By TOM LEA
It’s amazing how a one-point loss to a team that has been continually ranked and mentioned as the best team in the nation can magnify the shortcomings, almost irrationally, of a team that played its best game of the season, albeit in a losing effort.
Hindsight is so 20/20 that it’s easy to jump on Bo Ryan for not taking a timeout during the waning seconds of the loss. It’s easy to jump on the fact Jared Berggren was left on the sideline, watching helplessly and hopelessly, as his team floundered to it’s incredibly sour and bitter end. It’s easy because Wisconsin lost.
Here’s a newsflash.
Berggren probably wasn’t going to do anything anyway and a timeout probably would have hurt Wisconsin more than it would have helped. Do you seriously think Jim Boeheim would have even let Jordan Taylor catch the basketball out of the timeout? And if he did do you really think the shot would have been much different than the one he wound up getting?
And do you really think Berggren was going to be the difference, especially considering he hadn’t hit a shot during the final 11 minutes of the contest?
It’s not as though he was some sort of secret weapon known for slinging daggers down the stretch of a ball game. Could he have set a better screen than Rob Wilson? Probably, but then those clamoring for him to be the savior that lengthens the season on that offensive rebound attempt — one Mike Bruesewitz, arguably UW’s best and most active rebounding talent, got his paws on — would be wrong.
There’s no way Berggren is going to set the high screen for Taylor and somehow storm through the lane, collect the rebound and lay in the game winner at the buzzer. If he did he would have had to leave a wake of three Syracuse bodies in the middle of the TD Garden lane.
You’re telling me he could do that without collecting a foul? Come on.
And there’s also no way he was going to somehow try to post up or flash to the middle and get the ball when it was clear Jordan Taylor wasn’t going to pass it for any reason. Not with the weight of the season and his career resting uneasily on his shoulders.
He was the guy that was going to take that last shot. And anybody that says they would want somebody else to be the guy is saying that in complete hindsight.
If you think there’s backlash surrounding the final 15 seconds of the game now could you imagine what it would be if Rob Wilson or any of the other players on the court during that fateful play had fired and missed?
People would have been irate that Taylor, the team’s best player throughout the entire season, didn’t have the ball leave his hands with an opportunity to send his team to the ‘Elite Eight’ for the first time since 2005.
Isn’t that the point?
If somebody told you back in October that Jordan Taylor would have the ball in his hand with time ticking down, with UW down one against a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a shot at the elusive ‘Elite Eight’ you would have been ecstatic.
You probably wouldn’t have believed it considering what parts the Badgers had to replace, but you would have certainly been pumped, right?
That’s the point.
Wisconsin, though it wasn’t necessarily the best possession (how many Wisconsin possessions are?) it still represented an opportunity for the Badgers to advance in the tournament with their best player controlling its fate. That’s what you want.
If you want to get upset about the lack of a timeout call or the lack of Berggren’s presence in the game down the stretch then you better complain about the five missed free throws, the handful of missed layups, the 15 missed shots inside the 3-point arc or the defensive inadequacies that plagued UW throughout.
Blame the loss on those things. Not the 15-second stretch that turned out finalizing the deal. Seriously, how often in late game situations does a team get a good look? Not that frequently.
Look, Syracuse is a really, really good team. Wisconsin turned out to be a really, really good team. There’s a winner and there’s a loser. The Badgers, a team not many thought would make it to the ‘Sweet 16’ let alone nearly pull off an incredible upset, were right there.
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse’s highly successful head coach, noted that Wisconsin’s performance, one where it hit 14 3-point shots, was the best a team has ever played against his squad without winning.
Considering he’s coached over 1,000 games in his career that’s not a bad compliment.
Wisconsin was just one-point worse than Syracuse on that remarkable night in Boston.
Sometimes you’ve just got to tip your cap and move on.
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