After the high that followed one of Wisconsin's biggest wins in recent memory, the crash that would inevitably follow hit Badger fans on Wednesday night—hard.
Wisconsin's win over Duke last week put them in the national spotlight, earned them a spot in the polls, and seemed to indicate to fans that this team may not be so bad after all.
Now, after their 88-84 loss to in-state rival UW-Green Bay, all of the aforementioned are gone. Their win against Duke, though great at the moment, now means nothing. After a surprising upset loss such as this, questions about this team are again broiling about in the minds of Badger fans.
Maybe the first thought in fans' minds is—where is the defense?
Wisconsin basketball has prided itself for its defense ever since the Dick Bennett days of the mid-90s. 88 points, even though it did go into overtime, is certainly not something Badger fans see too often. The fact that it came against the Horizon League Phoenix makes it even more disturbing.
Green Bay shot almost 50 percent from the field and was led by Bryquis Perine's 22 points. Bo Ryan said it's tough to guard a team that's shooting that well, but you can't tell me that the same team that gave up 69 points to Duke played with the same defensive intensity in giving up 88 points to Green Bay. Now, I do think that Wisconsin's defense will shore up by the time the Big Ten season rolls around (it always does), but it's still concerning when a good defensive team gives up 25 points more than their average.
Despite the outflow of optimism, the question of how good the 2009-10 Badgers are wasn't answered after the Duke game. Yes, the win gave the team and fans confidence about what Wisconsin could achieve this year, but in reality, most fans knew nine times out of ten the Badgers would lose to the Blue Devils. The win was a fluke.
Not to say that the Badgers didn't deserve the win, because they certainly did. For how hard they fought that game, they deserved to win the national championship. But that's exactly my point. As I mentioned in a previous article , if the Badgers want to compete this year, they need to show the kind of intensity they did in the Duke game.
Losing to Green Bay puts doubts into many fans minds as to whether the Badgers can do that every game. This Wisconsin team doesn't have the talent to take a night off, which the Green Bay loss proves. Before this loss, Wisconsin was undefeated (15-0) in their rivalry with UWGB.
One bright spot that is still shining brightly for the Badgers is the play of senior guard Trevon Hughes. Hughes put up a career-high 27 points for Wisconsin, his third game in a row with over 20 points. However, he only shot 6-18 from the field and if he proves to be the only reliable offensive threat, his numbers are going to go down. And we all know Trevon can't be the only option because no matter how tightly guarded he is, the amount of shots he takes won't drop. He's been a shooter ever since he stepped foot on campus. His shooting percentage may go down, but his shots certainly won't.
For Hughes to continue to succeed, he needs other players to start making some shots. Jon Leuer has been the only other reliable player on the Badger squad. He also scored a career-high 26 points last night, a performance which needs to continue. This was supposed to be your breakout year Jon. Prove it.
But honestly, that's about it.
Jason Bohannon? Where art thou?
Three years ago, as a freshman, he was the talk of the state. This kid could shoot the three-ball as well as any Badger ever. Well, it's been nothing but downhill since then. Last night he scored five points. Five. He's averaging only around 10 points a game this year and is shooting just 41 percent from the field, including only 35 percent from beyond the arc. He has to step up for the Badgers to succeed.
Keaton Nankivil, after showing some promise last year, has been a presence down low, but it's been pretty weak. Although he's seven feet tall, Nankivil is playing like he's a foot shorter. He's averaging only seven points and five rebounds a game.
Tim Jarmusz, the fifth starter, is averaging a measly 4.3 points a game on 41 percent shooting.
The bench, other than Jordan Taylor, has been non-existent.
This team has too many flaws for it to not give 100 percent every game. Now I may not be giving Green Bay enough credit. I'm sure they were pumped up for last night's game much like the Badgers were against Duke. Heck, Green Bay students even rushed the court like the Grateful Red did last week. The Phoenix are 9-2 and should compete in the Horizon League.
But Wisconsin needs to beat teams like this. Once the non-conference season is over, there are no more "sure-win" games for Wisconsin. Not to say that Wisconsin's non-conference season was at all easy, but Green Bay was a game that most fans chalked up as a victory.
Upsets like this hurt Wisconsin's tournament resume just as much as the Duke win helped it. For a team that will probably be on the bubble come March, the Badgers can afford no more losses like this one.