Posted by Matt Norlander
There is no easier, lazier, misguided writing assignment today than to proclaim Duke lost because it inserted Kyrie Irving into its lineup, screwing up the chemistry of the Blue Devils' crew.
This is a waste of your and my time. Duke struggles in the Sweet 16 on the regular. More to the point, it lost because Arizona had an aberration of a performance (stun-worthy!), one that had little to do with the fact Kyrie Irving was on the floor. In fact, the numbers suggest it's even more embarrassing for Mike Krzyzewski if his NBA-bound point guard isn't a part of the demolition. No college basketball team was beating Arizona last night, and that's the biggest thing to take away from Arizona 93, Duke 77.
So let's instead talk about another polarizing, all-encompassing, always-intriguing topic: Wisconsin basketball. Wait! Wait! Don't go. I can tie this in with Duke, you see? Is that enough to keep you around for a few more paragraphs? Because Wisconsin is almost as — if not more so; actually, probably more so — disappointing than Duke in March. This is especially true when you remember — anybody home? — that Duke kind of, sort of won a national title last season. Wisconsin does not come close to winning titles, nor is it expected to, despite consistently ranking high in a number of important tempo-free categories.
When we talk about PASE, we talk about teams who played beyond what they're expected to do; that's what PASE stands for: Performance Above Seed Expectation. How far do you go in the tournament, and are you beating teams you shouldn't be by doing so? Certain teams, like Butler, for instance (how appropriate it was the one to beat the Badgers last night) have incredible PASE. Michigan State's another one.
Duke, which has lost eight of the past 10 years in the tournament to an inferior seed, is put at a "disadvantage" by that misleading stat, as it's often a one or a two. So, in a way, Duke's sort of set up to fail. If it loses before the Final Four, then it's PASE is hindered. Wisconsin's different. Wisconsin isn't consistently holding down bracket from the very top or bottom.
Unfortunately, that focused, clock-burning swing offense comes back to haunt Wisconsin in the Big Bracket, despite so many experts telling us you must play the half-court game in March to win. Yet few teams execute more fastidiously in the half-court than the Badgers. Here they are again, though, executed at the hands of a lower number. It's about matchups, of course, but you can't deny the pattern that's now arced over Bo Ryan's career.
Awesome, awesome coach. Just isn't capable winning with his style once the snow melts.
Last night was the fourth loss in five years for UW in which it was felled by an inferior seed. No. 12 Cornell chopped down Wisconsin's tree last season. Before that, 2008, when Steph Curry captured America's imagination. And five years ago, Wisconsin was a two seed and got clipped by No. 7 UNLV. It's a shame Bo Ryan's teams do this to themselves. Rubbing salt in the wound, bad free-throw shooting last night cost the Badgers the all-time, single-season record for free-throw efficiency.
Wisconsin's loss gets overshadowed by Butler reaching back-to-back Elite Eights and the Duke conversation going full throttle until tonight's second batch of Sweet 16 games start. In a way, Ryan and the Badgers are lucky; if you're going to underwhelm in March, make sure you do it when one of the bluebloods crashes and burns at the same time. Doesn't change the fact the Badgers have been too good for too long to continue to do come up short like this.
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