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Packers. C+? I'm not sure what to think of the Pack this week. They lost horribly in horrible conditions at Chicago last Sunday. This week they swamp the Lions in Green Bay in typical winter weather so I'm not sure what that is a sign of. Or if it's a sign of anything. Even in the Packers best Super Bowl-reaching years they never had the best record in the league (13-3 both years I believe) and they always had one or two "what-the-fuck" games they would lose to the seemingly most unlikely opponent.
Do the Bears just have the formula to beating this year's team that playoff opponents could easily blueprint and apply to bring about the Pack's demise? We all know the supposed glaring weaknesses of this team: no running game, very average offensive line play, etc. But the whole league has known this since the first couple of weeks. Hasn't every team we played been trying to attack those same weaknesses? Somehow though, our record indicates, we were able to overcome those weaknesses just enuff to win the game more often than not.
So maybe that loss to the Bears was not a foreshadowing of a nightmare playoff loss to come, but just a bad performance mostly due to the weather conditions (we hope, fingers crossed).
University of Wisconsin men's basketball. A+ this week for the huge win over 4th ranked Texas in Austin. Hmm that's two lowly Big Ten teams that a high powered Texas team with a player of the year candidate has lost to within the past week. Could it be that the Big Ten is a tougher conference in basketball than the mainstream media would believe? Probably not according to the latest RPI, and we probably should win a game in the BigTen/ACC challenge before trying to jump bad. But still a very good win (on the road and without leading scorer Trevon Hughes) for a Wisconsin team that will need wins like this to impress the selection committee come seeding time. Also good to observe that Marcus Landry is coming along well with his goal to become Wisconsin's next Alondo Tucker ( read extremely clutch player).
Marquette University men's basketball. B+ Continuing to cruise, ranked 13th in the country (that should go higher because Texas lost to Wisconsin whom Marquette beat), standing at second place in the Big East. Now comes their first test against an in conference foe when they play Providence Thursday. This for me will be the point in the season when I start to look for clues on what this team is really made of and what kind of shot do they really have at making a deep tourney run.
Bucks. D+ As I've said before I don't expect much from the Bucks this year but damn, be professional. Show effort on the court. That should be their New Years resolution as a team "show effort". They just got blown off the court Monday in Detroit by over 40 points, with Andrew Bogut admitting to the local media that the Bucks were probably just looking forward to traveling to Miami that night (where they play the Heat Wednesday) and were really not focused on playing the Pistons. this third worst loss in franchise history is highlighting the fact that this might just be the least talented roster in the leauge. We depend on guys like Charlie Bell and Royal Ivey to be consistent performers! Our best player, Redd, has turned himself into a perennial all-star but he's more of the "always the best player on a mediocre team" type (think Mitch Richmond) than the "rock-solid-franchise-player-you-would-never-even-think-of-trading" type. Doesn't look like things will turn around anytime soon either (and by "soon" I mean the next 5 to 6 years) with a front office that seems to want to avoid taking risks by not making any aggressive moves (besides taking Yi and refusing to trade him) and an owner (who is only several years removed from trying to sell the team) who might be gun shy after going deep in his pockets with the team that went to the Eastern conference finals 6 years ago (George Karl, SamIAm, Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, etc.).
Brewers. C+ For their work so far this offseason. So far other than Mitchell Report alum Eric Gagne and a few other minor pickups they have not done much, and this Journal-Sentinel article suggests there may not be much done this year in free agency. Reasoning from Melvin seems sound on this: the Brewers don't have that many glaring gaps that they need to fill, a major trade might bring improved talent but would blow a hole in the team unnecassarily, a lot of teams making major moves this winter are doing so to get to where the Crew is, etc. I think he just basically means they need to learn how to hang onto season-long division leads in the last month.
University of Wisconsin football. B+ On the season as a whole. They finish 9-4 after a uninspired loss to Tennessee of all programs (I went to college and lived in Tennessee for 10 years and had to listen to those bamas every second of it). P.J. Hill might have had 132 yards on 16 carries but Wisconsin's running game never seemed to really get on track. Tyler Donovan was pounded all afternoon behind a usually very sound offensive line. Our best receiver, Travis Beckum, was basically a non-factor. Plus Tennessee's defense played up to its reputation. So 9-4 and a bowl game is pretty good I guess. So far so good in the Brett Bielema era. But when (if ever) will the program take that next step to perennial national title contention?
Lastly but not least this week a shot out to the Tennessee State University men's basketball team!!! who beat Illinois in their last non-conference game. Nice win for my alma mater after a couple of good efforts in close loses to Vandy and Indiana. No the Illini aren't that hard to beat this year but it is still an accomplishment for the Tigers program. Hopefully they can take lessons learned from their tough early season schedule and have a good showing in OVC conference play.