When it comes to sports these days, it's clearly Wisconsin's world. We're just all trying to compete in it.
Really, has there ever been a better time to be a Cheesehead than the past eight days? The Green Bay Packers started it all last Sunday when they won their first Super Bowl in 14 years and their fourth ever. Then the Wisconsin Badgers knocked off previously unbeaten and top-ranked Ohio State on Saturday, coming from 15 down in the final 13 minutes.
And it doesn't stop there. The Wisconsin hockey team is ranked seventh nationally. ESPN.com baseball writer Jayson Stark wrote last week that the Milwaukee Brewers have the talent this summer to play, "deep into October."
Beyond that, the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks remain marginally in the hunt for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. And lest we forget, those football Badgers — the ones who also upset the then-No. 1 Buckeyes in Madison last fall — reached the Rose Bowl.
Cheese, it's the new wonder food.
Heck, even National Anthem murderess Christina Aguilera is probably a huge Packers fan today, since Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers' sizzling Super Bowl performance largely diluted criticism of her Star Mangled Banner.
(A quick rant: the National Anthem's a song (albeit a difficult one), not a hog-calling contest. Under the pressure of being watched by 108 million football fans, perhaps it's understandable to forget a word or two (though isn't that what teleprompters are for?). But was it too much to ask that a Grammy Award-winning artist actually sing in key rather than screaming to the rafters? Where's Sandi Patty or New York City firefighter Frank Pizarro when you need them?)
But back to college basketball. What both Wisconsin and Kentucky conqueror Vanderbilt again hammered home Saturday is that the 3-ball has forever changed the game. And that's a good thing.
The Badgers hit 12 of 24 3-pointers against the Buckeyes, who settled for 3 of 9 behind the line. Vandy knocked down 11 of 20 against UK, which connected on but 7 of 23. Heck, even Florida's 61-60 victory over Tennessee turned on an unlikely triple from sophomore Erik Murphy, who didn't attempt a single trey a year ago.
And this is with the line moved back a foot from its original 19 feet, 9 inches of 24 years ago.
There will always be a place for outrageous athleticism and size in hoops, but it's also nice to know that a practiced skill — and that's what shooting is, a skill — can sometimes overcome raw ability.
What makes Wisconsin's attack more dangerous than many is who's shooting them, however. Yes, guard Jordan Taylor knocked down five triples against the Buckeyes. But 6-10 Badgers senior center Jon Leuer is hitting over 43 percent of his 3-pointers. His 6-8 classmate at power forward, Keaton Nankivil, is hitting 47 percent from over the rainbow. And carrot-topped reserve forward Mike Bruesewitz, who's hitting 35 percent beyond the arc for the season, swished both his triples against the Buckeyes.
Said OSU coach Thad Matta in defeat, "When you've got as many guys out there who can shoot (3s) as they do, it's difficult. There's no question about that."
If you don't think the 3-pointer could be bigger than ever in this year's NCAA Tournament, consider that Ohio State won every statistical category except 3-point shooting.
This isn't to say that Wisconsin, Vanderbilt or even the Kings of Fling — the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils — will win this year's Final Four in Houston on Monday night, April 4.
When the new college basketball polls are released later today, the once-beaten Kansas Jayhawks should return to No. 1 and their offensive strength is inside the 3-point line, given that they're hitting 52.3 percent from the field overall.
Then there's Big East beast Pittsburgh, which attempts fewer than 16 treys a game, hits just over six (but fewer than four if you take injured guard Ashton Gibbs out of the mix), yet is still dominating the toughest conference in the country.
So there are many ways to win. But in a year that's beginning so well for the Cheese State, it's certainly not difficult to imagine the 19-5 Badgers going down to Houston for the final weekend of the season to enjoy the three Bs -- beer, brats and basketball
But whichever four teams get there, they — and us — will surely be spared watching Christina Aguilera butcher the National Anthem for a second time in two months deep in the heart of Texas.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...
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