There will certainly be those University of Wisconsin football fans who will wonder “what-might-have-been?” had the Badgers had started Joel Stave at quarterback from the beginning of the season. Obviously visions of being a part of the first-ever college football playoffs dance in their heads. Actually, had Warren Herring, Konrad Zagzebski and Marcus Trotter not been injured on defense, Wisconsin would have beaten LSU and Northwestern regardless who was behind center. That being said, the whole quarterback controversy and the coaching staff’s bungled staff reaction to it, certainly didn’t get the season off to a roaring start. However, now that UW’s ship has been righted (which the coaching staff and head coach Gary Andersen deserve some credit for this) thanks to Melvin Gordon,the nation’s top defense and quarterback rotation which is serviceable, one hopes that since Stave and Tanner McEvoy are both redshirt juniors, there will be no attempt to monkey with the quarterback situation during the offseason (unless McEvoy is convinced he can be a pro as a wideout or safety, not as a QB). The Badgers do not need another drama-filled offseason getting ready to open against No. 1 ranked Alabama in 2015.
It would be easy to say the University of Minnesota football team needs more talent to stay near or at the top of the Big Ten and actually win a game against Wisconsin once and a while. Easy to say, not so easy to do. Minnesota is never going to be an easy recruiting location and given how its facilities outside of TCF Stadium are behind those in rest of the league, they’re lucky to get the good players they have. Actually what they need is more depth, especially up front when the injuries come about at this time of the season (which didn’t help their cause last Saturday). What Jerry Kill and staff need to do is draw a ring around the Twin Cities metro, perhaps 100-200 -mile radius, identify the consistently best high school programs along with the players in that radius and see if the convince them to come to the U, especially as walk-ons where they can save in money on room and board if they live close to campus. Minnesota would do itself a lot of good if it could pick-off two good players from programs like an Eden Prairie, Minn or a St. Paul Cretin-Derham Hall every recruiting class. Even Somerset would fall in that radius. Spartan fullback Max Praschak would certainly look good in Gopher Gold as a fullback or linebacker to join with former teammate Gailen Elmore. Minnesota found a dependable walk-on long-snapper in Jake Filkins from Prescott within that radius. The talent is there to build up the Gopher program if they exploit it.
Are the Packers the best team in pro football right now? Well, at least for the regular season anyways they’re the best, certainly after taking down the Patriots last weekend. The playoffs? That’s still remains to be seen. Even having home field advantage is no guarantee for the Pack like it once was. And success in the post season will be there if the Pack’s top playmakers on defense stay healthy. Not just Clay Matthews but also Julius Peppers, Sam Shields and the like. After all, Green Bay is still in a fight for the NFC North title with Detroit. The Super Bowl is a long way off.
All one can say about the Vikings is a .500 season should make Minnesota fans dance in the streets considering what the team has been through. It would also mean the team has enough young talent that, if added to, can make them a better club in future years if handled properly. The Vikes’ have had the reputation of being a quick-fix team, especially at quarterback. Maybe Minnesota is finally starting to see the wisdom of a long-range plan.
Speaking of “long range” or “long, long range” the Timberwolves are in that stage not just because they have a young team, but because they have a young team and their best, more experienced player is on the bench with an injury. The T-Wolves young line-up has had to endure beatdown after beatdown without Ricky Rubio on the floor. Hopefully the confidence of a Andrew Wiggin or Zach LaVine isn’t shot yet because they’re going to have to endure a lot more beatings for as long as Rubio is sidelined, and some perhaps even when he plays.
The 10-8 Milwaukee Bucks. May not seem like much, but considering how mediocre to bad this team has been for a decade,it is cause for joy that the Bucks are actually a playoff contender. Jabari Parker has shown so far to be a sound draft choice and paired with Gianni Antetkounmpo makes for potent 1-2 scoring punch. With Larry Sanders and O.J. Mayo playing better than they have in years, the Bucks are actually a solid playoff contending team. If they ever develop a solid backcourt, they could do a lot more than just be first-round fodder. But aside from postseason play, just giving fans in SE Wisconsin something entertaining and interesting to watch in the winter will make them more likely to support getting a new arena when the time comes and if public dollars are involved.
When you can play less-than-stellar basketball and still come away as a tournament champion you can see how good the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team is and can be. The Badgers No. 2 ranking is richly deserved. But, what the Battle for Atlantis also exposed is how UW will lose games this season: if an opposing guard gets hot from outside and scores 30 points and if Wisconsin has a hard time dealing with the physical play from its opposition (which is why UW nearly bought it against Georgetown). There are only a few college basketball teams like this in the country, even in the Big Ten, but they are out there and they can knock off Wisconsin. The question is whether the Badgers can avoid such traps, especially when tournament time comes around. Obviously good bench help from players like Bronson Koenig and Duje Dukan, even Vitto Brown will make a big difference in keeping UW on track for a championship.
The starting line-up for the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team is good one on it’s own, enough to push the Golden Gophers to the top-half of the Big Ten. But it’s not the starting five that’s the concern for the U, but the guys on the bench if those fellows get hurt or get in foul trouble. It’s pretty slim pickings after Hollis-Mathieu-King-Elliason-Walker five. The Louisville game exposed this and the Gophs’ depth situation took a big hit just as Daequin McNeil allegedly hit his girlfriend. If Minnesota reaches the NCAA Tournament it will be because they give up the fewest fouls in the Big Ten.
One would think with all the talent the Minnesota Wild have they should be at neat the top of their division and conference, not scraping by once again to stay in the playoff field. But, once again, injuries and underperforming talent like a Thomas Vanek and like a Jason Pominville are holding the team back in the early going of an NHL season, which seems to be like a broken record for the past several years. Last season around this time the Wild strung together win enough wins to cushion them through to the playoffs before the spring swoon set in. Is now the time for another such run or perhaps will the Wild slide backwards into a losing streak? It’s up to the “talent” to decide because it hasn’t been the goaltending that’s been the problem, ironically enough.
This is very good article explains why, if you still care, the University of Wisconsin’s men’s hockey team is off to one of its worst starts to a season in program history. Bottom line is too many youngsters whose hockey skills don’t compensate for their lack of experience. That program like UW’s would go through a season like this would be the equivalent of an University of Oklahoma football team starting a bunch of freshmen and going 0-7 before getting a win or two. Yeah, when was the last time you ever saw that from a major power in college athletics? As far as UW hockey is concerned , it’s becoming the norm. Still, at least the Badgers’ have an excuse. What’s Minnesota’s excuse after starting off the season 7-1-0 and losing three out its last four, including being swept by UMD? If you look closely, the big powers of college hockey aren’t on top anymore when a program like Michigan Tech goes undefeated and is ranked No. 1.
Finally, a musical number in keeping with the season: