Wednesday

3-18-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've hit the middle of the week, and the countdown continues. That's right, only 2 more days until I'm wheels up for Phoenix! (You don't count today and I fly out Saturday, so it's really just 2, see? See?!) Yeah, I'm a little excited.

I say that even though I can't complain about the recent weather. It's been as good as you could ask for in March over the last few days. And it doesn't look like that's going to change while I'm gone. That being said, I'll swap this weather for 80's and baseball any day of the week and twice on Sunday. So there you go.

I'm sure some of you have been scratching your head wondering, "DFTU? On a Wednesday?!" Yes, the DFTU is earlier than usual this week, but for good reason. As I've been mentioning, Friday begins The Sports Take's 2009 MLB Preview. I've been hard at work prepping for the column that started it all nearly a year ago ("hard at work" here having the meaning of watching copious amounts of MLB Network), and I'm hoping it shows.

But that's Friday. Today we have to talk Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament (by the hair of their chinny-chin-chin), and the Wild clinging to their playoff hopes. You know how we roll. DFTU-style! Let's do this...

"The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments."
- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher


Boston Red Sox (whom I hate) fans, I'm looking at you!

(Yes, I'm read for the season to begin!)

«Read More...»


Okay... you haven't had to wait as long this time. But you've still craved it. You're still happy it's here. That's right. It's everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 33-29-8, giving them 74 points. That places them in a tie for the 8th seed in the Western Conference with the Dallas Stars. Unfortunately for the Wild, the Stars currently hold the tie-breaker between the two teams, so should they tie for that 8th seed, Dallas is in and the Wild are out. On the more positive side, both teams are a single point behind Nashville for the 7th seed, so there's still a chance both could get in without knocking the other out.

It's been a rough go for the Wild of late. And I hate to say that because at this time of the year, rough patches generally knock a team out of playoff contention. Fortunately for the Wild, going 1-1-3 in their last five games hasn't knocked them out of contention, because the teams around them are doing just as poorly. Conversely, Wild fans have to regret a missed opportunity, since if the Wild had gone even 3-2 over those games, they'd be in much better shape.

One positive trend that's emerged lately is the Wild's ability to come back. I hearken back to the San Jose game on March 5th, where the Wild were in the midst of a horrible road trip and by the early second period were down 3-0 to the Sharks. They proceeded to score the next 4 goals and win the game. Since then, they've still fallen behind teams early, but have managed to claw their way back and grab a point or two where they've had no business earning any.

So while it's clear that this team operates best with a lead, it's nice to see that they have the ability to right the ship, and come back in an individual game. That will certainly serve them well if they manage to make the playoffs.

Up next for the Wild is a trip to New Jersey to face los Diablos on Friday night.

As a fan, I'm focused far more on Sunday afternoon when the Wild host Edmonton. The Oilers are only a point behind the Wild/Stars for that 8th spot, so Edmonton is still very much in the playoff conversation. That makes Sunday's game extra-critical (is that a term?) for the Wild. Not only do they desperately need those two points, they need them in regulation. Allowing Edmonton to get a point for a regulation tie (or worse, two points in OT or a flat-out loss), would put the Wild in a situation where they'd need to climb over two teams to get into the playoffs. And the more teams that are between you and a playoff spot, regardless of the point differential, the more difficult it is to make the post-season.

After that critical game on Sunday, the Wild head back east for a pair in the Big Apple as they face the Rangers and the Islanders back to back on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are the 12th seed in the East Regional and take on the 5th seed Florida State Seminoles Friday night at 9pm in Boise, Idaho.

Whew.

I can't be any more succinct than that. I spent Selection Sunday at my brother's house. And while he kvetched about the Gophers getting into the Tournament, I gave new meaning to the term "flop-sweat" as I waited to hear if the Badgers had made it in for the 11th year in a row.

(Actually, the sweat was probably as much due to the "Jedi training" my nephew asked of me as the show was going on, but my trepidation involving the Badgers was certainly involved.)

Let's dial back the clock to last week. The Badgers faced the Buckeyes in the 4/5 game in the Big Ten tournament. The winner of that game was assumed to have punched their ticket to the Big Dance, while the loser was firmly on "the bubble". In classic 2009 Badger hoops fashion, Wisconsin took a lead late in the second half, and failed to close the game out. Ohio State not only punched their ticket with that win, but greatly improved their seed by beating Michigan State the next day.

Fast-forward to Sunday and as it turned out, the Badgers were one of the last 4 teams to be seeded in the tournament. The 13-16 seeds are essentially reserved for the small-conference schools that win their conference tournaments to gain entry into the Tournament. So if you're in one of the power conferences, a 12 seed is about as low as you can earn. Hence my earlier "hair of their chinny-chin-chin" comment.

I also mentioned last week that if the Badgers got matched up against a team with one primary scorer they could shut down, they'd have a shot to win a game or two. But if they got matched up against an athletic team with several scoring options, they'd be in trouble.

Enter: the Florida State Seminoles.

I've gone back and forth a couple of times about what the Badgers chances are in this game. My first reaction was: Florida State... ACC... pretty athletic... oh God, the Badgers are going to get worked!

Then I looked at FSU's stats. The 'Noles finished the year 25-9 and 10-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Those are solid 5-seed numbers.

But when you break down their scoring, maybe they fall into my former category. Guard Toney Douglas leads the club with 21.3 points per game. No doubt he's dangerous. But the Seminoles don't have any other player that averages double-digits in points. They have 4 others who average near 8 points per game. But that's a severe drop-off after Douglas. And the team as a whole averaged only 68.6 points per game, last in the ACC.

So what does that mean for Bucky? Well, if they can double-team Douglas and take him out of his game, they've got a shot. Look at their game against Kansas State last year. Michael Beasley was one of the top players in the nation. But Kansas State's team was basically Beasley and 4 other guys. The Badgers were able to play Beasley physically and not let him get the easy shots he was used to and the Badgers ended up winning the game.

This gave me a tremendous amount of confidence headed into their next game against Davidson. If K-State was Beasley and 4 other guys, Davidson was Stephen Curry and 4 warm bodies... they hoped. But Curry was not to be stopped and single-handedly beat the Badgers with his deadly 3-point shooting.

Douglas is a good 3-point shooter, averaging 38.4% from beyond the arc, but he's not a Curry-like player that will kill you from out there.

I guess I'm saying that I believe the Badgers have a shot. Ask me for a pick? I'll go with FSU. But it's not unthinkable that Bucky could pull the upset. In fact, had Wisconsin not closed the season blowing several leads, I'd be quite tempted to pick the upset outright. But I can't ignore Wisconsin's history this year. And their inability to close teams out could very well prove costly in this game.

Should the Badgers manage to squeak by FSU, then on Sunday they'd play the winner of the Xavier/Portland State tilt. I'm not even going to begin to try and break that down, as it would be completely putting my thumb in the eye of the Tournament gods. As it is, I have to spend all my sports prayers trying to figure a way for Bucky to get by the Seminoles! So tune in Friday night and cheer "On, Wisconsin!"

Oh yeah, that team from Minnesota got in the Dance too. They're the 10 seed in the East Region and will face the Texas Longhorns at 6pm tomorrow night. The two teams are fairly evenly matched, but Texas' strength is their inside game, and that might be where Minnesota is most inexperienced. But if there's one thing I've learned this year, it's to never underestimate Tubby Smith. So it won't surprise me a bit if the Gophs make it to the second round.

Dammit.

That's all for today folks. Remember the 2009 MLB Preview begins on Friday! Make sure to come back then to find out how the NL East breaks down! Until then, thanks for reading!

5 comments:

  1. "Jealousy is all the fun you think they had."

    Imagine your attitutde if Minnesota fans had gotten to enjoy ANY major championships in the last decade. Or hadn't watched MN castoffs do it. Funny how things work out. I am happy to say I was born in New England. But saddened that I still devote time, money and tolerance to Minnesota sports.

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  2. So whom exactly am I jealous of? Red Sox (whom I hate) fans?!

    Hardly.

    God bless them that they got to enjoy a couple of championships after all those years of futility.

    Sure, it'd be nice to have their resources, but as we've learned repeatedly, money doesn't equal championships.

    What annoys me is that they try to play both sides of the street. Their near-constant inferiority complex re: the Yankees clashes horribly with the fact that they're one of the wealthiest franchises in baseball.

    All I ask is for them to be intellectually honest about who and what they are. And they can't seem to do that.

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  3. You are asking baseball players and fans to be intellectually honest? This isn't chess. It's baseball. Ask them not to cry, that might be doable.

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  4. I'm asking ownership and a fan-base to be intellectually honest.

    I don't think that's too much to ask.

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  5. You expect billionaires who in many cases were handed a franchise by their father or worked over our economic system for their own benefit, and fans - do I even have to say anything - to be intelligent about professional sports?

    You'll notice the Twins have gotten better in the last few years as their list of talented players, and their salaries, have grown. Mauer, Morneau, Nathan, Hunter.. keeping talent around means deciding whether or not to open your wallet.

    Liriano is being paid $400,000 this year and should make a run at the Cy Young. When the Twins deem his talents too expensive you can watch him succeed on a team willing to fork over some change.

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