JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to enjoy some beautiful weather in Florida, traveling to Jacksonville and Orlando. While I was there, I got to see some great basketball. Unfortunately, the Cornell Big Red played all of it.
Now, if you think I’m going to use this space to talk about how great I think Cornell is (They’re the best team I’ve seen in person this season) or how terrible Wisconsin has been over the last three games (It’s been really, really hard to watch), you’d be wrong. Well, sort of.
The following will be some observations I’ve made about Sunday’s game, which will touch on those issues.
Cornell was the best team in Jacksonville
Some years, the selection committee is really on top of its game. When that happens, there’s a lot of chalk on the brackets. This year isn’t one of those years.
Case in point: Cornell was the best team of the eight that played this weekend at Veterans Memorial Arena. Duke was a close second, but based on the teams they beat and how they beat them, I give the Big Red the edge.
Don’t believe me? Ask your favorite Badger.
“Yeah, I’d say they’re better than a 12 seed,” Tim Jarmusz said. “Today, they played like they were the best team out there.”
It’s not like he was the only one in the locker room who felt that way, either.
“That’s a good squad; they just got under-seeded,” Trevon Hughes said. “The best team we played in the NCAA Tournament.”
Still, the toughest thing about the loss is the style in which Cornell plays. It’s not like they’re out there playing a fast, loose style like Tennessee or Kentucky.
No, Cornell is what Wisconsin strives to be. They’re fundamentally sound on both ends of the court. The Big Red don’t throw the ball away — they rebound, they shoot well and play strong defense.
But again, don’t take my word for it.
“They’re a fundamental team, and that’s what we pride ourselves on,” Jason Bohannon said. “They’re offensively sound and defensively sound. They were doing a lot of the things, basketball IQ-wise, that we strive for every day in practice.”
Which brings me to my next point…
Wisconsin is its own worst enemy
Now, I don’t mean this in the way it’s normally read. Because the Badgers generally don’t lose unless the other team flat outplays them. They don’t beat themselves.
What I mean is, the Badgers struggle against teams that closely mirror their style of play.
Wisconsin, Wofford and Cornell play much the same style of basketball. The biggest difference is the rate at which their respective shots go through the hoop.
Nearly everything said about the Big Red could be imagined coming from the team’s UW has beaten this season.
“They run their offense, get open shots and find the open man,” Jason Bohannon said. “How many times did they drive the lane, find the open guy and hit an open three? It’s tough, they’re a very tough team.”
If Wisconsin could shoot like Cornell, the Badgers would be headed to Syracuse in two days.
Ryan Wittman has a bright future
I’ll be honest, I knew very little about the Big Red’s leading scorer before this weekend. Now, I’d be hard-pressed to forget about him.
There always seems to be that one player like Stephen Curry in the tournament who becomes a household name when it’s all over. This year, my money in that category was on Jimmer Fredette, the junior guard from Brigham Young.
Much like with my Final Four picks, I was wrong. Sure, more people know Fredette now and “going Jimmer” is a phrase I’d love to see stick.
“He is a great player,” Jon Leuer said of Wittman. “Obviously, he can shoot it; but he can put it on the floor and he can create for his teammates.
“He’s definitely one of the best players in the country.”
Jordan is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. Have some observations of your own to share from the opening weekend of the Tournament? Send him an e-mail at [email protected]