Miller: How do I love thee.....

It was a huge week in the world of Badger sports. It kicked off with National Letter of Intent signing day for 16 (plus two more later) future gridiron greats. The week may end with another notch in the belt on the way to a Big Ten men's basketball championship. Jason Miller looks into the biggest week in Badger sports for 2007 to date.

PILING UP THE CHEESE

When the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved a five year, $7.5 million (cue the pinky to the corner of the mouth, Dr. Evil) deal for Wisconsin head football coach Bret Bielema yesterday, it shows the winning does indeed count for something.

Under this deal, Bielema will be paid $1.3 million dollars for the 2007 season. That is a raise of $550,000. He will be given a $100,000 raise each season until the contract reaches its completion on January 31, 2012. That is a lot of limberger. Well, or macaroni and whatever cheese goes with it to put on the pizza that the 37 year old signal caller loves.

When a team goes 12-1 in your first season, it certainly helps. He is a good coach, working under a good athletic director - for how long, we don't know - in a great community.

Having a team that wins the most games in a single season in the history of the football program - in your first season with the BIG headphones on - helps state your case to the Board of Regents.

Strangely enough, if history is any indicator here and the Badgers continue at this level of success for the next, say, three seasons, he may increase that contract and his base salary before Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow in 2011. I was going to use a political reference, but those usually are taken the wrong way. So I think Bill Murray's old friend works here. Either way, Coach Bielema was rewarded for his team's performance.

Most Badger fans fully expect him to continue on this level of excellence for many years to come.

LOOKING FORWARD

Like I have said many times, on and off the website, that the 2007 season could be even better than 2008. The schedule is semi-favorable, getting rival Iowa early and the heavyweights (OSU and UM) late. Ohio State will not be the same Buckeyes we all saw in 2006, but won't exactly be chopped liver. The Badgers will be fully loaded and mature by that point in the season. The following week, Michigan comes to Camp Randall.

I think that anything less than 10 wins would be a disappointment. My only question is how to replace Joe Thomas, but we all know that the Badgers have a long history of developing great offensive linemen.

ON and ON and ON

When you visit the sports page of Wisconsin State Journal web page, you will see an old album cover from ABBA with Alando Tucker's picture pasted in the quartet. The group has a song named "Fernando" that is one of 37 songs on their Definitive Collection. It is song no. 11, in case you are wondering. The Swedish group has another song called On and on and on.

On and on and on

Keep on rockin' baby

'til the night is gone

When Tucker makes his first basket in today's game at the Kohl Center against Iowa, he will join Michael Finley as the only other 2,000 point scorer in the history of UW basketball. Fans in the house may sing a song of praise for a few minutes, but their attention will then return to a game that should be a good one.

The visiting Hawkeyes have been playing quite well since the Badgers saw them just 13 days ago. Great defense was the key for the Wisconsin in a 57-46 road victory. Tucker and his teammates held Iowa to .281 success from the floor. The top two Hawkeye scorers, Adam Haluska and Tyler Smith, were held to a combined six for 35. Since then, Haluska has been on a roll. He was named the National Player of the Week last week after averaging 25 points per outing a pair of wins. Haluska is coming of his best game as a Hawkeye, scoring 34 points in a 91-78 win at Minnesota. In that game, he connected on six of his nine three-point attempts. He also dished out eight assists, with only one turnover, and grabbed seven rebounds.

So, once 'Do turns the 2000 point trick, perhaps he will score more points for the Badgers by holding Smith to another dismal day.

2,000 points. Wow. That is a lot. But I am sure that he would rather the Badgers' winning ways go on...and on...and on. Until the night closes in.

NEW FACES in FAMILIAR PLACES

Coach Bielema stressed the fact that defense and special teams were a big emphasis for the 2007 recruiting class. He certainly knows a bit about what it takes to succeed on that side of the ball.

Of the 18 signees, at least half of them specialized on defense this past season. Add to that another three players who were punt/kick return men, and you certainly see that the coach is true to his word.

Most intriguing member of the class

David Gilreath - The speedy WR/KR is an offensive dynamo and a defense's worst nightmare. His ability to stretch the field and hurt you in a number of ways will be a useful tool for then next four seasons. He was clocked at 4.35 in the 40 while at the Scout.com Iowa combine this past spring. I clocked him at 4.38, so I know he is quick. What I like the most about him is the fact he runs a smooth route and can be used in the slot or on the edges. Gilreath will definitely be given a chance to win the position as punt returner left by Zach Hampton.

Most likely to be the diamond in the rough

Blake Sorensen

- Minnesota's Mr. Football award winner can smell a ball carrier from five yards away. He has the ability to plug the hole against the run, or cover the pass. One scouting expert compares him to former Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway. That is fairly high praise.


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