What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of a blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Drew from Bucky's 5th Quarter, an excellent blog for all things Wisconsin sports.
1) I feel like Wisconsin was not picked to contend for the Big Ten title by the preseason pundits (but I am absolutely not going to double-check this because that seems like work), but here they are at 11-2 overall, a game back of the leaders in the conference, and fresh off a win over Purdue (who absolutely was pegged to contend for a Big Ten title) in Mackey. Can you explain to me what this year's iteration of Wisconsin Devil Magic is doing so right at the moment?
DREW: The Badgers were definitely not picked to contend for the conference title this year. I also will not double-check anything, but we did a preseason roundtable at B5Q and I believe the highest any of our writers picked Wisconsin to finish was No. 7 or No. 8. I'm pretty sure I had them at No. 9 and just missing the NCAA Tournament. Needless to say, there wasn't a lot of confidence heading into this season on what the results would be. However, there was a lot of confidence that this year's team would have better vibes than last year's team. You may remember that last year's Wisconsin team returned 1,000 seniors, fresh off winning a Big Ten title, and had some people predicting that they could be a Final Four team. That, uh, didn't happen and the season was honestly kind of a slog. There are myriad reasons why last year's team had bad vibes, and I won't bore you with the details, but just know that all of those reasons are gone this year. The Wisconsin Devil Magic this year? It turns out it's the friends we made along the way.
Also, Johnny Davis made The Leap and looks like an NBA lottery pick. That has helped too.
2) The top two leading scorers in the NCAA are Keegan Murray and Johnny Davis, a scenario that was predicted by... absolutely no one, not even their respective parents. We're just living out the Paul Rudd "look at us" meme at this point, right? What's gone so right for Davis in Year Two in Madison?
DREW: Yeah, Davis and Murray (who I LOVED last year and am excited that he is playing so well) have been a joy to watch this season. Now that all of those seniors from last year's team (except Brad Davison, lol) are gone, Davis is indisputably The Man. He played with the USA U-19 team over the summer that won gold in Latvia, and by all accounts he returned to Madison as a different, more confident, player. He is being more aggressive on offense and hunting his shot and has been, quite frankly, nearly unstoppable this season. He is a three level scorer who has improved his FT% and his two-point shooting percentage while keeping up a decent three point percentage on higher volume. He is getting to the line way more often and has cut down on his turnovers while improving his play-making. All of that has helped him score more and, well, here we are!
3) Outside of Johnny Davis, who are 1-2 other players on this Wisconsin team that Iowa fans should know about (excluding Brad Davison)?
DREW: Tyler Wahl is a Swiss army knife big man that can defend every position on the court. On offense he does most of his damage down low thanks to a solid post game and while he physically can shoot the ball from deep...he shouldn't because he's bad at it. Steven Crowl is a 7-foot center that can shoot the ball from three, but has been known to get in foul trouble. Backup Chris Vogt, a grad transfer from Cincinnati, is also 7-feet tall and has been a revelation both on defense and rebounding the ball. I count those two as one player since they can't play together.
4) True or false: Brad Davison and Jordan Bohannon are going to segue from this Big Ten season to the Big Ten Champions Tour after this season.
DREW: I like to think that Davison and Bohannon are going to spend next season sitting in a diner drinking coffee and being crotchety old men. You know, getting there at 5:30 a.m., telling stories about Kids These Days, and getting angry at the newspaper. I want this for them. Hell, I want that for you and me!
5) Do Wisconsin fans feel the same way about Bohannon that Iowa fans feel about Davison?
DREW: I don't know if any player in the Big Ten elicits as much vitriol from opposing fan bases as Davison, but Badgers fans do not like Bohannon, that's for sure. Over at B5Q we've bantered back and forth with him on Twitter, which has been fun. He's a good sport who just likes to talk junk. Gotta respect that. Back to Davison for a second. I have been fairly vocal in the past about some of Davison's, uh, more questionable plays on the court. I fall on the side of him being involved in so many plays like that can't be a coincidence, I don't really care how many people vouch for his character. However, I also think that he has made an effort to improve his play on the court so that he isn't involved in those dirty plays anymore. Him returning for another year as the Wise Veteran has been crucial for the Badgers success and I think the role fits him perfectly.
But yeah, Bohannon sucks and I hope the only reason he's leaving his shoes on the court tonight is because he ran into a pick so hard that he fell out of them.
6) Please confirm: there's absolutely no way that Brad Davison can play again for Wisconsin next year, right? RIGHT?
DREW: I've filed multiple FOIA requests with UW inquiring about his eligibility and have only received heavily redacted documents. The only words that weren't redacted were "Brad D" and "unlimited" and then "hahahahahahah." So, yeah...I don't know.
7) This is the only time Iowa and Wisconsin are scheduled to play this season. How do you feel about this scheduling injustice by the Delanybot 9000?
DREW: I know basketball scheduling makes it so not every team plays home and home, but THAT SUCKS! Some teams should always play home and home! Michigan and Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and also Wisconsin and Iowa! I know the rivalry isn't as big on the hardwood as it is in football, but I still love playing Iowa in basketball because I don't like Iowa and I do like having Wisconsin beat them in things! I'd imagine the feeling is mutual.
8) For the record, rank all of the major Dot's food items (regular pretzels, honey mustard pretzels, southwest pretzels, cheese curls).
DREW: This is easy: Cheese curls, regular pretzels, honey mustard, southwest
The crunchy cheese curls are a gift from God and I can't have them in my house or else I will eat the entire bag by myself in one afternoon. (Ed. Note: This is correct.)
9) How's the game going to play out? Which one of us is going to be happy late on Thursday night and which one of us is going to be angrily eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked to ease the pain of losing?
DREW: I think this game will be close but I think Wisconsin wins. Maybe by five or six? Iowa's distaste for all things on the defensive end will offset any advantages they may gain from Murray and Bohannon shooting well. I also don't know how well Iowa will actually shoot either, because Wisconsin's defense has been solid this year. Freshman point guard Chucky Hepburn is a literal pitbull on the ball and can lock up just about anyone in the league already. You're going to hate him. This I promise you, though: win OR lose...I will eat ice cream tonight.
Thanks for being a good sport, Drew, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tonight. You can check out Drew at his site, Bucky's 5th Quarter. You can also follow Bucky's 5th Quarter on Twitter at @B5Q and Drew on Twitter at @drewhamm5. The Iowa-Wisconsin game is in Madison, WI tonight, Thursday, January 6, and is scheduled to start at approximately 8:00 pm CT, with TV coverage from FS1.