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.


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