Today, I’ll be posting periodically with updates of our trip up to Green Bay.
Milwaukee (8-8, 3-2) vs. Green Bay (7-9, 1-3)
Resch Center – Green Bay, Wisconsin
TV: Time Warner Sports 32
If you want to talk about a rivalry where the opposing teams’ fans show respect for each other, where they feel welcome in the other team’s arena, and the teams play courteous of each other, look elsewhere. This is Green Bay – Milwaukee, and there’s no room for such frivolity.
This is a rivalry that turns friends and family into enemies. It’s the classic Big City vs. Big Country. But everyone on this site already knows this. If you don’t, here’s your required reading.
The game itself will prove to be a daunting task. Since 2003, the Milwaukee Panthers are only 3-5 up north, with the best three teams in Panther history (2003, 2005 and 2006) all picking up losses at the Resch Center.
Of course, past records don’t matter much anymore. It didn’t matter that the Panthers destroyed the Phoenix by 20 last year in Milwaukee, because Perine, Fletcher and Cotton got the W at the Resch. This season, with Butler and Cleveland State at the top showing vulnerability (both have taken 20-point losses this week), the opportunity to jockey for position is there for the other teams in the Horizon.
While the Phoenix are only 1-3 in the Horizon, coach Brian Wardle’s crew has gotten a big boost from JUCO transfer Jarvis Williams, from Milwaukee. Williams rolled his ankle in the second game of the year against Marquette and missed the next seven games, of which the Nix went 3-4. Three of the losses were by double-digits.
Of course, the Phoenix are 3-4 also since he got back from his injury, but Williams himself has been effective. The junior has averaged 14.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game over the last three contests. The Phoenix went 1-2, with their only victory coming over RPI #343 Houston Baptist.
In fact, the Phoenix’ schedule has been relatively weak. Difficult games that Green Bay was supposed to lose, at Wisconsin, at Marquette, against Cleveland State and IUPUI have been losses. The best victory this season has been against #82 Miami (OH) (5-9), whose RPI has been buoyed by the #2 non-conference schedule in the country. In fact, their best game this year may have been their nine-point loss to San Diego State, the undefeated team from the Mountain West that sits at #6 in the AP Poll.
The Phoenix seem to go as Rahmon Fletcher goes. One of the best 10 guards in the league, Fletcher’s assist numbers are down, but it’s because the graduation of Mike Schachtner, Ryan Tillema, Randy Berry, and Troy Cotton over the past couple years and not because he’s failing to distribute the ball.
Green Bay came into this season knowing that Fletcher was going to have to take the ball in his own hands more often than in the past.
Still, the Phoenix are 7-9, with only the Miami victory in the top 215 D-I schools in the country.
Green Bay is favored by three points tonight. In games they are favored, the Phoenix are 1-0. The Phoenix are 5-2 at home, while the Panthers are 3-4 on the road.
But you can throw all records out the window. This is Green Bay – Milwaukee, and the rivalry doesn’t care how good either team is.