Monday, January 24, 2005

Snow Problem? No Problem.

Sometimes in life you need to make adjustments. Sometimes when you're a basketball fan in Wisconsin, you need to make adjustments as well. My Saturday was proof of that. The day was circled on my calendar as the perfect day to pull off the trifecta--watching three games with intent interest during a single day. I may drift in and out of any number of endless games on any given weekend, but its rare that I can find three games in a given day to stir my emotions and keep me busy. All was looking well. And then Milwaukee had 12 inches of snow dropped on it. I knew it was coming, but figured that it would be an easy fix. So long as I was outside shoveling by 9:30am, I could get my car out of the driveway, and be downtown to meet my friends at a bar to watch Wisconsin take on Michigan before heading to the Marquette-Charlotte game at the Bradley Center. Then I'd take a break from the action and head back to my place for a little shoveling before heading to the Waukesha North-Sheboygan North showdown to determine which city had the better north side.

Of course, it didn't happen that way. I got up to shovel in time, but due to the length of my driveway, it took much longer than an hour to shovel out. And my downstairs neighbor wasn't tons of help, either (An aside--the downstairs neighbor has decided that it's a bad idea to try and dig our garbage carts out so that we can take them out to the curb for collection and that we should leave our trash in the basement until things thaw out. I'd say that that's his worst idea ever, but he's also the guy that likes to leave the back door unlocked so that he can get in and out more quickly.) By the time the driveway was close enough to being shoveled for me to find a way out, it was after 12 o'clock. I arrived at the bar a 12:45, just in time for the last 10 minutes of the Wisconsin-Michigan game, the first 3/4 of which had become a casualty of the snow. I suppose Mike Wilkinson had a great game, but I wouldn't know, since he put in 22 points while I was still trying to dig my car out. So the trifecta was effectively done by noon. The night game was also out of the question, too. I'd like to say that that's mainly because the game was cancelled (which it was), but truth be told, given the weather we were having, I would have backed out anyway. I had also forgottten the Whitefish Bay-Nicolet showdown (I wrongly thought that it would be this coming Tuesday), which was also to be that evening, and which I was supposed to attend with my friend Kevin. Fortunately, Kevin called to tell me of that cancellation, as well, meaning that there's lots of good basketball to be made up in the coming weeks.

Of course, one thing did work out, as I was able to get to the Marquette game. Sadly, it's probably the one game that I didn't want to see, given that it ended with a Marquette loss. Game thoughts follow:

1) Two great comments made my day on the walk from Water Street to the Bradley Center as it was windy, and still snowing intensely. First, from my friend Amy: "Do you ever feel like you're in one of those Burlington Coat Factory commercials?" And if you've ever seen the guy in the blizzard in that commercial, it's the closest that I've ever felt to being him. The second comment came from my friend Josh as we were freezing and crossing the last street before the Bradley Center: "I don't even like Marquette." No, Josh really doesn't like Marquette, which made the trip he and his wife Chris made from Madison to see the game a phenomanal effort to see friends on their part. They get the co-MVP award on the day from me.

2) I was excited to get to the game in time for Tom Crean's opening talk on the Jumbotron, which I figured would include multiple references to the snow and several expressions of gratitude to fans willing to get themselves to the game. Sadly, these topics were largely glossed over, since the weekend was some sort of alumni event, and Crean was intent on recognizing the former players that would be honored at the game that day. The guys who were honored certainly deserved their place in the talk, but I was a bit disappointed, since after the 2+ hours that I spent digging my car out to get to the game, I actually wanted some thanks from the head coach.

3) I give Marquette fans lots of credit for their attendance on Saturday. While it wasn't the greatest attendance that I've ever seen at a game, considering the weather, there were far more fans that I expected to see at the Bradley Center. It probably helped that it was designated as a big weekend for alumni, but nonetheless, having this many people at the Bradley Center during the tail end of blizzard showed what has happened to the Marquette program in recent years. When I was a kid going to games with my dad, the then-lukewarm fan base would have never come out in numbers like I saw on Saturday. Then again, I probably wouldn't have been in attendance to judge either.

4) Marquette announced their starting lineup and (gasp) Steve Novak wasn't in the lineup. Instead, Ousmane Barro got his first start. Marcus Jackson rode the pine to start things off, as well. Jackson was apparently struggling with an illness, thus the reason for his missed start. Novak has been struggling with an illness, but also struggling with his shot, defense and inside scoring ability, so his missed start was more suspect. I hope he's back in the lineup soon, though, since sitting him down can't help his confidence, and when he's confident, he's the best spot-up shooter in the country. He's still not much of a defender or interior presence, but his shot is pretty to watch when he's in the zone. He didn't exactly get back in the zone on Saturday, though, and finished with only 6 points. He was only a small part of the problem Saturday, though.

5) Chris Grimm accomplished something that I thought not even he was capable of when he committed two fouls less than a minute and a half into the game. Some of you, I'm sure are thinking "But it's Chris Grimm--he fouls all the time. That's not that unusual." The astounding thing about these particular fouls, though, is that both of them came away from the ball on screens. Two off-the-ball fouls in 1:30 is tough to do, and I may never see the feat duplicated again. Then again, Grimm still has another year of eligibility.

6) How did Marquette lose this one? The story is pretty much the same as the DePaul game--the opposition controlled the rebounding. I haven't seen a Charlotte offensive rebounding total, but it had to be pretty obscene. Charlotte did shoot well from the outside, but this game was won on the boards. Charlotte's Curtis Withers was pretty much unstoppable, even when he was just rebounding his own misses. Whatever happened to Marcus Jackson getting 15 boards?

7) Heads up play of the, make that the year, goes to Travis Diener. In the second half, Charlotte missed the first end of a one-and-one. Diener, who was standing back behind the shooter, reacted everyone else seemed to think that a second foul shot was forthcoming, streaking down the lane to strip a Charlotte player and lay the ball in. Nine other guys on the floor had no idea what was going on, and Diener scored easily on a play that he wasn't even in a position to be realistically involved in. I'm going to miss watching this guy when he graduates.

8) Ryan Amoroso continues to score big points, be in the right spot on the floor, play physical basketball, and not exceed 20 minutes in any given game. Is there something I'm missing? I don't want to make the token complaint that every idiot fan in Milwaukee seems to be making, but where are more minutes for this guy? I guess he probably wasn't the best rebounder available on Saturday when that was what was needed, but Chris Grimm wasn't exactly cleaning up on the boards either.

So with another rough defeat, I took down a few Miller Lites at the Lodge with a few friends, and returned home, where I caught the innaugural basketball version of ESPN College Gameday. The show has promise, as did the evening. However, still pouting from my loss of the trifecta for the day, rather than watching all of UConn-Pitt, I only watched bits and pieces, opting instead to watch a movie. I woke up revitalized on Sunday, though, and didn't understand why until the next day. I had fallen asleep at the end of the evening with my headphones on and my iPod on "shuffle." When I scrolled back to see what had been playing as I drifted off, a little tune entitled "One Shining Moment" appeared on the screen. So I'm ready for more ball. Bring on the Tuesday night Big Ten showdown between Illinois and Wisconsin!


At 8:11 PM, Blogger Timothy said...

The Diener play on the 1 and 1 was tremendous; most heads-up play in hoops this year.

As for Saturday, it was 'National Marquette Day'...its a gig where 38 alumni clubs around the country gather to watch hoops together (including club events in Milwaukee). The national alumni board was also in session this weekend.

Another rotten game though


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