Saturday, March 6, 2010

Local Hoops Teams are on a R-O-L-L!

Collectively, there may not have been a better week for Milwaukee area basketball teams in the storied history of the sport.

Despite rumors to the contrary, I wasn't around when Dr. James Naismith first positioned a peach basket high on a wall to create what we affectionately call Hoops, but I doubt whether the Milwaukee Bucks, Marquette and UWM have had a more glorious seven-day period simultaneously.

Consider the following:

The Bucks have been on a particularly surprising tear, decimating opponents lately like back-to-back against the Washington Wizards. They dropped a close game in Atlanta (against perhaps a fellow playoff team) that they could have easily won.

They have done so because Michael Redd got injured and the remaining players closed ranks and shared the wealth in the form of that big orange ball. Addition by subtraction.

They have done it the addition by addition of Jerry Stackhouse, a savvy veteran, great lockerroom guy who brings playoff experience to this still very young team.

They have also done it with what may go down as one of the top trades in franchise history, wresting John Salmons from the Chicago Bulls in a three-team deal that shipped out some underproducers for this diamond in the rough who is starting to sparkle like a NBA All-Star caliber jewel.

What more needs to be said? Well, hats off to Scott Skiles for melding these different personalities into a cohesive, unselfish unit and for allowing Andrew Bogut to blossom into the player they envisioned hen they tabbed him Number One overall!

Let's not forget the steady, methodical hand of General Manager John Hammond. His fingerprints are all over this success. He has gotten this franchise out from under a
still-suffocating salary cap albatross. Without a doubt, he has to get GM of the year consideration.

Marquette simply followed up three consecutive overtime wins on the road with an oh, so satisfying pasting of Louisville at the Bradley Center.

Guys that go by their initials like DJO (Darius Johnson-Odom) have become household names. The Big East "experts" had this team, which lost a troika of talent through graduation, finishing no higher than 12th in the conference.

Buzz Williams helped his squad recover from several devastating and heartbreaking losses early on, one high-profile defection and a couple of key injuries. With little or no depth, he molded them into a force of nature, toppling teams with more talent and way more height on a regular basis heading into March Madness.

The Milwaukee Panthers had problems of their own. There were some academic storms the team had to weather. Head Coach Rob Jeter's team failed more often than not in the first half of the season, coughing and wheezing its way to a 5-8 mark.

But Jeter's guys have hung in there and won the first two games of the Horizon League tournament, offering at least a sniff of the post-season should they knock off odds-on favorite Butler down the road in Indianapolis.

The hot seat that Jeter was sitting on through that early rough patch has cooled considerably. He has shown himself to be a quality Head Coach in Division I and deserves to return and be extended.

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