Blog Archives

Travis’s Mailbag #2

Doug-MelvinDo you think the Brewers will extend Doug Melvin’s contract after this season?
Cael, East Troy, WI

Yes. In September 2002, Doug took over as the GM of one of the worst franchises in the league; a team that hadn’t had a winning record in a decade and had just lost over 100 games for the first and only time in team history. In the space of three years, Melvin turned a team that was a league-wide laughingstock into, if not a perennial contender, at least a team that was regularly playing meaningful baseball after the All-Star break. The Brewers have posted winning records in five of the past eight years, a feat accomplished only nine times in 34 years of existence prior to his arrival.

Certainly, there have been questionable moves: signing Jeff Suppan, adding Nelson Cruz and Michael Brantley as throw-ins in larger deals, hiring Ken Macha, everything about Bill Hall. But there are also moves that he took a lot of heat for that made him look like a dang genius: trading James Jerry Hardy for Carlos Gomez (and then extending him), Ryan Braun’s first extension, signing Norichika Aoki (and then dealing him for Will Smith). Doug’s job is secure in Milwaukee. Ron Roenicke, on the other hand, may not make it to the All-Star break.

What’s the best food happy hour on Wednesdays in Milwaukee?
Brad, Milwaukee, WI

Ugly’s Pub on Old World Third.

Tailgating is so fun. How can we make watching baseball more entertaining?
Holly, Madison, WI

I come from a place of already thinking that baseball is fun to watch, but I understand the needs of the masses as well and people, I am here to help. Here are some things you can do to make your time watching the national pastime more engaging:

  • If you love tailgating well guess what, the fun doesn’t have to stop once you hit the turnstiles! Many ballparks have food and/or drink available for purchase for $1-$30 dollars per item. Wishing you could toss the old bean bags around inside the stadium? Well you just better not, there’s a lot of people in there and someone might get hurt.
  • One thing you can do to really kick up your enjoyment of baseball up a notch is to go back in time to when you are five and leave your family behind and get raised by my dad instead. My dad loves baseball and I bet he could instill the same love in you, if you’d just let him.
  • You can try a little bit of friendly wagering with your fellow fans! “Say, chap, I forecast that our local baseball squadron will successfully tally a run in this very inning. What say you to a little bet? I’ve a sixpence that says the old boys will be able to do it.”
  • You can pretend that the offensive team knows the baseball is a bomb while the defense has no stinkin’ idea, and then marvel at the fact that those dummies keep running straight toward it while the offense keeps obviously trying to get the dang thing as far away from them as possible. Stand up and yell, “KABOOM!” every time the ball is caught to let everyone know that the center fielder is now ‘dead’, and must be replaced.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Denver NuggetsHow much better is Michael Carter Williams than Brandon Knight?
Michael (not Mr. Carter-Williams), Milwaukee, WI

Negative seven. As in the Bucks, after the deadline deal that sent Knight to the Suns, finished the season seven games behind the Bucks as constructed prior to the trade: they were 30-23 at the time of the trade and finished the year 11-18, failing to finish above .500 for the fifth consecutive year. In the short term, this trade was disastrous. It made them a worse team on the basketball court, as Knight represented the only legitimate scoring threat on a nightly basis; certainly Giannis and Middleton have their big games, but neither is anything close consistent. It completely disrupted their rhythm and spacing as teams no longer had to worry about a point guard who could shoot; defenses collapsed to the lane and Giannis was unable to find any real estate to work his magic.  From a fan goodwill standpoint, it couldn’t have come at a worse time; with a huge push for a new arena underway and the Bucks coming off a 9-1 stretch, the city was absolutely buzzing with excitement about the NBA. Then the trade, the Bucks lost six of seven, MCW looked lost, and the excitement was gone, the Bucks drowned out by the Badgers tournament run and Brewers spring training; it was just more of the same from a team that has won two playoff series since 1989 (both in the same year). Prior to the trade, the Bucks were a major upset threat in the East, but that is likely no longer the case.

That said, the idea that perhaps some of MCW’s shortcomings in Philadelphia might be corrected simply by getting onto a better team with more weapons proved correct. No longer the lone scoring option, Carter-Williams saw significant bumps to his effective shooting percentage as he was able to be more selective with his shots: though his three-point shooting percentage continues to plummet, he cut his attempts to just 1.1 per game (he averaged 3.0 three point attempts with Philly this season). His per-36 assist numbers fell, and if he’s not going to be able to shoot from outside, he’s going to have to provide more scoring chances for his teammates. But going forward, there’s hope that although it shot their exciting 2014-15 season to hell, the trade could provide future dividends.

Is it still acceptable to have Blurred Lines as my ringtone?
Andrew, Madison, WI

The fact that you’re asking me this question mean you already know the answer, Andrew. Do the right thing.

What’s the deal with airplane food?
Nicholas, Milwaukee, WI

There are NO deals on airplane food, no sir. That stuff’s expensive as all get out! But if you’re really hankerin’ for a pre-packaged sandwich on your flight, you better come correct with the plastic, because most airlines no longer accept cash for on-board transactions. Imagine that! Not accepting cold hard cash as a form of legal tender. What is the world coming to? I’ll tell you what, it’s all going to hell in a hand basket. You better just pack up your valuables and head for the hills, because this society is falling apart.

Will you marry my mom so she isn’t ‘illegal’ anymore?
Mellie, Milwaukee, WI

No, I would only ever marry for love and I’ve never met your mom, though I’m sure she’s a lovely woman. Also, I’m kind of seeing someone at the moment, and she might not like it if I was married. I could ask her about it though. Don’t they let folks take a test about who were the presidents and where is New Jersey or whatever to become a citizen? Maybe she could sign up for that test. Or maybe we could all just relax and let people live where they want who cares.

98-degrees-2013-650-430Why doesn’t 98 Degrees get more credit as a boy band?
Holly, Madison, WI

We have previously covered what defines a boy band, so let’s take a look back at that to begin (excerpted from Travis’s Mailbag #1):

  • You need a collection of boys making music (you know, because words mean things)
  • No instruments. If I so much as see a guitar string, you’re out (sorry, Hanson)
  • If you weren’t managed by Lou Pearlman, that’s not a good sign (if you were managed by Lou Pearlman, that’s not really great either)
  • No writing your own music. Are you kidding me? Out of the question. Get real.

Unfortunately, 98 Degrees was adamant that they wrote much of their own material. Because of this, 98 Degrees does not qualify as a boy band. However, even allowing it for the sake of argument, their best song, “The Hardest Thing”, isn’t fit to lick to boots of Millennium or No Strings Attached.

leggingsAre leggings like legit pants?
Mellie, Milwaukee, WI

Absolutely not. You don’t see me strollin’ around the city rocking nothing but my dang Jockey’s, do you? Put some damn pants on. I have previously discussed this issue with others, but feel it’s important enough to have it written here: if you are wearing leggings like they’re just regular old pants, you are not adequately covered on your bottom.

Will Wisconsin make the Sweet 16 next year?
Kevin, Madison, WI

It’s hard to answer a question like this, since we have no idea what the bracket will look like, and what sort of match-ups the Badgers will face, so we’d have to forecast not only how well the Badgers will play but where they and every other team would be seeded, and which teams would go where. Rather, we can more easily answer, “Will the Badgers be one of the best 16 teams in the country next year?” To which we can safely answer yes. The Badgers will have a tremendous amount of talent and production to replace, perhaps more than Bo Ryan has ever had to previously. But to repeat a bunch of facts that you’ve heard a thousand times: The Badgers have never finished lower than fourth or failed to advance to the NCAA tournament under Ryan, and have advanced to the tournament’s second weekend in four of the past five years. A solid core of Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Vitto Brown should be enough to keep them among the country’s elite teams; count on all of them to make big leaps going into their junior seasons, as almost all of Ryan’s kids do.

Is it acceptable that I listen to Creed even though I’m an atheist?
Mellie, Milwaukee, WI
No, it is 100% not acceptable that you listen to Creed, though it has nothing to do with your belief (or lack thereof) in Christ or in any other deity. It is unacceptable because Creed makes really bad music, and you should listen to better music. Here is a short list of bands that are better than Creed:

"THE MUPPETS"..Ph: John E. Barrett..© 2011 Disney1. The Silver Lining – This is a three-piece band I formed with my friends Sven and Jordan in college. We had one original song and we also did a pretty good cover of “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. We once played a show for up to three people. It was approximately seven minutes long.
2. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem – Pictured to the right.
3. Pink Floyd – Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not true.
4. CrossRoad – My mom’s Christian praise band, which plays every other Sunday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and is currently seeking a drummer.
5. The Chuck E. Cheese’s Animatronic House Band

Or you could just listen to Taylor Swift, the official singer-songwriter of Bucky’s Beer Cheese Co., and have done with it.

Why does everyone hate Nickleback?
-Mellie, Milwaukee, WI

I think it’s about time we sit you down and have a musical intervention.

milwaukee_bucks_logo_primary_detailThe Bucks new logo: Yay or Nay?
Kevin, Madison, WI

It’s fine. I would have preferred, if they were going to re-brand, that they rewind the clock and bring back the sweater buck, but the trend in sports logos is to make your animals meaner looking and more polygonal; the sweater buck just isn’t cut out for the harsher times. I wish they’d used a bit more blue; we’ll have to see what the jerseys look like, but from Jabari’s hint at the unveiling, it sounds like there’s only going to be a touch of it. Perhaps an alternate blue jersey somewhere down the line? I could get down with that.

Speaking of the unveiling, what in the world was that? The painters were cool but man, just stick a DJ up there or something! That dude squeaking away during “Uptown Funk” reminded me of every karaoke night where some jabroni goes up there trying to bite off more than he can chew, a feeling that was solidified when they immediately followed with “Don’t Stop Believin'”. #OwnTheFuture? That song is 34 years old.

I get why they did it now: new owners, a new arena (pretty please??), a new team identity that comes with a return to relevance. I just feel bad for all the people that dropped big money on brand new Jabari and Giannis gear that’s now obsolete 3-5 months later. This is why I always try to stick with buying retro gear when making purchases; that stuff never goes out of style.

What’s with LAX?
Chuck, Milwaukee, WI

I know, right?

A cricket

A cricket

Do you think Martin Guptill is overrated or do you think he’s New Zealand’s only hope of making the Cricket World Cup this year? With his salary alone they could get 2-3 top notch players, and their at bats wouldn’t be so one hit focused.  New Zealand is never going to get above their 5th place international ranking and catch powerhouses like South Africa and Pakistan if they don’t start playing team oriented cricket.
-Greg and Ryan, Denton TX and Greenfield, WI

The New Zealand national cricket team had their most successful showing ever at the 2015 Cricket World Cup, finishing as the runner-up to rival Australia in heartbreaking fashion at the event the two counties co-hosted in March. They should have no trouble qualifying to the next Cricket World Cup in 2019, and they’ll hope to build on the progress they made this year.

While Guptill, ranked 22nd in the world among batsmen, is certainly a key component of the All Blacks’ success, he’s certainly not their only hope. Thought Guptill and fellow top-order batsman Ross Taylor, both 31, may not be with the team in 2019, 24-year-old phenom Kane Williamson may already be the best player on the Kiwis’ national team, and he’ll be joined by all-rounder Corey Anderson, also just 24.

Of course, player salaries don’t enter into the equation of the make-up of the national team. To keep pace with Pakistan and South Africa, not to mention the hated Australians, New Zealand will need to continue to develop young players domestically through youth programs designed to find the next diamond in the rough.

MEET THE BLUE DEVELS

Who likes Duke well it's no one that's who

Who likes Duke well it’s no one that’s who

#1 Duke Blue Devils
34-4 (15-3, 2nd in ACC)

How did they get here?
Duke blew through their half of the bracket with relative ease, as their only single-digit win was against #5 Utah in the second round. They received an at-large bid to the tournament after being bounced from the ACC Tournament semifinals by Notre Dame. The Blue Devils haven’t lost to a team that wasn’t Notre Dame since January 13th, when they dropped their second of two consecutive games against ACC also-rans.

Who is their best player?
Freshman Jahlil Okafor is your headliner, and with good reason, he’s one of the best players in the country and a certain top-2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, barring a catastrophic injury. He’s averaging 17 and 8 and makes two thirds of his shots, which is preposterous. But the Blue Devils have a pair of freshmen in Tyus Jones and Justice Winslow (dig that name, bruh) who are pretty dang good too. Senior Quinn Cook provides #leadership.

Can the Blue Devils beat Wisconsin?
Of course they can, they already did back in December. But the Badgers were a very different team when they met Duke for the ACC Challenge. Beyond the natural growth of a team throughout the season (a process magnified by Bo Ryan), that game was played under the widely-held but false assumption that Sam Dekker was a human being. Now of course he has revealed his true nature to us, that of the ancient god of ball, Threesus. Dekker scored five points in that game. If he scores five points tonight I will eat my hat.

Did you ever imagine you would wake up on Opening Day and care more about something other than baseball?
Nope. I can’t put into words how much I want this. Not only for myself as a fan, but for these young men. Has any team ever been so damn likable? We know we’re losing Frank and Josh after tonight and at this point, it’d almost be irresponsible for Sam to stay, as he’s almost certainly played himself into the lottery over the last month. The Badgers will reload, as the always do, but this team is special, on and off the court. #MakeEmBelieve

What is the best case scenario?
Any scenario in which this game ends with the Badgers having more points on the scoreboard than the Blue Devils is the best case scenario.

What is the worst case scenario?
The Badgers one-in-a-million shot misfires, and the Evil Empire wins another championship to add to their pile of trophies as Wisconsin and the entire nation outside of Durham mourns. Everyone that conceivably could declares for the draft and Bo is left having to replace 80% of his starting lineup, a tall task even for him. The Badgers finish 3rd in the B1G next year.

MEET THE OTHER WILDCATS

The Wildcats used to dress like this on purpose. No one even made them do it.

The Wildcats used to dress like this on purpose. No one even made them do it.

#1 Kentucky WIldcats
38-0 (18-0, 1st in SEC)

How did they get here?
Just what in the sam heck are you askin’ me that for, you some kind of dummy? Well guess what if you never lose any games I guess that means you’ll be in the Final Four. Kentucky put the boots to #16 Hampton and #8 Cincinnati, medium style, to make the second weekend. Then some jabroni that plays for #5 West Virginia went and guaranteed victory over Kentucky, forgetting that you definitely should not anger the frickin’ Terminator, so the WIldcats doubled up the Moutaineers just for laughs. They won a classic over #3 Notre Dame to punch their ticket to in de Annapolis.

Who is their best player?
Take your dang pick. You can’t really go wrong with either of the dudes with three names, Willie Caulie-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns. Or you can go with either one of the Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew, although you just better not because I sure do not like them. Their best player is probably ‘depth’: the Wildcats have eight players that average more than 20 minutes per game (though one of those is Alex Poythress, who was lost for the season in December).

Can the Wildcats beat Wisconsin?
Yeah duh of course they can, what’re ya asking me all these silly questions for? The Wildcats are the best darn team in the country, it’ll be really hard for the Badgers to win this game. But they just might do it: Kentucky is long and tall and have been dominating their opponents with size, but WIsconsin is long and tall as well. This game features the best offense in the nation against the best defense in the nation and I think it’s just gonna be a really great game that Wisconsin will win.

Hey Travis, the WIldcats sure are good. Do you think they could beat the Philadelphia 76ers?
No stop that right now, what in the world is wrong with you? Kentucky has probably seven or eight future NBA players, some of them might be good but who knows, none of them have ever played in the NBA before. The Sixers have 12 NBA players because they are an NBA team. If they played a seven game series Philadelphia would win all seven games by 30.

What is the best case scenario?
The Badgers put a gosh darn whoopin’ on those good ol’ Kentucky boys, cruising to a 12 point win and earning a championship game rematch against Duke, because I hate Michigan St., get real.

What is the worst case scenario?
Kentucky sticks Badgers fans with a heartbreaking loss, as Aaron Harrison drills another impossible three with time running out to send Wisconsin home saying, “What if,” for the second consecutive year.

First enjoy the ride, then MEET THE WILDCATS

CA0vQbGWgAAOrWLBefore we dive into Wisconsin’s next opponent, who we certainly hope is the first of two consecutive Wildcats, let’s just take a moment to step back and really enjoy what’s happening right now. Are you ready? 3, 2, 1…

Wow.

The Badgers are back in the Elite 8 for the second consecutive year, a feat never before accomplished by Wisconsin since the tournament’s expansion to 64 teams in 1985. Prior to last year, they hadn’t gotten this far since 2005. So, win or lose on Saturday, this has been incredible, and I want you to enjoy it. Because this is sports, and sports is supposed to be fun. Of course we want more, but let’s not forget to enjoy the ride.

Obviously, this is by far the most talented Badgers roster in the expansion era. But more than that…this team is fun. You love them. I love them. Frank, Sam, Nigel…they’re not only bright stars and locks to be first round picks (but maybe, just maybe, not until 2016, in the case of Sam and Nigel), they’re characters. Just, just LOOK at this:

Are you kidding me Nigel? This is the 100% most endearing moment in sports history (no that is not hyperbole). Nigel is just like us! He thinks girls are pretty too! He accidentally tells an entire room and, subsequently, the entire nation about it too! He has to bury his face in his hands in embarrassment too! I LOVE you Nigel. Never, ever change. How about Sam and Frank, you following them on Twitter? How about the rest of the team? WHY THE HECK NOT!?

I think it’s good to be reminded that these guys are just kids. They’re 19, 20, 21 years old, and they are out there on the big stage, and rather than letting the pressure crush them, they’re out there having the time of their lives. I love this team, so much. Thank you, the 2015 Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball team.

Now then, on with it.

#2 Arizona Wildcats62627
34-3 (16-2, 1st in Pac-12)

How did they get here?
Arizona blew through their half of the West bracket with relative ease, cruising past #15 Texas Southern and #10 Ohio St. with 21 and 15 point wins, respectively. Xavier gave them a bit of a scare, keeping up with the ‘Cats in what was a one possession game throughout until about two minutes left, when Arizona pulled away slightly for an eight point win.

Arizona earned the automatic bid from the Pac-12 as a result of winning their conference tournament, which was of course a mere formality. The Wildcats were a top-10 team throughout the season. None of the three teams that beat them this season had winning conference records, so they are obviously very bad and vastly overrated.

Who is their best player?
Freshman forward Stanley Johnson is the guy whose name is on the marquee. But Arizona is very similar to Wisconsin and Kentucky in that their entire starting five is strong. T.J. McConnell is very good at basketball. Brandon Ashley is very good at basketball. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is very good at basketball. Kaleb Tarczewski is very good at basketball. No one in their starting lineup averages less than nine points per game. Additionally, none of them are as good at basketball as Frank Kaminsky III.

Can the Wildcats beat Wisconsin?
Yeah, sure they could. But they just better not.

Just exactly WHAT is happening in that picture up there, Trav?
Oh, I’ll feed you, baby birds. That photo was taken during the 2006 marriage renewal of vows ceremony undertaken by U of A’s mascots, Wilbur and Wilma. They were first married in 1986, just eight months after they met at Wilma’s debut — you don’t usually expect a marriage that is rushed like that to work out, but damn it if they aren’t still going strong 28 years later. Wilbur mainly handles men’s basketball and football, and is normally found wearing the uniform of whichever sport he is actively supporting. Wilma’s main focuses are women’s basketball and volleyball, but she pretty much only wears her cheerleading outfit, because Arizona is filled with old white men who remain unaware that some women like and participate in sports.

What is the best case scenario?
A repeat of last year’s Elite Eight meeting between these two schools when the seeds were flipped, a back-and-forth thriller that the Badgers won in overtime. That game too was in California, though in that case the home-court advantage held by Arizona was actually fair, given the seeding. Kaminsky put up 28 and 11 in the Badgers’ 64-63 OT win last year, but the Badgers will need to have great games from all their stars; both of these teams are improved over last year.

What is the worst case scenario?
Up two with 4.9 remaining in the game, Kaminsky steps to the line to shoot two and seal the game. Both shots miss, with the second agonizingly circling the rim twice before falling off. McConnell grabs the rebound and outlets to Johnson, who darts past half court and sinks a 35-foot prayer with Gasser’s hand down his throat. Wisconsin sports fans are left picking up the pieces as certain victory is replaced with agonizing defeat for the third time in 12 months.

MEET THE TAR HEELS

North Carolina Central v North Carolina

Hey don’t cry, little buddy. The Sweet 16 is still pretty great.

#4 North Carolina Tar Heels
26-11 (11-7, 5th in ACC)

How did they get here?
North Carolina survived a massive scare from Ivy League darling #13 Harvard in the opening round, 67-65. The Tar Heels blew a 16-point second half lead in that game, as the Crimson missed a pretty good look as time expired that would have A) given them the one point win and B) been really awesome. They played a back-and-forth game with Arkansas for most of the way on Saturday until pulling away with about 10 minutes to play.

UNC received an at-large bid to the tournament after being bounced from the ACC tournament by eventual champion Notre Dame, 90-82.

Who is their best player?
Junior guard Marcus Paige forms one half of a talented UNC backcourt along with Menomonee Falls’ own J.P. Tokoto, also a junior. Paige was on the preseason Wooden Award watch list, but missed the mid-season cut when he got worse at pretty much everything after a breakout sophomore season. He still leads the Tar Heels in every major category other than rebounds and field goal percentage, so he hasn’t been disappointing enough to not be the team’s best player, which I suppose is all the more disappointing for Tar Heels fans. But who cares about them, most of them think N*Sync was better than the Backstreet Boys and that yellow is the best flavor of Starbursts.

Can the Tar Heels beat Wisconsin?
Probably not. The Tar Heels are big, and score a lot of points from the free throw line: they rank 26th in Division I in free throw attempts (21.5 per game). Unfortunately for UNC, Wisconsin doesn’t really ever foul anyone: their 10.9 FT attempts allowed per game is so much better than the rest of Division I that the difference between the Badgers and 2nd place San Diego St. is equal to the difference between 2nd and 19th place on that list. That’s bonkers.

The Tar Heels also won’t be able to use their size to bully the Badgers as they have done to smaller teams throughout the year, which is especially true now that starting center Kennedy Meeks is likely to miss Thursday’s game after an injury sustained against Arkansas. UNC can’t shoot threes and the Badgers don’t turn the ball over or foul, so if they get behind, the Tar Heels will basically just be praying Wisconsin goes cold.

Just what the heck is a Tar Heel anyway, huh?
“Tar Heel” is a nickname given to the state of North Carolina and it’s inhabitants that originated around the time of the Civil War. It was originally meant as a pejorative term, but North Carolinians co-opted the term and made it a source of pride, not unlike the way Packers fans hijacked “cheesehead” for their own.

Why are folks from North Carolina called Tar Heels? Well they’ve got a whole mess of tar-producing pine trees in North Carolina, that might be it. Or it might refer to any of a number of stories of legend concerning North Carolina’s involvement in the Civil War. Nobody is really sure and who cares anyway, it’s a stupid nickname and why the heck is their mascot a ram? A ram doesn’t even have any dang heels you jabronis.

What is the best case scenario?
The Badgers clog up the inside in the absence of Meeks and force the Tar Heels to bomb away from outside, where they rank 316th in the nation with 4.6 three point field goals made per game. Wisconsin builds a house with the bricks the Tar Heels lay all night, which they subsequently donate to a needy family living in the poorer part of Los Angeles. Traevon Jackson returns and plays 17 useful minutes, mostly in garbage time as the Badgers mop up a 17 point win.

What is the worst case scenario?
The Badgers three losses this year have come in rather fluky scenarios: Duke shot 65% and 58% from the 3-point line, in their win; Rutgers caught them without Kaminsky and Jackson, who sustained the foot injury that has kept him out for the past two months in that game; and Maryland rode a ridiculous performance from Dez Wells to wins. In this week’s episode, the Badgers follow the same plan as above, but instead of having a nice laugh at Paige doinking threes off the back of the rim, Wisconsin is shocked as UNC makes it rain, shoots over 50% from beyond the arc, and shoots the Badgers out of the tournament. Sam Dekker declares for the draft, and Nigel Hayes joins him.

MEET THE DUCKS

#8 Oregon Ducks brought to you by NikeTMducks
26-9 (13-5, 3rd in Pac-12)

How did they get here?
Oregon out-shot #9 Oklahoma State on Thursday to earn a 79-73 win. They received an at-large bid after being turned into foie gras by Arizona in the Pac-12 title game, 80-52. Oregon was 0-3 against the Wildcats this season and lost those games by an average of 27 points, so that’s pretty funny. They have won 12 of their last 14 games, including a pair of wins over Utah.

Who is their best player?
Senior guard Joseph Young was the Pac-12 Player of the Year, and while that was the subject of some debate, he still most likely the Ducks’ best player. He played all 40 minutes in the Ducks’ opening round win, scoring 27 points including a 15-3 run he went on by himself to end the first half, because teammates are for turbo-nerds. He has missed one free throw this month.

Can the Ducks beat Wisconsin?
Probably not. The Ducks have only two rotation players taller than 6’6″, which is going to be a huge problem, because they’ll have to figure out a way to stop 7’0″ Frank Kaminsky, and The Tank will have at least three inches on anyone that tries to check him. The only team Oregon has faced this year with a talent level that compares to WIsconsin is Arizona, and we covered the results of those games previously.

Is that Donald Freaking Duck?
Yup it sure is. Oregon has had a handshake agreement with Disney since the 1940s to use the exuberant little water foul as their mascot. The reason they did this is because Oregon is filled with very weird people that don’t know how to develop a brand very well, and when they tried to make up their own mascot they came up with this:

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What is the best case scenario?
The Badgers don’t allow Joe Young to get any kind of rhythm going and Kaminsky continues to avoid foul trouble and dominates the game as Wisconsin opens up a sizable lead early that never drops  below double digits after halftime.

What is the worst case scenario?
The Badgers’ shots won’t fall and Young goes off for 40 in a performance that mirrors the game Maryland’s Dez Wells dropped on the Badgers in one of their three losses. Disaster strikes as the Badgers’ dream season ends in Omaha when Keonig’s game-tying three bounces off the back of the rim. Sam Dekker elects to forgo his senior season and enters the NBA draft.

MEET THE CHANTICLEERS

chauncey2

Paint me like one of your French Girls

#16 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
24-9 (12-6, 3rd in Big South)

How did they get here?
Coastal won the Big South tournament as a three seed. Nobody in the Big South is very good, so who cares anyway. A couple of years ago everyone got all excited about Winthrop but they only won one dang game as an #11 seed and it was and still is the only time the Big South ever won a game in the tournament, unless you count the First Four which I definitely do not.

Who is their best player?
Senior guard Warren Gillis leads the Chanticleers in points and assists and is second in minutes per game, so I guess he’s probably their best player. If you want to keep an eye out for him, he’s #0, which coincidentally is the percentage chance that CCU will win this game.

Can the Chanticleers beat Wisconsin?
No.

What the heck is a Chanticleer anyway?
It’s a god danged rooster.

What is the best case scenario?
The Badgers stretch out a 30 point lead at half time and Zac Showalter gets to play some significant minutes in the second half because dang it, he’s earned it. The lead becomes so insurmountable that Bo lets Trae Jackson have a couple minutes even though they said he wasn’t going to play, and he looks good to go.

What is the worst case scenario?
The Badgers have another day where they only play well in the second half, and Coastal takes a small lead into the locker room, like they did last year against Virginia. The Badgers get it together in the second half and only win by 20.

Fun Bracket Facts with Travis

Hey there loyal friends of Bucky’s Beer Cheese Co., guess what time it is, that’s right it’s March Madness time. It’s time once again to watch in awe as the world’s greatest basketball-playing indentured servants perform on the big stage for our delight and amusement while very old white men make a lot of money. “Well when you put it like that it kind of puts a damper on our enjoyment of the tournament, Travis” well it should, folks aren’t being treated fairly and not all of these guys are going to go to the NBA, so we just have to keep it in mind while we drink a lot of beers and watch basketball games. Thinking about how bad a problem is is the 2015 version of helping to fix a problem.

Anyway that’s out of the way, so we just better get down to business. “Well you know Travis, I haven’t watched a lot of NCAA basketball this year, I just don’t know much about the players and teams, how can I hope to compete in this year’s office bracket pool?” Well don’t you worry about that, I’m here to help with some #BracketFacts that will help you to beat “Susan in Accounting who only picks based on Mascots” [1]. And who knows? We might just have a few laughs along the way. Everything that follows is 100% true and nothing is made up by me at all.

MIDWESTselena-taylor-at-a-football-game-4

  • Many Badgers fans were relieved when Wisconsin received a #1 seed and avoided being stuck in undefeated Kentucky’s Midwest bracket. I remain disappointed however, as I was hoping the Badgers might be able to avoid Kentucky’s whole half of the bracket, or even avoid their tournament entirely. Unfortunately the Badgers were not invited to the NIT, which would likely have been a much more winnable tournament for them.
  • Because they were selected into #1 Kentucky’s bracket, many of the teams in the Midwest seeded five or lower have chosen not to participate in the tournament this year, opting instead to plan a vacation together to Six Flags over Texas. Curiously, the #11 Texas Longhorns still plan make the trip up to Pittsburgh for their opening round game, where they will face #6 Butler’s co-ed intramural basketball champions.
  • Because the tournament starts on St. Patrick’s Day, #3 Notre Dame is expected to benefit from a significant supernatural boost which should help them easily reach the second weekend. Also working in Notre Dame’s favor is the support of Taylor Swift, official singer-songwriter of Bucky’s Beer Cheese Co., whose brother Austin attends school there as a junior. The support of Taylor and St. Patrick is expected to help the Fighting Irish force Kentucky to use their starters for at least the entire first half in order to maintain a double digit scoring margin.

Who will win the Midwest? Despite the aid of two deities, the Irish will not be able to overcome the Kentucky Wildcats, who will have all five of the best basketball players in the building in almost every game they play.

Upset Special: The #2 Kansas Jayhawks have been ducking them for years, but they won’t be able to avoid the #7 Wichita St. Shockers should both teams advance to the second round (only #15 Texas Southern and Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers stand in the way, so no worries there, folks). I expect the criminally under-seeded Shockers to pull off the mild upset over their in-state rivals and crown themselves the kings of the most homophobic state of all time.

1740491EAST

  • It is commonly known that a 16 seed has never defeated a 1 seed. One reason for this is that top seeded teams are often very good at basketball and have a lot of future NBA players on their rosters, while 16 seeds are usually not very good at all. Could this be the year that a #1 finally falls? No, Villanova seems like they are pretty good and no one has heard of the #16 Lafayette Leopards.
  • If you didn’t catch the America East tournament final on Saturday morning, you missed the best game of Championship Week: #14 Albany drilled a desperation three off of a tipped rebound with 1.6 seconds remaining to give the Great Danes their first lead of the half and the victory over Stony Brook, who had led by seven with less than two minutes to play. That’s not enough for you? Try this on for size: the game winner was the only three pointer the Great Danes made all day (they went 1-10), and the kid who sank it, Junior Peter Hooley, missed eight games in January and February to be with his mother, who passed away from cancer in Australia. March is magic, y’all.
  • One fun fact about this bracket is that there will not be any upsets at all, and all the higher seeded teams will win all the games. The NCAA has set the East bracket up as it’s control group as it monitors several experiments going on in the Midwest, West and South.

Who will win the East? The #2 Virginia Cavaliers will win the East. This is not considered an upset because I am the writer and I get to make up the rules whenever I want.

Upset Special: Unfortunately there will be no upsets in the East bracket.

Sam Dekker, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon ScottWEST

  • Lots of folks have pointed out that our #1 Wisconsin Badgers are set up for a FInal Four rematch with Kentucky, should the Badgers manage to get that far. Those folks have also pointed out that three of the four teams the Badgers beat on their Final Four run are all back in Wisconsin’s region: a rematch with #8 Oregon is possible in round two, and either #2 Arizona or #3 Baylor will most likely be waiting for them in the Elite Eight. One thing no one is talking about? The long-standing rivalry between the Badgers and their first round opponent, #16 Coastal Carolina, which dates back to 1991. Throw out the records when these teams meet: both of their previous meetings were decided by less than 40 points.
  • One intriguing match-up in the first round is between #4 North Carolina, currently in the midst of an academic fraud scandal that has mysteriously (read: not at all mysteriously) resulted in no sanctions against its high profile basketball team, and #13 Harvard, a school that angers the NCAA brass by attempting to care more about education than sport. The difference in skill level on the basketball court is nearly as large as the gap in the educations the basketball players at these institutions receive, so unfortunately the Tar Heels will win by a lot of points.
  • Y’all remember Kevin Ware, the former Louisville guard who decided that his tibia would better serve him if it were outside of his body in a 2013 Elite Eight game vs. Duke? Well he’s back, this time with #14 Georgia State (coincidentally, his coach suffered a torn Achilles during the celebration of the team’s Sun Belt tournament final win). If you’re interested in seeing him in action, I hope that you are free during the Panthers’ game against #3 Baylor, because their team is not very good and they will definitely not win.

Who will win the West? Get ultimately real the Wisconsin Badgers are going to beat all the teams by 30 points, including the teams they do not play.

Upset Special: The #11 BYU Cougars should dispatch #11 Ole Miss easily in their First Four game, then will defeat #6 Xavier as well in a match-up of Christian traditions whose ideologies seems strange and hypocritical to outsiders. Hooray!

NCAA Basketball: Preseason-Livingstone at DukeEAST

  • If you root for Duke that is okay, because everyone is entitled to do whatever they want, so what, but you should understand that everyone around you and everyone that you know thinks that you are a bad person, and also you will probably get stung by a wasp this summer, and you are the reason that Brussels sprouts taste like that.
  • Some people were very upset that #11 UCLA not only received a tournament bid, but avoided the First Four entirely. A lot of folks are supposing that the NCAA did this because UCLA has a lot more fans and will draw a much larger TV audience for their first round game in which they will lose by a whole bunch of points to #6 Southern Methodist. The real reason UCLA earned the bid is because the tournament committee consulted Susan from Accounting, and together they agreed that a Bruin would totally beat up Colorado St.’s Rams and Temple’s Owls, probably at the same time if they wanted. It should also be noted that #14 Alabama Birmingham’s nickname is the Blazers, which is represented by fire-breathing dragon — they should be Susan’s pick this year
  • A person I know attended #3 Iowa State, so I hope that they will emerge from this bracket, but they will not.

Who will win the East? Even though no one will like it, Duke will win the East. Everyone who has a conscious will be sad about it, but sometimes we all have to suffer through adversity, for without pain there can be no pleasure.

Upset Special: I would like to see the #13 Eastern Washington Eagles beat #4 Georgetown, mostly because of this article from SB Nation. I think they will be able to do it because the Hoyas are not very good and they will probably lose. I also think #12 Stephen F. Austin can knock off #5 Utah, resulting in TOTAL BRACKET COLLAPSE which is my very favorite thing.

WHO WILL WIN THE WHOLE DANG THING?

Well there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there? I can’t give away all the secrets, or you’ll all just tie me when I have a perfect bracket. If you want to find out who I think will win all the games, you’ll just have to join the official Bracket Challenge of Bucky’s Beer Cheese Co., which you can do here. You are allowed to join this group up to two times. You can also see how you stack up against Susan from Accounting, who has entered the contest herself. If you are the winner, you will win a Carlos Gomez Gold Glove bobble head! Wow that sure is a good deal. If you are dead last, you will be forced to spend an entire Saturday evening hanging out with me and doing things that I think are fun. Sucks to be you!

Footnotes:

1. This joke courtesy of every person who has ever talked about an NCAA tournament office bracket pool ever. If Susan doesn’t know squat about basketball, how the hell does she know what Coastal Carolina’s mascot is!?! Susan is a ringer trying to act like she’s clueless. I’m fucking on to you, Susan. “I just think a Wildcat would beat all those other mascots, that’s why I picked Kentucky” bullshit Susan, a Mountaineer would kill a Wildcat every time, they do that shit every day and you know it Susan, you know all about Willie Cauley-Stein.[back]

Top 5 best and worst Wisconsin sports moments of the last 25 years

de8a9-download5Following the US Men’s National Team’s thrilling victory over Ghana on Monday, I’m in the mood to rank the five best and worst sports moments I’ve experienced in my life. These are all going to be single moments, rather than entire games or seasons that were amazing, which is why you won’t find the either of the Packers’ Super Bowl wins, the Badgers’ Final Four runs/Rose Bowl championships, etc. here. Also, this suffers from an inevitable recency effect, as the memory of huge moments fades over time. Deal with it. We’ll start with the bad, to send you out on a high note.

Top Five Sports Heart-breakers

Shameful mention: Shaun Marcum announced as Game 6 starter in 2011 NLCS, Kirk Cousin’s hail mary beats No. 6 Wisconsin, Ray Allen misses the tip-in to win in Philly in the game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals

5) 4th and 26

Date: January 11, 2004

Location: My parent’s living room

This play was so painful it has its own Wikipedia page. After their thrilling overtime victory over Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks a week earlier, the Packers were one play away from a berth in the NFC Championship. Two incompletions, a penalty and a sack left the Eagles facing, well, you know what, with 1:18 left and no timeouts remaining on their own 25 yard line, trailing 17-14. The probability of a loss for the Packers was just slightly higher than the likelihood of Lance Armstrong winning another Sportsman of the Year award. Instead, Nick Barnett blew his coverage, Darren Sharper blew his coverage, Bhawoh Jue blew his coverage, and the Eagles were able to tie. Moments later, a Brett Favre overtime interception (stay tuned for more!) set up David Akers for the game winner.

4) The Catch II

Date: January 3, 1999

Location: Hannah Spear’s birthday party

This would have been heartbreaking in it’s own right: On 3rd and 3 from the Packers’ 25 with eight seconds left and the Packers leading 27-23, Steve Young fired a strike to Terrell Owens to give the 49ers a miracle win after Favre had lead the team on what seemed to be the game-winning drive moments earlier as the Packers sought their third straight Super Bowl appearance (*huff huff huff* how about THAT sentence?). What made it even more painful was that replays clearly showed that Jerry Rice had fumbled four plays earlier in a play that the referees missed (replay review would come to the NFL the following season). Adding to the heartache, this would be Reggie White’s final game as a Packer, as he retired following the season (and then came back to play for the Panthers). I cried in my parents’ room for an hour after this game.

041cc-aaron-harrison-3-against-wisconsin

Can you not

3) Aaron Harrison’s trey ends the Badgers’ title hopes

Date: April 5, 2014

Location: Replay Sports Bar

I’m still not over this. The building was absolutely rocking with about 300 of my closest friends living and dying on every shot. The collective “oof” when Harrison’s shot went in with 5.7 seconds to give Kentucky an improbable victory was palpable and awful. Even with all that time left on the clock, it just felt like the Badgers’ luck had finally run out, and indeed it had as Traevon Jackson’s prayer clanged off the rim as time expired. This game felt like a battle for the NCAA’s soul, with Bo Ryan and his scrappy team of four-year, team-oriented grinders fighting on the side of good against Calipari’s definitely-not-paid-yet, five-star McDonald’s All-American one-and-dones. As with Butler facing Duke in the championship game just a couple years earlier, it seemed like everyone in the country outside of Lexington was a Badger fan that day. And once again, the evil empire won the day.

2) Favre’s final pass as a Packer intercepted in the NFC Championship

Date: January 20, 2008

Location: E. Harmony Apartment in Whitewater

Playing in their first NFC championship game since 1998, the Packers seemed to be charmed and destined for a Super Bowl appearance in what was widely speculated to be Brett Favre’s last year (lol), After a wild, see-saw game, the teams headed to overtime after Lawrence Tynes missed the potential game winner from 36 yards out with four seconds to play, his second miss of the game. At this point, I’m already an absolute train wreck. When Favre threw the second pass of the overtime period right into Corey Webster’s chest near the home team’s sideline, I had to leave the living room and could only listen, lying face down on my extra-long twin size bed furnished by DLK Enterprises (UW-Whitewater s/o), as the game once again hung on the wildly inaccurate leg of Tynes. Shortly after he connected from 47 yards to put the Giants in the Super Bowl, my roommate and best friend Derek watched me pour the first alcoholic beverage I ever imbibed, the first of three I took before 21st birthday. It was a shot of UV Pink, and it tasted like heartbreak.

644e9-hailmar21) The Fail Mary

Date: September 24, 2012

Location: Mad Dog’s Sports Bar and Grill

Bugger that and bugger you, Seattle.

Top Five Best Sports Moments:

Honorable Mention: Ben Brust’s miracle trey sends the Badgers to OT vs. Michigan (right), Desmond Howard’s kickoff return in Super Bowl XXXI, Ron Dayne breaks the NCAA career rushing record

5) Ryan Braun’s extra innings grand slam beats the Pirates

Date: September 25, 2008

Location: Miller Park Terrace Level

Locked in a tie with the Mets for the Wild Card lead with three games to play, the Brewers were tied at one with the Pirates, a team they’d beaten 12 out of 13 times in 2008, heading into extra frames. Tensions in the stands were high with the left field scoreboard already flashing the NYM 7, CHC 6 final. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the tenth, Ryan Braun drilled the 2-2 pitch into the Brewers bullpen, keeping the Brewers abreast of New York and sending 43,000 fans into delirium. This of course came two days after Prince Fielder’s own walk-off two-run shot against Pittsburgh, and three days before, well, stay tuned.

4 Graham Zusi and John Brooks shock Ghana

Date: June 16, 2014

Location: Jack’s American Pub

You’ve just seen it, so I won’t bore you with a recap. If you’re not aware, you don’t care anyway. The beautiful corner from one substitute to the second-touch header of the other to finally exorcise the Ghana demons just minutes after Ghana had equalized was one of the greatest moments in recent USMNT history. The bar was jam packed wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, and the the jubilation that occurred after the goal was amazing to be a part of. How much it will mean in the grand scheme of the tournament remains to be seen, but Brooks’ reaction says it all: “OH MY GOD!!!!! Oh my God….oh…my god…I need to lie down.”

3) Rodgers to Cobb puts the Packers in the playoffs

Date: December 29, 2013

Location: Shorewood Apartment

After suffering though two months of bad quarterbacks for the first time in my life, Aaron Rodgers made his triumphant return against the team that knocked him out in a winner-take-all NFC North championship game against the Bears. The lead changed hands four times, and with the Packers trailing by one with 6:24 remaining, the quarterback led the Packers on a game-winning drive that included two fourth down conversions, none bigger than the 48-yard strike to Randall Cobb, who himself had missed the previous 11 games, on 4th and 8 with 38 seconds to play. I watched this at home with some of my best friends, which is really how I should watch all important sporting events, because I don’t do losing in public all that well.

2) Wes Helms and Ryan Braun put the Brewers in the playoffs for the first time in 26 years

Date: September 28, 2008

Location: My cousin Jessica’s birthday party in Racine

The Brewers’ first potential playoff appearance since losing the 1982 World Series to the hateful Cardinals hung in the balance on the season’s final day, with the Brewers, hosting the Cubs, tied for the wild card lead with the Mets, hosting the Marlins. Both games started at approximately the same due to an hour long rain delay at Shea (lol rain delays), and both entered the eighth inning tied. Completely isolated in the corner watching this game on the tiny TV I was allowed to use while the rest of the family watched the Packers lose to Tampa Bay (probably Aaron Rodgers worst game of his career, incidentally), I was an absolute nervous wreck. In the bottom of the eighth, Ryan Braun drilled the first pitch he saw into the left field bleachers, giving the Brewers a 3-1 lead they would not relinquish. Moments later, FSN North cut away to Shea as former Brewer and confirmed terrible third baseman Wes Helms became a Milwaukee hero when he ripped a pinch hit home run, the first of a back-to-back pair with Dan Uggla, to give the Marlins a 4-2 lead in the eighth that also became the final. The Brewers ended their regular season with a nifty double play, the Mets completed their second consecutive September collapse, and playoff baseball returned to Milwaukee for the first time since the Reagan administration.

1) Tony Plush’s extra innings walk-off sends the Brewers to the NLCS

Date: (2011)

Location: Miller Park Terrace Level

After both teams held serve at home, the Brewers and Diamondbacks returned to The Keg for a decisive game five. The D-Backs struck first, scoring in the third, but the Brewers tallied in the 4th and 6th to carry a 1-run lead into the ninth, when John Axford served up three straight hits, including a Willie Bloomquist bunt single that tied the game. With the jam-packed stadium holding it’s breath on every pitch, Carlos Gomez laced a one out single to left, stole second on the 1-1 pitch to Nyjer Morgan, who then just tickled it into the outfield, scoring Gomez and sending 44,000 screaming fans into a sustained fit of delirium that lasted for well over a half-hour before we started to clear the seating bowl. In season full of Plushdamental moments, this one topped them all.