In one of the more baffling collapses in recent NCAA Tournament history, a Wisconsin team that was ranked #1 in the country and firing on all cylinders less than month ago will now be back in Madison watching the Sweet Sixteen, instead of participating in it. Many explanations have been given for the Badgers precipitous slide, but none that explain Wisconsins complete lack of interior toughness in this afternoons loss to UNLV. The Runnin Rebels dominated the glass, limiting Wisconsins garbage opportunities, and getting an excessive number of their own.
One of the major forces behind Wisconsins hard-nosed identity, over the past four years at least, has been power wing Alando Tucker
. Tucker did most of his damage on the interior as a freshman, routinely making plays over much taller opponents due to his physical nature and explosiveness. He has finally emerged as a legitimate wing scorer in his senior year, but it appears that he lost some of that toughness that made him such an asset to Bo Ryan in the first place. It was UNLVs Wendell White
playing the role of enforcer wing, while Tucker floated around the perimeter looking for offensive opportunities and largely ignored any opportunity to crash the glass in the case of a miss.
After a quiet first half, the senior came out with a full head of steam to start the second. He made several nice passes and one crucial contested three pointer that gave the Badgers the momentum, and finally appeared to be taking over like a national player of the year candidate ought to in such a situation. But as soon as the Badgers regained the lead, old Tucker weaknesses began to shine through. He rushed several 3-point shots and missed them badly, reminding us that shooting range is still a major hole in his game. With all his teammates tensing up around him, Tucker tried to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, but couldnt create a high-quality shot for himself. Soon, the UNLV lead had ballooned back out to the comfortable margin it was at before the Wisconsin run.
In the past, Tucker wouldnt have been held to such a high standard. But he also would have made up for an off shooting night with unmatchable intensity around the rim and in the lane. This afternoon, he was more apt to watch the action fifteen feet from the basket. Perhaps it was just an off game a disappointing NCAA Tournament certainly doesnt undo everything Tucker has accomplished this year, and he still managed to put up 17 and 7. But this weekend does give scouts an up close and personal reminder of everything he had clearly worked so hard to erase from their minds. It remains to be seen just where Tucker will fall in the upcoming draft, but todays performance cant be good for those NBA decision makers who werent entirely sold on Alando Tucker
having left his perimeter polish issues in the past.