Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Badger Classic: Game 1

Well, today was the much anticipated Badger Classic tournament at the Wisconsin Fieldhouse. I took off work for a solid day of basketball, and would do so again for the second day of the tournament if not for the fact that a) I've got a bunch of things that really need to get done at work, and b) my family is celebrating a late Christmas during the time that most of the games are going on. I probably won't even get to take in Gonzaga vs. Oklahoma State on ESPN tomorrow night. These are the sacrifices that I make for family. Thankfully, my family is not only worth missing a Gonzaga-Oklahoma State game, but perhaps even a Wisconsin-Michigan State game. That is how much I love those people.

But enough commentary on my family--I saw three and a half basketball games today. There were college prospects, state championship contenders, good friends, and great basketball minds, all hovering around in the Fieldhouse. It was a phenomenal day, and with the exception of a handful of great basketball fans that I know who weren't with me today, there's no group I would rather take in a game with. My car arrived in Madison around 11:30am and my buddy T.J. and I wandered into the Fieldhouse to meet up with our group. The fun began then, and it can only be described, as usual, in a series of short points. Since there’s so much of the day to cover, and I haven’t had much free time in which to write, I’ll begin with one game today, and hopefully finish the rest later this evening:

Game #1: West Allis Hale vs. Roosevelt High (Sioux Falls, SD)

1) The big draw of this game was the jewel of the most recent Wisconsin recruiting class Joe Krabbenhoft. Krabbenhoft looked generally solid. He's fairly athletic, shoots the ball well, makes good decisions, and generally looks like he knows what he's doing. I can't give an in depth assessment, since he didn't play much after halftime, due to the ass-kicking that Roosevelt put on West Allis Hale. He looked like a nice pick up for the Badgers, though, from what I could tell in his limited action. I'd love to see him play against Milwaukee Vincent tomorrow.

2) As I mentioned, Roosevelt had the ballgame in hand pretty early on. A big reason why was that Hale's marquee player, Akron recruit John Rybak, was sitting out. I was excited to see Rybak play against a legitimate player of his size, but I guess it just wasn't in the cards today. Another fan in our section reported that Rybak had appendicitis. Whatever was wrong with him, I hope it's something that can be fixed quickly, because Rybak is lots of fun to watch. I'm still a bit disappointed that my non-Milwaukee friends didn't get the chance to see the one guy there I had seen several times and really liked.
There aren't many better shooters out there.

3) Hale's usual starting center was also in street clothes, so their team was lacking its usual size advantage, and significant portions of its scoring ability. It really showed, too. This was not the Hale team that I saw earlier, with solid guards and five guys that could shoot the three. When Hale’s guards had to penetrate, they looked a lot less pretty. Things should be okay again when their starting line-up returns to normal, and they’re not playing one of the best teams in South Dakota.

4) One of Roosevelt’s head coaches had really bad hair. He looked just like Richard Marx on the cover of the album “Repeat Offender.” I guess modern hair styles haven’t come to South Dakota yet.

5) Joe Krabbenhoft was not only a good player, but he’s also no litter bug. After dropping a cup behind the team bench, he curled around the row of chairs which his team was on to retrieve and dispose of said cup. If I was a superstar basketball player, I might have let that cup lay there and let someone pick it up later. Of course, you’d hope that a superstar basketball player would have the hands to simply hang onto the cup in the first place. Credit for this point goes to several of the other friends I was attending the games with.

And with that, I’ll hang up the keyboard for awhile. Hopefully I’ll be back with the rest of my thoughts tonight.

Monday, December 27, 2004

UWM vs. Kansas

UWM took on Kansas Wednesday night, and for all of Milwaukee's channel 41's faults, they showed the game flawlessly. And it was quite the game, with the Panthers keeping things much closer than expected on one of the nation's top teams. I'm saddened that I didn't get to see Wayne Simien suit up for Kansas, but KU had enough other ridiculously talented players to keep me appeased. Here are the thoughts:

1) It had been awhile since anyone had seen anything from Ed McCants, but he gave a performance on Wednesday that I can only describe as Diener-esque. Wow. For a long stretch (up until the final 5 minutes or so), it seemed like if McCants threw up a three-pointer, it was certain to go in. That was among the best performances that I've seen this year. It was nice to have Ed back.

2) While McCants stuck out, the Panthers aren't in the game without the play of a few other guys, most notably, Adrian Tigert. I never remembered Tigert being the inside-outside threat that he is now, but he has progressed to the point where he can kill you with a three-pointer, or a nice duck-under move underneath the hoop. As long as Ed McCants, Joah Tucker, and a handful of other flashy guards are around, Tigert's never going to be the name that gets hyped up at UWM, but don't be fooled--the Panthers would not be nearly as well off if he wasn't around.

3) Keith Langford has really been around Kansas for awhile. I still remember all of the hype he got when he was a freshman, which was somewhat surprising, since I think Danny Manning was national player of the year that year, as well.

4) If you look at a box score from the game, you'd think that James Wright had a pretty pedestrian, or even bad game. No points, no assists, six rebounds. Doesn't seem like he did much. But, if you watched the game, you'd know that Wright's crafty work in the post resulted in him drawing about five fouls on Kansas' freshmen rotatation that was attempting to replace Wayne Simien, including one stretch where he drew three off-the-ball fouls on two consecutive UWM offensive possessions. Of couse, Wright, who's nearing retirement age, should be able to outwit a bunch of freshmen.

5) Well, I guess Kansas's Alex Galindo is their next big outside shooting threat. I was pretty pleased with his looks from behind the line, and on the foul line. I'll have my eye on him for the next few years.

6) Who's letting Jason McCoy shoot from behind the three-point arc? Who do I need to talk to to make this stop?

Overall, I was pleased to see a UWM team respond well in a tough environment following a bad loss. The Panthers will never be on the level of Kansas, but they showed in this game that they could give a team like Kansas a run in the tournament if Ed McCants or Joah Tucker gets hot. And with Chicago-Illinois' loss to UW-Parkside, you'd have to think that the Panthers will have an easy road to the conference championship as they embark on the rest of their journey through the Horizon League.

On a final note, the holidays have been busy for me, and I'm still down one game for the weekend. I'll recap that, along with my trip to the Badger Classic high school tournament in Madison, which I plan on leaving for immediately after posting this. And yes, I did take the day off of work to watch high school basketball. Stop making fun of me.

Random High School Game of the Week: Waukesha North at Cedarburg

This past Wednesday night took me to the Cedarburg High School gym for a non-conference showdown between Cedarburg and Waukesha North. The game itself wasn't a particularly interesting matchup, but I've wanted to see North's dynamic duo of Steve Shirley and Tom Erdmann, and my last (and favorite) coach from my playing days has been the coach at North for some time. I had never seen him coach a game since he took the job something like 8 years ago. Since not much else worth seeing was going on in the area, it seemed like the right time to check out a game. My thoughts below:

1) So I go to the game with the primary goal of seeing Steve Shirley, and then he doesn't get off the bench until the second quarter. That was a bit confusing, but at least he eventually got in the game. I'd have to assume that perhaps he missed a practice for holiday week or something. I always like to assume the best.

2) I'm not sure what to make of Steve Shirley at this point. He's got a very nice shot. He battles well when he's in traffic (which he gets caught up in too much, by the way). And he doesn't look like a typical basketball player. His arms and legs are fairly short, and I'd say that if he were a few inches shorter, he'd be a good high school wrestler. I wasn't blown away by much more than his shot, but when a guy's scoring upwards of 20 points per game, who am I to critisize.

3) Shirley's early absence allowed me to watch more of North's other 20 point-per-game scorer, Tom Erdmann. I really liked Erdmann. He was a heady player, and though he was physically fairly thin, he could do a lot of things on the court. It sort of looked to me at times like he could give a bit more work to his left hand, but overall I was very impressed on all areas of the floor. And it also bears noting-it's pretty cool when a skinny, 6-foot tall guard throws down two dunks in a game. Who would have thought a guy that looked like that would even be allowed to dunk in a game?

4) Waukesha North runs a nice trapping defense. I was sort of trying to see if my old coach was still running things that my JV team ran back in the day, but I didn't remember much of what I saw, which I attribute partly to my poor memory, and partly to the fact that things probably have changed quite a bit in the past 10 years. The trapping defense was a nice touch, though, and given that Waukesha North's three best players are guards (their point guard was pretty good, too), trapping seemed like a naturaral way to go.

5) I walked into the gym right behind famed Sheboygan North coach Tom Desotell. For a moment, I thought that the noted basketball junkie had picked an odd random game to attend. Then it occurred to me that Sheboygan North has a game later this year against Waukesha North. So I guess some scouting was going on. My first clue should have been the video equipment that Desotell had with him. Now that's dedication.

6) The coaching bench for Waukesha North was an interesting sight. As I noted, the head coach was my old coach from my Tosa East JV days, but he was also accompanied by a JV coach who had done a bit of coaching back at my old school, and coaching legend Jim Rebholz, a longtime coach and gym teacher at Tosa East. It was a weird, retro feel looking at that bench. The only difference from the past was that the power structure was reversed, and the young guys were now in charge. It was kind of neat to see, but really, after the first quarter, there was enough action to watch on the floor that I pretty much ended up ignoring the bench.

7) Cedarburg big man Jake Asplin has been a solid scorer each time that I've seen the Bulldogs play. He's a tall skinny guy, and I found myself thinking of old of the old videos of Tom Burleson that I've seen while I was watching him. Which I suppose is to say that both were tall guys that didn't look like much just standing there, but they were surprisingly effective when they hit the floor. Sure, Burleson was a good 8 inches taller, but you see my point.

So eventually, Waukesha North won a game that was closer than it should have been, and I headed back to watch the UWM-Kansas game that I had recorded. It would indeed be a good night.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Putting Things Off

Well, it's late. Normally I like to be at least 3/4 done with the daily write-up by now and take a bit of a morning break from work to finish things off. Given the late hour, lack of time to begin writing now, and the massive amount of work that I need to get done tomorrow, I'm going to have to delay my reflections on one of the best basketball evenings I've had in awhile. Rest assured that the closer-than-expected Cedarburg-Waukesha North high school game will get its due, as will the closer-than-expected UWM-Kansas game. Wow, what a night.

Tomorrow takes me to Madison for the Wisconsin-UNC-Greensboro game. It's not a marquee game, but I never frown on getting in to the Kohl Center. Many thanks to my friend who provided the hook-up.


Tuesday evening saw me do something that I didn’t expect to do all year—I turned down tickets to a game. Marquette was playing Nebraska at home, but I decided to forego the game and stay home to take care of some things, and of course, take in some basketball. I was doing some chores around the apartment, so I didn’t get to see a full game, but I did catch significant portions of Iowa-Texas Tech, Michigan State-UCLA, and Gonzaga-Eastern Washington on TV. And I listened to all but the last 10 minutes of the Marquette game as I cleaned my kitchen, and let me tell you, my refrigerator has never smelled more fresh. On to my points:

1) Paul Davis is one of the most absolutely bizarre players that I’ve ever seen. It seems like every time that I tune into a Michigan State game, he’s putting up 20 points and 12 rebounds, and generally looking awesome. If I’m not watching, though, it’s not unlikely that the next day I’ll hear that he only shot the ball twice and finished the game with 4 rebounds. It sort of reminds me of when I would watch Sesame Street as a kid, and Mr. Snufalufagus always seemed to leave when anyone would come around Big Bird, so everyone thought he was imaginary. I think the bad Paul Davis is imaginary, since I’ve never seen him. Although, much like the people of Sesame Street eventually got to see Mr. Snufalufagus, I suspect that someday I will see bad Paul Davis.

2) I recognize that I’m paying an extra $5 for the Time Warner digital sports package, but even with 4 special channels devoted largely to college basketball this time of year, it still boggles my mind that I live in Milwaukee and I’ve seen Gonzaga play on television almost the same number of times as Wisconsin. And if not for public television replys, the Bulldogs would be in the lead. I guess they’re really trying to shake that mid-major label.

3) Travis Diener scored the first 12 points for Marquette last night-all on 3-pointers. This guy will never stop amazing me. I must admit, however, that I was somewhat pleased when Dameon Mason tossed in a layup, since Steve “The Homer” True’s “The score is Diener 12, Nebraska 10” bit was wearing thin very quickly. That was clever when I was 14 years old, but wasn’t so great last night, which surprised me, since I normally like Homer’s personality (if not his ability to call a solid game).

4) While watching Iowa easily pick apart Texas Tech last night, I couldn’t help but wonder how Bobby Knight was reacting to that one. Of course, in the first half when the referees called the 13th traveling violation on Tech, Knight was bent over with his head in his hands looking frustrated. Actually, he sort of looked like that for most of the first half. But what I really wondered about was two things. First, in post game, assuming he shook hands with former protégé, and current Iowa coach Steve Alford, did he calmly say something like “You little bastard—I won’t forget this, and some day I’m going to bury your ass by far more than 30 points.” Because that seems like something that Knight would do. Second, when he went to the locker room with his team, did he pull out one of those “You will not put me in that situation again!” speeches that we’ve all heard on bad audio tape, or is this team just too poor for him to put out the effort? I hope he wasn’t too hard on the guys, because as poorly as they played, Iowa continues to look very impressive.

5) I think I’m softening my stance on Rony Turiaf. Last night, shaggy beard, bad teeth and all, he actually threw out a couple of really nice post moves while I was watching him play. He’s a far cry from the high-energy, lanky freshman that I remember watching. I hate high-energy guys—they make the rest of us look bad.

6) I briefly flipped on Time Warner’s Wisconsin On Demand channel before I went to bed to see if there were any high school games available to watch. Then I pulled up last week’s Milwaukee Pius-Waukesha South girls’ game. Then, about 30 seconds into the game I realized what I was watching and turned off the game. I may have to turn it on again, though, because those old man, second-rate announcers for the games can be interesting. I loved it last year while watching a Marquette High game where one of the announcers started talking about how Marquette was playing a triangle and one defense. That can’t be one of the more effective defenses out there.

7) Last night marked the debut of Marquette freshman Niv Berkowitz, who's slated to back up Travis Diener at the point. I missed it, but he only played 2 minutes last night, so I'm not too distraught. He should provide some much-needed depth at the point, although Diener probably will never step off the floor for more than 4 minutes in any hotly contested game. Still, Berkowitz is a nice luxury to have.

8) Did the ESPN crawl last night deceive me? Did division 2 UW-Parkside really knock off reigning Horizon League champ Illinois-Chicago? The same UW-Parkside that looked mediocre at best against Wisconsin a month ago? Wow, that's just incredible. I guess UWM should waltz its way to a Horizon championship this year.

So that’s it for last night. Tonight should be fun, as I’m positive I’ll watch the Kansas-UWM game, which will not be pretty if the Panthers play as they did against Wisconsin last week. There’s about a 10% chance that I’ll get out to a high school game tonight, but I don’t want to talk about it, or it will surely turn into a 0% chance. Either way, it should be fun to relax for a bit before the holidays totally hit.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Arizona State-Northwestern

Last night, I had hoped to watch the Arizona State-Northwestern game, where I planned to get my first look at Mike Thompson in a Northwestern uniform, and my first lengthy look at Ike Diogu. I got a bit of a look at the second half, but I was thrown off track upon stopping at my parents house to pick up something (oddly, something basketball related). My mother was having a computer problem, and needed me to look into it. An hour and a half later, I hadn’t yet solved the problem, I had missed the first half of the game, and I’m pretty sure I erased every photo of the first two year’s of my niece’s life from my mother’s computer. You see, I don't actually know that much about computers. Anyway, based on what I did see, here are my few thoughts:

1) I still absolutely love Vedran Vukusic of Northwestern. Mike Thompson might be from Duke, but Vukusic is still the man on this team.

2) ASU was an embarrassment as far as attendance goes. There was no one in the upper deck of their arena, and the lower deck was far from full. I called my friend Peter, an ASU alum, to complain about this, and he said that it’s pretty much the norm, which still astounds me. I visited ASU once, and on my drive through campus, I managed to come upon an area with something like 5 gigantic athletic facilities. As I continued on my drive, I think I only saw one academic building the entire time. So yeah, I probably should have gone to school there.

3) Ike Diogu had an off night statistically, but he sure looked good when I saw him. Of course, when I saw him, the game was essentially over and there were about 6 minutes to go, but he definitely showed me enough to warrant me trying to find another ASU game to watch.

4) After work yesterday, I told my dad that I was excited to watch the Northwestern-Arizona State game, to which he replied “You’re going to Evanston tonight!” No Dad, I’m not going on a 4-hour round trip on a Monday to see two unranked basketball teams play. Besides, the game was an away game for Northwestern. I guess he’s beginning to recognize the joy I take in watching games, but I would hope that he knows that even I’m not that fanatical. Geez.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Random Musings

Well, a few brief basketball musings as I take my lunch break and wait for a meeting to begin:

1) Well, I guess Rick Majerus isn’t going to USC after all, meaning that my original prediction that he would stay put at ESPN (this assumes, of course, that they’ll take him back, which is a pretty safe assumption) is now turning out to be true. Honestly, when I made that prediction, it seemed pretty clear that Majerus was going, but it just didn’t add up in my head when I thought about it logically. Good to know that Majerus is thinking like me, now. I think this will be a positive choice for him, and I know it will be a positive choice for viewers like me who enjoy his witty banter.

2) In all of the hoopla surrounding the Marquette game, I forgot to point out the return of the most ridiculous halftime game of all time. The premise of the game? A Marquette student must sink 2 out of 3 half court shots for a $10,000.00 credit towards Marquette tuition. Oh, and the 3 shots are from different spots, meaning you can’t just take the easy way out and take 3 strait shots from center court—you have to take one from the left side and one from the right. Couldn’t we just parade some student out to half court and give them the Marquette prize pack and let them sit back down quickly? Either that or the marketing department should just pony up the extra $100 for better insurance coverage on the game, rather than making it the most impossible game of all time. Maybe next year they’ll have a game that requires contestants to drop-kick 10 balls in a row through the hoop from half-court. The lack of suspense would still be there, but at least that would be funny to watch. And one last thought—if some lucky student ever did hit 2 of 3 half court shots, they would get less than half of one year’s tuition ($21,550) at Marquette. Somehow, a super-human shooting display like that seems worthy of at least the entire year’s tuition, if not a semester’s worth of books, as well.

3) I’ve got a few outlying conspiracy theories going on with regard to basketball, and the next three points are about those. First, last week my friend T.J. emailed me a story about the transfer of Mohamed Abukar, a forward for Florida. You can check it out here. After you do, here’s my reaction, which I sent to T.J. on Friday:

What I find most interesting about this article is that this guy is leaving Florida after originally committing to Georgia. Georgia, as we know, was really, really dirty. Florida, as we know, is widely believed to be very dirty. Donovan's comments about how something like this is almost always related to playing time strikes me as a comment designed to brush this off as if it's no big deal. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks there's something much bigger going on down in Florida. We may not know of it for awhile, and it has probably already been going on for awhile, but it's something big.

So that’s the first theory out there. Keep your eye on Florida going forward. Hopefully I’m just crazy.

4) I was watching North Carolina play on Sunday afternoon, and for some reason my mind wandered to the 1993 national championship game between North Carolina and Michigan. You know, the one where Chris Weber called the timeout. As you’ll recall, before the infamous timeout, the referees missed an obvious traveling violation by Weber. My question is, did Weber knowingly call the timeout with an intent to get a technical foul? Knowing what we do now about the ethical transgressions of Michigan (and Weber in particular) during that time period, is it possible that Weber was in on some sort of bigger gambling scheme or something? I mean, he catches an inbounds pass, and fails to dribble before he starts running, a bizarre error to see at that juncture of the game. Then, after the refs fail to call him on it, he has to make another mistake to turn the ball over to UNC. He realizes that another glaring physical error would look suspicious, so he decides to call a timeout that he knows his team does not have so that UNC can waltz away with the game. I don’t know—maybe this has already been discussed to death by people more into this than I, and maybe this theory doesn’t work for some reason that only gamblers would understand, but it still seems odd to me that Weber could screw up that badly two times during the most important final minute of his life.

5) As a general rule, I don’t consider the NBA to be basketball, per se, but since guys who once played basketball often go on to the NBA to earn a living, it is a basketball-related product. So then, have you noticed the NBA schedule on Christmas day? Miami and the L.A. Lakers play. This I get—some marketing guy knew that Shaq-Kobe would bring big numbers, and rightly chose to schedule the showdown on a big day. The other game is more curious: Detroit at Indiana. Interesting. It’s probably not a game that I’d want to watch, prior to the near-riot in Detroit earlier this year, but now it seems like a pretty interesting sub-plot. Pretty convenient to have for one of the Christmas day games. Could the riot be a publicity stunt, created for big Christmas day ratings?

That’s it for now. Oh, and I realize that that last theory is full of holes and likely bears no basis in reality, but you can’t help but think that the NBA really lucked out to have that game scheduled for Christmas day. That’s probably the only good thing to come of it, though.

Marquette vs. Arizona

Saturday was to be a 2-game day for me, and the early game would be the Marquette-Arizona game. Because my friend Dez has season tickets and a wife has a job that requires her to work weekends (and because he's a phenomenally nice guy), I had the chance to attend in person. And I knew it would be a good time, too, since Dez is just as likely as I to catch a great basketball moment, and then make fun of some other nuance of the arena. So, it was downtown to meet up with Dez, and our other friends, Dave and The Franchise, who are also season-ticket holders.

After a lunch which saw The Franchise down an omelet with tobasco sauce, we headed to the game and split off into our respective seats. There was about 20 minutes to tip-off, which was fine with me, due to the excellent non-game things that go on at the Bradley Center (which may very well make up most of this game recap). Enough of the narrative, though--here are my bullet points:

1) I caught just my second Tom Crean pre-game Jumbotron message to fans this season. I love that Crean addresses the fans directly via video prior to the start of the game. It's a move that's just sincere enough to elicit greater fan support from a fan base that's absolutely in love with the guy, but also is just cheesy enough to make you chuckle a bit inside. I wish more coaches would take time out to give a cheesy thank you to fans. Opposing fans may mock this touch, but if their own coaches were doing it, they'd absolutely love it.

2) The video that Marquette shows at the start of their player introductions includes footage of each of the players doing a ball slap with a basketball that they're holding. It's another fairly cool thing, but I couldn't help but notice that four of the players slap the ball much more powerfully than the rest of the team. Marcus Jackson and Chris Grimm slap much harder, presumably just because they're much bigger and stronger. Dameon Mason and Travis Diener also have excellent ball slaps, too, though. Since Diener and Mason are the best players on the team, I couldn't help but think that my freshman basketball coach might have been on to something when he used to take a few minutes worth of practice to have us stand in a circle and practice ball slaps. At the time, I thought it was his only move more insane than making us dribble on the wall. If Marquette’s best players are the best ball slappers, though, perhaps he wasn't as crazy as I thought.

3) Chris Grimm got another start, and began the game guarding Hassan Adams. I guess this makes it official that Grimm is now the guy that Crean is going to use to check the most athletic member of the opposing team. I still think that's pretty insane, and can't fathom how Tom Crean came up with the idea, but it did at least work fairly well against Wisconsin's Alando Tucker last week.

4) Robb Logterman, Marquette's reigning 3-point champ until Travis Diener passed him on Saturday, was honored during a time-out on Saturday. Upon seeing him on the Jumbotron, Dez said to me something to the effect of "When you look at Logterman, he looks like a guy that has a nice office job as an accountant or something. And you just know that when he started his job, no one knew who he was, and one of the friendly guys in the office came up to him one day and said 'Say Robb, me and some of the guys play basketball at lunch on Tuesdays, and if you'd like to join us, you'd be more than welcome to come.' Then Logterman lights up his co-workers when they finally play." And frankly, that explanation by Dez pretty much pegs exactly what Logterman looked like. You can see why I like sitting with this guy.

5) So Salim Stoudemire didn't play. Some would say that that was a big break for Marquette, but they'd be wrong. While it certainly didn't help Arizona to be without one of their top guards, Chris Rodgers played much like I would expect a starting guard for Arizona should.

6) Hassan Adams is still a forward at only 6'4", but I don't know that I've seen a more obscene athlete than him this year. The defining play of the game for him was an errant alley-oop pass that was thrown to him on a fast break. The pass was thrown hopelessly high, and 90% of guys playing division one basketball (and 100% of 6'4" guys) would have just watched the ball sail out of bounds. Adams leapt to where he got both of his hands on the ball, but it was simply too high to catch. A replay on the Jumbotron showed his hands at the top of the box on the backboard. Not too shabby for a 6'4" guy.

7) Marquette half time did not disappoint. The first of the festivities was a musical chairs contest involving contestants who had to dribble from half court with a ball, make a lay-up, and return to chairs at halfcourt faster than the other contestants. In one of the more astounding moments that I've ever seen at a half-time contest, one of the contestants went up for a lay-up, and came down in a heap. I couldn't see exactly what happened, as he fell right in front of the basket, and the basket blocked my view. From what I could tell, though, it looked like he must have blown out his knee. Fortunately, the Bradley Center staff reacted quickly and eventually got him off to the side, and into a wheelchair for an early exit from the arena. I assume (and hope) he'll be okay, other than the fact that he will probably take endless amounts of crap from his friends for blowing out his knee trying to shoot an uncontested lay-up.

8) I got a chuckle from a couple of the signs in the Marquette student section during the game. Perhaps most interesting was the sign that read: “Hey Diener, Facebook Me!” I would guess that this would be a reference to facebook.com, which as far as I can tell, seems to be the college version of friendster.com, that site where insecure people go to prove that they have friends. The sign was clever, though, and viewing it was enhanced by the fact that the camera operator for the Jumbotron screen kept trying to avoid the larger sign a few rows in front that simply read “Touch Me,” and had arrows pointing down.

9) It's official--Mustafa Shakur not only makes my all-name team, but he also makes my all-players-that-I-have-seen-so-far team. This dual honor is rare, and cannot be matched by the single-team status of either Sean May or Javier Meniburu. Watch out if Mendiburu picks up his game, or May freaks out and goes for a name change, though.

10) So Arizona won by 5, and I predicted them by 8. A three-point difference isn’t that much, I guess, but the game still didn’t go as I expected. Any time Arizona fails to reach 50 points, it’s unlikely that things went as anyone expected, though. I commend Arizona’s defense, though, since it looked much better than it did when I saw them play Michigan.

11) Again, a nice effort was put forth by Marcus Jackson. I’m starting to actually buy that claim that he was hurt for all of last year, and that’s why he didn’t look so good. Obviously Marquette has no one else who can play inside, but Jackson is finally developing into a solid interior guy. Good thing he doesn’t like to shoot much, since getting the ball to him will never be a priority.

12) I would be remiss if I didn’t make mention of the guys that sat behind us, who Dez likes to refer to as “The Male Cheerleaders.” He had warned me about them beforehand, and because he had done so, they became hilarious, rather than annoying. Complaining about the refs was, of course, a staple of their game-time discussion. Where they really made their mark was their insistence that Tom Crean put Ryan Amoroso in the game. I actually sort of agreed with them on this point, but I wasn’t as adamant in my belief that Amoroso would be the savior. Of course, once Amoroso got in the game, they were upset with him almost immediately for taking a three-point shot. So I guess while it’s good to have him in, he shouldn’t actually be shooting. Thanks, guys.

13) I think Steve Novak is still standing at the top of the key in the ready position waiting for Chris Rodgers to make a move on him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy get blown past so quickly in a key possession. Novak is still a painfully slow defender. In his defense, however, though he’s not much of a one-on-one defender, I’d have to guess that he still leads the team in charges taken. That gets some praise from me, and as you know, I’ve never been one to praise Novak quickly.

All in all, it was a slow, but fun game to watch, and the side-events contributed mightily to the fun of the day. I still think Arizona may be a tad over-ranked, which is tough to believe with the starting line-up that they boast. For all that talent, though, they aren’t able to put forth a top-level performance every night. Marquette continues to encourage me with their emotional play, and they should win more games that I had expected this year. I still hate their offense, but it seems to be working okay for them, and frankly, if Novak and Diener aren’t ice cold from three-point land early on, this game probably goes down a bit differently.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Finding a Game on Friday Night

Friday began with the best of intentions. As I noted, my buddy Kevin and I were headed out to see a high school basketball game. We were looking at primarily three games to take in. The choices were as follow:

1) Milwaukee Pius at Hartland Arrowhead: Pros to attending this game included getting our first look at Arrowhead sophomore phenom Charlie Chapman, and checking out a well-coached Joel Claassen Pius squad. The primary con was the long drive to Arrowhead from the Milwaukee Metro area.

2) Milwaukee King at Milwaukee Madison: The big draw of this game was the King players. Getting to see such buzzworthy players as Mitchell Carter, James Pruitt, and all-world freshman Korie Lucious had some appeal. A nationally ranked team is always fun to see. It was also a chance to see a City Conference game in one of the more safe looking neighborhoods in the district. The major negative seemed to be that Milwaukee Madison isn't exactly a traditional basketball powerhouse, and an ass-kicking was likely to occur.

3) Milwaukee Marquette at Brookfield East: I didn't expect much serious consideration on this one, but I really wanted to see Marquette's two big men, Alexis Pease and Matt Mulcahy. Both could be playing lower-level division one basketball this time next year, and my fascination with Pease's outstanding footwork is well-documented. And I still hadn't seen them this year.

So, after weighing our options, we decided to head to Milwaukee Madison, since chances to see King at an away city venue that seems safe are few and far between. So we set forth on our journey, and quickly found Milwaukee Madison at about 6:45, a good 45 mintues before the average start time of area high school games. We also saw a huge line to get in, three squad cars, and a blocked off street on the North side of the school. So much for that safety idea. I was also wary of getting crammed into some tiny, sweaty gym after my experience of going to see Torre Johnson at Milwaukee Juneau two years ago. Upon discussion, Kevin and I decided to go elsewhere, since there are always plenty of decent games on a Friday. In the end, we decided to forego the Pius-Arrowhead game because of the drive, and the Marquette-Brookfield East game due to lack of burning interest, and headed to see Tosa East play at Sussex Hamilton. Though I wanted to get away from another Tosa game, Kevin wanted to see Jerry Smith, and I knew my friends Kosta and Brian were already there. It wasn't my first option for a game, but heck, basketball was still being played, right?

After a long drive and a stop at a gas station for directions, we ended up at Sussex Hamilton High School. Upon entering the gym, Kevin began frantically tapping me and saying "Look who's sitting there!" I saw Brian and Kosta, and replied "Yeah, I see the Kosta, and he's got space by him. Let's go." Kevin persisted "No, look to the right of them!" I glanced at the next section over and saw Bo Ryan and his wife. Though the game was my fourth choice, I guess you can't argue when the coach of the Badgers is in the house.

The game itself? Well, that's a bit less exciting than the voyage itself. Sussex Hamilton kept the score close through the third quarter before Tosa East pulled away in the fourth. Additionally, Hamilton guard Derek Olson proved himself to be the best player that I have seen this year who is not named Ryback or Smith. I suppose that's partly a nod to Olson's ability, and partly a sign that I need to diversify my game watching and get out of the Greater Metro conference for a night or two. I kind of knew the latter point, though. As for a Jerry Smith update, he's begun to play some more point guard, which is nice. Nothing particularly stood out from his game, though it was solid.

Of note for the rest of the evening, I met up with some other friends at a tavern after the game, and chatted briefly with a co-worker of a friend of mine. Upon his mention that he played at Homestead High, I attempted to drop any name from Homestead history that I could on him. The mention of Selento Rockett got me in the door to a lengthy basketball conversation, as not just your everyday fan can drop the top player from the 1992-93 Highlander squad into casual conversation. I got some great comments from this guy, ranging from a hilarious story about the time he had to guard Marshall Williams during sectionals, and some thoughts on Kaspars Kambala during his days in high school. All in all, a great night. I eventually finished up and went to bed, though, as I needed my rest. After all, there was basketball to be watched the next day.

Friday, December 17, 2004


As mentioned yesterday, no basketball viewing took place last night, since it was my bowling night. In a shameful display, I managed to bowl a 72 for my final game of the night. I don't think I've done that since I was 6 years old, and I'm not sure how it happened last night. Anyway, a few notes on basketball, mostly looking forward to the weekend:

1) The death of Bo Agee was reported to me by a friend this morning. Agee, as some of you may recall, was Arthur Agee's cocaine-addicted father in Hoop Dreams, and was one of the more compelling (and sad) figures in the film. Apparently he had gotten his life together since then, though, and was doing well before being murdered yesterday. Sad story.

2) High school ball tonight with my buddy Kevin. We need to discuss where to go, but given a lack of compelling games in Milwaukee tonight, it could be an individual player-driven choice. I've got it narrowed down to two or three that I'd like to see, so I'll see what Kevin's thinking.

3) Marquette-Arizona tomorrow at the Bradley Center. I still need to decide whether to go or not. It could be a good time downtown, but it could also be good on ESPN2 while I fold laundry. Either way, I win. I'd like to see Marquette keep up their enthusiasm and take down an Arizona team that, despite a wealth of talent, isn't beating up on people like I expected. I know it was only one game, but Arizona's defense against Michigan looked wretched to me, and Travis Diener should be able to penetrate on the Wildcats because they don't close gaps well. If this allows for some kick outs to Steve Novak, then look out. I still like Arizona by 8 points or so, but if you'd asked me a week ago about this game, I wouldn't have given the Golden Eagles a chance. Let's hope their game against Wisconsin wasn't an aberration.

4) A trip back to my youth is planned for Saturday evening, as I go to see the alma mater, Tosa East, take on cross-town rivals Tosa West, for what was always a fun rivalry. My JV career was largely defined by our games against Tosa West, from the apology letter I received from their coach following an apparently fierce helcking (I never really noticed) from fans with regard to my tight uniform, to my season high 10 points in the bizarro week that I led the team in scoring. I think I was able to do this only because I was generally the only one not shaking with rage prior to rivalry games. I never actually understood what all the anger was about, since the guys that played for Tosa West when I was in school were phenomenally nice guys.

Anyway, enough comments on 10 year old games involving players who couldn't make the varsity. I don't think my school's been on the losing end of this one since the 1980's. Maybe I'll go to the library and research that point on Sunday. Enrollment's evened out a bit, though, and dropping a game is no longer as improbable as it once was, so this one could be a contest. Probably not, but it's not a given like it was back when I was a teen. Should still be a packed gym.

Enjoy your weekend of basketball. I know I will enjoy mine.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

UWM vs. Wisconsin

I had started today’s entry a tad differently, but upon seeing my father upon arriving at my office today, I think he summed up the game the best with his greeting to me:

"Well, that wasn’t much of a game, was it?"

No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t hotly contested, it wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t much of anything. After watching that game, I don’t even think I’d have been able to tell you how great the scoring differential was. As for my prediction, I’ve been wrong on about the last 9 things that I predicted, so why should that change now?

My thoughts? I’m glad you asked:

1) The venue for watching the game last night was the Potawatomi Casino Fire Pit Bar and Grill, one of my favorite places to take in a game in Milwaukee. I hadn’t been there in awhile, so I had forgotten how good their nachos are. Second only to a plate that I had in Charleston, South Carolina this past summer. Since I was at a bar, you’ll forgive me if some of my thoughts today are a bit muddled or weaker than usual. Chatting with the boys cut into some of my game watching.

2) Bruce Pearl has got to do better with his game-time attire. I thought the white t-shirt underneath the sport coat was a bad look when the sport coat was on. He looked even dumber when he angrily took the coat off, though, and he was just some guy with a t-shirt on. The guy is outfitted by Harley’s For Men, and frankly, at the moment, I don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth on this sponsorship.

3) I guess you have to say that a team played good defense when UWM only scores 37 points, and surely Wisconsin did, but seriously–could UWM have shot the ball any worse last night? Ed McCants continues on his quest to confuse me as to why he was named conference pre-season player of the year (particularly when he has teammates playing better than him right now).

4) I know Mike Wilkinson put up a double-double last night, played a bunch of minutes and looked nimble on a couple of post moves, but the fact that he came out of the game before the first TV timeout spoke volumes to me about where he’s at physically. I wish I knew what the injury he’s battling is, and I hope it’s gone as soon as possible.

5) My editor (if you haven’t noticed, I’m prone to typos), T.J. Grams, suggested that following a UWM-Wisconsin game, a James Wright reference might be in order. I say he’s right. Wright’s a pretty interesting story, fighting his way back from a broken leg three years ago (against Wisconsin) to return and give minutes to UWM this year. I hadn’t realized that Wright’s injury was a stress fracture until I read the article about him yesterday in the Journal Sentinel. Apparently he just started to leap for a rebound, the leg snapped and he couldn’t elevate. Creepy. I’m not sure whether to be impressed or underwhelmed that Wright decided to stick around school long enough to return to the court. If I was out of action for 2 years, I think I might just try to load up on credits and move on with my life. Then again, it appeared that Wright is in the education program at UWM (and apparently is on track to graduate), and based on people that I know that went through the School of Education, their administrative problems make 7 years of school a distinct possibility for anyone who goes through. Not just hulking basketball players with freak injuries.

6) Frankly, though I’m primarily a Badger fan, I was a bit disappointed in last night’s outcome. I wanted UWM to challenge Wisconsin, and make themselves look good as they lost. They had looked on the verge of a breakthrough this year, and though that’s still possible, most breakthrough years don’t include 29-point losses to teams that aren’t clicking on all cylinders yet. I still think they win the Horizon this year, but the chances of looking foolish in the upcoming game against Kansas just went way up. Of course, now that I’ve said that, they’re destined to beat Kansas by 7.

7) Ah, the Brian Butch saga continues. Solid, but unspectacular night for the big man. He even hit a couple three pointers, which leads me to the question: If I know that Brian Butch is a good three- point shooter, and he’s taking three point shots with regularity, why do I cringe when he sets up from behind the line? My head knows it’s a good idea, but some part of me is bothered by the big man on the perimeter. That said, I still think he’s going to be a very solid player once he picks up some skill at banging with big guys down low. Seven-foot guys who can shoot the three don’t exactly grow on trees. And even if he still has a weird physical build, he’s definitely not mentally soft.

8) Derrick Ford, why do you taunt us? You can be a big factor one night, or a non-factor others (like last night against Wisconsin, for example). Why are you doing this to us?

And, with that, I’m done for the day. I might take a day off tomorrow, too, since I may not be able to catch a game tonight due to my West Allis bowling league. Then again, something absurd is bound to happen with Bobby Knight on ESPN tonight coaching against his alma mater, The Ohio State. So maybe I’ll be back.

Oh, and a word to the wise, if you’re watching a game at a casino sports bar, just go home afterwards. And should you by some chance stick around to play a few hands of video poker, at least make sure that you don’t accidentally hit the "Bet Max" button that those bastard game-makers put right next to the "Deal" button. I can tell you that almost never turns out well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Welcome to Those I Don't Know

Yesterday brought a boatload of unexpected attention, which can be ultimately traced essentially to my email to Big Ten Wonk regarding Brian Butch, which led to some links from his site, an unexpected mention on a Marquette message board that I read, and an unexpected link from Mid-Majority, who I had not read before (and I now rather enjoy), but has the noble goal of attending 100 college basketball games this season. He's getting a link today merely because he has this phenomenal goal. Something tells me that if I lived in the same region as this guy, we'd be drinking Yuengling together (obviously, it would have to be his region) and watching basketball on a regular basis. And as with most of my friends, he'd be schooling me with his knowledge.

Which brings me to my main point. Those of you who don't know me personally, welcome, I'm glad to have you visiting. It brings joy to my life that someone cares what I have to say. However, in the interest of fairness, you should know the same things as those that do know me personally. This is particularly true, due to my positive endorsement on the Marquette board from a longtime poster, and my status as a Wisconsin alum and fan. So here's what you should know:

1) I'm strictly an amateur, so don't take my words too seriously. Call me a small-timer if you must, because that's what I am. This forum was designed largely to keep about 7 guys that I know updated on what I’m thinking with regards to basketball--I never expected anyone else to find it. I watch a lot of college basketball, I read a lot of basketball info, I’m around a lot of fans, and know how out of control people can get. I offer no inside information, and I never played baskeball beyond junior varsity in high school (which I will often take the opportunity to make fun of myself for). I go to more games than the average fan, but the average fan is fine by me, since I don’t know much more than him.

2) On the Marquette board, I was mentioned as a source of high school knowledge. It is true that I like to attend high school games, however, it's seldom that I can find friends to go with, and I don't like being the weird guy that sits alone, so I won't see as much as you might think. I did attend the same high school as Jerry Smith, so I can usually find old classmates to go to games with and observe him, so I've seen a lot of him over the past few years. I'm starting to know his game. But bear in mind that I'm 10 years older than the kid. I don't know him personally, and don't know anything that you probably don't already about his recruitment (though I, too, have my theories). I know a coach or two, but not beyond the level that they'd say much more than "hello" to me. And any second hand info that I have based on friends' bar room conversations with those close to the situation (yes, I’m a bit of a townie) are things that I didn't mention when I thought no one could find my site, and are certainly things that I won't mention now. They're probably wildly inaccurate, anyway, and I know I wouldn't want some weird internet guy commenting on me if I was 16 years old. But, if you want to know about the 3rd option for Tosa East, or my fascination with tbe solid players for Marquette High, be my guest. Just recognize that if I see Travon Hughes 2-3 times this year, it will be a victory for me. And if I do see him, 3 of my 6 points in the post-game breakdowns will be about how much salt was on the popcorn that I bought at the high school gym, as I don't take things overly seriously.

3) Again on the Marquette board, if anyone takes the time to visit me from there, I'm likely to be skewered for my comment that I think UWM has a better team this year. Indeed, I will not back off of that comment until I see at least a few more solid games out of Marquette. I've seen both teams a handful of times, and that's my honest opinion. I can qualify it for you by saying that it's the first season that I've ever thought that. And I'm going back at least to Von McDade. That’s as much as I’m willing to budge for now, though. But hey, at least take some solace in that I’m often wrong.

4) Who are my teams? I went to high school at Tosa East, and despite my many college friends at rival Marquette High, I remain loyal to my alma mater. Yes, I'm a homer for the high school, so take that into account. As for college, I grew up a Marquette fan, going to games with my father, a Milwaukee transplant, so I have a soft spot for Marquette. I have two degrees from Wisconsin, so they're obviously a favorite of mine, even if I wanted desperately to get out of the state when I was 18. UWM games are a good value, so I can't forget them. UW-Green Bay shows heart, and has kick-ass uniforms. I have a really cool UW-Stevens Point t-shirt. I guess you could say that I like anyone from my home state--I just have to temper those preferences when they meet each other.

5) I recognize my biases, but many have told me that I'm good at tempering them. Whether that is true, I don’t really know.

6) I admit it--I like Duke. My dad even attended North Carolina, which makes this tendancy of mine worse. I think this may make me a fundamentally evil person.

There, those are the administrative tasks for the day. I’m done talking like a guy who’s got a blog, hopefully for good. Let’s get back to talking basketball, and basketball-related nonsense.

Night In With the Dukies

So, I didn’t get to see Travon Hughes play last night, due to a rash of friend that needed to do other things, and my continuing effort to not be the creepy guy sitting alone in the high school gym. Me backing out on high school plans will likely become a recurring theme here, so get used to it. Actually, I probably would have gone, but I didn’t feel like driving all the way out to Delafield and trying to navigate the gigantic St. John’s campus (I went to an art show there once) in hopes of finding the gym. And Duke was on TV against Illinois-Chicago, so I had enough of a fix to get me through the evening without dipping into tapes of 1999 high school state tournament tapes. Mr. Hughes will be around for awhile, so I should get to see him eventually.

As for the Duke game, nothing really surprised me. UIC kept things closer than most would have thought in the first half, but Duke took over in the second. Daniel Ewing showed me more quickness and court savvy than I had remembered, but other than that, there’s not a lot that sticks out about the game itself. Oh, wait–it also hit me last night why I knew who Duke’s back-up forward Reggie Love is. Of course, in a prior game, the announcers noted that he had been with the team in the 2001-2 season before leaving to concentrate on football. I could have easily missed that, though, since Love almost never played back then. No, I’ll always remember Love for his suspension (or was it a dismissal) from the team after photos of him passed out at a party in Chapel Hill appeared on the internet. And given that this was a college party, yes, of course someone tried to make the photos more embarrassing. And by "more embarrassing" I mean whipping out one’s manhood and placing it next to Mr. Love’s head for photos. The lesson here–never pass out at a party in a fierce rival’s town when you are playing Division 1 basketball. Hey, I didn’t say it was a widely applicable lesson.

Moving on, Rick Majerus accepted the USC job, making this a really bad week for predictions on my part. At least he’ll still be around ESPN for the rest of the year. Kudos to USC for ensuring in mid-December that they will have nearly 3 months of a lame duck interim coach. That’s always a recipe for success.

And finally, the easy access to state college teams continues tonight with UWM’s visit to Wisconsin. It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin rebounds quickly from it’s loss to Marquette against another formidable state foe. UWM has the athleticism and depth to stay with anyone, so I look for this game to be close. If it wasn’t a home game for the Badgers, I’d actually take UWM in this one. If the Panthers start running like they want to, it could be a rough night for the Badger guards, who are not a particularly deep unit, and could tire with a frantic pace. As it stands, though, the Badgers have an obscene home winning streak, and will be motivated to not be thought of as the third-best team in the state, so I see them putting forth a strong effort to control the tempo and take home another win in a tight game. I also see myself at a bar ordering a club sandwich and watching this game with my friend Jerry, who’s the only person I know who’s primary allegiance as a fan is to UWM. Fun as they’ve become to watch, that team just doesn’t seem to breed loyalty.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Slow Night

Not one bit of basketball was watched by me last night. Not one. A number of things kept me from seeing games, but at the end of the day, I have no new material. So, I give you a thought that I had a few months ago when I first heard talk about the proposal to give college players five years of eligibility. It's not much, but it's something:

There’s a new proposal for college basketball that, as I understand it, would give a player five years of eligibility rather than four. I’d have to assume that this is in some way related to the idea that many students nowadays are taking five years to complete their academic programs. I suppose I’ve been out of school for a bit, but back when I was in school, we had a name for people who legitimately took five years to get their undergrad degree. We called them “engineers.” I don’t necessarily dislike the idea of student-athletes getting another year of eligibility. Heck, most of them are taking the minimum number of credits each semester anyway, since they have to devote so much time to their sport. Let’s not kid ourselves, though, by saying that your 7 foot center who’s majoring in “General Studies” needs that extra year due to the fact that the requirements for the major are forcing all students to take longer than they used to. Take it from a guy who majored in two nearly worthless liberal arts subjects—those of us who aren’t working off a scholarship for 30 hours a week probably don’t need the extra year.

I should probably have some better insight tomorrow, as I'm hopeful that I can get out to see Travon Hughes of St. John's Military Academy, the 2nd ranked high school junior in the state of Wisconsin. If not, everyone's old friend Duke takes on one of the better Horizon League teams (UIC) tonight.

Oh, and if you need more reading material from me, you can check out my link on the right to the Big Ten Wonk, who has a wealth of Big Ten information. Or if you're lazy, you can just click here. Yesterday I responded to his inquiry about why Brian Butch is putting up small numbers for an All-American, and he was kind enough to use the info on his site.

Monday, December 13, 2004


Quite the weekend with regard to basketball. I actually didn't leave my apartment on Sunday, since I figured the moment I walked out the door, someone would punch me in the stomach. That's the kind of weekend it was for my teams.

Friday night took me to see the high school game of the week in the Milwaukee area, conveniently at Wauwatosa East. Tosa East took on West Allis Hale. It was the opening conference game for each team, two future division one players (John Rybak and Jerry Smith) were on the floor, and given the two teams that were meeting, a conference title could eventually hinge on the outcome of this game. One can see why it was the game of the week. However, it didn't look like the game of the week when Hale jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead. Eventually Tosa East tied the game at 21-21 after a scoring flurry, however that was as good as things would get for the Red Raiders. Hale handled themthe rest of the way, looking stronger in every facet of the game.

1) Tosa East has been an elite team in the Milwaukee area for some time. It's rare that I've seen an area team not named Milwaukee King, Milwaukee Vincent, Milwaukee Washington, or Milwaukee Marquette that's clearly better than Tosa East. West Allis Hale is such a team this year. John Rybak is a phenomenal shooter, has a great feel for the game, and would be a much bigger prospect (he's signed with Akron) if he was either taller, or quicker. It's always a joy to watch Rybak to play, but the surprising thing about West Allis Hale is that their guards are very, very solid. They're the same as last year, but I don't remember them being quite so good. I still think it's going to be the same three-way race for the conference between West Allis Hale, Milwaukee Marquette and Tosa East, but this time, Hale's probably not the outsider that it was in the past.

2) As always, any Tosa East game should garner a Jerry Smith update, since he's the state's top junior. Friday was not one of my favorite performances from Smith. West Allis Hale's starting point guard was consistently racing ahead of Smith while bringing the ball up the floor. He looked somewhat better when switched to guarding Rybak, but quickly drew two fouls and was switched back to his original man, who was still out-running him. Smith also had a tendency to go for steals hoping for the outstanding play, rather than just trying to play solid defense. It's tough to argue when he dunks the ball off a crazy steal, but it wasn't happening last night, and it got old. No complaints on hisoffense, though. In fact, I think he showed great poise, particularly considering that I suspect there was some pressure on him to start chucking up shots.

3) Smith also fell asleep defensively on one inbounds play underneath the basket he was guarding, leading to an easy inbounds pass and uncontested layup. Guys playing freshman ball get pulled for that sort of thing. Not to worry, though--a substitution was made, which leads me to my next point.

4) Tosa East's coach, generally a good man, and quite the character, was not one of my favorite people on Friday night. While I can't tell you how he could have switched his game plan to eek out a win, I can tell you that he was yelling at the wrong guys at various times. That inbounds play where Jerry Smith allowed one of the easiest lay-ups I've seen this year? Immediately after that play, coach Haas pulled out Tosa East's power forward. Yeah, the guy probably could have done something to stop the play, as well, but if I'm assigning blame on that play, he's only getting about 20% of it. The wrong guy got yelled at for that one. Similarly, Tosa East's center was doing, what I thought was a fairly decent defensive job on John Rybak. He's a 6'5" lanky guy, and he was getting a hand up in every one of Rybak's shots, but Rybak was still draining threes. He got yelled at for his defense, though, and that was maybe a bit too bold. I've seen Rybak defended better, but only by betterplayers. Again, the wrong guy got yelled at.

5) It wouldn't be a high school basketball game without chants, and perhaps my favorite one of Friday night was West Allis Hale's student section, with their team up several point, chanting "You need Hanson!," referring to former Tosa East point-guard Allan Hanson, who's playing for UWM now. Tough to respond to that one, and I'm kind of glad I wasn't a student trying to think of a response.

6) I've seen three Tosa East games this year, and Jerry Smith has played every minute that a game was in question. He's not coming out of games this year unless there's a blowout or he's in foul trouble.

Luckily, Tosa East beat Milwaukee Lutheran, the pre-season top ranked Division 2 in the state on Saturday night, salvaging the sports weekend for me (along with the Packers). So it can still be a reasonable year.

Saturday night I saw the Wisconsin fall to Marquette. Though I like both teams, Wisconsin’s my team, and seeing them lose to a rival always hurts. Fortunately, no one broke a beer bottle over my head during post game at the bars, despite my bright red fleece, so I still have the brain power to share my thoughts below:

1) It hurt to see Mike Wilkinson have such an awful game. I'd love to know what was wrong with him, but more than anything, I'd like to see him get healthy quickly.

2) It doesn't need to be said again, but I will anyway. Travis Diener is good. Really, really good. I cringed every time Brian Butch switched onto guarding him on th defensive end.

3) Where do I start with Chris Grimm? I questioned why he was starting. I questioned why he was playing big minutes, and I’ll continue to question it if he ever plays that much again. That said, he put up a solid game, and for some reason spent a good deal of time guarding Alando Tucker. It was maybe the best 0 rebound performance I’ve ever seen from a 6'10" center.

4) There are about 20 things in that last point that I never thought I would ever say.

5) What happened to allow Marquette to win the game? Some would say that Diener took the team on his back and willed them to victory. That’s partly true, but if the Badgers were expecting less than 29 points from Diener, they were doomed to begin with. Some would say Steve Novak’s shooting provided a boost. Surely it did, but it wasn’t a game-breaker. What I think was the most important thing to happen in the game was Marquette’s physical defense. I’ve seldom seen Wisconsin get away from their offensive scheme as much as they did on Saturday night. The Badgers are a team that thrives on scoring in the paint, and the Golden Eagles simply didn’t let the ball inside so that could happen. As a result, Clayton Hanson and Sharif Chambliss had to start shooting threes, and Alando Tucker and Zach Morley started forcing drives. The Badgers scored enough to make it look respectable in the end, but they didn’t score in the way that they normally do, and as exciting as a Chambliss 3-pointer is, I’d much rather watch Mike Wilkinson bank in a series of layups.

6) It was nice to see former Marquette center Damon Key come out to be honored during a timeout. Some of my favorite memories from my younger days was watching the beefy Key lead his early-1990s teams to victory. His tenure was probably the peak of my Marquette fandom, and his shooting range even inspired me to develop a jump-hook that I could consistently hit from 15-feet (something none of my coaches at the time believed until they saw it). His play, along with Dimitri Hill and Oliver Miller gave me role models as a young, overweight center. I only hope that Damon can start to drop some of his excess pounds, because he was clearly up over 400 pounds on Saturday night. That’s about where the role modeling stops.

7) So I was blatantly wrong in my prediction of a Wisconsin blowout. Where was I right? Not many places, but I would like to point out that Marcus Jackson did get into early foul trouble. To his credit however, he kept his wits about him, and was able to pass the rest of the evening without difficulty.

8) Every year or so I see one game that makes me thing about taking up sports gambling. With Marquette favored in this game by 1.5 points, and my belief that Wisconsin was a far better team, this was one of those games that I thought would be the easiest bet of all time. As with the last 5-6 golden betting opportunities that I have seen, however, I did not act on it, and my prediction ended up being totally wrong. I think this is God’s way of telling me that I should never gamble on sports, which I am absolutely fine with.

9) So the big questions after a game like that are: 1) Is Wisconsin really that bad? and 2) Is Marquette really that good. My answers would be no and no. Wisconsin got a poor (and perhaps injured) performance from their top player. I don’t agree with those that say Devin Harris made every player on the floor last year half of what they were (and I heard that a lot). Did I overrate them coming into the year? Certainly, but I still don’t think I did so as much as many would say after this game. As for Marquette, they played a great game–no one can deny this. However, it was the fourth game that I’ve seen them play, and it was the first time that I’ve seen them play anything like this. I hope that they can build on this game and keep things interesting the rest of the year, but this just doesn’t seem like a team that can play at a high level on a consistent basis. I just wish they hadn’t picked one of the few teams that I like more to put out a top-level effort against.

10) This week is huge for Wisconsin. UWM plays at Madison on Wednesday, and as I’ve stated before, UWM is a team that I think is better than Marquette. Saturday’s game (and UWM’s Saturday night loss to Valpo) doesn’t change that opinion, but it does make me more worried as a Badger fan. UWM’s athleticism and pace make this a scary game. Luckily for the Badgers, it’s at home, otherwise it would be more likely to drop the second of three games to in-state foes. I still like the Badgers in this game, but it should be a dogfight.

And like I said, the weekend wasn’t without it’s high spots. During the Indiana-Kentucky game I learned that the Big Ten commercial which my friend Samip and I appear in is back for another year, so I’ll get more air time. That, combined with an appearance of the back of my head behind a post game interview at the Tosa East-West Allis Hale game on Milwaukee’s Preps Plus television show gave me a record two appearances on television at basketball games in one day. That’s got to count for something.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Finally, Wisconsin-UW-Green Bay (and Marquette Wisconsin Prediction)

Finally, a few comments on the Wisconsin-UW-Green Bay game. I hope to never be this painfully slow again.

1) Color man Charlie wills was wearing a bad, plain striped tie. Combined with his basic navy blazer, he looked like an overgrown second-grader dressed up for his school Christmas concert. Not a good look at all.

2) My DVR box had some issues recording the game apparently, and thus, the game broadcast didn’t come through perfectly on my recording. There was something off digitally, and it was sort of like watching the game on a really big webcam. I kept waiting for Horatio Sans and Jimmy Fallon to bust onto the screen. At least I got to generally see what the game was like, though.

3) There are many things to love Mike Wilkinson for, but this year I think he’s taken his post moves to another level. Watching that guy pivot and spin is unbelievable. It made me think of his Badger predecessors in this area, and how he seems to be a perfect combination of Mark Vershaw and Freddie Owens. Vershaw, of course, was the greatest ever user of the pivot, not only at Wisconsin, but perhaps anywhere. Unlike Vershaw, who would simply pivot until his man either 1) got dizzy and fell down, or 2) got frustrated and walked away, Wilkinson pivots to further an actual basketball move that is greater than the pivot itself. Usually the pivot is parlayed into a spin move, which Freddie Owens was the master of. Unlike Owens, however, Wilkinson is generally under control and not carrying the ball on his hip while he spins. Wilkinson may not be as great at pivoting as Vershaw, or as dedicated a spinner as Owens, but when he combines the two things, he’s more effective than both of them.

4) An interesting fun-fact brought up on the broadcast was that UW-Green Bay’s mascot, the Phoenix, was chosen by a student vote in 1970, and was a switch over from the old moniker of the "Bay Badgers." The people thinking up the old nickname apparently were not the most creative lot in the world. Still, at least Wisconsin (with the exception of Stevens Point) is out of its creative funk, while Minnesota still has the St. John’s Johnnies, the St. Thomas Tommies, the St. Olaf Oles, and the Gustavus Adolphus Gusties.

5) Well, Jason Chappell got some time in the second half of the Green Bay game, and took no time in reinforcing my low opinion of him as a basketball player. His first action was to inbound the ball to point-guard Sharif Chambliss, and it was a fitting moment for the lazy-looking Chappell, as his inbounds pass looked more like he just dropped the ball on the floor. About two minutes later, Chappell took his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer. I recognize that Wisconsin’s big men are supposed to be able to shoot the three, but I don’t think Chappell ever actually entered the lane during his 5 minutes on the floor. For a guy that’s 6'10", I think that’s a problem.

6) UW-Green Bay had some of the greatest uniforms that I’ve ever seen. The green and red combo had a retro-Bucks feel to it, and the font on the jerseys was small and understated. If I’m ever on the Green Bay campus for some reason, I’m definitely tracking down the bookstore and looking for one of these things.

7) Charlie Wills kept referring to Javier Mendiburu’s "limp ankle," since Mendiburu still had a lingering ankle injury during the game. Was the ankle really "limp," though? I’ve had ankle injuries before, and my ankle is never really limp–it gets swollen and stiff, not limp. Perhaps Wills was trying to come up with a creative way to talk about Mendiburu limping. I don’t really know. In any event, I liked Mendiburu’s play enough that I won’t make fun of his name as I had promised to do earlier. However, I will say that he’s perhaps the only division one player that I’ve ever seen who elevates less than I do on a jump shot. Maybe his limp ankle was holding him back.

8) Tyler Koenig, of UWGB and Andreas Helmigk were really going at it underneath the hoop last night. I think about 5 of their collective fouls were off-the-ball fouls on one another. Had time not expired, I think Koenig might have walked away with the Intercontinental Title Belt.

9) It has to be asked–where did Matt Rhode go during this game? A key scorer for the Phoenix, he got off very few shots. Lets hope for the sake of UW-Green Bay’s season that last night’s defensive lock-down of Rhode is a rarity.

As for tomorrow’s Marquette-Wisconsin game, I predict two things: 1) a decisive Wisconsin victory (72-59), and 2) fun for anyone in downtown Milwaukee tomorrow night. Actually make that three things: Marcus Jackson will be in foul trouble early, trying to check Wisconsin’s crafty big men. Whatever happens, though, I’m glad I’ll be in the building. Buying that row of seats a couple months ago was a great idea.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Late Night

It was a late evening last night, and I didn't have the chance to do a nightly write-up as usual, so today's update may have to wait until this evening, thus making my Wisconsin-UW-Green Bay comments painfully late, and further making any observations on last night's games irrelevant. I probably won't even have the chance to watch anything tonight, as I have to network with young lawyers after work. Since I've got 5 spare minutes, though, I'll weigh in with my thoughts on the Rick Majerus to USC situation, and other Rick-related thoughts, since I saw the interview with Rick last night.

1) I am doubtful that Rick Majerus is going to head to USC. I think he would like to be coaching again, but I also think that he really liked coaching Utah. For him to give that up as he did last year says something about his physical ability to continue with the business of coaching. I also think it would be disingenuous for him to retire due to health issues, and then return to coaching a year and a half later as if nothing had happened. Utah was very good to Rick, and that's one of the reasons that he didn't bolt to Wisconsin when he was offered the job a few years ago while on a leave of absence due to his mother's health. Lord knows he would have loved to be back in Wisconsin, but he knew that it would be a slap in the face to Utah, given the timing. The situation is a little different here, but I still think that Majerus isn't leaving Utah if he doesn't have a darn good reason. And given Rick's size, I don't think any health reason that he could have given would be cleared up in a year and a half. For my own sake, I hope he stays on with ESPN for as long as he can, because the more Rick Majerus talks, the happier I am.

2) Even in retirement, the obligatory mention of Rick Majerus anytime a coaching vacancy arises still occurs. Is there any school that doesn't want this guy? I wish I could get to the point in my profession where every potential employer in the country contacted me when they had a job opening.

3) Rick Majerus's transformation into a good coach came as a shock to me, as my ealiest college basketball memories were of sitting with my dad in the Mecca at Marquette games, watching a bald, screaming idiot breate such greats as Kerry Trotter, Pat Foley and Tom Copa. I was only 6 years old or so, but even then, I knew that Majerus wasn't real effective. Imagine my surprise when Ball State took off, and he became a viable coach, rather than just a screaming jackass (the latter of which, by the way, now seems an odd memory, given his seemingly friendly demeanor).

4) I remember the day in 6th grade when I heard about Majerus having heart surgery and receiving 8 bypasses. But more notably, I also remember him getting healthy shortly thereafter and running a marathon or two. If you've seen Rick Majerus lately (or any time in his life, really), I think the message is clear: If Rick Majerus can run a marathon, there's hope for us all.

5) As a young lawyer who works with Marquette guys, I occasionally hear the story of Majerus's stint in law school. A guy who's friendly with one of the lawyers at my firm was the same year as Majerus, and was wait-listed at Marquette's law school, where he really wanted to go. He was next in line for a spot when school started, but Marquette couldn't guarantee him anything, so he left for a law school in Cleveland. Meanwhile, Majerus began school at Marquette, and was done within a week. Reflecting on my first week of law school, I can certainly understand why. In any event, the guy who went to Cleveland somehow found out about this, but was committed to staying at his school already. As a conselation, though, he still gets to tell people that Rick Majerus took his spot in law school, only to screw it up. Looks like Rick made the right call, though.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Last evening got off to a rocky start, as I was unable to attend the Marquette-South Dakota State game due to the fact that I was attending a benefit for my brother's theatre company. Normally, I'd be happy to see one of his shows, but his company wasn't actually producing last night's shows, a double bill of "Merry Christmas, My Ass" and "The Santaland Diaries." The company was, however, through an odd series of happenings, collecting all of the money from ticket sales. I never did make it to see "The Santaland Diaries," as my parents and I left after the horrendously bad "Merry Christmas,My Ass." I haven't seen anything that bad since Bo Ellis was head coach at Chicago State. And while "The Santaland Diaries" is a well-written piece, it was a show that I had seen before, and I didn't want to wait to hear if Travis Diener was playing tonight. Judging from the look on my brother's face atintermission, I think he would have liked to have gone to listen to the game in the car with me. And I doubt that he even knows who Travis Diener is, so that's saying something.

So I left and tuned into the game (only on the radio tonight) with Marquette up by 9 on South Dakota State in the second half. Diener had started, though it sounded like he was playing limited minutes, and he only had something like 8 points and 7 assists. That's a great night for anyone other than Diener, but hey, Travis is on another level. From the stat line, the good news is that it sounded like Marquette got good performances from Steve Novak, Ryan Amoroso, Dameon Mason, and Marcus Jackson. I'm not sure what to make of that, though. On one hand, every player that I think has decent talent at this point (no, I'm not mistaken in leaving Joe Chapman off the list) allegedly played at or near his potential. On the other hand, the Golden Eagles only won by 16. I guess after sitting through the Deleware State debacle, I'll take whatever improvement I can get.

And then I came home to a special surprise. Before I could even get to ESPN to check out the Jimmy V Classic, I came upon a familiar face, and a great game on Fox Sports Pacific. Gonzaga was taking on the Dick Bennett-led Washington State Cougers. Looks like that extra $5 per month for the digital sports package is paying off. Anyway, the game stayed in the 50s, as any good Dick Bennett game should, and Washington State had a shot to win and a shot to tie in their final possession. Both missed, leaving them with a 2-point loss to 25th ranked Gonzaga. So rumors of a total collapse following Washington State’s most recent sub-30 point performance are overstated. Some thoughts from the 8 minutes of the game that I saw:

1) The first comment I heard upon tuning in was "Washington State's going to have to show that they can score some points at some point." That confirmed it--Dick Bennett was on the television.

2) I have an inexplicable dislike of Gonzaga’s star center Rony Turiaf going all the way back to his freshman year. I think it stems from seeing him when he was a freshman, with his poofy hair and bizarre style of movement–he just didn’t look like a basketball player. At least I think that’s it–I’m still not completely clear on why I don’t like the guy–I just don’t.

3) I suppose I should know this by now, but Gonzaga actually looked to have a fair amount of talent. I guess Turiaf’s the big name, but he certainly isn’t as big in my mind as Dan Dickau or Blake Stepp. I sort of figured that things would fall off once the huge names were gone. I guess I was wrong, because Gonzaga looked like a deep team to me (Turiaf’s back-up was a monster on the offensive boards, quite an accomplishment against a Bennett-coached team), and certainly in the 8 minutes that I watched, seemed worthy of a #25 ranking.

4) I can’t remember most of them, but the announcers of last night’s game were throwing out quotes about Bennett’s style of play left and right. I laughed out loud several times. I was particularly pleased at the end of the night when both of them agreed that people would see the score and wonder what on earth happened to Gonzaga.

5) I don’t remember the name, but it looked to me as if Washington State’s top player was a freshman guard. Then again, I throw out again the disclaimer that I was only watching for 8 minutes, so I could be wildly off here.

6) During post-game, I noticed that Dick Bennett’s assistants, in addition to his son Tony, were his former assistant, Mike Heideman, and a former UWGB player, who after some checking, I learned was Ben Johnson. So I guess Dick’s not taking any locals on his staff, huh?

After the Washington State game, I attempted to stay up for the Wisconsin-UW-Green Bay game, but was lulled to sleep by fatigue and the sound of Charlie Wills’ voice on the public television broadcast. So, I’ll save my reactions for tomorrow, even though I did see the first half, and I’ve been dying to make fun of Javier Mendiburu’s name again for quite awhile now.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Injury Scare

Again, very little viewing last night, since there wasn’t much that I wanted to see going on, and I got on a bit of a run playing Casino Kid on my Nintendo. Almost took down that entire casino in just over an hour. Who says I don’t do anything valuable with my time?

My big basketball moment for the night, though (aside from an excellent basketball conversation with my friend Kevin) was seeing on the news that Travis Diener injured his ankle and may not play against South Dakota State. I’m not particularly worried about South Dakota State, since UWM beat them by something like 50 points last week (though any time Diener’s not on the floor, Marquette could be in for a scare), but the bigger issue is what implications this holds for the Marquette-Wisconsin showdown on Saturday night. What will happen if Diener can’t play?

Frankly, I think everyone knows what will happen if Diener doesn’t play, and it’s not a pretty outcome. But that’s not really the issue, anyway, since the only way Diener won’t play is if they have to amputate his foot. Even then, he might attempt to play on a prosthetic device. I don’t discount the seriousness of his injury (he reportedly was taken for x-rays), but Diener was only taken off the court twice last year–once on a backboard, due to concern of a possible spinal injury, and once when a high ankle sprain left him physically unable to walk. And in the former case, he was asking to go back into the game while he was being carried out! A turned ankle isn’t going to keep him out of a big rivalry game, and I tend to think he’ll get some minutes tonight, too.

Even with Diener, though, I see the Badgers being tough for Marquette to overcome. Diener probably won’t be fully recovered by Saturday, but I’d still say he’s a safe bet to will himself to about 27 points and 6 assists. His teammates don’t bring too much to the table, though, and that will be Marquette’s downfall. So don’t buy into any worries about Diener’s availability. It’s not an issue, and even if it was, it would be the difference between Marquette having a minuscule chance at victory, and Marquette staring down an embarrassing loss. I’m just glad that Diener will be there to entertain us.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Lost Weekend

Today’s update will be brief, since is was a subdued weekend for me as far as basketball went. Friday night, I contemplated trying to catch a random high school basketball game, but aside from there being none that inspired me to head to a high school gym, it would have been unlikely that I could have found someone to go with me, and I’m still not quite enough of a nerd to watch high school basketball alone on a Friday night. Instead, I caught a good portion of the Duke-Michigan State game from last week, since I had recorded it and vowed to watch it later. I was met with no shocks, though I was highly impressed with J.J. Reddick, who I had often considered in the past to be a tad overrated. Maybe this is the year I jump on the bandwagon. And it also bears mentioning that after that performance, I was slightly surprised to see Michigan State dealt a loss by George Washington this weekend.

Saturday had some promise, but quickly fizzled. North Carolina-Kentucky was the marquee game of the day, and was not offered on Milwaukee’s CBS channel, who instead showed Indiana-UConn. I opted to clean my kitchen instead, partly due to a lack of interest in the game, and partly due to the fact that my linoleum was filthy. Either way, at the end of the day, my floor was shining and smelling of pine, and Mike Davis had lost, so things were pretty much going just as I had hoped.

Of course, there was also the Wisconsin-Rutgers game on Saturday night. Since it was not on television and I was headed to Madison for the evening, I timed my car ride so that I could hear the game on my way. Nothing unusual here, except that Mike Wilkinson finally broke out of his scoring drought. Perhaps my favorite comment of the night came after I stopped for gas and upon re-entering my car, radio announcer Matt Lepay was exclaiming "That was an incredible play by Kammron Taylor. It was also a very scary play, but it turned out incredible." I think that just about sums up what Taylor does, now. A 12 point Badger win on the road is something I’ll take any day.

As I returned home on Sunday afternoon, I finally got to the only game that I would watch start to finish–UWM-Illinois Chicago, which I had recorded the prior night. This one’s always a classic. It’s the two premier teams in the Horizon League, the two coaches hate each other, and there’s lots of up-tempo play to be seen. It didn’t disappoint. The game stayed within a handful of points for most of the game before UWM pulled ahead in the final minute. I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen more early fouls in a game, but somehow, I don’t think that I saw anyone foul out. I like UWM, though, because you don’t know who’s going to beat you. Ed McCants, pre-season Horizon player of the year, had an off night. But it wasn’t a big deal, because Joah Tucker, Adrian Tigert, Boo Davis and Chris Hill had big nights. Most of these guys, and Derrick Ford, could step up and lead the team on any given night. It’s nice to have a minimum of 6 guys to count on. And on the interesting side note that always pops up when UIC is playing, guard Marcetteaus McGee was a one-time Wisconsin Badger recruit who never ended up at school due to some sexual assault allegations. He’s not a bad ballplayer, though I’m not sure how much he would have offered at Wisconsin. With his tattoos and Allen Iverson arm sleeve, though, he looked like too much of a badass to have fit in with the Badger squad anyway. Looks like things worked out for him though.

So, my basketball weekend came to an end as Bruce Pearl and UIC coach Jimmy Collins bypassed the game ending hand-shake, as they always do. Plans to watch the Fox Sports ACC game of the week featuring N.C. State and Julius Hodge were dashed when I went to dinner at my parents’ house and my mother took longer than expected to cook the pork roast. It was a decent roast, though, so I forgive her.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Nothing New

Last night my bowling league was going on, so there was no chance to watch any basketball. So, in the interest of adding something to the mix today, I thought I’d reflect on some points that I missed earlier on, and some periphery issues that I have not yet touched on:

1) The mascot of Marquette’s opponent on Wednesday night, Delaware State, was the Hornets. That’s all well and good, but why, then, were they wearing red uniforms? I’ve never seen any red hornets. I suppose I’ve never seen and teal hornets, despite the fact that the NBA went with that color scheme for its hornets, but red just seems counter to all things hornet-related. If you wanted to go with red, there are so many more appropriate mascots you could have.

2) Out of the last 4 sporting events that I’ve attended in time to hear the national anthem, only 2 out of the 4 people that I heard sing the anthem got it correct. I’m not an extreme patriot or anything, but this is pretty disgraceful. And while I can almost understand a high school student or two messing up the anthem, the guy that I heard at the Packer game had no excuse. Not only was he a pro, but as my buddy Nick pointed out, the words were right on the scoreboard for him to look at. No one was trying to trick him, but he still dropped the ball.

3) I picked up my copy of the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook the other day, which is the place to look if you want info on high school or D-3 college basketball in Wisconsin. Because it’s sort of a niche publication for nerds like me, I’ve only been able to find two places to buy it (other than that time when I was 16 years old and saw it at the local supermarket for some reason). When I was in Madison, in recent years, the University Bookstore carried it. In Milwaukee, I’ve been making my yearly pilgrimage to a small periodical shop in West Allis called Booked Solid. The great thing about Booked Solid is that nearly every time that I’ve been in there, I’m the only guy who’s not heading back to the pornography section. The non-pornographic section of the store probably contains 25 times the number of publications as the back corner with the dirty old men, but something tells me that Booked Solid isn’t making most of its money by selling Forbes. As long as I can get my basketball guide and I don’t have to touch anything, though, I’m cool with it.

4) I think I completely glossed over the Wisconsin loss at Pepperdine. That was pretty upsetting, but it was seen by few, and the Maryland game hopefully shows that Pepperdine was an aberration. I was somewhat unconcerned when I saw that part of the reason for the loss was 7 turnovers from Mike Wilkinson. While 7 turnovers isn’t a good thing, at least you know with Wilkinson that it’s not going to happen again.

5) Today I’m finally breaking down and ordering my Blue Ribbon College Basketball Forecast. I had been holding off, since I’m really cheap and didn’t want to pay the extra $3.75 or whatever for shipping and handling, so I thought I’d wait for it to hit Barnes & Noble. However it’s looking like it’s only available online this year. The faster this thing can get to me, the better, since Blue Ribbon’s real worth is in allowing you to get the inside scoop on what makes schools like Bethune-Cookman and South Dakota State tick. By conference season, I’ll already be informed on the Michigan States and Louisvilles of the world.

6) A couple weeks ago, while perusing several pre-season basketball guides, I came upon a bit of a disappointment. Once considered the top guide around, Street and Smith has fallen off mightily. While I have never been a fan of Street and Smith’s abbreviated team breakdowns, this year I was able to pick out several errors in spelling and accuracy. I wasn’t trying to pick these things out, and frankly, I didn’t even read much of the magazine. The errors jumped out at me, though, and made me lose a lot of respect for Street and Smith. Thankfully, they somewhat made up for these errors by giving their annual feature on what the Street and Smith All-American teams of 10 years ago are doing. I’ll take all the spelling errors in the world for that moment where I go "Oh yeah, I had forgotten about Octavius Thomas. I wonder what he’s doing?" For accurate basketball info, though, I’m going elsewhere.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Wrong Game, Wrong Time, Wrong Arena

Last night I attended the Marquette-Delaware State game. The choices were many for basketball last evening–I could have gone to the UWM-South Dakota State game. I could have stayed home and watched Illinois take back the little Big Ten pride remaining by absolutely killing Wake Forest (not to mention a North Carolina-Indiana matchup). But I chose Marquette-Delaware State. It won out over television, since live basketball is almost always better than televised basketball, and it was going to be cheaper than the UWM game, since I had been offered free tickets to the Marquette game. Looking back, I probably should have chosen differently, as last night’s game was one of the few times in my life that college basketball has failed to entertain me. It seemed logical enough a choice at the time, though. Marquette is really frustrating this year. Their win last night was by the slimmest of margins, but I never really felt the game was in doubt. They can’t put anyone away, though, and I’m really scared for them once they start facing some quality opponents, because they just don’t look like a very good team. I’ll give you some observations on the evening, though I’ll probably skew into other, topics, and my commentary on the Marquette game itself will contain very little about the game itself, since it was such a dog:

1) As I mentioned, I had free tickets to the game. Because most people I knew were either busy with something else, or had already been contacted to go to the UWM game by a friend whose plans I didn’t wish to infringe on, I had some trouble finding someone to attend the game with. So I ended up going with my friend Dez, who contacted me looking to find someone to go with him because he also had a spare ticket. We decided to scalp his tickets and use mine. The market was a bit depressed last night, though. On Dez’s $27 face value tickets, he received $5 apiece for his tickets. That would seem upsetting, but I can tell you that it was far better than the offer of $0 that he received on the previous street corner.

2) I’m on the fence about Travis Diener’s disgusting facial hair. On one hand, he’d look a lot less stupid if he just shaved it off. On the other hand, isn’t college one’s last time to look stupid with no consequences? It’s the reason that I didn’t get a haircut for a year during my junior year of college, or that I grew a chin-strap beard the summer before my sophomore year. For that matter, it’s the reason that I let my sideburns grow into chops my first year in law school. I knew that none of these things looked great, but that in a few years, I wouldn’t even have the option. So, while Diener may look like an idiot, at least he has the option to do so and is exercising it appropriately.

3) Perhaps the only encouraging thing about last night’s game for Marquette is that it didn’t look like Tom Crean was treating this game as a regular season game. His lineups were strange at times (Marcus Jackson and Ousmane Barro on the floor at the same time) and playing time was divided up oddly (Ousmane Barro getting lots of minutes, walk-on Rob Hanley seeing the floor in the first half). I can only hope that this accounts somewhat for Marquette’s early season mediocrity, because I’d like to think that they’re better than they looked last night.

4) I gave mention in that last paragraph to Rob Hanley, the walk-on from Catholic Memorial. I recognize that he’s not on scholarship, and he was the third best player on his high school team (a phenomenal team, by the way), but is it too much to ask to get his name on the back of his jersey? I could understand it during the exhibition season, but we’re several games into the year. Let’s show the kid some respect.

5) Steve Novak had a nice power move last night. That is the first, and perhaps the last time in the history of mankind that those words have been used to form a sentence.

6) I caught a few minutes of the Illinois-Wake Forest game when I was changing clothes before heading back downtown. I can’t wait to see the whole thing, because Illinois looked like they were doing lay-up drills on the Demon Deacons. Has a #1 team ever been so badly beaten? I can’t wait to get my first glimpse of the Illini. I just hope Bruce Weber’s not wearing that orange sports coat of his when I finally see a game.

7) When I returned home at the end of the evening, Virginia-Northwestern was in the final 3 minutes. I found myself in the unlikely position of rooting for Northwestern. The ‘Cats didn’t pull out the win, but at least must have looked respectable after some early season struggles if they hung with the #25 team in the country until the final 30 seconds. I’m still high on them to make some noise in the Big Ten this year, particularly when they get Michael Thompson into their lineup. Again, how one goes from Duke to Northwestern, I’ll never understand.

8) I completely missed the UWM game, but can’t wait to read about it today. I always like to hear about it when the local team kicks someone’s ass.

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