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Former Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt wasn't impressed with where he fell on the NFL's Top 100 players of 2017.

The impact of Thad Matta’s departure on Wisconsin, J.J. Watt not a fan of NFL’s Top-100 list and more

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know — Monday through Friday — around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.

Today is Tuesday, June 6, and this is what’s for breakfast.

The Thad Matta impact

Ohio State surprised everyone on Monday, announcing that longtime basketball coach Thad Matta was stepping down effective immediately. It sent shockwaves through the college game with its suddenness and potential impact on the overall landscape. Make no mistake, while Ohio State is very much a football school, its resources, facilities and fertile recruiting ground also make ideal conditions to succeed at basketball. Parting with Matta, the school’s all-time wins leader, says the administration is unwilling to allow the program to languish in mediocrity. And his replacement will surely show that.

The question, at least for Wisconsin, is what kind of impact will Matta’s departure have on the Badgers, specifically on the recruiting trail. While the two rarely battled for top prospects, few Big Ten programs have reached into Ohio in recent years more than Wisconsin. Multi-year starters such as Traevon Jackson, Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown came from the state, while two likely starters this fall, junior Khalil Iverson and sophomore D’Mitrik Trice, also call Ohio home. Former assistant coach Lamont Paris was a big factor in those recruitments, and it remains to be seen if the Badgers continue attacking the state the way they have in the past with Paris now coaching at Chattanooga.

If they do, will the new coaching situation in Columbus become an issue? Probably not.

Ohio State will never be a regional recruiter. Not in football and not in basketball. The school has such a huge profile on a national level that the Buckeyes can compete, assuming they have the right person in place, for the best players in the country. If there is a top player in Ohio, of course they are going to want them. But the guys Wisconsin has taken were largely afterthoughts or not even on the radar for Matta. Hayes got an Ohio State offer but was not a top priority, which bugged him. Jackson, Brown and Iverson weren’t offered at all.

All of this is to say that while Ohio State very well may push its way back into the Big Ten title picture and be a challenge in that respect for the Badgers, the chances it suddenly cuts off the supply of players from Ohio doesn’t seem all that high.


J.J. Watt was a near non-entity during the 2016 NFL season. The Houston Texans defensive end, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, played through a back injury in the first three games of the 2016 season then underwent surgery and missed the final 13. So it was a tad surprising Monday when the former Wisconsin star came in at No. 35 in NFL Network’s Top 100 players of 2017. The list, voted on by the players, has included Watt every year since 2013. But it’s difficult to justify it this time around.

Still, the more surprising part of the unveiling was the normally public-image conscious Watt taking a big swipe at the list on Twitter.

Watt wasn’t alone in his criticism on Monday, as Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner took a similar stance in a tweet that has since been deleted.

The criticisms aren’t new. When the list began in 2011, the idea was that allowing players to vote would somehow give it more meaning. But almost from the jump it has drawn the ire of players, including some who claim they never even got to vote. Among them was San Francisco 49ers LB Navarro Bowman, who called it “totally bogus” last summer.

Whether that’s true or not, Watt’s inclusion makes it feel totally bogus. Someone who played in three games, no matter his résumé in previous seasons, shouldn’t be included.

Special day on the links

Andy North has an impressive list of friends. On a yearly basis, the two-time U.S. Open champion and Wisconsin basketball superfan puts that list to good use, bringing everyone together to raise money for the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center. The event is put on by the charitable group called, appropriately, Andy North and Friends, and features a dinner and golf tournament. In its nine years of existence, it has raised more than $9 million, including $1.05 million this time around.

North, who is a prostate and skin cancer survivor, was able to bring in former Badgers stars such as Frank Kaminsky, Pat Richter and Blake Geoffrion, in addition to former men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan and current coach Greg Gard. Also showing up were Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, golf channel announcer Terry Gannon and LPGA veterans Judy Rankin and Sherri Steinhauer.

The two-day event is a testament to North and his wife, Sue, but also to the family atmosphere that remains even after athletes leave Madison. Kaminsky, in addition to Ben Brust, Jon Leuer and Greg Stiemsma, have gone all over the world since playing for the Badgers, yet have still found the time to give back to the place and the people that helped them reach those heights. It probably happens at a lot of places, but it feels just a little more genuine with Wisconsin.

Catching up

  • Wisconsin is now well into its Camp Randall 100 list, with the latest honoree being two-sport star Red Wilson.
  • The celebrity foursome for the American Family Insurance Championship to be held at University Ridge was announced on Monday.