Archive for March, 2010

Badgers/Cornell: The Day After
March 22, 2010

Although I still support what people much younger than me probably refer to as “old media,” I have to say that Entertainment Weekly’s Web site ( ewonline.com) has long ago far surpassed its more established periodical publication. Whereas I go to EW‘s site regularly for its episodic reviews of Survivor, Amazing Race, and The Office, I largely ignore the magazine I get in my mailbox every week.

(Hey, if anyone from EW is reading this and needs a hack writer to bang out episodic reviews of Young and the Restless, let me know. I’ve got some things to say about how Nick treats Sharon.)

Anyway, this week’s Entertainment Weekly magazine did catch my eye. Initially for its cover story on Steve Carell and Tina Fey – two of my favorite television stars who insist on diluting their careers by making mediocre movies – but more significantly for its Corey Haim story teaser that referred to the former teenage idol ‘s passing as a “tragedy.”

“Tragedy” is one of our most overused words. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “a dramatic, disastrous event, especially one of moral significance.”

As badly as I feel for Haim’s family, it’s clear that his passing does not warrant that description.

Nor does Wisconsin’s stunning 18-point loss to Cornell on Sunday warrant such a description, although it was as close to a disaster as any Wisconsin Badger basketball game I’ve seen in Bo Ryan’s tenure, matched perhaps only by their opening-round 19-point opening round loss to Arizona in the 2006 tournament.

But that team four years ago didn’t match up to this year’s squad. With the blossoming of Jon Leuer, the maturation of Jason Bohannon, and the steady guidance of Trevon Hughes, who proved an uncanny ability to take over any game he had to take over, this year’s squad played consistently well from the start, in the process withstanding a crucial injury to Leuer that kept him out for nine games. They looked poised for at least a Sweet Sixteen run when the tournament brackets were announced.

And even though Wisconsin tended to go on painfully long shooting droughts, the common consensus was that their solid defense – ranked third in the nation at the end of the regular season – would always keep them in games.

Whoops.

If you could have gotten into your Hot Tub Time Machine and foreseen Sunday’s outcome, not only would you likely have been shocked at Cornell advancing to the Sweet Sixteen (well, unless you are Jay Bilas), you would have been shocked at how Wisconsin lost to the Big Red.

Wisconsin scored enough points – 69 – and shot at a high enough percentage – 49% — to win. But their defense was simply atrocious, allowing Cornell to consistently generate enough spacing to shoot the ball at 61% and 53% from beyond the arc, unheard-of percentages for Bo Ryan’s team.

The Badgers’ 2010 postseason exit was eerily reminiscent to the Packers’ 2010 postseason exit – a highly-touted, highly-ranked, supposedly-impenetrable defense being completely and utterly shredded.

Except the Packers’ game was a competitive affair with the outcome in doubt until the very end. Cornell dominated Wisconsin from the opening tip on Sunday and had the game wrapped by the first TV timeout of the second half.

The Badgers can take some solace in knowing that the game was so lopsided that CBS had long switched the majority of its national audience away from the game, leaving only those in Wisconsin to suffer and those in central New York to celebrate.

But despite the considerable losses of Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes, it is far too easy and far too early to dismiss the 2010-2011 Wisconsin Badgers. Bo Ryan has lost better players before – Devin Harris, Alando Tucker – and come back to launch surprisingly successful campaigns.

Jon Leuer will undoubtedly be one of the best players in the conference next year. Rob Wilson and particularly Ryan Evans could be poised for breakout seasons. Mike Bruesewitz has already begun showing signs of being the next coming of Joe Krabbenhoft, a tough player who is not afraid to play a bit dirty.

But Bo Ryan will need to get more solid play from Jordan Taylor and Keaton Nankivil, two overrated contributors who are as maddeningly inconsistent as the history of Saturday Night Live (both players’ games in the postseason were the equivalent of SNL‘s Anthony Michael Hall/Randy Quaid season).

If Ryan wants to improve on his team’s tournament success – the Badgers have now lost in the opening weekend four times in the last five years – he will have to somehow – and I don’t know how you do this, which is why I’m not paid to try – get his team more comfortable in adjusting to different tempos of play. The swing offense/slow burn/kill the clock method of basketball is fine if you can get away with it, but it is agonizingly unsuccessful when you find yourself needing to come from behind.

The Badgers proved that Sunday.

Quick takes: If I could start my bracket over, I’d have to go with Ohio State, Syracuse, West Virginia, and Duke in the final four, with West Virginia and Syracuse in the final game. I think the downfall of the Big East has been greatly exaggerated.

Despite the Badgers’ day of double defeats – men’s and women’s basketball – on Sunday, all is not lost. The UW men’s hockey team garnered a #1 seed and will play #4 Vermont on Friday night in St. Paul. Can’t make it? The game is on ESPNU with the face-off set for 8 p.m. CST.

Speaking of the Badgers’ women’s basketball team, It was a shame to see them lose in the first round of the women’s tournament, especially since it had been so long – eight years – since they had previously been there. But it’s hard to get too worked up about the women’s tournament, largely since it’s all foreplay to the eventual crowning of Connecticut. I mean, the Huskies have won a ridiculous 73 games in a row. If they don’t win the women’s tournament, it will be the biggest sports upset since, well, since Northern Iowa beat Kansas this weekend and totally screwed up my bracket.

Now that was a tragedy.

Your Annual Tourney Preview
March 17, 2010

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had its dullest induction ceremony ever this year, with underwhelming acts such as ABBA, Genesis, and The Stooges being honored. To make matters worse for the twelve people watching on Fuse, ABBA and Genesis didn’t even bother to perform, leaving Faith Hill and Phish left to intepret such “classics” as “No Reply at All” and “The Winner Takes It All.”

Fortunately, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament should suffer no such downturn this year, as no singular favorite (like last year’s North Carolina team) — and constant reports of the tournament’s expansion — means that intrigue for this year’s road to Indianapolis is higher than usual.

With regards to expansion, I tend to agree with those who say why mess with a good thing (I’ll tell you why, it’s all about the benjamins, baby), but then again, I was perfectly happy with the Big Gulp (32 oz.) until the Double Gulp (64 oz.) came along. Now I consider the Big Gulp strictly fare for those with bladder control issues. 

It shouldn’t matter if you have bladder control issues as you try to watch this year’s tournament, as each hour of coverage has more commercials than an hour of Lost has “whaat?” moments. (Seriously, what is the deal with that temple? And that John Locke twin thing is as laughable as that time Jack Tripper tried to convince Mr. Furley he had a twin brother so he could date Furley’s hot niece.)

This year’s NCAA tournament may or may not be as entertaining as a typical episode of Three’s Company, but it is more likely to win you or lose you some hard-earned money.

Not that I condone that sort of thing.

Anyway, here’s a brief look at each region with some teams to avoid picking and potential bracket-busting teams to watch for:

Midwest: Without a doubt the toughest bracket, with overall number one seed Kansas, Big Ten champ Ohio State, and elite programs Georgetown (with the nation’s #1 strength of schedule), Maryland (with the ACC’s player of the year Greivis Vasquez), and Michigan State (the Spartans went all the way to the championship game last year). Whoever comes out of this bracket is going to be exhausted but poised to win it all.

Sleeper pick: #10 Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets made it to the ACC tournament’s championship game before losing by just four to #1 seed Duke. They have depth and experience. They have a great chance to beat Oklahoma State, a beat that relies too much on the three-point shot. If they beat the Cowboys, they would likely get #2 Ohio State, a team that needed a hail mary and double overtime to beat two non-tournament teams just last week.

Forget it: #13 Houston. The Cougars haven’t been invited to the dance since the halcyon days of grunge (1992). Even the Screaming Trees lasted longer than the Cougars did in 1992, as Houston then lost in the first round. Nearly twenty years later, history will repeat itself.

Final Four Team: #1 Kansas. The best team from statistically the best conference of the year? Safer than picking Hurt Locker for Best Picture.

West: This bracket is softer than the septic-approved toilet paper my family is begrudingly forced to use. Even #1 Syracuse has issues, losing its opening game of the Big East tournament and likely having to sit its starting center due to injury. But its lack of tournament powerhouses might make the West region the most entertaining bracket to watch (and the toughest to predict).

Sleeper pick: #12 Texas El-Paso. Yes, they play for the underwhelming Conference USA, but they had won sixteen games in a row before losing in their conference tournament’s final game. The Miners play great defense and have a fine guard in Randy Culpepper, who has much surer hands than washed-up QB Daunte Culpepper. If they can get past Butler in a tough opening game, they might be primed to make some noise.

Forget it: #11 Minnesota. The Cinderella run ends before it begins for Tubby Smith’s team. Simply getting here was victory enough for the Gophers.

Final Four Team: #2 Kansas St. They posted a great record (11-5) in a tough conference and they have solid guard play. In this bracket, that’s good enough.

South: Another potentially soft bracket, with a few interesting teams near the middle to make it just a little tougher for the eventual Final Four representative. Two of the top seeds here, Villanova and Purdue, are struggling mightily and could be forced out early.

Sleeper pick: #5 Texas A&M. The team with the sixth-toughest schedule in the nation notched a bunch of quality wins in the latter part of the season, with victories against Baylor, Texas, and Missouri, and fell to Kansas by only five points. They could face either #4 Purdue or #13 Siena in the second round — #13 Siena is also a good sleeper pick in this bracket — and then go on to play a Duke team that has underperformed in the tournament in recent years.

Forget it: #4 Purdue. I hate to keep dumping on Purdue, but did you see that Minnesota game last week? How did this team snag a #4 seed?

Final Four Team: #3 Baylor. I don’t trust #1 Duke, and #2 Villanova has lost five of their last seven games. That leaves #3 Baylor, another scary Big 12 team.

East: A close runner-up to the Midwest bracket for toughest road to the Final Four. Any team in the top half of this bracket could contend, including the Wisconsin Badgers, who can keep anybody close with that defense and lack of turnovers. And if Jason Bohannon or Keaton Nankivil get hot, look out. (Similarly, if they go cold . . . )

Sleeper pick: #11 Washington. You know it was a bad year for a major conference when its champion gets buried as a double-digit seed. But teams should be leery of facing the Huskies. They are ninth in the nation in points scored and led the Pac-10 in rebounding. Plus they may have a sense that they’re representating a discredited and undervalued conference, which could give their game an edge.

Don’t Bother: #13 Wofford. The Terriers from Wofford — the smallest school to ever be represented in the NCAA tournament — have never been here before. Wisconsin will make sure their stay is brief.

Final Four Team: #2 West Virginia. The Mountaineers should have been a #1 seed and they will prove as much throughout the tourney.

Championship Game: Kansas vs. West Virginia.

Champion: Kansas. In line with this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, this isn’t the most exciting prediction. But Kansas looks poised to win its second championship in three years. Maybe next year a more surprising team will win — and maybe next year Hall and Oates will get into the Hall. (Sign those petitions now — John Oates won’t live forever!) 

Enjoy the games and good luck on your brackets.

NCAA Tournament: Big Ten Odds?
March 15, 2010

What a difference a week makes.

 And I’m not just talking about the power shift on Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains. Oh, wait, there hasn’t been a power shift. The villains have been treating the heroes like the Minnesota Golden Gophers treated the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday. But more on that later.

 No, I’m talking about the fallout from the Big Ten Tournament.

Even though #1 Ohio State winning the event was no surprise, the run that Minnesota made was, effectively pushing Illinois – despite their second-round upset of Wisconsin – out of the NCAA tournament and into the NIT.

Which is like finding out that Ticketmaster made a mistake and sent you Rick Springfield tickets instead of Bruce Springsteen tickets.

Now that we have our NCAA men’s brackets in our sweaty palms and we can chart each team’s “Road to the Final Four,” (thank you, CBS and your many corporate sponsors for the catchy title), is there a chance that any of the five Big Ten teams invited to the dance can make a run in the field of 64 like Minnesota made in the field of 11?

Let’s take a look:

Michigan St. The Spartans have landed a #5 seed in the Midwest region after the team’s surprising overtime loss to the Gophers on Friday night. But concern should be limited heading into the first-round game against New Mexico State. Not only does Tom Izzo historically take the Big Ten Tournament lightly, but the Aggies out of the WAC shouldn’t pose much of a challenge. But then the Spartans would have to face a hot Maryland team that averages nearly 80 points a game. The Spartans – who made it to the final game just last year – should never be discounted, but that Maryland matchup is scary. And if Michigan State were to survive into the Sweet Sixteen, their next opponent would be overall #1 seed Kansas. Odds of making Final Four: 20:1.

Ohio St. You know how often you come home from a hard day at work and feel like watching The Florence Henderson Show on the senior citizen channel? What, never? Well, that’s about how often a #15 seed beats a #2 seed. Midwest #2 Ohio State will sleepwalk through its matchup with the Gauchos of Cal-Santa Barbara before getting either Georgia Tech or Oklahoma State. The Yellow Jackets were a bubble team that got in thanks to its performance in the ACC tournament, while the Cowboys of Oklahoma State are inconsistent. A potential Buckeyes/Georgetown game in the regional semifinals could be a classic, but then Thad Matta’s team would likely have to beat Kansas to make the Final Four. But at least you can see them getting their chance. Odds of making Final Four: 5:2.

Minnesota. The Big Ten’s Cinderella team, getting an #11 seed in the West after making it to Sunday’s Big Ten championship game, is the only conference team playing a higher seed in the first round. And they are likely the only Big Ten team not to make it out of the first round, as Xavier is one of the more consistent early-round tournament teams around, winning at least one game each of last three years and looking to advance to its third straight Sweet Sixteen. The Gophers lucked out by landing in the relatively easy West region, but they won’t be able to cash in on that luck. Minnesota fans can take comfort in the fact that the new Twins stadium opens in a matter of weeks, and also that the Vikings did not acquire washed-up running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who for the last two years has run with the power and speed of “Tootie” from The Facts of Life. Odds of making Final Four: 200:1.

Wisconsin. You want to talk tournament-tested teams? Look no further than Bo Ryan’s squad, this year seeded #4 in the East. Unfortunately, Ryan’s Badgers are only 11-8 in eight tournament appearances, and as great as the team has looked on many occasions this year, their performance against Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament was a stone cold reminder of how their shooting can go, well, stone cold. Still, the Terriers of Wofford won’t put up much of a fight, and the Badgers will then go on to play either Cornell or Temple, neither of which have had any recent tournament success. However, like Wisconsin, Temple is one of the nation’s top defensive teams and could beat the Badgers at their own game. Should the Badgers still be playing in the Sweet Sixteen, they would likely draw Kentucky, which, as one of the youngest teams in the tournament, could be ripe for an upset by the much-more experienced Badgers. And if that happens, who knows? Odds of making Final Four: 8:1.

Purdue. Remember how good The Doors were without Jim Morrison? That’s about as good as the #4 Boilermakers are without Robbie Hummel. If they get past #13 Siena in the South region, many – myself included – would consider it a minor upset. Odds of making Final Four: 10 trillion:1.

Enjoy the games.

Big Ten Tourney Preview
March 10, 2010

Since I work for a company that owns several terrestrial radio stations in the state of Wisconsin, I shouldn’t be saying this, but I will. (Hey, if Survivor’s J.T. can risk his game by going against his alliance to vote out the conniving Cirie, I figure I can take some chances too.)

I love the satellite radio.

One of the things I love about having the satellite radio in my car is the receiver display that tells me the artist and song currently playing. Not only is this useful when surfing the channels looking for tracks to fit my many moods and shades – none of which I can describe as “morning mist” – but I simply like to know what I’m missing when my daughter has commandeered my minivan’s entertainment center with Barney and Winnie the Pooh.

(“Ooh, ‘Brick House’ is on,” I might mumble to myself. “Wish I could hear that instead of this Wiggles song about how terrific hats are.”)

But the display on my receiver is now broken, which limits the fun of the satellite radio. But not to the point that I would no longer listen to it.

Similarily, the annual predictability of the men’s basketball Big Ten Tournament hasn’t detracted me from watching it.

At least not yet.

Clearly one of the main benefits of the oft-rumored Big Ten expansion would be to inject a little life into this event, a tournament that typically has as many surprises as my semi-annual trips to the dentist. (“Yeah, I know. Drink less soda. Where’s my free toothbrush? My old one has been dropped in the toilet more times than Rep. Jeff Wood’s been arrested.”)

How predictable has the Big Ten tournament been? Well, the fact that last year’s winner was #3 Purdue is about as close as the tourney gets to a jaw-dropping, teeth-shattering bombshell.

After all, in the eleven previous years of the tournament, the champion was the #1 or #2 seed a whopping nine times, so a #3 seed winning was sort of like finding out that Corey Haim will be honored with a special posthumous Oscar for his roles in such classics as License To Drive and National Lampoon’s Last Resort.

This year’s tournament looks to be even more of the same, since the Big Ten itself – with solid years from NCAA tourney locks Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State, and Wisconsin – has been as top-heavy as Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, with only #5 seed Illinois (10-8) and #6 Minnesota (9-9) frustratingly inconsistent in tournament play.

Northwestern, Michigan, and particularly Iowa, Penn State, and Indiana need to take a cue from Tiger Woods and that lady who falsely claimed she found a finger in her Wendy’s Chili and offer detailed mea culpas to their fan base for the seasons they’ve had.  

Only Minnesota and, more realistically, the Illini, have a chance to get into the NCAA tournament based on this weekend’s play. Sure, any bad team can get in should they miraculously win the whole thing, but how Illinois fares on Friday against Wisconsin will likely determine whether they get picked on Selection Sunday or not.

The less-than-golden Gophers, on the other hand, probably need to make it to Sunday’s championship game to punch their tourney dance card.

Let’s take a closer look at the tournament’s ten games.

Thursday, March 11

#8 Michigan vs. #9 Iowa. Although these two teams are seeded next to each other, don’t fool yourself into thinking this should be a close game. Granted, Michigan has been woefully inconsistent on the offensive end this season, but at least it has played solid defense. Iowa’s simply terrible on both ends of the court. The fact that two teams are ranked below the Hawkeyes says volumes about the inequality of the conference.

#7 Northwestern vs. #10 Indiana. On Wednesday morning, CBS Early Show anchor Harry Smith underwent a graphic live on-air colonoscopy. As disturbing as that was, I’d rather watch it again in slow-motion high-definition 3-D than sit through this game. The once-promising Wildcats have been in a tailspin since a February 2 double-digit victory over Michigan, even losing to Tom Crean’s eye-gougingly awful Hoosier team last Saturday in the regular season finale. And since the tourney’s in Indianapolis, I would not be surprised to see the Hoosiers go for two in a row and pull the minor upset.

#6 Minnesota vs. #11 Penn State. If you’re looking for a Thursday game with some intrigue, this might be the one. Penn State has been playing much better as of late, winning three of its last six conference games while suffering close losses to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Purdue. Nittany Lions guard Talor Battle is one of the league’s best, and forward Jeff Brooks is on the rise. But since beating the Badgers on February 18, the Gophers have been playing better too, with the exception of being bombed at Michigan on March 2. The Gophers should be able to pull this one out, but Penn State advancing would not be a shocker.

Friday, March 12

#1 Ohio State vs. Michigan/Iowa winner. Ohio State has made the championship game three of the tournament’s last four years. Since getting Evan Turner back from injury, the Buckeyes have gone 17-3, with one of those losses coming in non-conference play. And to make matters worse for their opponents, Thad Matta’s team is playing for a potential number one seed in the NCAA tourney.

#4 Wisconsin vs. #5 Illinois. As stated above, no team in this tournament has more to play for than Illinois. Despite losing five of its last six, Illinois boasts impressive wins over Michigan State, Vanderbilt, at Clemson, and, most impressively and certainly most meaningfully for this game, at Wisconsin. Problem is, Illinois has been lousy lately, and the Badgers, although they’ve played a soft schedule of late, have looked very strong since the return of Jon Leuer. Look for Wisconsin to not only beat Illinois for the second time in a week but also keep the Illini out of the NCAA tournament.

#2 Purdue vs. Northwestern/Indiana winner. Make no mistake, the Boilermakers aren’t the same team without star forward Robbie Hummel, who went down with a knee injury on February 24. But even if Purdue’s starting frontcourt consisted of lousy actor Robby Benson, Hannah Montana’s Robby Stewart (otherwise known as Billy Ray Cyrus), and Robby Krieger from The Doors, they could whip either the Wildcats or Hoosiers.

#3 Michigan State vs. Minnesota/Penn State winner. Although Michigan State has righted the ship since a three-game losing streak that coincided with the loss of guard Kalin Lucas, they could be ripe for an upset here, especially considering that Tom Izzo doesn’t seem to much care for the Big Ten tournament. Three times in the last ten years – and just last year – the Spartans were disappointments in the conference tournament only to make the Final Four in the national tournament. Michigan State is too talented to lose to either Minnesota or Penn State, but it might be close.

Saturday, March 13

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin (projected). What’s interesting about this potential matchup is that it should be the first time this season that both teams have faced off against each other at full strength, as Evan Turner missed their first game and Jon Leuer their second. Though this promises to be another classic Badger/Buckeye grinder, the Buckeyes at full strength are simply too talented.

Purdue vs. Michigan State (projected). Another intriguing matchup, as a diluted Purdue team faces a perhaps disinterested Tom Izzo squad. But here we have recent history to go by, as the Spartans beat the Hummel-less Boilermakers just two weeks ago. In that victory, the Spartans held Purdue to a season-low 44 points and 30 percent field goal percentage. Spartans win.

Sunday, March 14

Ohio State vs. Michigan State (projected). In a predictable clash of conference titans, Ohio State, the number one seed, will predictably win the game and the tournament. But that isn’t to say that Michigan State won’t outlast their conference foe in the NCAA tournament. I’ve had too many brackets destroyed by underestimating Tom Izzo to do it again.

Enjoy the games.

The Badgers: Nagging Concerns?
March 1, 2010

Who can figure out Jerry Seinfeld?

And I’m not talking about the fact the second greatest “clean” stand-up comedian of all-time (after Bill Cosby) and the co-architect of arguably the greatest sitcom ever has decided on a cheesy reality show as his return to TV.

I’m talking about the fact that Seinfeld, a good friend of Jay Leno’s who was Leno’s first guest on the ill-fated Jay Leno Show back in September, is this week appearing on Late Show with David Letterman. Not a big deal most weeks, but it is this week.

This is the week that Leno returns to The Tonight Show with the hopes of restoring not only his tarnished reputation but that of the venerable NBC franchise as well.

So it’s an important week for Leno and an odd time for Seinfeld to appear on his archrival’s competing show.

Likewise, who can figure out the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team?

What, you say? The team ranked 15th in the country? The team sharing the national lead for fewest turnovers per game? The team with the fourth-best scoring defense in Division I? The only Big Ten team not to lose back-to-back games all season? What’s there to figure out?

Well, when you put it like that, yeah, they’re a pretty good – maybe great – team.

But do the numbers tell the whole story? Or is there, as with the final theatrical version of This Is Spinal Tap, some storylines left out? (Oh, so that’s how Nigel and David got those cold sores.)

Let’s look at a couple of reasons to feel good about the Badgers and a couple reasons to feel not so good.

1. Jason Bohannon. The senior is shooting a ridiculous 62.5 percent from the floor over the last seven games. Although he once possessed the versatility of a brown paper bag, his former catch-and-shoot game has been wonderfully transformed. Bohannon (I refuse to call him J-Bo) is now just as likely to drive hard to the basket or frustrate opponents with solid defense. A joy to watch.

2. Bo Ryan finally benched Tim Jarmusz. Look, I know these are college kids and fans and reporters (not to mention cold-hearted and mean-spirited bloggers) are not supposed to be too harsh. But when Dave “Opie” Revsine unveiled the Badgers’ starting lineup against Indiana and it did not include Jarmusz, I nearly knocked over my Pepsi Throwback in excitement. Jarmusz has been awful shooting the ball this season (averaging under three points a game in nearly 24 minutes of play), and the February 21 game against Northwestern exposed Jarmusz to be the starting lineup’s weak link defensively as well.

3. It’s sometimes boring, but it works. You know when you go to the McDonald’s drive-thru and they have that robotic pre-recorded sales pitch trying to entice you to some obscure menu item (“Hello. Would you like to try a Chili Lime Ranch Filet-O-Fish Pita Wrap today?”)? I swear that the Big Ten Network announcers have a similar pre-recorded rap on the Badgers – “The Badgers love to take the shot clock all the way down.” “The Badgers make you work defensively.” “If you let him get hot, Keaton Nankivil will hit that shot all day” – that they run so Shon Morris can eat an extra hot dog without worrying about dead air. But while it may get tiresome to hear about as well as to watch, Wisconsin’s regimented style works simply because most teams aren’t disciplined enough to maintain the degree of focus it takes to stay with Wisconsin.

4. Push It Real . .. Good? There are things in life that fight back. Your liver when you drink too much. My daughter when I try to get her dressed. Danny Bonaduce. But the Badgers have shown a tendency to wilt in the face of an aggressive opponent. Minnesota intimidated them into terrible shot selection in their sole meeting in late February, and Illinois and even Northwestern in a too-close game showed that they can be run on. Wisconsin’s measured style of play has gotten them far, but sometimes you’d like them to be a little . . . scrappy. They’re going to need a touch of audacity to make a run in March.

5. Long ball. No one is fooled by the success the Badgers had getting in the paint against the truly awful defenses at Indiana and Northwestern. Wisconsin will need to drive the basket more and pull up for long three-pointers less if they hope to survive the NCAA tournament’s first weekend of play. Jon Leuer’s presence should help, but fans have a right to be nervous about the Badgers’ reliance on the downtown life.

Unlike the demise of The Jay Leno Show, the success of the Wisconsin Badgers’ men’s basketball team this year has been a huge surprise. Unfortunately, with success comes greater expectations. (Do you think NBC would expect anything out of The Marriage Ref if it was the brainchild of Jerry Mathers and not Jerry Seinfeld?)

It’s no longer enough that Bo Ryan will lead Wisconsin to a mind-boggling 12th straight NCAA tournament appearance. With the door still open (slightly) for a Big Ten title and hopes for a fifth-seed or better in the NCAA tournament, fans are now expecting good things in March.

Jay Leno will likely regain his title as King of Late Night before too long. But NBC has to have nagging concerns about the hit his reputation has taken over the last several weeks. Likewise, the Badgers will likely have a fine month of March and should – should – win at least two games in the men’s tournament. But nagging concerns remain.