We can argue about whether or not the Bracketbuster has run its course and if the Milwaukee Panthers and their fellow Horizon League members should continue to play in it.
Personally, I’m against it. But we’re in it this season, and we’ve got Buffalo tonight. The conundrum is this: do you play our walking wounded (Kaylon Williams, Ryan Allen, Lonnie Boga) or do you play out the bench and risk losing to Buffalo?
On the surface, it’s an easy decision. We need everybody healthy next Thursday at Cleveland State, and running our starters out there runs the risk of hurting them.
But I’m here to say this game is important. Is this game going to win us the Horizon League? No. Are the Panthers going to make their at-large bid to the NIT or CIT with a victory? Of course not. But there’s one word that makes winning this game very, very important:
Throughout the seven-game winning streak, we’ve taken big deficits and overcome, and put our foot on the gas and buried lesser opponents. But one thing has been constant the entire time, and that is what the soccer team chants after every rivalry victory: Milwaukee wins again.
Should the Panthers lose to Buffalo tonight, that streak is broken, and the momentum to go along with it. It becomes that much tougher to get back that momentum heading into Cleveland State, and we have one less thing (a legitimate streak) to play for.
I still don’t think Kaylon Williams need play more than he is comfortable, and Ryan Allen I would hold out altogether (and possibly bury him in a film room watching Norris Cole the whole time). But I don’t think it’s necessary that they play considerable minutes (or the rest of our starters and rotation, really) to win the game.
Don’t take Buffalo lightly. Play to win the game. But the second the game is over, switch to Cleveland State. Nothing is more important.