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Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013

High Notes, Low Notes

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For much of Sunday the choice was enduring endless blather about what MIGHT happen in the Super Bowl or... doing something worthwhile. The Observers huddled by phone before the kickoff.

 

Frank: I'm just back from a terrific doubleheader!

Artie: Huh? Marquette and Wisconsin were playing hoops on the road. So where were you?

F: The Milwaukee Symphony's all-Beethoven program. Symphonies 2 and 4: a pair of triumphs!

A: Yeah, but I'll bet ol' Ludwig couldn't hit a shot from beyond the first violins.

F: So how'd the basketball go?

A: MU didn't sing an “Ode to Joy” at Louisville. But the Badgers' tune was “Roll Over, Illinois, and tell Michigan the News.”

F: Let's find the box scores on the web... Wow, UW took FORTY-TWO free throws?

A: The Illini were in desperation mode at the end and the Badgers took 16 freebies in the last two minutes. But aside from that, 26 is a lot better than the zero attempts at Ohio State.

F: And 74 points is better than the 40s, where they were for the previous three games. That goose-egg at OSU was crazy, but the chart on this page shows they're not getting to the line much in general. They're in the bottom third among the 347 Division I schools.

A: And they're missing too often—including 14 times at Illinois.

F: They rank even lower among the 347 in free-throw percentage at .615. Two years ago UW almost set an NCAA record with an .818 season.

A: Here's my theory: Wherever the Badgers practice there's a maintenance guy who used to be a carny. And out of habit he brought those midway-game rims that are so small and tight it's almost impossible to fit a basketball.

F: So the Badgers lose their confidence at the line—and don't win any stuffed animals.

A: That makes sense to me. It's like one of those things that only I notice, like Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers and the Minnesota Vikings never playing on the road.

F: But we digress... One reason Bo Ryan's guys aren't getting to the line is that their style doesn't make it happen. Back to our chart: The Badgers rank high in taking three-pointers but only in the middle third in making them. Opponents don't foul much beyond the arc anyway, and why should they if UW's accuracy isn't good?

A: The accuracy should be better. UW's best shooter is Ben Brust, but I don't think they've done much to set him up. It was better Sunday, with Brust scoring 20 points and taking 11 shots, after only six or seven in the previous three games.

F: What makes any offensive style brilliant is making shots. And more success with threes presumably would open ways to get the ball inside. But UW also has had trouble scoring from close range—something they tried to change Sunday. They took only 14 threes, making four, but shot almost 50% otherwise at 17 for 35.

A: I think another UW problem is that something's happened with Jared Berggren.

F: Let's check his stats... In nine Big Ten games he's 5 for 24 on three-pointers (.208) and 11 for 24 on free throws (.458).

A: I think he's pressing too much in his senior year, the way Jordan Taylor did toward the end of last season. Berggren had foul trouble Sunday and scored only six points, but sophomore Frank Kaminsky stepped up with 19. They sure missed him when he had that eye injury late last month.

F: A team that's even worse on threes than UW is Marquette. But Buzz Williams' solution is to make sure his team doesn't try many. As the chart shows, they're near the bottom of the 347 schools in trey attempts per game.

A: So the Golden Eagles are pushing closer to the hoop, which produces a higher field-goal percentage and more trips to the foul line.

F: It didn't happen at Louisville—36% shooting and only 15 free throws. But as our chart shows, MU is among the national leaders in overall shooting accuracy, two-point accuracy and free throws per game. And they're making their freebies at a good clip.

A: Especially Davante Gardner. He had foul trouble Sunday and never got to the line, but he's at .848 overall and a sizzling .880—44 for 50—in Big East games.

F: Another big story for MU is the emergence of Vander Blue as a junior. And I've been impressed by the senior leadership of Junior Cadougan.

A: Love that name! Sounds like it was stolen from a “Boardwalk Empire” character. Cadougan took some flak the last couple of years for underachieving, but he's really come into his own as the point guard.

 

Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek has been bored by every Super Bowl the Packers didn't win.

 

THE STORM AFTER THE 'LULL'

A: One more thing about the basketball games: I want to give an “attaboy” to Jay Bilas, who was the analyst for the MU game.

F: He always seems to know what he's talking about.

A: I've always respected his work, but that's not what I'm talking about. I was delighted to hear him refer to the home team as “Lou-ee-ville” while the play-by-play guy was going with that ridiculous “Lull-vull” stuff.

F: Um, but isn't that second one the way the natives say it?

A: So what? When you watch a Red Sox home game does the announcer feel compelled to say “Fenway Pahhhhhhk”? Call these places what normal people do! I don't care how the natives say it; that's their problem.

F: Got that, America?

 

SUPER? IF YOU SAY SO

 

(Monday morning, another phone chat)

 

F: Did you stay up for the whole thing? With the power outage, it was almost 10 when the confetti rained down on the Ravens.

A: Yeah, I did manage to stay awake. And here's my comment about the outcome: Next year I don't want to hear everyone saying that the Super Bowl will be won by “the team that's on a roll entering the post-season.” The dang Ravens lost four of their last five regular-season games!

F: It was true two years ago, though, when the Packers went into the playoffs at 10-6—same as Baltimore this year—but with a six-game winning streak.

A: Sure, it can happen, but it's not some ironclad rule.

F: Everything seems inevitable after a championship is won. This year the story line will be that it was Joe Flacco's destiny to emerge as an elite quarterback, it was Ray Lewis' destiny to retire as a beloved elder statesman of the game, blah-blah. But really, if that Denver safety had played that desperation pass correctly and intercepted it like he should have, then Flacco's still an underachiever and Lewis' retirement is already three weeks old.

A: But now Flacco's going to Disney World, I reckon.

F: I was a little surprised that he got the MVP. I thought, what about Jacoby Jones, who scored on that long pass—underthrown, by the way—because he had the presence of mind to know he wasn't touched, AND THEN ran a kickoff back 108 yards? I realized this morning that he only had that one catch, but didn't Desmond Howard win the MVP with the Packers basically for scoring on a kickoff and not much else?

A: Those days are gone. It's a QB world.

F: How about the usual ridiculous mania about the Super Bowl commercials? Did you catch many of 'em?

A: A few, although I was viewing the smart way—let the DVR pile up some actual game action for a while and THEN start watching, so I can run through all those breaks. Because the power breakdown threw things off, I do remember saying a couple of times, “That was a pretty good ad; I wonder what it was for?”

F: I was away from the set when I heard that Paul Harvey soliloquy about farmers, so I never knew what that one was all about. I found out this morning that it was for Dodge Rams!

A: When I saw that nice truck at the end of the ad I said, “Hell, what's that farmer complaining about? He can afford that truck and I can hardly afford bus fare!”

F: I noticed the usual spot in which Danica Patrick tries to make it look like she has nothing to do with the juvenile, crude spot for GoDaddy.com. Did we really need to see some chick sucking the face off some nerd for 15 seconds?

A: I see those GoDaddy ads every year and I still don't know what the website is for.

F: It's a Web site where you purchase a “domain name” for your own website, or something like that.

A: Well, I'll go to it and register the name “DanicaPatrickmakesmevomit.com.”

F: The spot that really struck me wasn't an ad but a promo for the NFL. It showed a mother and her young son, wearing a football helmet, and invited people to go to the league's website to see how the NFL is making the sport “better and safer.”

A: In other words, “Mammas, please let your babies grow up to be linebackers.”

F: A real good sign that the NFL realizes the safety issue is a long-term threat to its money-making machine.

A: I heard two conspiracy theories about the power outage. One, the NFL itself pulled the plug to try to make New Orleans build a new stadium if it wants any more Super Bowls.

F: After all, the Superdome is almost 40 years old.

A: Two, some Saints fan with a pair of pliers got into the control room and said, “Hey, Roger Goodell, I've got your Bountygate right here,” and yanked out some wires.

F: An even better theory.

A: And I've got a third one: It was perpetrated by a kinder, gentler Al Qaeda.

F: Instead of blowing up the Super Bowl they decided just to make us, as a nation, squirm a little? “If we don't have the Super Bowl to bond us, how can the republic stand?”

A: Something like that. But the main thing about this Super Bowl is that I could have made a bundle!

F: You were that confident the Ravens would beat the 3 1/2-point spread?

A: No, I saw somewhere that one of the things you could bet on in Vegas was the length of the national anthem—over/under 2 minutes and 15 seconds, or something like that.

F: As usual, I deliberately skipped the anthem because the self-indulgent preening of the singers off-puts me. But you saw it?

A: Yeah, and Alicia Keys came in at 2:42, from her first piano note to the last instant of “the brave.” And I knew she'd go over the 2:15! I coulda been rich.

F: And maybe bought yourself a Dodge Ram. I noticed the review in the Journal Sentinel said Keys gave “a restrained but stirring version.” I suspect the reviewer's definition of “restrained” and mine don't mesh, but how did you find Keys' work?

A: I wouldn't call it restrained either, but I've seen a lot of others that were way more over the top.

F: Then again, it wouldn't be the Super Bowl if everything wasn't over the top.

 

Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek has been bored by every Super Bowl the Packers didn't win.

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