What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Phil at Bucky's 5th Quarter, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Wisconsin.
1) It's the awkward white elephant in the room, so let's get it out of the way first: how do y'all feel about Jarrod Uthoff making his return to Madison tonight? Is there any extra-anticipation among Badger fans about his return?
I was curious about how the fanbase felt after all this time, so we took a poll last night. Despite the noble results, Uthoff will most definitely get booed. It was a messy divorce in which neither side came away looking good. Both sides have moved on well, though.
Personally, I'd be lying to say I didn't care at all. Uthoff was a Badger once and we embraced him. Now it's just really interesting from a "Bo said this kid was going to be good ... how good is he?" perspective. And part of me thanks him (and Fran) for just turning this series back into a rivalry.
2) Tempo, tempo, tempo... Iowa plays at the 26th fastest tempo in college basketball (72.2 possessions per game), while Wisconsin plays at the 336th "fastest" tempo in college hoops (63.6 possessions per game). How important is tempo going to be in this game and who do you think will be able to dictate the pace of the game?
Tempo is always important. Even if a team can frustrate the opposition with its desired pace for a crucial 3-4 minute stretch, that could be the difference in a game like this.
While turnovers often are the key to quickening the pace, UW has been taking very good care of the ball lately -- averaging only 6.4 giveaways over the past seven games (Iowa averages almost 12 per game this season). Traevon Jackson has improved, limiting his brain farts to only one or two each game, and most guys in the rotation handle the ball well. As a whole I'd say they are a better passing group than I've seen at Wisconsin in several years. So, what really worries me is the rebounding. The Badgers have gotten away with a committee approach that heavily involves the guards hitting the glass, but I think Iowa's size makes that much more difficult. Limiting UW's offensive rebounds could lead to easy scores in transition for the Hawkeyes. In the end, though, I'd say the balance tips toward Wisconsin remaining poised at home for the most part.
3) Along those lines... is 70 the magic number for this game? I saw a tweet yesterday that said Wisconsin has allowed 70+ points only three times in Big Ten play over the last two years -- and all three games happened against Iowa. Iowa won two of those games and lost the third in 2OT thanks to a crazy shot from Ben Brust, if memory serves. Is it "first team to 70" wins in this game?
I'm not sure. Times may have changed -- Wisconsin is already 2-0 this season in games in which it allowed 70 points, after going 1-3 in such games over the previous four seasons. And as long as we're talking about points straight up, Wisconsin is averaging 75.1 ppg so far this season -- against better competition I might add -- compared to 69.2 ppg during the non-conference last season. I wouldn't argue that the Badgers want to run with Iowa, but they're more capable than ever before. No one is afraid of the 70-point mark this year ... now if you get to talking 85+ we may have a problem.
4) The Badgers appear impressively balanced on paper -- four players (Dekker, Kaminsky, Brust, and Jackson) are averaging 10+ ppg and around 5+ rpg -- is that pretty accurate? Who's been the most impressive player so far in the season's early going?
That is true: balance is Wisconsin's greatest strength. Six different players have led the team in scoring to this point; five have led in rebounding and four have led in assists. Now I don't know how unique that even is, but it sure sounds good.
On an individual level, Sam Dekker has recorded the most highlights but Frank Kaminsky has been the most impressive because our expectations for him were not as high. His footwork and patience in the post have been excellent, not to mention his defensive positioning and shotblocking ability have been pleasant reliefs. Kaminsky remains a deadly efficient offensive player. He's the anchor in the middle Wisconsin had to have this year. Dekker, on the other hand, has been "playing bigger" of late by answering the coaches' calls to hit the boards harder. He's been able to sprinkle in a few double-doubles recently. It's a solid 1-2 punch with those two.
5) Be honest: Frank Kaminsky is just Brian Butch with a dye job and some goggles, right?
Ha! I wish Frank kept the goggles! To be honest, I think a lot of folks would say Kaminsky is better than Butch, already. He can't touch Butch as a rebounder, but he's made up a lot of ground in the last year alone. Kaminsky, as mentioned, has been playing up to Jared Berggren's level as a shotblocker. Objectively, Frank the Tank is a more fluid athlete, takes better care of the ball, and is a better passer and outside shooter. To definitively eclipse Butch, he needs to work on his free throw game -- both his percentage and his ability to get to the line, another area in which Butch excelled. But hey, there can be only one Polar Bear, right?
6) What are the odds that Zach Bohannon comes off the bench to drill a critical 3-pointer in this game to even out the Uthoff karma?
Pretty good actually, he warmed one up at the end of the Northwestern game and nailed it. He said he did it for Gordy. But seriously, he's been a scoring machine of late in mop up duty, scoring 10 points in his last eight minutes of play. This would be the greatest ending ever and give Zach something his older brother Jason never got -- a game-winner over Iowa.
7) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
I never like these matchups with Iowa, ever since they ruined my New Year's Eve day two years ago. But I have to go homer here and pick Wisconsin, 73-70.
Thanks for being a good sport, Phil, although I still hope your team loses by 50 tonight. You can check out Phil and the rest of the B5Q crew at Bucky's 5th Quarter. You can also follow Phil on Twitter at @hoopsmarinara and B5Q at @B5Q. The Iowa-Wisconsin game is in Madison on Sunday, January 5, and is scheduled to start at 7:00 pm CT, with television coverage from BTN.