Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Preview: Gophers vs. Badgers

So we watched Shark Night last night.  I was going to live blog it but that fell through and it's probably good that it did because after a promising beginning the thing just went completely off the rails (as I suppose most of these movies do) and it wouldn't have been worth reading.  Some of your high (and low) lights that I remember in the light of the cold dark day: 

-  I did not get any 3D glasses from the Redbox machine so I could not watch this in crisp cool 3D.  False advertising.

-  It had the dude in it from the O.C.  You know, the guy who says, "Welcome to the O.C. bitch" to Ryan in the pilot?  Unfortunately they did not work in any kind of sly O.C. reference which was a shame and SPOILER ALERT he ended up being the villain.  Yes we had villains not just sharks.  And by the way, I can't hear that Hallelujah song without thinking about Marissa dying.  Is that the most effed up thing you've ever heard in your life or what?  It's like my biggest shame or something.  You know, other than my life.

 -  It had a whole bunch of different species of sharks in it, which was a nice touch.  No goblin sharks though.

-  The main characters were a mishmash of Breakfast Club stereotypes who would never hang out in real life.

-  Apparently if you have your entire arm bitten off you can still live for like, ever (or until you get eaten by a shark) and even have the strength to use a makeshift spear to spear a hammerhead to death if a guy who is applying to med school applies a tourniquet.  Good information to have.

-  All sharks are blood-thirsty predators who will immediately chase down and eat any person who gets in the water.  This includes normally more timid species such as the hammerhead and the thresher shark, which has never attacked a human other than one time when one of them was provoked so the person probably deserved it.

-  Then my two favorite parts.   First, O.C. Villain dude tells hero guy that he is going to feed him to a tiger shark.  Truly terrifying creature.  Tiger sharks are probably my favorite because they're so bad ass and just don't give a fuck and will eat anything that comes near their mouth.  They have the second most recorded attacks on humans behind the great white.  If you go surfing in Hawaii you will get eaten by a tiger shark.  FACT.  They rock.  They look like this:

Then they cut to a shot of the "tiger shark" and it looks like this:

Scary looking?  Yes.  Scary?  No.  That's a sand tiger shark, and while the tiger shark has eaten 29 people in unprovoked attacks, the sand tiger's total is one.  One person.  Ever.  Plus if you've ever been to an aquarium that shark should look familiar because they're such big pussies they can survive and thrive in aquariums.  People always put them in aquariums because of that and that they look scary, but don't be fooled.  Might as well be a dolphin.  Nice science, movie jerks.

And then #2 is this:

Seriously that is so sweet it almost made up for the entire movie.  But it didn't.  Do not recommend.

Anyway I guess there's a game tomorrow.   By now you pretty much know what you're going to get with Wisconsin - a bunch of dumb-ass hillbilly hicks who are at the same time both douchey and too dumb to be douchey who are going to play an insanely boring game in which if they ever run while dribbling the Grinch will pull them out of the game and stare at them in anger like they're roast beast because his heart is two sizes too small.  You know the names - Sam Okey, Brian Butch, Kirk Penney, Mark Vershaw, Alando Tucker, Devin Harris, Joe Krabbenhoft, Kam Taylor, and, even though he was less annoying than the rest of these guys, Jon Leuer.  Almost completely unlikable, and this year's version of this team might be the most boring and annoying of any yet.

You don't need to be some kind of clearly brilliant analytical mind like Rick Reilly to know that the best player on this team is Jordan Taylor, but he might not be the real key tomorrow night.  You see, because as usual Wisconsin's offensive game plan is to walk the ball up as slowly as possible, pass it around the perimeter until someone falls asleep and then make a three-pointer.  It's what they always do.  But there's been a problem - they haven't shot well this year.  The Badgers are hitting just 35.6% from three this year, their worst mark since 2007.  They're also assisting on fewer made buckets than ever, with assists on just 50.9% of all made baskets, the lowest rate since 2003 (the oldest year I can find data for this).  So what does that mean?

I'm not exactly sure, but Taylor is taking fewer shots, making fewer shots, and this is the second least efficient Wisconsin offense since 2003 (again, oldest year available) behind just 2006.  Wisconsin's strengths on offense that have always led to a highly efficient team have been taking care of the basketball, crisp ball movement, and good outside shooting.  Of those three, taking care of the basketball is the only one Wisconsin is as sharp on as usual, which has led to some rough games this season already - three home losses including one to Iowa. 

The Gophers cannot let the Badger offense get going from outside.  In the loss to Iowa they were 3-28 from three (with just 9 assists).  In the loss to Michigan they shot just 7-20 and had only 6 assists for the game, Michigan State 5-22 with 5 assists, Ohio State 5-27 (10 assists), Marquette 5-19 (8 assists), and UNC 8-28 (6 assists).  It's pretty clear.  No open looks, no easy buckets, play tough defense and that's how you can beat this version of Wisconsin, because this is one of the best defensive teams in Bo Ryan's tenure.

No, really.  Taylor is very good, Ryan Evans gives them an athletic, wing tweener type they don't really have, and they have more than the usual gaggle of goofy looking white dudes to throw out there, and as anyone who has ever played at an open gym will tell you those goofy looking white guys are freaking tough.  They have extra long arms they use like Plastic Man, they go all out on every single possession even when their man doesn't have the ball, they're disciplined and don't take chances, and they freaking love to box out.  The Gophers are going to have a ton of problems scoring tomorrow, but it can be done because Wisconsin doesn't force you to turn the ball over, they just force you to take bad shots.  But Iowa of all teams was able to score 72 on them by being smart and WORKING THE BALL INSIDE (only 6 three point attempts for the Hawkeyes all game - yes the Hawkeyes).  Sconnie plays so slowly you will get precious few possessions, so be smart and make the right choices with the ball.

Look, I'll be the first to tell you this Wisconsin team is overrated and has a very good chance to be an early out in the tournament.  At the same time, their list of losses is at North Carolina, Marquette, Iowa, Michigan State (in OT), at Michigan, and at Ohio State - that's it.  That is a damn nice looking list outside of Iowa.  This is not a bad Wisconsin team by any means and this is going to be a very tough game for the Gophers and I fully expect a defensive struggle.  Actually whatever the OVER/UNDER is tomorrow, take the UNDER.  I don't care if it's 100, take the under. 

It all comes down to this.  Another must win, but this might be the last one.  I'm hoping not.

Minnesota 51, Wisconsin 47

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