacks and whether or not Rodgers has been or should be immune from critisism.

For my money, this “issue” is a non-starter.  

First of all,  as with many things in the Packers’ universe, this is based on a relatively few isolated incidents that have been blown way out of proportion.  Rodgers is a smart man who has devoted a lot of time and has made a calculated effort to establish himself as a leader on the team.  It would be out of character and illogical to undermine his own position with his teammates.  Given all that, I would assume him to have a better sense of effective leadership than anyone watching snippets of behavior from outside the clubhouse.  As someone (sorry, can’t remember who) commented on one such blog post, it’s far more important that Rodgers be perceived as genuine with his teammates than it is for him to conform to certain fans’ ideas of what is acceptable demeanor from an NFL quarterback.   I’ve seen no evidence on the field or in any of the articles I’ve read that his so-called ‘emotional outbursts’ have diminished his standing in the locker room.  I also find it ironic that some of the people who point to his predecessor’s more ‘professional’ conduct conveniently forget that, unlike Rodgers, ’4′ largely separated himself from the rest of the team during his last few years in Green Bay.  To my way of thinking, that’s hardly proof of constructive leadership.

Secondly, I have no problem with Rodgers coming in for criticism when it’s warranted.  But just because I differ with another fan’s opinion on this particular subject doesn’t automatically mean that I’m offering a mindless defense of Rodgers in an effort to shelter the allegedly fragile ego of Green Bay’s starting quarterback.  Rodgers wouldn’t have gotten this far in his career if he weren’t strong minded and supremely self-confident.  I think he can handle a little constructive criticism and doesn’t require fans coming to his defense.  In fact, even the notion that Rodgers has been sheltered from criticism is dubious at best.  How many articles and blog posts have we seen over the course of the last 3 years taking Rodgers to task for holding the ball too long?  Or for not being able to lead them to a ‘comeback win’?  Or simply for not being Brett Favre?  To think that ’12′ is oblivious to all that stuff is naive.  (I also find it interesting that some who don’t like Rodgers’ “whining” seem to have no problem with on-field ‘celebrations’ in which players feel the need to call attention to themselves merely for doing their jobs, but that’s a matter for another time.)  If people perceive that Rodgers has gotten a ‘pass’ (no pun intended) on his play from time to time, it’s more likely that is because this is Green Bay and not New York; a distinction that Favre found out about firsthand two years ago and no doubt is still regretting.

It’s entirely possible that Rodgers’ attitude will change as he gets older and gains more experience in the league.  But unless and until such time as his behavior clearly affects the team, I prefer to focus on the quantifiable aspects of his game.

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Hall of Fame-worthy former General Manager Ron Wolf of the Packers used to be fond of saying that sometimes the best moves are the ones that aren’t made.  Wolf was also adept at calculating a value for a player and remaining steadfast in that determination.  Let’s hope that Milwaukee Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin follows a similar philosophy with regard to free agent pitcher Carl Pavano.

After trading top prospect Brett Lawrie to Toronto for pitcher Shawn Marcum, the Brewers are reportedly looking to fill the final spot in their starting rotation with the right hander from Minnesota.  The speculation is that Pavano is seeking a 3 year contract while the Brewers would be reluctant to go beyond two years in any offer.  Let’s hope that the one year difference will keep the Brewers from making a mistake of Jeff Suppan-ian proportions.

Pavano is clearly happy to be in Minnesota after years of underachieving for the New York Yankees.  But the numbers he put up last season positively scream ‘salary drive’.  At 34 years old already, he certainly isn’t likely to get any better and the odds suggest a definite decline.  They’ve already gone down that road with Suppan and Doug Davis and even now are still running that risk with 34 yr. old Randy Wolf.   Despite their desperation for starting pitching, the last thing the Brewers need is to be saddled with yet another aging, overpriced pitcher.

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RANDOM SAMPLINGS:  College football is losing one of it’s most arrogant coaches with the announcement this week that Florida head man Urban Meyer is stepping down.  Ironically, Meyer will coach his last game for Florida in the Outback Bowl against Penn State’s Joe Paterno, who is still going strong at 83.  You may recall that this time last year, Meyer submitted his resignation supposedly due to health problems only to return a few weeks later.  Apparently a disappointing 7-5 season for the Gators was enough to convince Meyer that he needed to spend more time with his family.  At least until the Denver Broncos come calling with a pile of money………..Troubled Auburn quarterback Cam Newton won the Heisman Trophy last night.  Now the countdown can begin for when he has to send it back………..Meanwhile, the awards pile up for the Wisconsin football team as offensive tackle Gabe Carimi won the prestigious Outland Trophy for the nation’s best lineman.  Perhaps even more impressive was quarterback Scott Tolzien snagging the Unitas Trophy, awarded to the top senior college QB.  That award was a first for the Badger program………..Minnesota Vikings’ coaches and QB Brett Favre are saying all the right things this week, indicating that the sore shouldered signal caller won’t play simply to keep his starting streak alive.  But since the collapse of the Metrodome roof has postponed the Giants/Vikings game indefinitely, the guess here is that ’4′ lines whenever that matchup is played, even if he has to come out after only a series of downs………..Now that the Packers have donned their latest ‘throwback’ jerseys, it’s time to put the Notre Dame colors to bed.  All future throwbacks should feature the ‘Green & Gold’ that is the classic and lasting identity of the Green Bay Packers…………Finally, props to the UW-Whitewater football team, who will play for the NCAA Division 3 National Championship in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Virginia next Saturday.  And, as usual, for the 6th straight season they will be facing Mount Union, OH.  Good luck to the Warhawks.

Thanks for reading.  Enjoy digging out the rest of the weekend.  GO PACK!!!

 

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  • Brian

    No offense taken! It was a good game, my UW friends were going crazy, and my MU friends were sulking in their own misery. Okay, maybe there is just a “little bit” of a rivalry there!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Packers-Therapy/113896815298853?ref=sgm Chris

    Good points on Aaron Rodgers. It’s almost like people are looking for stuff to ding this guy about. The comparisons to Favre that Silverstein and some of the bloggers are making are silly: 4 often lit guys up who weren’t on the same page with him–just ask Billy Schroeder. But Favre was doing that earlier this season in MN, too. This isn’t something that is unique to Aaron Rodgers.

    Speaking of 4, it seems God is one of his fans, too. Looks like a well-timed snow storm causing the HumpDome roof to collapse will create a bye week of sorts and allow The Ol’ Gunslinger more time to recover enough to keep his streak alive. I wonder if Peyton Manning will be that lucky…?

  • foundinidaho

    People bitch when QB 1 isn’t fired up and then bitch when he shows so emotion. Reesh. If the guys have a huge problem with it, they will let him know. No worries from me.

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    Don’t know which argument bothers me more. That ’12′ shortchanges his leadership by yelling at teammates or that he is sheltered from criticism by team and fans. But I find both positions equally ludicrous.