Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Play of Hughes vital for success

Conference losses are always disappointing. They?re
especially so when your team is ranked in the Top 25 and your opponent isn?t. That
said, the Badgers’ loss to Purdue Saturday was even more heartbreaking, because
had the game been played on a neutral court, they surely would have had the
upper hand over the Boilermakers. However, those that know the rivalry well are
aware of the curse that lingers in West Lafayette, Ind. and thus were not
shocked at the end result.

With the loss, UW moved to 1-31 in its last 32 games in
Mackey Arena. Vegas knew that; that?s why Wisconsin entered the game as a mere
one-point favorite, awfully small for the 11th-ranked team in the nation.

So our beloved Badgers are 6-1 in Big Ten play instead of
7-0. In the grand scheme of things, it?s really not that big of a deal. They
only fell two spots in the national rankings, and with three games against
Indiana and Michigan State remaining (two of which are in the Kohl Center), Bo
Ryan?s squad still has plenty of opportunities to take home the conference

So should Badger Nation be concerned following Saturday?s
disappointing defeat? Yes. Not because of the subsequent tally in the loss
column, but because of the way it all unfolded. Wisconsin just didn?t seem
worthy of its Top 25 status.

Top-caliber teams must be able to play well on the road.
Come March, the Badgers can kiss the Kohl Center goodbye. The Big Ten
tournament will be played in Indianapolis, and obviously the NCAA tournament
games will be held at neutral sites. In order to make a run come madness time,
the Badgers need to perform better under pressure.

Wisconsin?s first two losses of the season both came against
teams that play three-guard sets, meaning they like to run-and-gun. Duke?s Greg
Paulus, Gerald Henderson and DeMarcus Nelson, along with Marquette?s Dominic
James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews, are all terrific athletes who thrive
in fast-paced basketball games.


In each of those losses ? along with Saturday?s loss to
Purdue ? Wisconsin?s opponent was able to control the tempo of the game and at
times force the Badgers out of sync and off their game.

On paper, the UW backcourt was simply overmatched against
both Duke and Marquette. However, the same could be said about their matchup
with Texas, as A.J. Abrams is a deadly shooter and D.J. Augustin is predicted
to be selected in the mid-first round of this year?s NBA Draft.

So what was different when the Badgers traveled to Austin,
Texas, Dec. 28? Oddly enough, this was the one game that sophomore point guard
Trevon Hughes ? the Badgers? second leading scorer ? missed because of an ankle

In UW?s three losses, Hughes has committed more turnovers
than assists. However, the actual turnovers aren?t the biggest issue in my
opinion; quite frankly, he?s looked simply rattled during each of these

In the win over the Longhorns, Michael Flowers and Jason
Bohannon controlled the tempo of the game and produced a combined 2-1 assist-to-turnover
ratio in Hughes? absence. Their abilities to remain calm ? along with Flowers?
last minute heroics ? ended in a UW upset victory.

So do I think the Badgers are better off without Hughes
quarterbacking the offense?

Absolutely not.

Overall this season, Hughes is averaging 13.1 points per
game, has more assists than turnovers, and is second in the Big Ten with two
steals per game. Not bad for a sophomore who saw limited action behind Flowers
and standout guard Kammron Taylor last season as a freshman.

The truth is, Hughes is a playmaker and has shown moments of
brilliance at times this season. He?s an exciting player to watch and has an
extremely bright future with the cardinal and red.

But Badger fans should not currently be concerned with the
distant future at this point. This year?s team has a legitimate shot to do some
damage come tournament time, especially following a devastating second round
exit last season. But these Badgers will only be able to go as far as Hughes is
able to take them.

Senior forward Brian Butch is the leader of this team.
Hughes is the quarterback; he calls the plays and controls the tempo. If this
kid from Queens can remain cool and consistent under pressure, the sky is the
limit for not only him but for the 2007-08 Wisconsin Badgers.

Fortunately for Hughes, he has an immediate chance to redeem
himself tomorrow, as the No. 11 Indiana Hoosiers ? a team featuring a backcourt
equivalent to those of Duke and Marquette ? come to town. Hughes will have his
hands full with freshman phenom Eric Gordon, the Big Ten?s leading scorer.

Will he be up to the task? We?ll just have to wait to see.


Derek is a sophomore majoring in
economics. If you’d like to discuss the future of the Badger basketball team
further, you can email him [email protected].

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