2-20-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

Once again we've managed to make it to the end of the week. And even if we're due for a little snow here in the upper Midwest, we'll take it in exchange for 48 hours away from the salt mines! Well at least I will.

And what better way to wrap up our week than with a little diddy I like to call the DFTU. In an amazing swing, the Badgers have gotten themselves back on track. And the Wild? Did I mention the Badgers were back on track? I'll discuss. Let us away!

"Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand."
- Putt's Law, Archibald Putt (pseudonym for some author I couldn't identify)

That's a shout-out for my readers who work in technology fields. It was in no way intended to describe the structure at a hypothetical radio station which takes 4+ days to change a light bulb. Nope, not at all.

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And now it's time for everybody's favorite segment, Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 28-24-4, giving them 60 points and putting them in 4th place in the Northwest Division and in 10th place in the Western Conference playoff race, 2 points behind Edmonton for the 8th seed.

After the Wild's crushing loss last Saturday to the Ottawa Senators, they had 4 days off to either stew over the lost opportunity, or to refocus and come out strong against Calgary last night.

The result of last night's game? A 3-2 loss to the Flames in overtime.

They weren't flat, so I think it's clear that they didn't stew over the loss. But it's equally clear that they weren't as focused as you'd like them to have been. It's hard to point to any specific regular season game in hockey and call it a "must-win", but last night was one of those rare times where I think you could have.

After the way the Wild self-destructed last Saturday, how could they not come out like gangbusters on Thursday night? I know Calgary's a good team, and the Wild don't play in a vacuum. But I've seen this team dominate periods. I've seen them buzzing around the ice and creating all kinds of havoc. So I know they have that in them. I just didn't see them come out with that kind of energy on Thursday, and that was disappointing.

The Wild have 26 games left this season. Looking over the last 3 seasons, you'd need about 95 points to get into the playoffs. The Wild have 60 points, so they need 35 more, which means of those 26 games, they would need to win 17 or 18. So is 17-9 or 18-8 a possibility for this team? Yeah, I guess. But of the 16 games they play in March, 4 of them are in the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center. Let's just say I'm not feeling as positive as I may have been a week ago.

The biggest positive for the Wild to lean on in the grind that will be their March schedule is that the teams they'll be playing on the road aren't the best in the league. That gives them a chance to get on a roll and sneak into the playoffs. And while I'm sure some folks wonder what the point of earning the 8th seed and getting smoked by the Red Wings would be, I'd remind them that in hockey especially, anything can happen in the playoffs. If they get in and Niklas Backstrom gets on a crazy roll, who knows?

But the first thing is to get in. And they've certainly put themselves in position for an uphill climb to get there. The quest continues Saturday as the Wild host the Detroit Red Wings (I'm going, and between myself and a special guest-correspondent, you can look forward to an interesting Running Game Commentary). After that the Wild take a brief trip to Chicago for a game on Sunday before returning home to face the LA Kings on Tuesday.


Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 17-9 and 8-6 in the Big Ten, which puts them in a tie for 4th place in the conference.

Wow what a change a few weeks can make! Just two weeks ago I was in full-on panic mode after the Badgers had dropped 6 games in a row. Since then, Wisconsin has ripped off 5 wins in a row and are the hottest team in the Big Ten.

Two weeks ago, I lamented that the Badgers had to go 8-1 in their last 9 games to get to 20 wins and have a solid shot at getting into the Tournament. Now, they need to go 3-1 in their last 4 games at Michigan State, vs. Michigan, at Minnesota and vs. Indiana to get to 20. Seems a lot more reasonable doesn't it?

So what in the world happened? How could a team go from the coldest team in the league to the hottest team in the league? I've struggled mightily trying to figure this out. Then the other night WCCO's sports guru Mike Max gave me an explanation that made a ton of sense.

If you look at the 6 games Bucky lost, the only game in which they were truly blown out was the first of the six losses when Purdue smoked them 65-52 in West Lafayette. Otherwise, the games were not only fairly close, but Wisconsin held leads in most of them.

Mike's theory is that Wisconsin has a talent level where if bounces go their way they win, and if they don't they lose. So if you say the 6-game losing streak was because luck wasn't on their side, then we have to say that the 5-game winning streak has occurred because the basketball gods were with them.

The theory certainly explains the wildly varying streaks. But it's also a dangerous assumption. If you believe that luck balances itself out over the course of a season, then a team has to bring something above and beyond luck to have the success necessary to make the Tournament.

So if I grant that simple luck had a lot to do with the various streaks, then I have to hope that some sort of maturation and gelling as a team had something to do with it also. Because if that wasn't part of it, I fear greatly for what kind of success the Badgers can have down the stretch.

Those road games at Michigan State and Minnesota will not be easy, but they are winnable. The home games versus Michigan and Indiana are not only winnable, it's probably fair to call them "must-wins". If Wisconsin can get 3 of those 4 and a couple of wins in the Big Ten tournament, I think that'll be enough to earn a spot in the field of 64.

I hope.

Next up for the Badgers is the aforementioned trip to East Lansing, Michigan, to challenge the Spartans on Sunday. Then it's a week off until they host Michigan at Kohl Center the following Sunday.

Suddenly college basketball is getting exciting for me again!

That's all for this week. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and arrive back here safe and sound on Monday. I'm pumped to bring you another edition of the Running Game Commentary. I only hope it meets my expectations. Until then, thanks for reading!

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