Loss to Wisconsin still stings for Karl-Anthony Towns, where things stand at QB and more
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Today is Tuesday, April 25, and this is what’s for breakfast.
Still on his mind
Many consider Wisconsin’s upset of Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four the biggest win in Badgers basketball history. It’s one of those moments in a fan’s mind that they know exactly what they were doing and where they were doing it when the clock struck zero and the Badgers had handed the Wildcats their first loss of the season.
But for it to be the biggest win in a school’s history, it usually has to be one of the toughest losses for the other team and its fan base. A loss so difficult to forget that it sticks with you and pops into your head at random moments just to ruin your day. While we can’t speak to how Kentucky fans remember the end of their perfect season, it’s clear the game still resonates with the team’s biggest star that season, Karl-Anthony Towns, who called it the toughest loss of his life in a podcast segment on The Vertical.
“It’s one of those things you remember for the rest of your life. I’ve never let it go. I never will. I will take that as the biggest defeat of my life.” Karl-Anthony Towns to ‘The Vertical’
Maybe at some point Towns will suffer a more significant defeat. He’s just finished his second season in the NBA and has the young talent around him that could lead to a deep playoff run down the road. He certainly not alone when it comes to remembering the losses a lot more than the wins.
But his larger message in the podcast was the opportunity Kentucky had to make history that season. Some were calling them the best team of all time even before the NCAA Tournament started, and there were many that thought they’d be the first team since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers to go unbeaten and win a title. They ran through the regular season to win the SEC title, won the conference tournament title and dispatched a very good Notre Dame team to make the Final Four. Less than two months after the game, four players would end up getting taken within the first 13 picks of the 2015 NBA Draft, with two more going after that.
Two years ago today
We Made 'Em Believe pic.twitter.com/6vJF1R3p75
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) April 4, 2017
All of the talent, skill and pedigree of Big Blue Nation was going to roll right over Wisconsin that night. Only it didn’t. Instead, it became the best night in Badgers basketball history. A night that will be talked about and remembered like other seminal moments in Wisconsin sports history — a history that is filled with unforgettable trips to Super Bowls, Rose Bowls and now Final Fours.
That Towns likely can’t get memories of Sam Dekker’s step-back 3-pointer in the final minutes or the Badgers rushing the court in celebration out of his mind should make the win just a little bit sweeter for fans.
Where things stand: Quarterbacks
With Wisconsin finishing spring practice last week, it’s time to take a look back at what we learned during the 15 practices, starting with the quarterbacks.
What happened: Alex Hornibrook was named the starter before spring ball even began and seemed to gravitate to the idea of being the guy with Bart Houston gone. Hornibrook wasn’t flawless, but had a solid spring, spending most of it working on what many have called his weaknesses — arm strength, pocket presence and ability to escape pressure. The best thing about the sophomore is he’s never satisfied with his game and is tirelessly working to improve it.
Defensive players asked about Alex Hornibrook brought up his poise as offensive catalyst & steady development from fall to spring as leader
— Mike Lucas (@LucasAtLarge) April 22, 2017
Biggest takeaway: Hornibrook’s leadership
Time after time, especially in the final two weeks, Hornibrook would throw a pass and — whether it was complete or fell to the ground — jog to the receiver and talk about what they saw. He did the same later in the locker room with the defensive backs that may have intercepted him during practice. He’s got the respect of the entire team, one born of out of his confidence, but also the fact he’s willing and wants to learn from every rep — positive or negative.
Biggest question: Who will be the backup?
An overlooked position battle entering spring, the back-up quarterback, remains unsettled and thus a significant question. Redshirt freshman Karé Lyles and true freshman Jack Coan shared second-team reps all spring but very little separates them.
If forced to choose at this point, Coan would get the nod, though even he knows he’s got a lot of work to do to be ready if called upon. Ideally, Coan would redshirt, but Wisconsin is going to play the guy that gives them the best chance to win. A strong summer and fall camp could mean it’ll be Coan.
Is it the offensive line or the running backs?
That’s a question many have asked about the Wisconsin football program through the years. Are the running backs putting up those huge numbers because of how good they are, or because they are running through holes the size of Mack trucks thanks to a remarkable offensive line?
The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, but ESPN’s latest draft project doesn’t indicate that. Digging through the past 15 drafts, ESPN aimed to determined which schools produce the best and worst pros based on where they are drafted and how they perform in the league.
No. 1 Offensive Line Factory
No. 2 Defensive Line Factory
No. 6 in #NFLDraft Value
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) April 24, 2017
Overall, Wisconsin ranked sixth-best and tops in the Big Ten. But it was what the study revealed at offensive line and running backs that was the most interesting. ESPN writes that Wisconsin is the best at producing guys for the line and the worst in the backfield (minimum four picks).
So why are they so good at one and so bad at the other? It would behoove everyone to look at those players as people instead of just numbers. When you do that, you see that a second-round pick in Montee Ball lost his career due to addiction, and injuries ended the careers of 2006 third-round pick Brian Calhoun and 2012 fifth-round pick Bradie Ewing. Three others — James White, Melvin Gordon and Derek Watt — are still early in their careers, but the returns thus far indicate they’ll help lift Wisconsin’s running back reputation.
Meanwhile, the offensive line has had 13 guys drafted and most met or exceeded expectations relative to where they were drafted. The amazing success for first-round picks such as Joe Thomas (2007), Kevin Zeitler (2012), and Travis Frederick (2013) make up for less successful early picks such as Gabe Carimi (2011) and Peter Konz (2012).
In the end, metrics and numbers are nice, but rarely do they tell the whole story, which is very much the case when you look at Wisconsin’s running backs going to the pros.
- From Madison.com: Pictures of 25 Wisconsin natives who were first-round NFL draft picks.
- With the NFL draft getting underway on Thursday, UWBadgers.com has brought back its Homegrown series for another look at Vince Biegel, T.J. Watt and Dare Ogunbowale.
- You usually don’t want to upset a man who stands 6 feet 6 and weighs close to 300 pounds, but that’s exactly what Watt did on the day his big brother J.J. got drafted.