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Wisconsin Mailbag: Part 1

Man, for all the “fuck wisconsin” sentiment around these parts, you all sure have a lot of questions. Makes me wonder if you really hate Wisconsin as much as you say you do:

And before you get all snarky and say, “yeah, Wisconsin is just like Nathaniel Jessup in the following ways...” realize that makes you Tom Cruise.

Anyway, on to your questions:

Did you get as much pleasure out of the Wisconsin victory over Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four as I did? -IUinVA

Kind of...: Had intended to take the questions in order, but this one HAS to be first. I was at that game. I dare say nobody not on the team got any more joy of that victory than I did. As the Final Four was in Indy that year, my friends and I spent the rest of the evening being congratulated (and bought drinks) by 1) IU fans happy the ‘76 team would remain the last unbeaten champion, 2) Duke fans happy they didn’t have to face Kentucky (fuck them...Duke, that is), and 3) random Louisville fans who must have just made the drive up to root against Kentucky (they were probably the MOST intensely grateful, honestly). Easily on the short list of best sporting moments in my life.

MC: It is my favorite experience of all-time as a sports fan. Hearing starting lineups representing Sheboygan and La Crosse and Port Washington and taking down a historically great team with everyone watching. Amazing.

I just found out that Walton Goggins not only plays the infamous Boyd Crowder in the fantastic drama Justified, but he also provides the voice of Cecil Stedman in the star studded Amazon series Invincible. When was the last time you were surprised to find out one of your favorite actors provided a voice role in an animated property? -BuffKomodo

Kind of...; Okay, several thoughts. 1) Justified is the greatest show ever, and @BuffKomodo is far and away my favorite “writer.” 2) As as pointed out in the comments, The Shield, which also features Goggins, is worth a watch if you don’t mind a corrupt cop as a protagonist. Conventional wisdom is it’s got one of the best final seasons, and maybe the best series finale, ever. I won’t disagree. 3) As to the question, well, let’s settle for half-surprised. Like all right-thinking people, I’m a huge fan of H. Jon Benjamin. I knew he was the lead in Archer, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the supporting cast, including Chris Parnell in an underrated performance.

If you insist on a sports question, is the Wisconsin NIL situation good, bad, or in between? -Also BuffKomodo

MC ClapYoHandz: I won’t pretend I have a good feel for this, but the impression I get is that the current situation is good but not great. To me, great would mean if they found a blue chip they really liked and he was looking for the highest bidder, Wisconsin could compete with the SEC etc. in that climate. I don’t think we’re there. That said, I do think there’s a solid foundation mainly due to one thing: Luke Fickell agreed to come here. From what I recall from the hiring process, NIL was one aspect of Fickell’s process that he valued, and he and Chris McIntosh (Wisconsin AD) were reportedly aligned in their philosophy and mission on that front.

Kind of...: We don’t insist on sports questions, especially if the non-sports questions are about Justified! I don’t have a firm grasp on the NIL situation at Wisconsin. It’s definitely not top tier, but the whispers are that there was no way Fickell was taking the job if McIntosh wasn’t committed to making sure it’s robust. Plus, there were whispers about Braelon Allen transferring; didn’t happen. There were whispers about Chucky Hepburn and/or Connor Essegian transferring; didn’t happen. I think UW will be able to hold their own.

But I’d like to ask about women’s volleyball. May I? Yes?? Great! What about women’s volleyball?? -theguyfromy-wega

MC: Please do! This is the top program in Wisconsin Athletics right now, in my opinion. As a quick refresher, Wisconsin suffered a heartbreaking and somewhat disappointing 5-set defeat to Pittsburgh in the regional finals last season, but they still won a championship in the absolutely stacked Big Ten yet again, and of course won it all the previous season. It’s tough to see Danielle Hart leave, but this program does not rebuild, it reloads. Just to paint a picture of where Badger volleyball stands in the haves vs. have-nots hierarchy: this offseason Wisconsin added Carter Booth, a transfer middle blocker from Minnesota who was 1st Team All-B1G as a freshman last season, as well as Temi Thomas-Ailara, a graduate transfer and All-American outside hitter from Northwestern. Give Kelly Sheffield a lifetime contract.

Kind of...: Volleyball questions are ALWAYS welcome, sir. Look, last year was likely as big of a rebuilding job as Kelly Sheffield will face as UW head coach, and the Badgers won the B1G (for the fourth straight year), continued its recent mastery of Nebraska, and were a 15-13 fifth set away from a fourth straight trip to the Final Four. In the offseason the Badgers added Temi Thomas-Ailara (All-B1G, All-American) from Northwestern, and Carter Booth (All-1G as a frosh) from Minnesota. Nebraska welcomes a great recruiting class, but until they dethrone UW, the Badgers can claim to be the B1G’s elite VB program, and I’ll be stunned if they aren’t ranked in the top 3 nationally when the preseason poll comes out.

How is the political situation in Wisconsin affecting the university?

Is there another town/city in the state which you could see as UW’s hometown?

Are there any drawbacks to Badger Football not having another FBS program in the state? -Nothsa

Kind of...: A triple from Nothsa, each worth a thought.

1) THE “political situation in Wisconsin” has been a thing for a long time as our resident historians can tell you. 100 years ago the state was a hotbed of Progressive sentiment, especially from the reform wing of the GOP. 70 years ago, Sen. McCarthy represented a very different GOP approach. 50 years ago, a Dem governor started Earth Day. 30 years ago, the GOP governor was reforming welfare in a market-friendly way while Russ Feingold was heading to the Senate as an unapologetic left-liberal. The state is a pendulum. Not gonna change. The university has taken some hits. Not as bad as some places; worse than others. Persist. Forward.

2) No.

3) Not really (I mean, ask Iowa about the drawbacks of having another one). If the other program was non-P5 then you’d have a ready made non-conference opponent who might not ask for as much of a paycheck as random MAC school. But I’m really pushing it as far as drawbacks go.

why doesn’t the state of Wisconsin have an NHL team? -Doc1028

Kind of...: Milwaukee isn’t as big of a metro area as you might think. It’s slightly bigger than Oklahoma City and slightly smaller than Jacksonville. [The Twin Cities are bigger by 2,000,000!] And it’s pretty damn close to Chicago. Having a well-supported AHL team (the Admirals) is probably the right speed. Before Miller Park opened, the Brewers legit played in a AAA stadium.

Plus, while there are an annoyingly large number of teams south and west, Milwaukee is on the Western edge of the most saturated region for hockey in the NHL. And, as michael.vinters pointed out, it’s not as big in Wisconsin as it is in Minnesota or Michigan. This, of course, makes it all the more hilarious the Badgers have more NCAA titles than Minnesota does. Minnesota could’ve tied that up this year, but:

What’s your honest assessment (no homers or haterz here) of Greg Gard’s performance as head coach and your projections for the next 5 yrs (or whatever range you want to project)? -hoeger

MC: He isn’t Bo Ryan, but he’s really solid and Wisconsin is fortunate to have him. I think he’s a plus-level in-game coach, whisper-above-average recruiter, and borderline elite scout. Wisconsin obviously had a down year, missing the tourney and scraping together an NIT semifinal appearance, but people calling for his head just have it all wrong to me. First, it takes at least a tinge of amnesia to forget that just one year prior, Gard won the B1G and developed a Top 10 draft pick. I’ll say this: Wisconsin basketball is not Wisconsin football. Those that want him gone don’t have a realistic answer as to what upgrade at head coach exists and really wants to come to Madison. I don’t think the Luke Fickell of basketball is walking through that door. So, in my opinion, Gard is a good fit and wins and that works for me. Take the B1G titles and occasional down year and enjoy the ride. UW has transfer/prep help coming next season and the prep talent coming up in the state is unusually rich. I think they’ll bounce back nicely.

Kind of...: My honest assessment is that he’s done a pretty good job and that Covid probably deprived him of a deep run in 2020 (Sweet 16/Elite 8) and that the ‘22 team makes the Sweet 16—and probably the Elite 8—if Chucky Hepburn doesn’t get hurt.

However, my honest assessment is also that these things happened, and that two of the last three seasons were underwhelming. Gard landed a potential stud in the portal (AJ Storr), has a pretty good recruiting class coming in this year, and is in the running for some of the best in-state talent in recent years. Five years from now he’s either in possession of at least another B1G title AND Sweet 16 appearance (or better), or he’s not coaching UW. And they had better make the tournament (and not sweating the Selection Show, either) next year, or else he might not get the chance to hit those five year goals.

Wisconsin doesn’t have a regular non-conference rival in football (e.g. Florida/Florida St, Iowa/Iowa St, Penn State/Pitt, etc). Pick one that we’ll play annually for the next 10 yrs. -hoeger

Kind of...: @hoeger comin’ in again! In some respects Iowa State would be kind of cool, but they already have Iowa. I’d approach the B1G commish and ask who he has his eye on. Playing Stanford might be fun. Plus the Badgers have had intermittent two year home-and-homes with multiple Pac 12 teams (Oregon, Wazzu, Arizona, ASU), But there’s no single team that just cries out as the obvious choice.

MC: LSU PLEASE AND THANK YOU. Our kindred Cajun spirits. And none of this neutral location shit; I want to go down to Baton Rouge every other year and do hood rat gumbo and crawfish things with my Tiger friends.

Kind of...: I want to say LSU now, but I’ve seen True Detective too many times.

@waw mentioned Alabama. He may not know it, but the Tide are schedule to come to Madison September 14, 2024, with UW making a return trip in 2025. Gives all you assholes plenty of time to figure out if you can stomach cheering for Wisconsin.

Part 2 to come...