Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dick Jerardi | Tucker a force behind Badgers' rise

IN THE YEAR OF the freshman big man, there is a throwback fifth-year senior up in Wisconsin putting up great numbers for a throwback coach from Chester.

Alando Tucker is a 6-6 chameleon for No. 2 Wisconsin, which has attained the highest ranking in school history. Coach Bo Ryan, the Chester High point guard 40 years ago, loves players who can create matchup problems. Tucker is a matchup nightmare.

"He is different than most guys in that he's so flexible in where I can play him and the things that he can do," Ryan said. "But that's also another advantage. It's hard for them if they are going to put a smaller, quicker guy on him. He can beat people in different ways."

Tucker is averaging 19.8 points for the 17-1 Badgers. Wisconsin is off to its best start since 1915-16. Its 13 consecutive wins are the longest streak since 1940-41. All of that has put Tucker right in the middle of the player of the year discussion.

"He's just steadily crept up," Ryan said. "The awareness factor kept rising over the years for him."

Tucker's 1,858 points are second only to Michael Finley's 2,147 at Wisconsin. And none of them has come the easy way.

He is a fifth-year senior because he took a medical redshirt in 2003-04 after a foot injury limited him to four games. Last season, he had to wear a mask for 13 games because of a nasal injury.

"I remember seeing him at the Palestra dunking on one of the side baskets with a boot on," said Ryan, referring to Wisconsin's visit to play Penn in 2003. "I had to jump him about that. He was so anxious about getting back."

Ryan had a vision of Tucker when he was recruiting him. Tucker has turned the vision into reality.

"He was a slasher," Ryan said. "He always thought of himself as a guard coming out of high school. He needed a lot of work on perimeter skills. He also needed to understand he could create matchup problems for other teams and take people into the post. He needed to score in the post, as well as on the perimeter, and he was willing to accept that."

Ryan might not have seen 2,000 points in Tucker's future. He did see something special, though.

"I just saw his personality and saw his demeanor and knew that he was hungry," Ryan said. "Those are the kind of guys that you can connect with . . . When you're in this for a while, you can tend to find these guys. We've been fortunate that we've been right about most of our guys."

Wisconsin does not go after the flash. It is simply not Ryan's way.

"I haven't recruited guys that had entourages and they're about themselves, that have relatives or street people that are around them working schools and coaches," Ryan said. "I don't recruit those kind of guys. I just don't get into that."

Instead, he gets players like Alando Tucker and has Wisconsin on the verge of the best season in school history.

The TV deal

Much has been said about the A-10's TV deal with CSTV. The biggest issue has been the lack of games for local teams on Comcast SportsNet. A limited schedule was announced 2 weeks ago.

Contrast that with Drexel, which has a record 12 games on CN8 and CSN.

The A-10 clearly went for CSTV money. Drexel and the Colonial went for local exposure. Eventually, the A-10 might get exposure as well, but not this season.

Owls-Hawks crowd

Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw wasn't particularly happy with the Liacouras Center "crowd" of 6,056 at last Wednesday's game with Saint Joseph's. Really, that game is always supposed to be a sellout. Or close. Bradshaw also wasn't pleased that the Atlantic 10 scheduled the game while students were on break.

"I don't think this game should be played during the break," Bradshaw said. "It's a rivalry game. I think it's because of what happened the last 2 years."

To review, the last two St. Joe's-at-Temple games were Goongate and Reaction to Goongate. The first was ugly on the court. The second was ugly in the crowd.

"If a concern is raised, we try to accommodate the schools," said Ray Cella, the A-10's associate commissioner. "Sometimes, it isn't going to work, because it means moving a lot of games around."

Cella declined to comment on Bradshaw's contention that the game was scheduled during the break so it would be calmer. He did say Temple had called about several games, including the St. Joe's game. The league was able to change the date of one Temple game, but unable to change the date of the St. Joe's game.

Make shots

Stats often mean nothing, especially historical stats. One stat I always look at is shooting percentage.

If a team shoots anywhere near 50 percent, that tells me it takes good shots, has a solid offensive scheme and can score late in close games. It is a good win predictor.

In the most recent NCAA stats, 13 teams shoot 50 percent or better - Florida, Air Force, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Arizona, Nebraska, North Carolina State, New Mexico State, Oklahoma State, North Carolina, A&M-Corpus Christi and Pittsburgh. Through Monday, those teams were 174-44.

It must not have been the coach

Bill Herrion was fired at East Carolina after his teams went 70-98. When the former Drexel coach took the job, ECU moved way up in class to Conference USA and was often overmatched.

Just when C-USA lost many of its better teams to the Big East and ECU had a chance to compete, Herrion got fired. New ECU coach Ricky Stokes is 13-30.

Herrion, meanwhile, is at New Hampshire. He doesn't have much talent, but give him some time. UNH was 12-17 last season and is 6-12 this season. If anybody reading this can name one New Hampshire player, now or ever, go to the Hoops History Hall of Fame.

The charge

It is around mid-January every season that I get real tired of defensive players falling down in the lane whenever an offensive player gets within 5 feet of them. The offensive foul has always been the biggest fraud perpetrated on the game, because so many players are taught to fake taking charges.

A partial solution would be to get rid of at least the charges taken by a player whose head is under the net. Clearly, that has nothing to do with the play, a play that usually has already been made by the time the "charge" is taken.

Get that NBA arc in front of the hoop. If a defender is inside the arc, there is no charge. See how easy that was.

THIS AND THAT

-- Why is Texas A&M (15-2) off to its best start in 47 years? Well, the Aggies are first in field-goal defense, second in scoring defense and fifth in field-goal accuracy. Put all that together and you have a very dangerous team in March.

-- Kansas has won 31 of its last 35 games. The Jayhawks' bench is outscoring its opponents', 437-242.

-- The Big 12 has three of the top 10 teams in field-goal offense and three of the top 15 in field-goal defense.

-- Texas freshman Kevin Durant is averaging 34 points and 13.5 rebounds in his first four Big 12 games. Last night's 13-for-31 in the 105-103 triple-OT loss to Oklahoma State dropped him from 61.1 percent to 54.1 from the field. He is shooting 88.8 percent from the foul line.

-- Gonzaga had won 30 consecutive games against West Coast Conference opponents before losing, 80-75, at St. Mary's Monday.

-- Rutgers lost to De Paul, 60-37, Saturday, the Knights' lowest total of the shot-clock era, sort of the hoop equivalent of that 6-4 football game with Princeton back on the first day.

-- Looking ahead to the NCAA Tournament, first- and second-round games are scheduled for Columbus, Ohio. But Ohio State can't play there, because it is the host school.

-- When Georgetown lost Saturday at Pittsburgh, 74-69, it was the first loss under John Thompson III when scoring 69 or more points.

-- Every year, I try to find a BCS conference to ride hard with my NCAA Tournament selections. I also try to find another conference to eliminate. Have not found my eliminator, but the Pac-10 looks like my horse. How tough is this league? Home teams are just 13-14 in conference games. Five games have gone into overtime. UCLA, Oregon, Arizona and Washington State are a combined 59-8. Washington is 10-1 non-conference and 1-5 in the Pac-10.

-- I have never been a big RPI fan. It has always been more about whom you play than how you play. It simply does not measure the relative value of teams. It is a method of quantifying teams. I am just not sure it has any real meaning. I like to see a team on the floor. I don't really care whom you play or where you play. I want to know how you play. I think we would all agree No. 1 Florida, with three potential NBA lottery picks in its starting lineup, is really good. The RPI does not agree. Florida is No. 32. How can that be? I know because I understand the formula. I also know I don't care what the RPI says about Florida. Neither should you.

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