The Voice: Finish doesn't tell the story of a Sweet season

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The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgAs another very good Wisconsin basketball season was rolling along, many observers feared there would come a time in the postseason when the Badgers' would play an ugly game where the jump shots would be off the mark all night long.

The old saying, "Live by the three, die by the three" was a popular line when talking about the Badgers.

Turns out there is some truth in that, but this past weekend the Badgers were not alone in firing blanks while bowing out of the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile another squad, perhaps the surprise team of the ages, VCU, is living large by the 3-point shot.

At the risk of turning into a stat-freak, let us take a look at how the regional finals unfolded. Out west, UConn's amazing post season run continued as the Huskies held off Arizona, 65-63. For the season, the Wildcats shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range, but on Saturday hit just 4-of-21 (.190).

Florida, a solid, but not great 3-point shooting team at 35 percent, missed 11 of 14 from downtown while losing to Butler. The Bulldogs also struggled from behind the line, but eventually dropped in nine shots in 33 tries. I'll take nine makes over three anytime.

Deep shooting is not a strength for North Carolina, and on Sunday it was no better as Roy Williams' Tar Heels connected on just 3 of 16 shots (.188) while Kentucky, an excellent team from beyond the arc, nailed 12 of 22 (.545).

Finally, there was the Kansas-VCU game. The Jayhawks, a good team from distance for the season, connected on just 2 of 21 attempts (.095).  Die by the three.

On the other hand, VCU -- under the direction of former Oregon High School standout Shaka Smart -- splashed 12 of 25 (.480).  Live by the three.

That's how the Rams roll. They take 23 long shots a game, one more per game than Wisconsin. The Rams live very large by the three.  

In a perfect world, Bo Ryan would have loved to have seen his team develop a more consistent inside scoring presence. The key word is consistent.

At times, Jon Leuer was getting a lot done in or near the paint. Early in last Thursday's game, the Badgers tried to get some down-low scoring, but the shots simply would not fall. And credit Butler's defense, which was very good as well.

Of course the ending was disappointing for the Badgers and their fans. I felt sick for Leuer, who had an outstanding season, one very deserving of his first-team All-Big Ten recognition. He should know he has company in being a star player who struggled in his final college game. He is not the first, nor will he be the last.

When the sting of last Thursday fades, I would hope this group will appreciate the numerous accomplishments -- an unbeaten home season, which included the glorious rally to defeat No. 1 Ohio State. This team led the nation in free throw shooting, and had fewer turnovers than anyone in college basketball. It also won 25 games.

Of all those numbers I have thrown out, I would think the 25 victories is a good six or seven more than most thought possible.  

I will give you one more number, 13. That is the number of consecutive NCAA trips the Badgers have earned. In today's college basketball, all a team wants is a chance to get in the Dance. The Badgers danced again, and as long as that continues, there is always a chance to accomplish something special.

Just ask Butler and VCU.

For the returning players and the incoming freshmen, that might be a thought to take with them during the spring and summer workouts.

1 Comment

Good analysis. The real shame is that the Final Four berth was so available. And the Badgers were off in more ways than shooting the 3. i was surprised that Bo never tried to invert. I thought our guards had the advantage and could have posted up their defenders. We really need a consistent inside presence from a big.

ON WISCONSIN