Category Archives: Sports

Live By The Three, Die By The Three

Kohl Center

I’ve been attempting to find a silver lining in Wisconsin’s disheartening loss to Purdue on Senior Day at the Kohl Center. I think I may have found one, however it may be a bit pessimistic.

The Badgers’ loss should remind fans and other observers that expectations need to be tempered as we approach the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Bo’s bunch is a solid unit, ranked in the AP top 25 and the KenPom top 5. But the Badgers aren’t built for a deep run in March for one reason, they rely too heavily on the three-point shot.

39.3 percent of the Badgers’ field goal attempt (3PA/FGA) come from behind the three-point arc while 34.5 percent of their points are the result of successful three-point field goals.

According to stats from KenPom.com, the average Final Four team of the last 10 years had 30.9 percent of their shots come from behind the three-point line while 25.4 percent of their points came off three-pointers. Only three Final Four teams had a higher 3PA/FGA than the 2013 Badgers (39.3) – 2011 VCU (41.2), 2010 Butler (39.8) and 2005 Louisville (42.1).

Of that trio, only the ’11 Rams (35.5) and ’05 Cardinals (35.7) had a higher percentage of their points come from three-pointers than this year’s Badgers (34.5). 2005 Illinois and 2011 Butler also had similar three-point profiles to 2013 Wisconsin. The ’05 Illini had a 3PA/FGA of 38.8 and 34.4 percent of their points came off three-pointers, while the ’11 Bulldogs had a 3PA/FGA of 38.7 and 32.1 percent of their points came off three-pointers.

So, of the 40 teams that made the Final Four the last 10 years, only 5 (or 12.5 percent) have similar three-point profiles to the 2013 Badgers. That group includes three of the most surprising Final Four teams in the history of the NCAA Tournament, 2010 and 2011 Butler and 2011 VCU. The other two in that group, the 2005 Illini and Cardinals, both needed legendary comebacks in the regional finals to make the Final Four.

These numbers shouldn’t be shocking. It’s hard for a team to string four, five or six wins together while relying on a low-percentage shot for a large portion of their offense. Teams need an option that will provide easy looks at the basket, be it a strong post-up player or quick, slashing guard/forward.

The Badgers have not been able to consistently work either into their offense this season, relying too much on threes or mid-range/long twos. Ryan Evans, who leads the Badgers in possessions used (26.6 percent) and shot percentage (26.2), attempts mostly mid-range and long twos.

When the Boilermakers started their charge on Sunday, the Badgers seemed to panic. When Wisconsin should have been looking for an easy shot to get the offense the going again, it was jacking up quick, guarded threes.

What can the Badgers do to change their offense? Getting more out of Jared Berggren in the post and Sam Dekker in all offensive facets would be a good start.

Berggren is shooting a solid 56.5 percent on twos, so it would be in the Badgers’ best interest to focus more on getting him the ball in the post. The 6-10 senior seems more likely to get the ball at the top of they key, but he’s shooting just 26.7 percent from three this season, a 10 percent decrease from 2011-12.

Sam Dekker could be the slasher the Badgers need, he has an offensive creativity not seen from a Wisconsin player since Alando Tucker left Madison in 2007. Dekker has the quickness and strength to drive to the hoop with consistent success and he also happens to be the Badgers’ best three-point shooter (44.8 percent). Dekker needs to have the ball in his hands at crunch time, period.

I’ll end with a note of (semi) optimism. Before Sunday afternoon, the Badgers’ most recent putrid March performance came in their 36-33 loss to Penn State in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament. That squad, led by Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, was able to recover and make the Sweet 16. A two or three win run in the NCAA Tournament is still a distinct possibility for the Badgers in 2013. Just don’t expect more than that.

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Life Update: Where Is Tyler Working?

I recently started a new gig as an assistant scoreboard editor at the Chicago Tribune. I’m basically editing all the agate (stats, box scores, etc.) in the paper. I thought I’d post a couple examples of the stuff I’m doing. Here are two college football preview boxes I did for the Big 12 and Wisconsin Badgers.

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A Trip To Busch Stadium

These pictures were taken at the Cardinals/Dodgers game on July 25. The Cards won 3-2 in 12 innings.

Nachos Grande with Pulled Pork. Mmmmmm.

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North Carolina Vacation – Day Four, Part Two (UNC Chapel Hill)

A light post outside of the Dean Smith Center at UNC Chapel Hill.

Inside of the Dean Dome. We were able to get into the stadium thanks to the Kenny Smith Basketball Camp. We actually caught a glimpse of Smith, who was wearing Carolina blue head-to-toe.

The rafters of the Dean Dome. I’m surprised they have any numbers left to give out with all those jerseys hanging from the roof.

The dome, which allows natural light in to brighten up the stadium.

Kenan Memorial Stadium. I was surprised at how much I liked this stadium. I hadn’t heard much about Kenan, but it has a gorgeous setting, with tall pine trees outlining the stadium.

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North Carolina Vacation – Day Four, Part One (Duke University)

Outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of Duke University.

Hopefully they won’t have to re-name this “Blue Devil Ville” some day. Cough, Penn State, Cough.

First glimpse of Coach K Court. A big moment for a college basketball nerd like myself.

Inside of Cameron Indoor. It felt more like a church than a major college basketball arena.

Again, the very church-like interior of Cameron Indoor.

A not-pretentious at all light post outside of the stadium.

Wallace-Wade Stadium. Did you know that Duke had its own football team and stadium?

Duke Chapel.

Inside of the chapel.

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North Carolina Vacation – Day Three

Since we don’t have them at home, I had to go to Waffle House during my time in the South … twice. Had a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich with hash browns smothered (onions) and country (drowned in country gravy). Mmmm, so good and so, so healthy.

Wolf statue on the campus of NC State.

NC State logo seen from behind bars outside of the Wolfpack’s track and soccer stadium.

A quad on NC State’s campus. It’s a beautiful campus, they’re really fond of red brick.

NC State football’s Carter-Finley Stadium. Don’t worry, I made sure to thank them for their wonderful gift of Russell Wilson.

Another disc golf course in Raleigh. This is an average hole. Just ridiculous.

Dinner from Cook Out. Had a burger cook out style (with chili, cole slaw, mustard and onions), cole slaw, hush puppies and a banana pudding shake. So good, and so cheap (six bucks for everything).

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Boys Baseball: Burlington Central Crunches Pretzels For 1st Sectional Title

The Rockets and Pretzels face the flag for the National Anthem.

Burlington Central claimed the Class 3A Sycamore sectional championship on Saturday – the program’s first sectional title – thanks in large part to its not-so-secret weapon, the electrifying base running of Ray Hunnicutt.

The senior center fielder’s lead-off walk and two subsequent stolen bases sparked the Rockets’ three-run rally in the sixth inning of their 4-2 victory over Freeport.

With the Rockets trailing 2-1, Hunnicutt led off the frame with a walk. He quickly stole second base, and then after Blake Alexander flew out to deep center field, the senior successfully took off for third with Michael Scott at the plate. Because of Hunnicutt’s well-timed jumps, neither steal attempt drew a throw from Pretzels catcher Jack Lehnherr.

“I knew I was going the whole time. I knew we had to score one,” Hunnicutt said. “I thought I might as well try, it’s our last game potentially, so might as well go for it. And it worked out.”

The steals put Hunnicutt in position to score the game-tying run one batter later when Riley Jensen hit a ground ball up the middle that was misplayed by Pretzels second baseman Tyler Olson.

Kevin Zasada then put the Rockets up 3-2 with an RBI single to left that drove in Scott. Reed Hunnicutt, Ray’s brother, provided the Rockets’ an insurance run with a sacrifice fly that drove in Jensen and put Burlington Central up 4-2.

Rockets coach Kyle Nelson said that Hunnicutt, who is now a perfect 31-for-31 in steal attempts, possesses more than just great speed.

“He’s a fast kid, but there’s a lot of fast kids who don’t necessarily steal bases they way he does,” Nelson said. “He’s getting good jumps on pitchers, he’s getting good reads. And he’s doing a great job on the base paths.”

The Rockets jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead when Tanner Scott drove in Zach Ranney with a double to left field in the first inning.

The Pretzels were able to capture the lead by taking advantage of Rockets misplays. In the second inning, an infield error allowed Evan Schrader to score and tie the game at 1-1.

Consecutive mistakes by Rockets pitcher Riley Jensen in the fourth inning allowed Adam Werntz to reach home. A balk advanced Werntz to third base, and then a wild pitch allowed the junior first baseman to score.

Other than that, Jensen was very effective in his seven innings on the mound for the Rockets. The senior picked up the victory after giving up one earned run and four hits while striking out seven and walking one.

Burlington Central was able to stop to the underdog run of Freeport (17-20), who was seeded No. 4 out of four teams in the regional it hosted.

The Pretzels pulled off three upsets to earn a chance at playing for a sectional title. Coach Roger Fegan hopes the Pretzels’ first appearance in a sectional championship game in 33 years was a sign of things to come, not an aberration.

“It was a lot of fun. I told our seniors, hopefully ten years from now, you’ll come back and we’ll be winning regionals and sectionals all the time, and it was something you helped develop and helped start,” Fegan said.

Being part of the first team in school history to win a sectional title nearly left Hunnicutt speechless.

“I don’t even know how to talk about it. Nobody’s ever done it, and it feels great,” Hunnicutt said. “All these guys have grown up together, to win this in our last year, it’s fantastic.”

Burlington Central (28-10) will face LaSalle-Peru at 7 p.m. Monday in the Augustana College super-sectional.

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Elgin Courier and yourseason.com. It appears here.

The Pretzels walk off the field after the Rockets ended their underdog run.

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