12-4-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

I'm going to be real honest with you. I don't feel much like writing today. Not sure if it's the real crud or not, but yesterday I started getting that tickle at the back of my throat that let me know something was up.

As the day went on, I started feeling more tired and run down. So I'm pounding “Airborne” and free-basing Vitamin C in an effort to ward off whatever bug it is that's invaded my system.

Yes mom, I know. Plenty of rest, plenty of fluids. I'm doing my best!

So I'm going to crank out a brief DFTU for you today and hope that you'll understand the need for brevity.


”Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.”
- Thomas H. Huxley (1825 - 1895), English biologist

Don't just believe what they tell you is true. Believe what your senses and intuition tell you is true. You'll probably be right more often than not.

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Speaking of what my intuition tells me is true... it's time, once again, for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 11-12-3, which gives them 25 points and places them last in the Northwest Division and 12th of 15 teams in the Western Conference.

Okay. None of that sounds terribly impressive. But how about this? The Wild are 4-0-1 in their last 5 games, 5-2-3 in their last 10 and have their first 3-game winning streak of the season. They're also 8-3-1 in the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center.

Those numbers are a start anyway.

There are other reasons to feel good about the Wild's latest stretch as well. They've added two new players in the last couple of weeks, center Andrew Ebbett and winger Guillaume Latendresse.

Ebbett was signed after his second trip to the waiver wire this season. The Wild had actually considered signing Ebbett after the first time he was released, but passed because he didn't fit well within their salary cap. But the second time around, they had more room due to a rash of injuries. Listed at 5-10, 178 (both numbers are probably inflated), Ebbett doesn't take up a ton of room on the ice. But the Wild like the way he skates and the energy he can bring to a team. Ebbett is one of those guys who's limitations have often put him on checking lines where his skills don't fit well. The Wild have decided to try playing him on a line with more skilled guys - last night he centered Martin Havlat and Chuck Kobasew - and see if his quickness can help set those guys up. Since he got the overtime winner Wednesday night against Nashville, I'd say things have started well enough.

Guillaume Latendresse (yes, I've almost become used to typing that name) was acquired in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens. In exchange for Latendresse, the Wild sent winger Benoit Pouliot to Montreal. Pouliot represented another in a series of disappointing first-round draft picks for a while. Hopefully the change of scenery will benefit Pouliot, though being from the Montreal area could also increase the pressure on him to perform.

Latendresse, however, has fit in nicely with the Wild so far. At 6-2, 229, Latendresse's game is the opposite of Ebbett's. Often criticized in Montreal for his lack of skating ability, Gui prefers to use his size and aggressiveness to excel on the ice. And so far, he's impressed. He has three points (2 goals, 1 assist) in his three games with the Wild. He was a monster Wednesday night, breaking up all kinds of Nashville rushes in the neutral zone, creating a turnover that led to the goal he scored and setting up Ebbett's winner in overtime. He didn't make one of the Three Stars of the game, but he should have.

After the game, head coach Todd Richards mentioned that he thought both Ebbett and Latendresse had not only brought their own energy - in an attempt to justify the Wild's faith in bringing them there, but had also inspired energy in the rest of the club since any time you bring in new talent, their ice time has to come with somewhere, and the guys already on the team don't want to have to sacrifice their minutes. Competition is a good thing, and the new blood has sparked a bit of it with the Wild.

So there are reasons to have some hope, Wild fans. The playoffs are still a long way off. But they're not entirely out of reach either. And there's a lot of hockey yet to be played.

The Wild play their last game at home for a bit tonight against the Anaheim Ducks. Then it's on the road for five games starting Saturday in Nashville (bet the over... trust me). Monday they're in Phoenix, and Wednesday in Colorado. All of those are winnable games. Back-to-back tonight and tomorrow won't be easy. Hopefully they start things out well tonight against a Duck squad who's struggled even more than the Wild have in the early goings.

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badger football team is 8-3 (5-3 in the Big Ten), in fourth place in the conference and looking at an Outback Bowl bid, should they perform up to expectations Saturday night in Hawaii.

The Badger basketball team is 5-1 (0-0 in the Big Ten), and in fourth place in the conference if you go strictly by non-conference records, since nobody's played a conference game yet.

Yes, it's a combo-platter this week. I'm not sure how much I'll be doing with the Basketball squad this year. Regular readers know I have less than no time for pro basketball. And unfortunately, I have to admit that even the college game has lost some of its appeal for me. But I mention them with good reason this week. More on that it a minute...

First up, football. As I mentioned Wednesday, Bucky's off on their annual visit to Hawaii. And I'm sure they couldn't be more pleased. Sun, surf and a 6-6 opponent. What more could a team trying to improve their bowl position ask for? The exotic locale hasn't hampered Wisconsin's efforts in the past, and there doesn't seem to be much reason to think it will this time. At last check Wisconsin was a 12.5-point favorite. And I'm still good with my pick of them minus said spread.

The Outback Bowl committee has already settled on Auburn as the SEC representative in the Outback Bowl. The Big Ten representative comes down to either Wisconsin or Northwestern. Both teams finished with 5-3 records in the Big Ten, and the Wildcats beat Wisconsin just two weeks ago. So why is Wisconsin still in the running? Because if they beat Hawaii they'll end up with a 9-3 record which would best Northwestern's 8-4 mark and justify taking Wisconsin ahead of them.

The other mark in Wisconsin's favor is history. The Badgers and Auburn Tigers met in 2005, that time in the Capital One Bowl. Bucky won that contest 24-10. So the 2009 Outback Bowl would set-up the re-match.

Even if Wisconsin doesn't get the Outback bid, they'll still likely end up in Florida, as the Champ's Sports Bowl would have the next pick after the Outback. So it should be a sunny winter trip for Wisconsin regardless of which game they end up in.

Moving on...

I mentioned the basketball squad earlier. Why, if I'm not sure I'll be Updating them on a regular basis? Glad you asked.

Bucky beat Duke! Bucky beat Duke! Bucky beat Duke!

That's why.

The Badgers knocked off the 5th-ranked Blue Devils 73-69 Wednesday night in Madison as part of the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. It was Duke's first loss on the season and avenged a brutal loss for Bucky in Durham two years ago.

I have to admit, I didn't give the Badgers any chance in this game prior to tip-off. In fact, I even wagered against them on Facebook's recreational-gaming app. But as I sat in the Al Shaver Press Box in the Xcel Energy Center, I kept an eye on the score. I saw Wisconsin up by five early on. Then I saw them up by six at the half. Then I saw them extend the lead to double-digits in the second half. Ah, but it was Duke they were playing. And that meant a late-second-half run was coming. And sure enough it did. Duke got as close as two in the late stages, but couldn't finish off the comeback. Wisconsin held on to win by four.

So what does this portend for Wisconsin's season? Probably not much. Minnesota knocked off Louisville in an early-season tournament last year, and didn't make the NCAA's by the time it was all said and done.

(Correction: Minnesota did make the NCAA tournament last year, but lost in the first round. I think the basic point still holds.)

I'm not saying that's Wisconsin's fate, just that you can't read too much into an early-season victory.

Up next for the Badgers is a game with Grambling on Saturday before heading up to Green Bay to take on the UWGB Phoenix next Wednesday. Both winnable games before what should be an exciting tilt a week from Saturday versus Marquette.

Maybe I'm not so down on college hoops after all!

Okay kids, that's going to do it for this week. I'm going to try and get some rest and hope that this bug doesn't take hold. Wish me luck!

I'll be back on Monday with more Sports Take goodness for you.

Until then, thanks for reading!

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