Four times this month, the Wisconsin men's basketball squad has failed to score more than 50 points in a game. This feeble offense has prompted coach Bo Ryan to work the postgame press conference like a Borscht Belt comedian.
"We're saving a lot of money here at the university because these nets will be around 10 years compared to other gyms, where they last a year or two," Ryan quipped on Saturday after the Badgers beat Minnesota, 45-44.
Meanwhile, over at Milwaukee's Bradley Center, Madison Memorial product Vander Blue is shredding nets for Marquette, which is tied for first with Syracuse in the highly competitive Big East conference. He dropped a career-high 30 points on South Florida on Monday and has scored 20 or more in three other games. In a win over Wisconsin in December, he scored 17 and had four steals.
Historians might remember that Blue initially committed to play at Wisconsin in his sophomore year at Memorial. A year later, after helping to lead the Spartans to the state championship, he backed out and ended up at Marquette. With his play this year, he has become the highest-profile Wisconsin basketball player since Wesley Matthews, who also played at Marquette and currently starts for the Portland Trailblazers.
But more important, at least to Marquette coach Buzz Williams, has been Blue's maturation off the court. After Blue was charged with disorderly conduct stemming from an assault when he was a sophomore, Williams pushed him to grow up and become a leader.
"Vander is magnetic for good and bad," Williams said after the South Florida game on Monday. "In the past, he has put himself in toxic situations. The stuff he was wearing, it was like, 'What are you doing?' I think he's past that. I think he's understanding the good now."