Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I know that wasn't the final score of tonight's loss to Virginia, but it's pretty close. I am afraid that the loss tonight may be a repeat of a game UW did lose 62-55 in the 2005-2006 season. That game was unfortunately a harbinger of many losses to come as UW fell apart in the second half of that season. After losing both Marcus Landry and Greg Stiemsma for the 2nd semester UW lost it's next game at the Kohl Center to North Dakota State. UW finished that season out 5-8 including an extremely rare 1st round loss in the NCAA. When UW loses at home to a team that is not very good, it is a warning sign.

Golf is the Stupidest Sport

Apparently the USGA and the R&A have decided to outlaw the use of anchored putters in golf. Steve Stricker—Madison's favorite PGA son and great (conventional) putter—supports the rule change.

I don't really care about the rules of golf, but this is ridiculous. Exhibit A:

"There was no empirical data to suggest a long putter made golf easier."

In other words, every argument in favor of the ban is based on speculation and gut feelings.

So why ban the anchored long putter? Stricker says:

"Any time you can take your arms and hands out of it, especially your hands, I think when you can anchor it in your chest, (it) is a huge advantage. I'm not a big proponent of long putters."

OK, fine, but you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man. Who cares? If it is such an advantage, why don't you do it, Strick? Why don't 90% of pros do it? Just because they are too macho? Gimme a break. Millions of dollars are on the line. If pros really thought anchored putting was an advantage, they'd do it. And if golfers were really macho they'd be playing a real sport. You know, one with athletics involved.

Here's my theory. A country-club culture pervades golf, and the snobs in charge just think anchored putting looks funny. "Why, Millie, this is the worst thing since cargo shorts!" If these people were in charge of basketball they'd have outlawed the jump shot. ("Any time you elevate yourself, especially your hands, in the process of shooting, it is a huge advantage." Cf. Stricker's statement.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I correctly picked the winner vs the spread last week for the 3rd week in a row, but I fell to 1-2 on the o/u leaving me 4-2 on the year. PSU is a 3 point favorite at home, and the o/u is 45.
Last week is a similar situation to this week. A tough game that looks like a coin flip, so  I'll stick with the same strategy and take UW and the points. I'll see if I can get back to .500 and take the under in what I think will be a low scoring game.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Who's 6th?

There are a lot of games that don't involve the 5 contenders, and someone has to win them. There will be one or two teams that make the tourney outside of the big 5. Who will they be?

Let's start with the easy part, who it won't be.

Even with Frazier, PSU was at best a 6 win team. Now that he's hurt PSU may not win 3.
Nebraska had a rude introduction to the Big Ten last year. Even with a senior laden team they were bottom dwellers. They will not be better this year. A new coach and a rebuilding project equals 2 wins.

I won't do Purdue the disservice of grouping them with Nebraska and PSU, but they are rebuilding. This team brings in a big time recruiting class and has a bunch of young talent. Matt Painter is a good coach and this team will keep getting better. They will be dangerous in February and March. Don't be fooled into thinking this team will have the same success as the freshman class of Robbie Hummel, Jujuan Johnson, E'twan Moore and Scott Martin. Those guys took over after the Carl Landry era and didn't miss a beat. This years team is already struggling early, and will probably do so most of the year. Look out for them next year as they only lose DJ Byrd.
Northwestern is Northwestern. They will score the ball well. They won't defend well. They will pull off a big upset, probably vs Michigan State. They will do just enough for people to talk about them making the dance, but at the end of the year it will be clear to everyone that they aren't really even a bubble team.

Will the loss of Bruce Weber be enough to get Illinois back in the tourney? My guess is no. Brandon Paul showed he is an elite scorer last year and he will carry this team to some big wins. This team won't have enough defense to win consistently in the big ten. They will struggle, especially against the size of the contenders without Meyers Leonard to anchor the D and clean up the defensive glass. Illinois hopefully won't quit like they did last year on Weber, but that will only get them to the NIT.

In case you haven't done the math, that only leaves 2 teams. I think both will win enough games to make the tourney and both will pull off some surprise wins.

Last year I predicted Indiana would be the surprise team of the league and make the tourney when many prognosticators thought they were still a year away. I believed in Indiana because they could score the ball with anyone, and the addition of a big man gave them just enough defense and rebounding. Adam Woodbury is no Zeller, and he is playing limited minutes, but like Zeller he moves everyone over one spot so they are not defending so much out of position. Iowa is only scoring about 70 per game this year, but they are giving up only about 52 through 5 games against lesser competition. Excluding their loss against Creighton last year, in their first 5 games against lesser teams they were scoring 84 and giving up 67. They are playing a different style, and it is paying off defensively. I don't think Iowa will match Indiana's 11 big ten wins of last year, but look for them to be around .500 and be one of the last teams on the bubble to get in the tourney.

Minnesota looked like a sure fire tourney team last year, and then Mbakwe got hurt. This team still made the NIT final, so it wasn't a terrible season despite the loss of a fantastic player. They had 5 big ten games go to overtime in which they were 2-3. They also lost 4 other big ten games by 5 points or less, so it's not like they were that bad without their star. Mbakwe is back, but it's uncertain how healthy he is or will be. Are they just holding him back so he doesn't over do it? If he is able to return to major minutes, I think this team coasts to a 6th place finish. If he doesn't, I still think they are good enough to get to double digit wins and a tourney birth.

Minn 10-8
Iowa 9-9
Illinois 7-11
Northwestern 7-11
Purdue 7-11
Nebraska 2-16
PSU 1-17

Monday, November 19, 2012

Big Ten Top

Time for my annual Big Ten analysis, and predictions. Hard to get a great read on teams before the Thanksgiving tourneys as many have only played cupcakes, but they have at least shown their rotations.

There are 5 contenders this year. UW, MSU, OSU, Indiana and Michigan. The best part is that they all get to play each other a lot. Only UW gets a break in the unbalanced scheduling with only one game against Indiana and Michigan. The other 4 teams have 7 or 8 games against each other. In another scheduling quirk, none of the contenders plays another in at least the first 3 games of the year. Once Mid January hits there should be a rush of big time games that just doesn't stop until March. Should be a fun season.

Gasser's injury probably knocked UW off the contenders list for many prognosticators, but those of us who have watched Bo for the last decade know better. I won't get into UW too much as they are already a focus of this blog.

All four of the other teams are rock solid, so I'll try to pick on them a little.

Indiana has scoring at every position but I am not yet a believer in this team. They still have to stop someone and I'm not convinced they can do that. Oladipo can defend, and Zeller should make a jump in year 2, but Watford, Hulls and Creek are still on this team. Unless those guys become different players, Indiana will have problems against good teams. They will also be relying on at least 2 freshman for minutes which shouldn't help the defense.

Last season I thought Michigan had a chance to be a great team until Darius Morris went pro. They proved me wrong and were a great team thanks to Trey Burke. I must admit I was almost as pissed when Burke didn't go pro this year as I was when Sullinger didn't last year. I hate playing these guys again. Michigan has tons of scoring in the backcourt and at the wing which Beilein plays at the 4 spot in his system. The question as always with Michigan is size, because they play small at the 4. They may be better this year with an older Jordan Morgan and freshman McGary at the 5 spot.

OSU has Craft and possibly the best athlete in the conference in Thomas. Beyond them there are question marks. Lots of kids that were highly recruited, but have little production. There is also no impact freshman class as Matta has had in previous years. Matta is too good of a coach not to get his kids to play well, it's just hard to get a read on this team on paper.

MSU will be the best team in the conference by the end of the year. They have size in Nix and Payne, and they have a good group of wings and forwards that attack the glass. The reason I like MSU is Keith Appling. This kid just keeps getting better and better. With a solid year running the team alongside Draymond Green, I think he is going to take over this team and lead them to the title.

Here's my predictions for the top of the conference:
MSU 14-4
Mich 14-4
Indiana 13-5
UW 12-6
OSU 12-6

One last observation from the top tier teams. I'll address the bottom in another post.

The graduating class of the 5-rotational players only:

Evan Ravenel, Matt Vogrich, Derrick Nix, Watford, Hulls, and the Badger 3.

Outside of the Badgers that's not a lot of losses. While several players will go early to the NBA, the Big Ten is loaded with young talent for this year and next.

What that means is that there is a lot of room to grow. As good as these big ten teams look now, they are just going to keep getting better as the year goes on. Should be a fun year to watch.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Brust's left hand

After watching UW today I didn't think they played very well. That's always weird to say after you watch them dismantle a team and win by 33 points. Several things stood out. I watched Brust take the ball to the left side of the rim on 4 separate occasions and he used his right hand to lay the ball up all 4 times. This was not encouraging, as better teams figured out his righthandedness last year and rendered him useless in much of Big Ten play. Brust also got his 2nd double double in points and rebounds. He has been tenacious on the glass this year, which is much needed with the loss of good rebounding guards Taylor and Gasser.
Ryan Evan's seems to be suffering from the senior step back. He is still taking the ill advised 18 foot jumpshots, but he is not getting the ball in the post like he did last year. He blocked several shots but many were on recovery plays that he won't make against better players. I am starting to wonder if his breakout year last season will be his bright spot. As with many of Bo's seniors, once the spotlight is on and they become the focus of the defense, they struggle. It's not that they have become worse, they just don't put up the same stats when they have to face the opponents best defenders.
As I watched them play I found myself wondering whose team is this? The answer was both obvious and unfortunate. This is Gasser's team. He was on crutches and on the court the entire time the team was warming up. He even went through the practice free throw line, although he didn't shoot. This team is still trying to get past his loss. So am I in case you didn't notice. Who's team will it be in a month?
I decided to watch the Florida game again as I watched it live in a bar and was distracted by conversation for most of the game. UW didn't play as badly as the blow out score would indicate. Florida is a really good team with a really good player. Patrick Young was a likely late lottery selection had he gone pro last summer. Florida is a team who knows who they are. They have guards that can score with the jumpsot, off the drive, and in transition, but this team runs through Young. I was struck that virtually every time Young was on the floor he was involved in the offense. When they went to the post it was to him. When they ran pick and roll, it was with him. When he wasn't on the floor they still tried to run the same stuff, but it wasn't just one player focused. UW did a good job on Young for the most part as Florida turned the ball over a ton trying to get him the ball.
Berggren is UWs best player, so it struck me that UW should be his team. I don't think there is any chance that this will happen. It is clear from the last two games that this will be Dekker's team. None of the 3 guards have what it takes to take control of this team. Bruiser and Evans are role playing guys who aren't going to take things over either. Berggren will have his moments but he needs someone to get him the ball. He's not like Leuer, who could create something no matter where he was on the floor. Dekker may not start a game this year, but make no mistake it will be his team by year's end. After UW took nothing but jumpshots for the first several possessions against Florida it was Dekker who came in and attacked the paint. Dekker showed his natural ability today when he stole a ball at the top of the key and threw down a huge dunk. He also showed his youth when he made an ill advised drive and turned the ball over on a charge. There will be growing pains, but this team will run through him before long.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Today is a day I would not bet. Too many questions, and I feel this game is a coin toss. If the Badgers had a healthy Stave and Borland, I would probably go UW, but they don't. OSU already has tough road wins at MSU, and PSU, and they are coming off a bye.
UW is a 2 1/2 point favorite, and o/u is 52. If you think the game is a coin flip, then you should take the points. I'll take OSU and the points, and the under.
I was 2-0 vs Indiana, so I'm 3-1 on the year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Early season experience vs late season bye

I was struck by the number of cupcake matchups in the SEC this Saturday, and it brought up an interesting strategic question. First the background.
Growing up a UW fan I got used to their typical scheduling. This included 4 non-conference games (although it was 3 until recently) followed by 8 big ten games. This gave UW a couple lesser opponents to test themselves out, gain confidence, and figure out what they needed to work on before they had to play a conference game. There was usually one non-conference opponent who gave UW a test, but the games were otherwise for practice and more importantly to raise revenue.
The SEC takes a different approach. Their teams all play a conference game in the first 3 games of the year. This creates some big games very early in the year, but also leaves a hole at the end of the year. The SEC schools this week play powerhouses like West Carolina, Wofford, Jacksonville St, Alabama A&M, Georgia South, Samford, and Sam Houston St.
This means SEC teams miss out on an opportunity to grow and build early in the season, but they gain what amounts to an extra bye week late in the year. If Alabama has any nicked up players they can give them an extra week to heal, and they can pull all their starters at halftime unless a 1-9 West Carolina team brings in about 30 ringers.
I always thought that a team like UW that is built on player development needed those early games since so many guys were new and needed that experience on a big stage. Given the physical punishment players take I'm not so sure that the SEC way isn't better. Florida may disagree after they almost got upset by LA-Lafayette last week. The danger of the let down game is probably greater late in the season than early.
With the expansion of the regular season to 12 games, plus a potential championship game, plus a bowl game, I think the late season bye week may be a big advantage.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Kaminsky question

Badgers had a convincing win as they overwhelmed an inferior opponent today. The rotation seems to be set as Bo only played 8 players for the entire first half. Bohannon was the 9th player to see the floor and he didn't enter until there was about 10 minutes to go in the 2nd half. I would imagine with Florida coming up next Bo wanted to get his guys ready, and have them play together as much as possible. Once again Kaminsky started next to Berggren at the 4. Bruiser came back and played 13 minutes and looked like he is back from his injury, although probably not in great condition yet. This is where the Kaminsky question comes in, will Bruiser reclaim his starting spot once he is healthy? My guess is yes.
There may be games where playing the 2 bigs together makes sense, but there will likely be few of these in the preseason. Florida has size, so Kaminsky will probably remain the starter for at least one more game. What matters more than who starts is minutes and I'm sure Bo will make sure the kids that deserve the minutes get them.
I noticed today Bo has continued his defensive strategy of switching on all screens. Until just a couple years ago switching was a rarity as Bo had his kids hedge and fight over all screens. When Bo got a combination of bigger guards-Gasser and Taylor, and a more active, mobile frontcourt-Leuer, Nankvil, Evans, Bruiser, he decided his kids could handle the mismatches that occur when you switch on screens. I had wondered if this trend would continue as UWs guards-Brust 6'1" 195lbs, and Marshall 5'11" 185lbs are smaller and their centers-Berggren and Kaminsky while skilled are not super mobile on the perimeter-Kaminsky much more so than Berggren. I will be interested to see if this strategy continues and how UW handles the mismatches.
Can't wait to see how this team, and especially the young guards hold up against Florida in a tough environment.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Predictions this week

I started off my gambling tracking at 1-1. OK for a start but I would need to better in the long run to make any money. 50-50 is losing in gambling since you have to pay the juice on wins.
This week I really like Bucky. They are 7 point favorites and o/u of 55. I'm not sure if it's Wagner's return, or Phillip's mojo, but I like UW to win big. I'm taking UW minus the 7 and the over.
If I could get the odds on this prop bet I would also take it. UW will have over 50 rushing attempts in this game, and rush for over 300 yards.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Florida faces some adversity as well...

ESPN reports that Florida coach Billy Donovan has suspended Scottie Wilbekin, his starting point guard, indefinitely "for an undisclosed reason."

This comes on the heels of Cody Larson quitting the team and Casey Prather suffering two concussions in nine days.

Wisconsin plays Florida next Wednesday, of course. Some are reporting that Mike Bruesewitz may be available for the game.

In other news, Florida opens the season against Georgetown aboard the USS Bataan, which ESPN describes as an "ambitious assault ship." Hopefully the Navy is phasing out the lazy ships.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

first impressions of UW Bball

I think these kids will be OK. I know this was just an exhibition but I'm not nearly as scared as I was when I heard Gasser went down. Marshall, Jackson, and Brust will have some growing pains, but I think they can be effective. They will likely struggle against teams with length and athletes at guard like Marquette. They will certainly have bad shooting nights. They all seem to be active on defense, which may lead to foul trouble they can't afford. All in all I like what I saw, and I know they will get better and better the more they play.

Bo went big to start as I thought he might. With Bruiser out with injury, Bo put Bergerren and Kaminsky in the starting lineup together. In typical Bo fashion he then pulled both of them at the first 4 minute time out and went small inserting Decker and Jackson in a 3 guard 2 forward lineup. There are certainly a lot of combinations being worked out at this point. At this point there is not much reason to think anyone other than the 3 seniors, 3 guards, Decker and Kaminsky will get significant minutes. Bohanon looked like he can give them some depth off the bench, at least until Bruiser comes back. Dukan, Anderson, and Schowalter didn't show anything to think they are ready to play this year.

Decker looked solid. There were no rim rattling dunks. No barrage of 3s. No shots blocked into the stands. He played within himself. He did put up 3 3s, and you could just see him having to hold himself back on several others. He looked like a guy used to taking every shot who now has to wait not just for a shot, but for a good shot. The play that stuck out in my mind happened with about a minute left in the first half. Decker had played a good stretch of minutes, so he was probably starting to get tired. Bohannon turned the ball over at the top of the key, which is a cardinal sin because it almost always leads to an easy run out lay up. However Decker hustled down court from the wing and was able to alter the shot and cause a missed lay up. That kind of hustle will get him on the floor a lot.

Games start to count for real on Sunday, although the competition won't be dramatically better. I can't wait to see how these kids respond against Florida on the road.

Chorlton gets his wish...

Word on the street is that Curt Phillips will be starting at QB for Wisconsin on Saturday. E.g.,:
This is breaking news only if you don't read the comments on Adam's WI Sports Blog. If you do, you'd have known this was coming since October 3rd (before Phillips even played that token series):
Although, the last time the Badgers had such terrible quarterback situation with Sherer and Evridge, the 3rd guy on the bench who didn't get a shot until the following year was Scott Tolzien. Maybe Phillips should get a shot.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bonus Prediction

Last week was 1-1 getting the over under wrong, but correctly taking MSU and the points.
Since there is no Badger game this week, I'll throw out a prediction for the Buck's season opener against Boston tonight. I admit this type of bet is pure silliness, so I won't include the results in the rest of my Badger predictions. Betting on the NBA, or pro sports in general is just too tough. Too tough for me anyway.
Bucks are a 7 point underdog, with the o/u at 195 1/2. I'll take the Celtics minus the points, and the under.
Back next week with Badger predictions.

Sobering Analysis of Effect of Gasser's Injury

Dan Henner has this very thoughtful post about the effect of Gasser's injuries on expectations for Wisconsin. According to Henner's detailed predictions, the injury drops Wisconsin from the 12th best team to the 33rd best team in the country:
[t]he loss of Gasser should get our attention for a number of reasons. First, Wisconsin was a Top 25 team in almost everyone’s preseason rankings, and their returning tempo free numbers suggested they were a borderline Top 10 team. So any injury for Wisconsin should get our attention nationally. But more importantly, Wisconsin doesn’t have any natural substitutes for Gasser in the lineup. He was expected to carry a tremendous load for Wisconsin as a ball-handler this season, and the type of players who will replace Gasser in the lineup have substantially lower expectations. Gasser might not be a preseason all-conference selection, but because of the drop-off at his position with Gasser not in the lineup, Wisconsin’s expectations now plummet. While the tempo free numbers suggested Wisconsin was the 12th best team in the nation prior to the injury, my model now pegs them as the 33rd best team in the country.
I still expect Wisconsin to be a top-25 team and hopefully make a run to the Sweet 16. But it's hard to argue with Henner's underlying analysis—the Badgers suffered a huge blow last Saturday.

Meanwhile, even with the injury to Gasser, the initial rankings put Wisconsin at 5th in the country—but 4th in the Big Ten.

College Basketball and the Election

[Cross-posted from The Gillette-Torvik Blog]

Nate Silver—the author of the fivethirtyeight blog—has become quite famous for his election prognostications. He's also become quite controversial. The controversy stems from his model's assessment that Barack Obama has about an 80% chance of being reelected next Tuesday. Many pundits, particularly Republican ones, think this is crazy (or worse). They point to the fact that national polls have been tied or given Mitt Romney a narrow lead for weeks and say the race is as best a tossup.

Silver's defenders—and Silver himself—respond with some variation of, "the math is the math." They point to the state level polls, which Silver's model relies heavily on, and which currently show Obama with a small but clear and sustained lead in enough swing states to take the Electoral College with relative ease.

In a way, both sides of this argument are right. I think Silver's model's estimate of an 80% probability of Obama winning is highly plausible. But I also think it's fair to label that a "tossup."

To understand why, you need to understand that Silver comes from the world of sports. In particular, he's among the line of people applying "advanced stats" to baseball and other sports to yield stunning new insights: Bill James; sabermetrics; "Moneyball";; etc.

Let's talk about Ken Pomeroy. His superb website ( has for many years been applying advanced, tempo-free statistics to college basketball. His model allows him to create a "win probability" for every game of every season. This win probability largely tracks the Vegas betting odds. It's pretty amazing.

But here's the thing—it turns out that teams with an 80% win probability lose all the time. Not every time, of course, or even most of the time. But they lose with almost clockwork regularity. In fact, they lose about two out of every ten games.

Here's a painful example from last season. Wisconsin versus Marquette, at the Kohl Center, on December 3rd. Wisconsin came into the game 6-1, having utterly destroyed some inferior competition (e.g., an 85-31 victory over Kennesaw State) and having just lost, on the road, by 3 points to preseason #1 North Carolina. Marquette was undefeated but untested. There was cause for worry, as they had just narrowly scraped out a 59-57 win over lowly Norfolk State.

Considering their relative performances and Wisconsin's significant home court advantage, Pomeroy's computer gave Wisconsin an 83.2% chance of winning. Yet Marquette led almost the entire game, opened up a double-digit lead at half-time, and won going away, 61-54. In other words, the 83.2% favorite got whipped.

(I would link to the Pomeroy data, but it's behind a paywall. I encourage you to pay the $20 to get access to it.)

This is important because Nate Silver's model is fundamentally similar to Ken Pomeroy's model. Neither is predicting what is actually going to happen. Rather, both use historical data to spit out a probability that something will happen in the future. And if you follow Ken Pomeroy's model closely, you will know that an 80% favorite is not really a very "big" favorite. Because you will have experienced your favorite team losing as an 80% favorite many times. Indeed, last year Wisconsin lost twice to Iowa, games in which Pomeroy's computer said it had a 98.3 and 81.9 percent chance of winning. Given those percentages, Wisconsin had a 99.7% chance of winning at least one of those games. (This is hard to swallow, given that Wisconsin would have won a share of the Big Ten title if had managed to win just one of those games.)

There is a psychological difficulty in taking this concept of win probabilities and transferring it to elections. In sports, there are often dozens of games going on every single day—particularly in college basketball. So the "probability" aspect of Pomeroy's model makes some intuitive sense because you can watch it play out in front of your eyes over the dozens of results. But there is only one presidential election at a time. So it is not very intuitive to think of the result probabilistically. You have to start thinking about multiple universes, or something.

Anyhow, here's my conclusion based on my experience as a college basketball fan: Obama is the favorite, but he's a precarious and narrow one. His team better show up on game day.