Wisconsin Badgers Prove That Hustle No Longer Counts

Adam LindemerSenior Analyst IJanuary 28, 2009

Bo Ryan has pulled off another first as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, but this one is not good.

The Badgers have lost five-straight games for the first time in Ryan's seven plus years at the helm.

What makes it worse is that it has been five straight Big Ten Conference losses, which makes their chances of playing in March slimmer with each failed opportunity.

In Bo Ryan's seven complete seasons in Madison, the Badgers have made the NCAA Tournament all seven years. If Ryan wants to make it eight for eight, he needs his team to pull off a miracle in the next month.

The main reason that Wisconsin has struggled so much this season is that they lack a true go-to guy when the game is on the line.

Sure, Wisconsin will out hustle opponents every night, but at times they seem to out hustle themselves as the tank reads empty with plenty of basketball to be played.

The Badgers have had many recent games go down to the wire, some where they had a "safe" lead, but eventually lost it, and the game.

Wisconsin has guys who can score, (three players averaging 10 ppg or more) but no one who can do it consistently and when it counts.

Marcus Landry is the best scoring option, but his size is a problem when Wisconsin wants him to score in the post late in games.

Trevon Hughes is the best ball handler on the team, but isn't proving it. He is proving one thing though—that he shouldn't be trusted with the last possessions.

Joe Krabbenhoft is the emotional and defensive leader on the court, as well as the one with the most hustle in him. But the farm boy from Sioux Falls, SD is hardly an offensive weapon.

Everybody on the roster can hit a shot from behind the arc, but the Badgers are relying on that shot too much as of late, and they just aren't hitting it with regularity.

Here is where Wisconsin ranks in conference in some "team" categories.

Scoring offense (eighth), scoring defense (sixth), field goal percentage (ninth), field goal percentage defense (10th), assists (10th) and , steals (11th).

You aren't going to win games in any conference with rankings like that, especially the Big Ten Conference.

The Badgers did have a bright spot in their recent loss to Purdue at home. Sophomore Keaton Nankivil, otherwise known to Badger fans as the "fifth starter", had a career night in front of the home crowd.

The Madison-native Nankivil scored a career-high 21 points, including going five-for-five on three pointers. Overall, he was six for eight from the field and made all four free throws.

If he can do half of that every game the rest of the way, then the Badgers can at least finish the season and not be the laughing stock of the conference.

I don't know which tournament the Badgers will be playing in during March, if any, but they certainly need to start turning that hustle into "W's" (and not the one on center court).