Friday, March 30, 2007

I'm pathetic...

Once again, my inability to control my superstitiousness (is that even a word?) is running my life. In the past, I've brought extra (or backup) clothes to locations where I'd be watching especially important games or missed whole chunks of game action in an effort to bring my team "good luck". In fact, my neurotic nervous habits have been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember being a sports fan. It's not something I'm particularly proud of, but it is what it is. I can't hide from who I am especially during a time as crucial to my alma mater as this. With that in mind, I'm not going to be posting any sort of Final Four preview today. If you are hard up for analysis on Saturday's games, there are plenty of other websites that would be glad to help you.

They too, think I'm pathetic. They can't make the "R" sound though, so I still win.

You may think I'm pathetic for letting my superstitions run my life. You may be right about that. The way I see it, I either cling to these rituals to keep me sane or I double my booze intake to numb my anxiety. As much as I love the sauce, I don't think I'd be conscious for either of tomorrow's games if I started drinking now. And I'd probably get fired as well. All in all, it seems like simply not posting in this space is the better option for my overall welfare. So sorry about getting your hopes up and failing to deliver on the promised entry. Oh hell, who am I kidding? Nobody's even gonna read past the first paragraph of this damn post anyway.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Breaking down racial barriers, and other important stuff...

In the interest of getting up more than one post per week I’ve decided to do a small post today and them follow it up with another post on Friday which should be a longer and more comprehensive look at this weekend’s Final Four. Because I’m going to tackle the Final Four on Friday, I’m going to try my best to stay away from any in-depth discussion of the teams we’ll see this weekend in Atlanta.

With that in mind, here’s a brief collection of thoughts from the recent goings on in the NCAA Tournament.

- While I don’t agree with the idea that this NCAA Tournament has been exceptional in any way (other than the talent rich Final Four it has produced), I have enjoyed it far more than last year’s tournament for one simple reason: There hasn’t been a single second of commercial time spent on those god-awful singers from the Applebee’s commercials. I might’ve had to give up basketball if those guys came back for an encore this year. I’d gladly sit and watch 5 straight hours of the UPS Whiteboard guy drawing things Bob Ross-style before I’d volunteer to sit through another 30 seconds of those two asslicks singing and mugging their way through whatever crappy song they’ve ripped off from some real musicians.

- I’m not gonna get too specific here, but there’s a team in Florida who’s close to making the playoffs for the first time in a number of years. They’re not in yet, but a few more wins this week and they’d be in awfully good shape. I’m not sure who this team is, or even what sport they play. I just heard that they’ve got a real shot at the playoffs and that it would be a great step toward the future of the franchise. I’ll have to look into it and see exactly who this team is.
- I know the anticipation has been killing you. However, you need wait no more. The time has come for the presentation of the 2007 Terrence Morris Memorial Award for a player who most thoroughly destroyed their Pro prospects by coming back to college. And this year’s winner is…Aaron Gray.

Unfortunately, Aaron couldn't be here today as he’s busy flying to Eastern Europe to interview with teams in the Hungarian A League. I’ll accept the award on Aaron’s behalf. I’m sure he’s honored to have won this prestigious award and will continue to hold up its legacy by flaming out in the NBA and slowly descending into alcoholism as he realizes how much money he pissed away with his “concern for education.” Do you know what that concern got you Aaron? Nothing. Certainly not a spot in the first round if that was what you were thinking. Well, nothing isn’t exactly true. You do have a shot at ending up in the Guiness Book of World Records as the “World’s Largest Physical Education Teacher”. Special thanks goes out to Pitt coach Jamie Dixon for providing us with two of the last three winners in Chris Taft and Mr. Gray. We’re looking forward to awarding another underachieving Pitt big man in the near future. Keep up the good work.

I'd like to present Aaron with this "major award". Enjoy learning a second language.

- I’ve spent a lot of time bitching about the media’s inability to compare athletes from race to race in this space. Then, yesterday, I realized that if I’m not going to be part of the solution then I’m part of the problem. With that in mind, I give you the first entry in what promises to be a running feature ‘round these parts:

Inter-race Athlete Comparisons

Tyler Hansbrough: He’s been called “Mark Madsen with a jumpshot”. Besides the fact that Hansbrough’s jumpshot is about as consistent as the weather in Florida, this comparison is way off. First, Hansbrough isn’t but about 6’8” and, secondly, he’s far more skilled that Madsen ever was or could hope to be. He’s not unlike many of the undersized power forwards that have populated the collegiate game over the years. After examining a number of these players, the one to whom I see the most similarity is Gary Trent. In my opinion, he’s a more skilled version of Trent. Both Hansbrough and Trent are undersized guys with great motors who use their strength and toughness to carve out space underneath the rim where they excel at pounding the boards and scoring over bigger defenders. Additionally, both players have enough range that they can step out to about 15 feet and knock down a high enough % to keep defenders honest, thereby allowing them to score on the occasional dribble drive. Can Hansbrough have a better, more productive career than Trent? Sure, if he gets with the right team and front court. Remember though, Trent had some decent numbers early in his career.

Aaron Afflalo: First things first, this is how you spell his name. If you write a “basketball blog” you should at least be able to correctly spell the name of a 1st team All-American who also happens to go to school in the city in which you live. Maybe I’m just old fashioned. Anyway, I’ve seen a number of comparisons for Afflalo, the most common of which is Richard Hamilton. While this isn’t too far off (somewhat undersized, good shooter but lacks true 3-pt. range, struggles to create off the dribble) I think that Afflalo is probably a little closer to a former NBA shooting guard, Jeff Hornacek. Afflalo is similar to Hornacek in height and athleticism, where Hamilton is both taller (he's undersized because he weighs 180 lbs.) and more athletic than Afflalo. All three are deadly accurate shooters from mid-range who struggle to maintain that level of accuracy beyond the three point line. Furthermore, while each of these players is adept at reading screens and getting open off the ball, both Afflalo and Hornacek are underrated ballhandlers who can create for themselves in an open court situation. Anybody who’s ever watched much of Hamilton realizes that he struggles to lead the break with the ball in his hands, much less create a shot for himself or others. If Afflalo wants to increase his chances of succeeding in the NBA, he’d do well to incorporate a consistent floater in the lane (ala Hornacek) into his offensive arsenal. Hamilton’s height and leaping ability allow him to elevate over defenders and shoot on mid-range jumpers in the NBA. Afflalo would do well to study the head fakes and floaters of Hornacek if he has designs on being anything more than an end of the bench player in the NBA.

Finally, if the ADs at Kentucky and Michigan are interested in winning, and winning big in basketball. And, judging by their recent personnel decisions they are. I would advise them to look into the possibility of hiring John Calipari as the new head coach. Sure, he’s a smug prick and he’s probably gonna have you under NCAA investigation sooner or later but the guy can build a basketball program. Just look at what he’s done during stops at UMass and Memphis? If he can achieve that kind of success on the court and in recruiting at those two places, just imagine what he could do with the resources of a place like either Michigan or Kentucky. This isn’t rocket surgery, folks.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It's a good thing nobody had to get up for work this morning...

I’d start off today with some analysis of all last night’s games if only I had seen all of them. As it stands, I only saw the OSU-Tennessee game in its entirety. I had UCLA-Pitt on the second TV but that game was about as riveting as watching a stripper feed quarters into one of those touch screens video games…don’t ask. As for the early games, I saw the first ten minutes of Kansas-SIU and the final six minutes of A&M-Memphis because I had a city league basketball game last night at 8. I briefly toyed with pulling a JR Rider (Isaiah for the ladies) on my teammates but decided against it since we were only fielding a team of five last night. By the time the game had ended and I had made my way to the nearest bar, A&M and Memphis were locked in what appeared to be a possibly classic finish. You all know what happened from there. Acie Law missed a layup, A&M couldn’t get a rebound and John Calipari earned every cent of his multi-million dollar contract by astutely pointing out that the A&M inbounds pass had hit inbounds after being deflected. On top of that (watch the replay) Cal also managed to avoid the ball as it flew out of bounds thereby allowing a few more tenths of a second to run off the clock. That new hip finally came in handy for the most upstanding coach this side of Clem Haskins.

I’ll say it. I didn’t think Memphis had a chance in this tourney and I couldn’t have been more wrong. I wasn’t alone though, the only person I know who has Memphis going to the Final Four (he actually has them winning it all) also happens to be the biggest alcoholic/drug addict I know. Believe me, when I tell you that this is quite a statement. To be fair though, this is the same guy who once claimed Johnny Damon was the best centerfielder in baseball…while sober.
I’m sure most of us watched the OSU-UT game so I won’t bore you with a recap of the night, save for the following points:

- Ron Lewis is making himself a ton of money right now. He’s definitely getting drafted (albeit in the 2nd round) by somebody this June and that’s not something he could’ve said two weeks ago. He’s been making big shots for this team all year. He won the first UT game with a late jumper and kept them in this game with a bevy of deep 3s, drives to the hoop and clutch free throws. As I watched him last night I thought to myself that this is the sort of thing that you’d expect from a guy who chose to leave a school where he’d clearly be the star (Bowling Green) in order to test his abilities at the highest levels of college basketball. It’s the rare player who craves that sort of challenge and Lewis has continually proved that he’s exactly that type of player.
- Mike Conley, Jr. is everything you want in a PG. He’s a reliable jumpshot away from being a perennial All-Star. I love watching him play. He’s under control, smart and might have the best floater since Mark Jackson.
- Ohio State did everything they needed to do to win that game. However, if Tennessee makes a few free throws down the stretch then they’re the ones still alive in this tournament. Its such a cliché because its true, you must make free throws if you want to advance deep in the NCAA Tourney.
- I’ve railed about the annoyance of within race comparisons amongst athletes in this space before. Last night saw this phenomenon reach a whole new level when the game’s announcers went so far as to compare Chris Lofton to Dell Curry. C’mon, are these people even trying anymore? The only two things these guys have in common is the ability to shoot the ball from deep and similar skin tones. That’s it. Curry is far taller than Lofton and didn’t have nearly the off-the-dribble game that Lofton possesses. It’s like nobody even attempts to make legitimate comparison based on players’ overall skills anymore.

- Last night was the closest I’ve ever come to rooting for Tennessee. I have to admit, it made me feel a little dirty. Okay very, very dirty. I mean, I scrubbed and scrubbed but damnit, they don’t make water hot enough!!!

As for tonight’s games, well, Florida is playing so I could give a shit about the other games. At least until the Gators’ game has concluded. I’m more than a little nervous about Butler. Not just because they’re the kind of tough, defensive oriented team that has given Florida trouble this year but also because there’s some karma working against the Gators here. As you may or may not remember, Billy Donovan’s first run to the Final Four at UF was sparked by Mike Miller’s game winning buzzer beater against Butler in the 2000 NCAA Tournament. Ahh, those were the days. I was in college taking a “full” course load and clearing bongs with more regularity than Lindsay Lohan exposes her beav.

Obviously, a lot has changed since then. I have a real job, Florida’s a legitimate basketball powerhouse, Mike Miller looks a lot less wiggerish and much more European, Udonis Haslem isn’t fat anymore and poor Teddy Dupay is somewhere in South America doing lines off of a Peruvian transvestite’s anus (I believe he dubbed that the “powdered donut” during his time in Gainesville. I could be wrong though). Suffice it to say, things are far different this time around. Except for one thing: If Florida loses against Butler the media will label their season as a disappointment and hail the Cinderella story of those scrappy kids from Butler. God, I’m nervous already. Fuck.
A few housekeeping items:

- Does anybody else think Kobe’s recent scoring…binge? Outburst? ( I need a newer, stronger adjective) might just be an elaborate way to distract us from some horrible crime he committed recently. Seriously, have you seen that new goatee he’s got right now? It just looks evil.

- Stories like this are the reason why the SEC is better than any conference in the country. I mean, can you imagine a family naming their kid after Karl Dorrell?

- Bill Simmons is an idiot. That much we know. However, I’m still amazed that he so brazenly throws out completely erroneous information on subjects he’s supposedly an “expert” on. For instance, in yesterday’s blog he was talking about how deep this year’s draft would be and supported that by citing various players who would’ve top 20 picks last year. And who did he include? How about Aaron Afflalo, Jared Dudley and Nick Fazekas. Are you kidding me? The only one who even had a shot at being drafted in the 1st round was Fazekas. On top of this he adds, “maybe Tyler Hansbrough”. What? He definitely would’ve been drafted in the top 20, possibly the lottery. For a guy who exchanges emails with Chad Ford regularly, he sure doesn’t have a fucking clue what he’s talking about.

- A lot of people have been bashing OJ Mayo lately. I’m not one of those people. In fact, I get the feeling that he and I very, very similar. Just look at this check list I’ve put together:

Enjoys the occasional papal election: Check
Considered an asshole by most of the people you meet: Check
Frequently uses the phrase: "Don’t call me, I’ll call you.": Check
Thinks Tim Floyd is an asshat douchebag: Check

See, I told you me and him were alike. If I was 6’4” and supremely athletic I’d think we were separated at birth.

Finally, I’m going to my first Spring Training game of the year tomorrow to watch the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals take on the Washington Nationals. I’m only going for two reasons (okay three). The tickets are free. It’s the Cardinals and it’s a fifteen minute drive from my house and I’m not a goddamned communist (Is that four?). Only somebody like Greg would choose not to attend one single Spring Training game even though four separate Spring Training facilities are within 45 minutes of your home. As fun as it should be to get out and see some baseball, the real highlight should be when my old man (who was born and raised in St. Louis and on Budweiser) realizes that the Stadium we’re going to has switched over from Bud to Miller. I’m thinking of sneaking a couple Budweiser tallboys in just to keep him from punching the ladies who bring the beer to the luxury boxes. Trust me, nothing enrages my Dad more than the presence of Miller products in lieu of Budweiser. Nothing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tournament Picks...kind of...

So, um yeah. I was really anticipating having a lot more time to dedicate to this NCAA Tournament Preview. It was never going to be an actual Tournament Preview as much as it was going to be a look at the first weekend of the tournament’s most intriguing matchups and storylines (to me). However, since I have had an abnormal amount of meetings this week (and because I’m not going to be working for the rest of the week) there’s still plenty of work to be done by yours truly before quitting time today. With that in mind, I present you the (slightly truncated) Things I Think I Think: NCAA Tournament Edition. (Yep, it's format plagarism, wanna fight about it?)

- There’s probably not a bigger contrast in terms of style between two evenly matched teams in this year’s first round than the Arizona-Purdue game. The contrast lies in not only the style of play, but also the overall cache of each University. For further support of this, one need only look at the rosters of these two teams. While Arizona is loaded with All-Americans, Purdue’s roster is stocked with guys who weren’t even recruited by most Big Ten schools. Of course, there’s a reason that these two are meeting up in an 8-9 game and that reason would be heart, or in Arizona’s case a lack thereof. On paper this game isn’t even close. Yet, as we all know, they don’t play the games on paper. I’m taking Purdue in this matchup because I think they’re tougher, smarter and overall a better team than Arizona’s collection of individuals. If you think I’m taking Purdue b/c I don’t want Florida to see Arizona in round 2, well, you’re smarter than I thought.

- I’m having trouble figuring out which upset I’m gonna pick in the Midwest between ODU-Butler and Maryland-Davidson (and, no I haven’t filled out my bracket yet). I’ve been leaning towards Davidson b/c there seems to be an awful lot of people picking ODU over Butler. I really want to pick Davidson actually. If for no other reason than to make myself feel smarter. However, I think I’m gonna end up taking ODU. Why? DJ Strawberry, that’s why. His defense on Davidson’s Stephen Curry will frustrate the freshman and probably force a few untimely turnovers that allow Maryland to get out and run enough to get themselves a victory.

- As much as I hate Notre Dame, they really won me over late in the Big East season (as well as in the Big East Tourney). In fact, I found myself eyeing them as a potential Final Four sleeper as I watched them play last week in NY. So it makes sense that they’d end up in the same bracket as the Gators. I’m still not sure what, exactly, I’m going to do with the Irish but I can assure you it won’t take them all the way to Atlanta. Listen, I like Mike Brey’s team but if I EVER chose ND over UF, I might have to stab myself in the eye with a paper clip.

- I keep hearing from people about how they’re excited about the Kentucky-Villanova game in round 1. Umm, why? Neither of these teams is that good and, as far as I can tell, they don’t present any intriguing one-on-one matchups. I’m just not sure what I’m missing here. Clearly, there’s something about this game that’s gotten people excited, other than the usual batch of lame “Pick the Wildcats” joke that gets beaten to death every other tournament or so. As far as I can tell, its nothing more than some generic excitement generated by two notable schools from power conference taking each other on. The fact that these two teams rarely play and are now facing off in the tournament is notable, no doubt. I just fail to see how this game is even amongst the most 5-10 interesting first round storylines.

- I’ve heard a few different reporters, anchors, etc, asking the “Why doesn’t Memphis get any respect?” question. Well, I’ve got an answer for you. The #2 seeded team in their conference tournament was…(I’ll let you guess for a second here)…UCF. That’s right the University of Central Florida, who wasn’t even a powerhouse in their former conference (The Trans American Athletic Conference) were the second best team in Conference USA this season. To summarize, once Memphis gets past the first round, they’ll be playing a team that’s better than anybody they faced during their entire conference season. Does the lack of overall respect make sense now?

Finally, I’ve compiled a list of upsets that I’m looking at and will decided upon this evening when I finish my bracket. I won’t pick all of these ( I do want to win a pool for the third consecutive year, you know) but I will pick 3 or 4. Each of them is listed below with some basic information on why I feel their’s some major upset potential brewing in these matchups.

- Duke-VCU: A lot of people are picking this upset, almost too many. In fact, the overwhelming amount of people picking VCU here is giving me pause. It’s starting to feel like this has reverse upset potential. However, I think that VCU’s guards are going to cause a lot of trouble for Greg Paulus and co. They possess the athleticism and scheme to force some turnovers and force Duke to play an up-and-down game against the smaller, quicker Rams. Normally, these upset picks fall flat because the mid-majors can’t contain the power conference schools on the interior. VCU isn’t very big inside, but Duke’s only real big man is Josh McRoberts and his lack of interior presence on offense could prove to be Duke’s undoing here.

- Nevada-Creighton: I’m not calling this game an upset special. I’m picking the winner of this game to upset Memphis in the next round. One problem: I can’t figure out who to pick here. Since I’m taking the winner into the Sweet 16, a correct pick here holds much more value than your average first round upset pick. I really want to take Nevada but I’m scared by their recent lack of success in the tourney as well as that of their star, Nick Fazekas. On the other hand, I feel like Creighton is probably the most underrated of all the mid-majors in this year’s tourney. They’re great defensively, which is typical. However, this year, they have a pretty potent offensive team as well as a senior leader who can take over a game in Nate Funk. I’m genuinely torn here and probably won’t make this pick until just before I turn in my bracket.

- UVA-Albany: TJ and I might be the only two guys I know who immediately thought upset when we saw this pairing. Albany is very good and very experienced. They’re also more athletic than your average America East entry. On top of that, they have a guard in Jamar Wilson who can match up with Virginia all over the floor. Albany is actually the more experienced tournament team in this matchup…by a wide margin. UVA’s chances aren’t helped any by the fact that their big men couldn’t combine to score 30 points against Charlottesville High. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on UVA to get a win here and I feel like Sean Singletary and JR Reynolds may press a little if things get tight late. Albany wins by at least 6 points. Book it.

- Tennessee-Long Beach State: I actually think Tennessee is very good and has some serious Elite Eight potential (they did take OSU to the wire in Columbus). However, a few things have me thinking upset here. First, UT got lucky against Winthrop in last year’s tourney. I mean, Chris Lofton hit a hell of a shot but he had to take 3 steps to do it. Second, I watched the Big West final on Saturday night and LBSU plays a style that will work well for them against the Vols. While the Vols’ press may force some turnovers it’s not going to force LBSU to play an unfamiliar style as they already play a very uptempo game. I think LBSU’s guards will play well against UT’s defensive pressure. Finally, nobody, and I mean nobody, has picked this as a potential 5-12 upset. That’s a red flag as far as I’m concerned. Still not 100% sure, but I’m thinking that we won’t be hearing “Rocky Top” deep into the weekend.

- Washington State-Oral Roberts: Another case of the mid-major being the more experienced tournament team. ORU has two seniors who’ve been starting since their freshman year in Caleb Green and Ken Tutt (who, does not have a condo made of stone-a, contrary to published reports). Furthermore, Washington State seems like they peaked a month or so ago. Plus, there this: God wants ORU to win. Seriously, Oral told me.

- USC-Arkansas: The shoulder chip game. Arkansas has heard all week about how they didn’t deserve to even be in the tournament and they’re coming in with something to prove. The “lack of respect” card is the most overplayed angle in sports, but there’s no denying that it’s a factor. Furthermore, I feel like Arkansas really started to come together late in the year and figured out how to play together. They gave Florida a good effort in the SEC Final but didn’t have any legs left after 4 games in 4 days. Also, I suffer from a debilitating east coast bias as evidenced by my last two picks. So there's that.

So that’s it. Of course, you might want to consider the title of this blog before you go off willy nilly filling out your brackets according to my theories, because, well you know. Now, If you’ll excuse me I’m off to enjoy the greatest weekend in sports.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Bob Huggins thinks Digger Phelps is smart? Well, that explains a lot...

Since it’s Monday and I’m only going to be in the office until Wednesday I’m going to keep today’s post rather short. There are a number of things that I could discuss in light of yesterday’s unveiling of the tournament brackets. However, I have some more pressing (and somewhat related) items to share today, before I return later this week with a more in-depth look at my take on how the tourney’s first two rounds will shake out. Of course, you know I can’t completely ignore yesterday’s events. So, with that in mind, I’ll give you a few of my thoughts from the weekend before I get to the meat of the post.

- I guess I don’t get the overall #1 seed thing. According to people smarter than me, Florida is the #1 overall seed. Then why, pray tell, are they not in the South bracket or facing the winner of the play-in game. As I understand it, the NCAA rewards the highest seeded teams by placing the in their “home brackets”. Additionally, aren’t the teams playing in the play-in game seeded 64 and 65? Isn’t that why they have to play in that craptacular game? I’m having a hard time figuring out why Kansas gets the winner of that game? Of course, you won’t hear me complaining about Wisconsin being the #2 seed in Florida’s bracket? Not by a long shot.

- As for Kansas, I’d be pretty pissed off if I was Bill Self and had to face the possibility of playing UCLA in a regional final located in California. It’s absurd that UCLA can get to the Final Four without leaving California for the second consecutive year. I think the NCAA Committee needs to look a little more closely at the pod system and who’s really being rewarded by it. I mean, when you have Louisville (6 seed) possibly playing a second round game in Lexington it’s not even close to being a fair and equitable situation for whomever they face.
- This was supposed to be the year that the mid-majors finally got a fair shake. Well, I'm willing to be that Drexel and Missouri St. would beg to differ with that sentiment. I think both schools can make a legitimate argument for why they deserve to be playing in the NCAA Tournament. Drexel, especially, seemed to have done everything they could to convince the committee of their worth. They games at Syracuse, Villanova and Creighton while totaling 13 true road wins. That's a staggering number for any school, much less a mid-major who's often facing far larger schools on the road. Sure, they should've finished better than 4th in the Colonial but, other than that, there's not a serious blemish on their resume. Why do I bring all this up? Because I find it interesting that schools like Butler and Southern Illinois have benefited from the newfound mid-major respect to the tune of 5 and 4 seed, respectively while the mid-majors who aren't sure fire locks seem to still be receiving the typical mid-major treatment from the committee. Nobody's denying that Butler has a more impressive resume than Drexel. however, I will say that the CAA was a much better conference than the Horizon. Just as there's a difference in conference quality among the BCS conferences, so to is there a difference amongst the various mid-major conferences. The committee reacted to the recent mid-major driven paradign shift by rewarding mids with higher seeds while continuing to show the hyprocrisy of the process when it came time to evaluate the supposed "borderline" teams from the mid-major conferences. For further proof, consider this: The number of at-large bids for mid-major conferences this year was 7. The lowest number since 1997.

- I’d like to state for the record that Joakim Noah and I are officially feuding. That guy went and stole my dance and then had the audacity to do it on national television. That, my friends, if messed up.

- Speaking of messed up, if you have a queasy stomach, you might want to skip down a paragraph or two. Yesterday, while watching the SEC Final with a friend of mine, we noticed that Bill Raftery is not married. Shocking, I know. Well, since it’s not secret that I find Raftery endlessly amusing, this new found fact led to a round of jokes about Raftery and his voracious appetite for, um women of the night, if you will. Some of the lines uttered included:

- C’mon, just give the big guy a little kiss!
- And she unleashes the puppies!!
- I don’t have a lot of time. How ‘bout a little nickel-dimer?
- (my personal fave): I want you to lick, my onions!

Alright, with that out of the way, I’m going to move on to the story of my Friday night. Well, not the night actually but rather the stories that came from my Friday evening activities. I ended up hanging out with a couple of my friends as well as a co-worker of one of these friends. The night was pretty standard fare for the weekend, lots of drinks and all around douchebaggery except for one detail. My friend’s co-worker had formerly been a basketball player at the University of Cincinnati. He only played at UC for one year before being injured and transferring to a Division II school but not before he spent a freshman year with one of the all time “Whatever happened too…” guys: Dontonio Wingfield.

You may remember Wingfield, then again you may not. He only played one year at Cincy before leaving school and being drafted in the second round by the Seattle Supersonics. As I remember, Wingfield lasted a year or two in the league before moving on to a career overseas, or maybe into a maximum security facility. I wouldn’t be surprised by either, to be quite honest. Wingfield was the personification of the early years of the Huggins led revival at Cincinnati. Players with tons of physical talent and little regard for rules, the law and most of all academics. Wingfield set a UC record for most points by a freshman in his debut game (breaking the record of Oscar Robertson) when he dropped 37 (if memory serves) points and then went on to set a record for fewest classes attended by a freshman at any University in the history of ever. I’m not 100% sure about this record, but I think I’m close here. Anyway, below are a number of stories about the Cincinnati program (some include Wingfield, some don’t) that, while not overly shocking are certainly entertaining:

- During a halftime tirade by Huggins, Wingfield picked up a shoe out of his locker and threw it at Huggins, hitting him square in the head. Huggins was nonplussed.

- Lazelle Durden set the record for most 3 pointers made in a single game during his junior year at Cincy, with 9. Durden was hammered during this game. Like stinking, slurring hammered. According to my source, he’d been drinking gin for the entire afternoon leading up to the game.

- Damon Flint was a world class bama. He could barely read, we’re talking like 3rd grade level here. Oh yeah, he didn’t shower either. Like, ever. Apparently when the guys on the team would go out after games, he would just put clothes on over his uniform and go out like that. He’d literally hang out all night in his sweaty uniform.

- On the day he declared for the NBA Draft, Wingfield was served with 2 paternity suits in addition to being formally kicked out of school. He failed his entire course load.

- Danny Fortson (while in high school) was so angered by being shown up by my source during a summer league game that he actually came off the bench and clotheslined him while he was running full speed downcourt on a fastbreak. I guess not everything was Huggins’ fault.

- Wingfield’s pregame ritual is perhaps my favorite story though: It seems Dontonio would come over to my source’s dorm room and take a shit in his bathroom. Whilst shitting, he would smoke an entire blunt by himself. Of course, all of this was done with the bathroom door wide open to the adjacent rooms. As my source tells it, he came home one day early in the season to find Wingfield doing this and, Wingfield was so happy with the results of this activity on that evening that he decided to make it his pregame ritual for the entirety of the season. Every home game, a big shit and a bigger blunt all in his teammates bathroom.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Are you not entertained?

Friday, March 09, 2007

This post is worth exactly 39 cents...

Man alive were there some good games on last night. The night started with the news of UCLA laying an egg against a Cal team that I hadn't heard one word about all season (the Pac-10 cellar has a tendency to do that to teams) and ended with LSU eeking out a win over Tennessee despite an unbelievable tip-in by the uber-clutch Chris Lofton which was quickly followed by possibly the worst charge call I've ever witnessed. The amount of bogus charges that get whistled these days is reaching epidemic levels. Alas, that is a post for another time.

After John Brady nearly lost the game for LSU by drawing a technical in protest of said call. The Tigers managed to string together a few stops and come out victorious over Tennessee. It's a good thing too. If the game goes double OT, I think there was at least a 55% chance that Glen "Big Baby" Davis would've collapsed right there on the Georgia Dome floor. Jesus, I haven't seen somebdy panting like that since the time we convinced that Special Ed kid to snort his ritalin. All in all, it was one hell of a night of basketball. And to think, we're just getting started. These next two weekends are the only two weekends of the year in which I don't feel like a total loser if I don't go out and get drunk. That's not to say I'm not going to be a stumbling, staggering mess by midnight to night. Rather, that I'll have at least thought about staying in before succumbing to the siren song of the sauce. Anyway, here's a few thoughts about the weekend to come. If you want a little more in-depth analysis (God I can't believe I'm saying this) then heead over the G:TB and see if you can smell what TJ's cooking.
- Notre Dame is sneaky good. This is the most non-descript ND team in about five years, and somehow they're easily the best of that bunch too. I couldn't name a single player on ND besides Colin Falls but they've gotten better as the year's gone on and are probably gonna end up with a 5 seed.
- I'm picking BC to win the ACC Tourney. Don't ask me why (playing Miami today has something to do with it, I'm sure), I just think they'll play UNC tough again and find a way to knock them off in the semis before finishing what they started in the last year's ACC Finals.

- This just in: Engin Atsur has been awarded a 7th year of eligibility by the NCAA. Good. I wasn't sure how the Wolfpack would've gone on without him.

- Can somebody get word to Dominic James that the monochromatic look he's always rocking is horrible. I mean, like, guys wearing capri pants awful. I'm all for color coordination, but do we really need you knee high socks and your completely unneccessary elbow brace to match your team's unis, regardless of color? It's a bit much, no?
- Speaking of uniform issues, anybody who wear one of those elbow things who's not named Allen Iverson is officially a douchebag. You don't need to wear it anymore than I need to have my hands tattooed (Which would be tits, by the way). It's a completely transparent attempt to look "cool". If you want to wear that crap (I looking at you Pat Fitzgerald) then I won't to see a doctor's note.

- I know that he had a great year and this may seem like an overreaction but I'm going to say it anyway. I have zero confidence in Aaron Afflalo as a crunch time scorer in high level NCAA Tourney games. Even before going 1-7 yesterday, he seems to be conspicuous by his absence in most of UCLA's big losses this year and he was highly ineffective during the Bruins' run in last year's tourney. A big time swingman should be able to create his own shot off the dribble and Afflalo really struggles to do that against consistently when guarded by top flight athletes. Remember I said this if UCLA meets a team like SIU in the second round.

And with that, I'm gonna call it a week. Well, not actually. I'm still be at work, though there's a 80% chance I won't do a single ounce of work for the duration of the day.

Friday, March 02, 2007

I'm getting drunk tonight, I mean really drunk. Who's with me?

Once again, I’m back on a Friday with what amounts to questionable motivation and nary a topic that I can write more than a few hastily prepared sentences about. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I could write about the University of Florida Basketball team and their precipitous late season nosedive. However, I’m going to choose the path of guarded optimism here and hope, nay, pray that the debacle in Knoxville on Tuesday night was precisely what was needed to snap the Gators out of the late season malaise that seems to have overtaken them ever since they clinched the SEC regular season title.

Before I move on though, there’s a couple of things worth mentioning here. First, I think we’ll have a good idea of what this Gator team has in the way of mental toughness by the way they play against Kentucky on Sunday. While certainly not in a must win situation, UK is desperate to break their losing streak against the Gators and take some heat off of their maligned head coach. Second, and more importantly, there’s a ton of talk among UF fans that Joakim Noah is/has been struggling with a respiratory ailment of some kind for the past few weeks. Some have said that he never got completely over the upper respiratory infection he suffered earlier in the season, while others are asserting that this is a new ailment. Either way, it’s clear to most that Noah doesn’t have the same energy or stamina that became his signature last year. If you will recall, Donovan took him out for a prolonged stretch during the second half against Tennessee despite the fact that Noah had sparked the 14-2 run that effectively kept the game from being one of the worst losses in recent UF history. I said I wasn’t going to talk about the Gators today, so I guess that means I should move on at this point.

As always, these are my collection of assorted, nonsensical ramblings from the past week (or so):
- Acie Law is pretty much the definition of clutch right now. How does he continue to hit so many enormous shots for A&M? It’s to the point of being comical. His first game tying, buzzer beating three against Texas was easily the shot of the year in college basketball. The degree of difficulty on that shot was out of this world. Alright, now that I’ve dispensed with the generalized superlatives, here what I really think about his game. He’s still underrated as a PG. He’s in control at all times and does a great job of setting up his teammates early in the game. He knows he can score whenever he wants, so he picks his spots and makes sure his teammates get in a rhythm early. Offensively, he’s extremely crafty as a ballhandler and always find seams within the defense. He finishes with either hand in traffic better than any guard I can remember in recent past. On top of that, he shoots a great % from behind the arc and that % only goes up as the game goes on. In my opinion, he’s going to be an All-Star within a few years. Of course, I also think that his lack of mind blowing measurables and “lack of upside” (read: He’s a 22 year old college senior) will end up dropping him into the teens in the NBA Draft. Just wait, I guarantee he won’t get selected in the lottery.

- Speaking of the draft process, I’m starting to hear that Reggie Nelson is sliding down some draft boards, which I find amusing. We all know that theres a lot of disinformation put out prior to the NFL Draft but I’m starting to wonder if scouts even watch college games anymore. First, Nelson is going to be selected behind (possibly far behind) Laron Landry after Landry ran a 4.4 40 at the combine while Nelson clocked in the 4.5 range. While the stopwatches don’t lie, can anybody seriously tell me that they ever, ever thought Landry was as fast as Nelson when they saw the two of them on the field? I sure didn’t. Second, some teams are questioning Nelson’s intelligence and ability to read offenses. While Nelson doesn have a learning disability, I fail to see how that ever affected his ability to read schemes on the collegiate level. I think (and I doubt I’m alone here) that there’s a fundamental difference b/w “football smarts” and book smarts. Finally, there’s a lot of talk about how some teams don’t think Nelson is big enough to play safety in the NFLand are projecting him as a corner. Nelson is thin, no doubt. In fact, he’s just over 200 lbs. However, the guy hits like a truck (ask Mohammed Massaquoi, among many, many others) and even at 170 lbs in high school, he recorded over 170 tackles while playing linebacker for the state champs in Florida. Have I mentioned that he plays center field as well as any college safety in the last 5 years? Of course, he’s shown the ability to play the corner as well. Personally, I think he could do either very successfully in the NFL. (While I’m definitely biased here, he’s a pretty rare talent in the eyes of this writer). I guess, I’m a little confused on how a similar hybrid, Tennessee’s Jason Allen (who missed almost all of his senior year with a broken hip), could go at #18 to the Dolphins and a first team All-American like Nelson can be as one scout called him, “the 4th best safety in the draft.”

- While I’m on the “no respect for Gators” theme. I ought to mention a couple things that have mildly annoyed me lately. First, this weeks SI has a big feature on a college athletic program that’s simply called “The Program” where they talk about the overall excellence of the program, blah, blah, blah. Of course, they didn’t write this feature on the only school to ever win the Football and Basketball National Titles in the same year. No, instead they wrote it on Ohio State, a team whose football and basketball teams were beaten by 27 and 26 points, respectively by the University of Florida. Secondly, guess who’s gracing the cover of NCAA Football 2008 next year? Chris Leak, the QB of the National Champion Gators? Nope, it’s Jared “Good thing my coach knows some great trick plays” Zabransky of Boise State. Some people may think bitching about this sort of thing is petty, and those people are correct. It is petty. It still doesn’t stop me from being pissed off about it.

- I’d like to be the first person to congratulate Cedric Maxwell on his comments toward NBA referee Violet Palmer. In case you missed it, Maxwell reacted to one of Violet’s many atrocious calls (she’s one of the worst 2 or 3 refs in the league) by saying, (Im paraphrasing), “ Woman, get back in the kitchen and cook me some bacon and eggs!”. Bravo sir, way to say what every coach in the NBA has been thinking for years now. Though, I must say that I thought Maxwell really blew it by not working in his awesome nickname into the insult. I mean, think how much cooler it would’ve been if he had added, “and whip me some cornbread too while you’re in there.” Personally, I think he might’ve escaped condemnation altogether if he’d have included that gem.

- Has anybody ever noticed that every time somebody tries to discredit bloggers, they always throw out some line like, “What do they know, they’re all sitting in their parents’ basement in their underwear typing away on their laptops.” Really? Do these schmucks not know that most bloggers are wasting away hours on the company clock writing half their entries? As for living in their parents’ basement and typing in their underwear, I think these crusty old sportswriters are confusing “bloggers” with hackers, gamers and D&D players. Now, those guys are pathetic. Waaay more pathetic than me. Shit, my parents don’t even have a basement.

- Speaking of people who bash bloggers, Bill Simmons had a particularly embarrassing quote in his All-Star Weekend diary. At some point during the column, he actually wrote, “Settle down homes.” Listen, if you don’t even know how to spell a slang term then you’re not allowed to use it…EVER. The term is “Holmes” and it was converted to homeboy or homey. I can see where this might confuse somebody your age, Bill. You see, you’re old now, so stop trying to be hip and pretending that you’re more in the loop than the rest of the assorted media horde. Shit, I’m almost 30 and I realize I’m not “cool” anymore. It’s okay. Hell, if I didn’t know this I’d be running around wearing huge fitted hats with straight bills on the top of my head...and nobody needs to see that.

- I’m not a Broncos fan, but I have to say that I think they’ve developed a brilliant strategy for acquisition of talent. Basically, they develop talent at running back, and now o-line, (due in no small part to their blocking scheme) and eventually trade away that developed talent for talent at other positions of need. The trade for Dre Bly was a perfect example of this, as was the Portis-Bailey trade. While I don’t think Bly’s as good as his rep, can anybody legitimately think the Broncos will miss Tatum Bell's contributions this year more than they’ll gain from the addition of Bly?
- As for the team I actually follow, I’d like to come out now in support of Tampa signing Jeff Garcia. What’s there to lose? You sign him to a incentive laden deal with the chance to be a starter. He’ll thrive in Gruden’s west coast system that’s predicated on QBs with smarts and mobility and won’t be nearly as hindered by Tampa’s mediocre o-line as Simms or anybody else Gruden's ahd under center. Even his weak arm won’t hurt him much (see: Gannon, Rich) while running Tampa’s offense. On top of that, Chris Simms could probably learn a few things from the combined tutelage of Gruden and Garcia. It’s a win-win situation for both parties in my opinion. What’s keeping this from happening?

- In case you needed further proof of how talented Kevin Durant is, consider this: Durant has recorded eight 30 pt. games during Big 12 conference play. Prior to this year, there had been nine 30 pt. games posted by freshman in Big 12 history.

A couple of recommendations:

- Whether you’re a fan or not, go see The Roots in concert some day. I went to see them again last weekend (9th time) and it may have been the best show I’ve seen yet. In addition to their consistently amazing performances, they included a full rhythm section for this tour that took the show's sound and feel to a completely new level. Two straight hours of unbelievable musicianship.

- If you’re looking for a good, easy read on a plane ride or the beach this summer (What is this? House of Style?) go out and get 7 seconds or less by Jack McCallum. McCallum spent the entire 06-07 season with Phoenix Suns with unprecedented access to everyone in the organization. Based on this alone, the book is worth it. You get to read all kind of behind the scenes NBA stuff that the public rarely has access too. What puts the book over the top though, is the amount of interesting storylines that developed throughout the season, Stoudemire’s injury and rehab, Bryan Colangelo leaving the team to become GM of the Raptors, the Suns’ playoff run (which included two classic 7 game series’ against both L.A. teams) as well as a number of other items that I won't get into here. If you enjoy the NBA, even remotely, you’ll love this book.

- Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I met Hedo Turkoglu in Orlando last weekend. For those of you wondering, yes, he is just a ugly and goofy in person as he appears on TV. I mean, jaw droppingly ugly. I don’t know if I’d be willing to look like that in exchange for being 6’9”. Seriously.