Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cheesehead Sports Nut's Predctions for Cheesehead sports teams in 2011

I covered almost all the notable Cheesehead sports events of 2010 throughout so instead of looking back at 2010 I am going to do a non-traditional “Sunday Funday” post where I take a realistic look forward at what I think lies ahead for all the Cheesehead sports teams in 2011:

UW-Green Bay Phoenix Men’s Basketball:
Former Marquette Warriors standout guard and current UWGB head coach Brian Wardle has his work cut out for him. Wardle takes over a program that is trying to assimilate a number of new faces with a couple of veteran holdovers. UWGB has not made the NCAA Tournament since 1996, which was their 3rd consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and 3rd NCAA Tournament appearance overall. With UWGB in a transition year, their only hope of going to the post-season is to make their 3rd consecutive trip to the College Basketball Invitational (“CBI”). What is the CBI you ask? Teams that do not make the NCAA Tournament or NIT can be invited to the 16-team CBI. The tournament started in 2008, the past CBI winners are: Tulsa (2008), Oregon State (2009), and Virginia Commonwealth (2010). On February 19th UWGB plays a “Bracket Buster” game against another potential post-season hopeful. Even if UWGB wins their “Bracket Buster” game, unless they win the Horizon League Tournament to get an automatic NCAA Tournament the best-case scenario for UWGB is to make their 3rd consecutive trip to the CBI.

UW-Milwaukee Panthers Men’s Basketball:
The Horizon League has put more than one team in the NCAA Tournament only twice since 1982, which happened in 2007 (Butler and Wright State) and 2009 (Butler and Cleveland State). Its a long-shot, but after Butler came within a miracle shot of winning the 2010 NCAA Tournament, may be the Horizon League will get more bids. Highly unlikely, but possible. As a result, much like Wardle at UWGB, UWM head coach Rob Jeter has a tough road ahead in 2011. Expectations are a little higher for UWM than UWGB but an NIT bid is more realistic than an NCAA Tournament bid. Like UWGB, UWM plays their own “Bracket Buster” game on February 19th against another potential post-season hopeful. Much like UWGB, it is going to be tough for UWM to make a legitimate NCAA Tournament push without winning the Horizon League Tournament. Look for UWM to make their second NIT (went in 2004) as opposed to their fourth NCAA Tournament (went in 2003, 2005, and 2006).

Marquette Warriors Men’s Basketball:
Marquette continues to be an NBA pipeline with four current NBA players (Lazar Hayward, Wesley Matthews, Steve Novak, and Dwayne Wade) and one current NBA head coach (Doc Rivers). Thanks in part to the aforementioned players; Marquette looks poised to make their 6th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. Marquette head coach Buzz Williams has done a great job landing stud junior college transfers but yet another early season transfer counteracts that for the second season in a row and fourth transfer since 2009. This year starting point guard Reggie Smith (6’0” and 175 lbs) out of Thornton Township High School in Harvey, Illinois requested a transfer. That comes on the heels of high profile freshman standout Jeronne Maymon transferring to Tennessee last season. Youssoupha Mbao and Brett Roseboro have also transferred from Marquette since 2009. For all the transfers that Marquette has had to deal with over the last few years, the program is still in goods hands with Buzz Williams in charge. As many people have pointed out, Williams is a much better in game coach than his predecessor Tom Crean. Furthermore, Williams continues to get the best out of his players. The only knock on Williams is that he has been unable to land quality big man to help them bang down low in the NCAA Tournament. Marquette should make a decent post-season run in the NCAA Tournament in 2011.

Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball:
Whether it be tall athletic guys in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki (i.e. Jon Leuer) or athletic guards (i.e. Jordan Taylor), Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan continues to recruit the perfect players to fit his system. Bo Ryan takes those players and controls the tempo of almost every game. Some college basketball fans find Wisconsin’s style boring but there is nothing boring about imposing your own style on your opponents. Wisconsin has made 12 consecutive NCAA Tournaments. With Jordan Taylor, Jon Leuer, and Bo Ryan in the fold I expect Wisconsin to join Marquette in the NCAA Tournament this year. How far can Wisconsin go in the NCAA Tournament? The Sweet Sixteen seems very likely with the Elite Eight or Final Four being a lofty goal. Either way, look for Wisconsin to continue to challenge for Big Ten supremacy on their way to the NCAA Tournament.

Wisconsin Badgers Football:
Things are still raw following a disappointing 21-19 loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl. Despite the Rose Bowl loss, Wisconsin still put together one of their best seasons in the history of the program. There is no shame in losing to a team that looks like they deserved to play in the BCS National Championship Game. Unfortunately for TCU, Auburn and Oregon went undefeated in the regular season so they will face each other in the BCS Championship game because Auburn and Oregon come from power conferences (SEC and Pac-10 respectively). Wisconsin will lose the left side of their offensive line (Carimi and Moffitt), starting quarterback (Tolzien), and most likely lose their best defender (Watt) just to name a few. Fortunately for Wisconsin, they have a ton of talent at almost every position including running back where they might have five starting caliber running backs next year. Much like the Wisconsin basketball team, the Wisconsin football team imposes their will on their opponent in almost every game. Wisconsin plays good defense and pounds the ball on their ground with their impressive running game. Look for Wisconsin to rebound in 2011 and try to make consecutive Rose Bowl appearance for the first time since 1999 and 2000.

Milwaukee Wave:
Since the Wave only plays in the five-team Major Indoor Soccer League (“MISL”) it is hard not to pick them to win. Will the Wave be able to outlast the Baltimore Blast, Chicago Riot, Missouri Comets, and Omaha Vipers? Yes, I think so. What does that mean? Not that much. Either way the Milwaukee Wave franchise has been one of the most successful indoor soccer franchises over the last few decades. Look for that success to continue in 2011.

Milwaukee Admirals:
Since the Admirals are a feeder system to their parent NHL club the Nashville Predators the success of the Admirals can be measured on two levels. With both the Admirals and Predators looking like playoff teams, it could be a good year for the Milwaukee Admirals. Will the Admirals win the Calder Cup (Stanley Cup of the AHL)? Most of that depends on whom the Predators call up for the rest of the season so projecting the success of the Admirals is the hardest of all the Cheesehead sports teams. In terms of the best bang for your buck, the Admirals are at the top of the list for Cheesehead sports teams. The Admirals are always running deals, which make it fairly easy to get good seats for a quality hockey game. Add in that true Admirals fans are probably the second smartest fans behind Packers fans and taking in an Admirals game at the Bradley Center is a treat.

Milwaukee Bucks:
Injuries have greatly reduced the lofty expectations for the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks expected to start Jennings, Salmons, Delfino, Gooden, and Bogut. Unfortunately Jennings fractured a bone in his left foot, Delfino suffered a debilitating concussion, Gooden has been sidelined with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, and Bogut has struggled coming back from his horrible fall at the end of last season.

With most of the Bucks starting lineup hampered by injury the Bucks have been forced to rely on reserves Keyon Dooling, Ersan Ilyasova, The Prince, Corey Maggette, Jon Brockman, Larry Sanders, Earl Boykins, and Chris Douglas-Roberts much more than expected. As a result, Bucks head coach Scott Skiles has struggled to find a consistent rotation. When healthy, the Bucks might benefit from the reserves getting more minutes but right now the team is just trying to tread water until they get back to full strength.

The Eastern Conference is very top heavy this year with five impressive teams (Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, and Orlando Magic) followed by a bunch of mediocre teams. When healthy the Bucks could challenge for a 7th or 8th seed but that most likely will net them a match-up with the Celtics or Heat. I expect the Bucks to make a playoff push but ultimately bow out of the playoffs in the first round. For better or worse the core of the Milwaukee Bucks (Jennings, Salmons, Maggette, Sanders, Gooden, and Bogut) are under contract through the 2012-13 season so the 2010-11 season might go down as a lost season which is fitting since it will be the last year of Michael Redd’s “max” contract.

Milwaukee Brewers:
The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers look to have one of the most formidable starting rotations in the baseball after acquiring Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Barring injury the Brewers 2011 starting rotation will be Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Shaun Marcum, and Chris Narveson.

In order to acquire Greinke and Marcum the Brewers had to part with most of their young, talented players (Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, Brett Lawrie, and Jake Odorizzi) so the Brewers batting order will most likely be:
#1) Rickie Weeks (2B)
#2) Corey Hart (RF)
#3) Ryan Braun (LF)
#4) Prince Fielder (1B)
#5) Casey McGehee (3B)
#6) Yuniesky Betancourt (SS)
#7) Jonathan Lucroy (C)
#8) Carlos Gomez (CF)

With Hart signed through 2013 the Brewers need to get more out of him. I have long advocated moving Hart to first base or center field because it seems like Hart’s talents are wasted in right field. If the Brewers do not think they are going to resign Prince Fielder then they should move Hart to first base. If there is any chance of resigning Prince then move Hart to center field if Gomez struggles to start the season.

With a strong starting rotation, solid lineup, and above average bullpen the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers look like a preseason favorite to make a playoff run. All of sudden the N.L. Central looks top heavy with the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, and St. Louis Cardinals all fighting to win the 2011 N.L. Central division. Unless almost everything breaks right, the Brewers look more like a wild-card winner than a division winner.

Green Bay Packers:
The 2010 Green Bay Packers have faced more injuries than almost any other team in the NFL. 15 players have been placed on injured reserve. Of the 15 players placed on injured reserve: 6 were starters (Barnett, Burnett, Finley, Grant, Jones, and Tauscher), 4 were important backups (Chillar, Martin, Neal, and Poppinga), and 5 were just guys (Bell, Harrell, Havner, Newhouse, and Smith).

Despite suffering a ton of injuries, by beating the Chicago Bears at home at Lambeau Field earlier today the Green Bay Packers clinched the 6th seed in the NFC playoffs and an opening round match-up on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Packers knocked off the Eagles in Week 1 in Philadelphia but the Packers are 0-2 in the playoffs in Philadelphia. Furthermore, the Eagles are a much different team now than the one that the Packers faced in Week 1. For starters, the Packers knocked out franchise quarterback in the making Kevin Kolb giving Michael Vick a chance to shine. Vick took the opportunity and became one of the feel good stories in the NFL in 2010.

Unfortunately the feel good story is going to end next weekend in Philadelphia for Michael Vick. Since Vick is slightly hobbled, I expect the Packers to beat the Philadelphia Eagles. If that were the case the Packers would go on the road to face the Atlanta Falcons where they would hope to avenge their Week 12 loss in Atlanta. Whether the Packers can beat the Falcons on the road is essentially a coin toss. In an attempt to reverse jinx a win, I predict the Packers will lose to the Falcons to end a very impressive season.

If the NFL does in fact play football in 2011, look for the Packers to be the preseason favorite along with the 2011 Super Bowl champ. Not only will the Packers get back a ton of difference makers in 2011 (Barnett, Burnett, Chillar, Finley, Grant, Jones, Martin, and Neal) but they have their full compliment of draft picks in the 2011 NFL Draft so the Packers should open 2011 as the Super Bowl favorite.

In the spirit of celebrating the New Year I want to thank each and every one of my readers for their readership and support. I hope everyone is having a great start to 2011!

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