Don't Look Now, But Here Come The Grateful Red
It seems like every year, the Badgers’ basketball team does this thing where they go through a skid of about two weeks of poor offense, stagnant flow, and lousy defense. It seems like we just went though one of those spells. We weren't finding out rhythm on offense and relying on Happ way too much in our moments of struggling. As I said in my take on Youtube, when we decide to have Iverson & Happ on the floor for stretches at a time, it is hard to have any offensive movement when Happ relies on the post as much as he does. When Happ gets his touches, they bring the double team too easily off Iverson due to his lack of shooting. I said in the video we need to surround him with four shooters so he can get more one-on-one looks and when they do decide to double, we will get an open shot each time. So, where does that take us?
Don’t look now people, but here comes the Wisconsin Badgers.
Gard & Company have found the solution to the problem and he’s done it quite intelligently if I might add. In the game that changed the momentum for a lousy Badger team was obviously the home game against #2 ranked Michigan. In the game, Gard found something that worked and stuck to his guns. He allowed Kobe King to be himself in more minutes which then surrounded Happ with capable shooters from deep. Happ wasn't doubled as much and did more with his touches by finding the open guy or finishing around the hoop. But, with any team sport, Gard had to find the balance between playing younger players, keeping the whole team involved, and not screwing with morale.
After the upset of Michigan, we all were sold on Kobe King playing over Iverson because of the offensive end. The next game on the Badgers’ slate was a date with the Illini in Champagne, the total set-up game. This game easily could've been a dud coming off a high on the big upset. Nope. Gard started Iverson but Everyone and their Mother knew playing time would be more allocated towards King. It gave an edge to Khalil in which he was more aggressive with his opportunities on offense. He was doing what he does best which is slashing to the hoop getting buckets with his athleticism. Not only that, fans got upset because he kept Iverson in more than King even after Kobe’s big game. In the moment of the game, I give Gard credit for not forcing it on King in a game that just wasn't his and allowing Iverson to feed off the positive play. By the way, Nate Reuvers is growing up right before our eyes with a huge second half that we needed to get the W.
The next game we had was Northwestern, a team that has been slumping for awhile now. We came out and took control early and never really gave it back. For a game that was so much a blowout, it felt like a VERY boring game, which I’m completely OK with for the record. The Badgers got huge play from their leaders at the guard positions, Davison & Trice, who both led the team with 18 points. They both were aggressive from the start and allowed the team to lean on them in the big parts of the game. Another point, Davison might be the best leader I have ever seen on the court, vocally, and mentally. I have been to the majority of home games for the last 12 years or so, and I haven't seen this before. Throughout the whole game, he is vocally leading his team through offensive & defensive sets. This is so underplayed when people try to think of his value to our team. This is something you can’t coach, it’s a skill he was born with. This will be critical in March.
Aaaaaaandd the last game of our current winning streak. Last night, we flew down to Nebraska to take on a slumping Cornhusker squad. They started the year off strong even by being ranked for sometime, but Big Ten play has absolutely killed them. Still, playing out West in their home is NEVER easy. Hell, no Big Ten game is ever easy. But, we learned a lot about our team. First, with Happ flirting with triple-doubles each outing, he is setting up shooters with great shots. Second, Trice & Davison are ready for any big shot in any game. Third, this game wasn't all that pretty from our squad, but gritty wins are essential in this conference. Lastly, we have multiple role players that are ready to give a boost like Charlie Thomas’ 5 straight points and defensive stops, Pritzl’s key buckets, King’s huge offensive rebounds and shots, and Iverson’s big 3-point plays and hustle.
That is what I love about this team. Everyone is willing to check egos at the door to help the teem succeed. Give Gard credit when credit is due, the man is coaching his ass off, and looks to be having fun too.
Next up, #21 ranked Maryland at the Kohl. Let’s get up Grateful Red & keep this streak going.