Friday

1-22-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've made it! Yes, the weekend is nigh and I'm thrilled to actually have two consecutive days off. I'm going to skip the boss-bashing for today. There's only so much of that I can do before it becomes just plain boring. And if it's boring me, it's got to be damned near killing you, my fine readers.

So I digress...

(but they're still only a notch above Conan's superiors... really)

It's Friday after all, and Friday is a day for positivity. To whit, we've got some Updating to do. But before I get to that, I want to address one thing...

I realize that when I include the Wisconsin Badgers in the DFTU I'm losing some of my readers who've unfortunately decided to be die-hard Gopher fans. Why people would want to be fans of a program that consistently produces 6-6 football teams and Insight Bowl losses, along with basketball teams that recruit kids with more legal troubles than the Heene and Salahi families combined, is truly beyond me.

But that's your choice, and I respect your right to make that mistake.

The thing that troubles me most, is that people are choosing to skip over the Badger section of the DFTU. Now, certainly I can't ask you to root for Bucky (though if it were me, I'd want to be on the right side of 13 of the last 15 Wisconsin/Minnesota football games - but you folks do what you do). But I can assure you that I attempt to write each section in an entertaining manner. So even if you don't want to hear about the wonder of the Badger program, you should at least give it a skim, or you'll be missing some fabulous one-liners... though, to be honest, many of those will be at the expense of the Gophers.

Sorry, but they just tee it up so well, I can't help but take a swing!

So don't miss out! Read the whole column. You won't regret it... much.

Onward!

”Happiness is nothing more than good health, and a bad memory.”
- Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965), Alsatian German-French theologian, musician, philosopher, and physician.


Nice! The first “Alsatian” to grace The Sports Take with a quote! I've got the bad memory part covered for sure!

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Congratulations to all of you for making it to the end of the week. Your reward is that it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 24-23-4 which is good for 52 points. They're fourth in the Northwest Division and 12th in the Western Conference, 6 points out of a playoff spot.

Unfortunately, the Hammer came out on top.

I'll let that thought percolate for a moment...

Yes, the Red Wings defeated our beloved Minnesota Wild last night 4-3 in a shootout. The loss highlighted a couple of problems for the Wild.

First, for the fourth game in a row, the Wild surrendered the first goal of the game. But that's only four games, you say? How about this: they've done the same in 8 of the last 10, and 24 of the last 32.

Those are downright staggering numbers. How they've won as many games as they have when having to come from behind so often is mind-boggling.

And they almost pulled off the trick again last night. After tying the game at 1 in the second period, they gave up two goals early in the third to go down 3-1. A furious comeback late in the period tied it up and sent it to overtime, where they lost in the shootout.

I'll grant the Wild have above average numbers when it comes to winning games in which they've trailed, but math like that always catches up with a club. You simply can't surrender that many leads and hope to make the playoffs.

The second problem is also math-related. The nature of the 3-point game is such that even had the Wild come through in the shootout last night, they still would only have gained one point on the now 8th-place Red Wings.

That's what makes regulation wins so vital. It's tough enough to climb into the playoff race in the NHL, but overtime games - even if they're wins - aren't going to get it done. Especially when you're playing a team you need to pass to gain entry into the post-season.

Fortunately, the Wild get another crack at the Red Wings in the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center come Wednesday. But last night was clearly a missed opportunity.

Prior to their next battle with the Wings, they host the Blue Jackets on Saturday (a game I hope to attend - it's been FAR too long since I got down to the X). After the Wings game, they hop a plane to Colorado to take on the Avalanche on Thursday, which is the start of a 3-game road-trip.


Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 15-4 (5-2 in the Big Ten). They're in second place in the conference and are ranked 18th nationally.

You'll recall last week when I was mildly concerned about the upcoming road game in Columbus? The Badgers got blown off the floor by the Buckeyes, 60-51. Not good.

Fortunately, they came back with a 54-48 win over Michigan at home on Wednesday night.

Two things are obvious to me so far.

One, the Badgers sorely miss the inside presence that Jon Leuer brings to the team. And two, this is a completely different team on the road than they are at home.

First, Leuer. I wrote last week that he was the sole, reliable inside presence that the Badgers had. And in both games this past week, that was clearly reinforced. Both Ohio State and Michigan attacked the middle of the Badgers defense and found the path to the rim fairly easy to navigate.

The Badgers were able to make runs in the second half in both games, but couldn't get all the way back against OSU. But it was clear that Wisconsin has some work to do. Offensively, they're relying far to much on their outside shooting. Even without Leuer in the line-up, they have to work the ball inside to free up their shooters. Defensively, they've got to rotate better to give help down low. They simply can't match-up size wise with some of the bigger post players in the Big Ten, and if a perimeter player gets beat, they don't have a presence inside to help.

This failing can be schemed around to an extent. And there's no one I trust more to accomplish that than Bo Ryan. But they need to figure it out quickly, or opposing teams are going to abuse them inside.

Second, the home/road split. All four Badger losses have come away from the friendly confines of Kohl Center. Obviously most teams are better at home than on the road, but the disparity in the Badgers' play, home vs. road, is greater than you'd expect. They trailed early and often at that hoops powerhouse (insert sarcasm here) Northwestern, and it took a furious late come-back to seal that victory.

It's tough enough to win in the Big Ten, but when it takes extra exertion to defeat teams you ought to be able to handle, then you're taking that much more tread off your tire for late in the year, when you want to be peaking.

It's rare that a team gets to play Tournament games close to home. So if they want to make a run, the Badgers had better figure out how to play more consistently on the road.

But it's not all bad, Badger fans. They could've been beat by Indiana on the road! What? That just happened to Minnesota, you say?! Damn. Getting beat by glorified walk-ons and a coach that look like he's going to have a stroke at the best of times has to sting!

Fortunately for Minnesota, they've got Freshman Royce White back at practice. White's been held out of all of Minnesota's games so far due to several theft-related legal issues, and yet somehow still leads the team in steals! I hope the rest of the team left their laptops under lock and key!

(And that was this week's “Golden Gopher Cheap Shot”, brought to you by Badger fans everywhere... and Lowes - Let's Build Something Together... you know, like White's rap sheet!)

(Ed.'s Note: News broke this afternoon that White has now been charged with trespassing in relation to the laptop theft incident. Stay classy Gophers!)

Wisconsin has a winnable game at home versus Penn State on Sunday, then it's back on the road on Thursday to visit West Lafayette, IN, to battle the Boilermakers. Purdue will be looking for revenge after Wisconsin handed them their first loss of the season earlier this month.


Maple Grove Crimson: The Crimson Women's Basketball team is 13-2 (7-0 in the Northwest Suburban Conference). They're currently ranked #5 in Class 4A.

What's that you say? How can I include an arch-rival in the DFTU when I attended Osseo Senior High School?

Two reasons. One, I don't have many fond memories of high school anyway (I mean no offense to the many wonderful friends I have from my school days - I just value my post-high school experience more). And two, blood is definitely thicker than water!

That's right, the Crimson Varsity Women Hoopsters are coached by none other than my brother, Mark Cook.

And as he so kindly pointed out to me the other day (kindly here having the meaning of “only mildly profane”), they're on the heck of a run and deserving of a little pub.

Their only two losses on the year are to said arch-rival Osseo in a Holiday tournament as well as fellow-Top 10-ranked Eastview.

On the plus side of the ledger, they've got wins over Hill Murray (ranked #4 in the state at the time), Minneapolis South (ranked #2 at the time and still in the Top 10), Eden Prairie (ranked # 8 at the time) and just this past Tuesday, they defeated conference-rival Centennial, who was responsible for knocking Maple Grove out of the post-season last year.

The 2010 Crimson are led in scoring by Senior Julie Kruse (15.9 PPG), who's headed to UMD next fall to play college ball. Right behind her are Junior Ellen Edison (12.7 PPG) and Senior Jen Field (10.5 PPG).

As a whole, the team is shooting 42.8% from the floor and 29.1% from beyond the 3-point arc.

But shooting isn't the end-all, be-all. You want to know how teams cement leads at the end of games? Tough defense and making their free throws.

The defense shows through in the fact that they've scored a collective 239 more points than their opponents. That's an average of nearly 16 per game!

From the charity-stripe they average 70%. Not a blow-you-away number, but not lousy either.

As the coaching staff would tell you, there's still plenty to work on. In addition to improving from the free-throw line, the clubs assist-to-turnover ratio isn't really where you'd like it.

But it's hard to argue with results, and 7-0 in the Northwest Suburban is nothing to sneeze at.

Plenty of tough games still loom for the Crimson. Arch-rival Osseo shows up on the schedule two more times, and there's still another battle with Centennial to look forward to.

Maple Grove puts its 6-game winning streak on the line next tonight as they host the Park Center Pirates.

So there you have it, a little extra wrinkle to this week's DFTU!

That's going to wrap things up for this week. I'll be back on Monday to review the weekend. I think there's a football game or something on Sunday? I'll have to double check! (insert LOADS of sarcasm here)

Until then, thanks for reading!

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