Sunday, February 06, 2005

My Stomach Ruins My Road Trip

Well, this was to be a huge weekend--my one and only Big Ten road trip for the year, as Wisconsin took its game to conference rival Minnesota. Instead, I spent most of the day I was supposed to leave for the Twin Cities listening to my stomach make odd noises and waiting for my flu to subside, so I had to bail out on my travel mates. Of course illness would have to strike at the least socially convenient time possible. This would never happen to me if my plan for the weekend was to spend Friday night in watching Fastbreak and Saturday night doing laundry (not that I can actually think of a weekend like this in the lat 14 years of my life, but hypothetically...), but when I can go to hang out in a cool city with a few good friends and watch basketball, my digestive system goes out on me. Figures.

On the upside, I was feeling mostly okay by Friday night (though I didn't push things by going to the Marquette High-Brookfield East game as I would have liked), and knew of a few out of town (and in-town) friends who were converging on Milwaukee for the weekend. Big basketball fans, these guys, and the itinerary had been set to include watching the Wisconsin-Minnesota game at a bar at 11am, checking out the Whitefish Bay-Sheboygan South game that night (the boys were all South grads), and catching some of the Syracuse-Notre Dame game on ESPN. All of the above occurred, along with a pit stop for beer and basketball at my place during the afternoon (followed briefly by everyone going elsewhere and me getting in a nap). Frankly, the only game that I followed as closely as the games that I usually make points about was the high school game, and honestly, there wasn't much to comment on going on at that game. Neither is a team I particularly need to see again. But, since I saw snippets of each of the state's division one teams' games, each one is getting sone quick, half-assed commentary:

Wisconsin-Minnesota: Where did Vincent Grier come from, and how did he beat the Badgers? Wow. The Badgers were uncharictaristically poor at taking care of the ball, but the Gophers, who I thought prior to the season could be a threat (check that--I thought they were a lock) to land in last place in the conference, seem to put up a nice fight every game this year. This season is why I love Dan Monson. His best seasons have probably come this year (with 9 new players, and only 1 guy on the squad that I could name), and his first year on the job (with a program in shambles from one of the greatest NCAA scandals in recent memory). He has been extremely sub-par with teams with decent talent anchored by Rick Rickert and Kris Humphries, both blue-chip recruits. Give Monson 3 McDonalds All-Americans, and he could probably guide his team to no better than a seventh place finish in the Big Ten. Give Monson 3 scholarship players, 7 walk-ons, and 3 random guys who wander into his gym from the rec center on campus, and he could probably take fourth, though. It boggles the mind.

Marquette-Southern Mississippi: Didn't see much of this one, but I saw the box score. On the positive side, it said that Marquette won and that Travis Diener is back. On the confusing side, Chris Grimm and Ousmane Barro, who had been starting of late, logged a grand total of 4 minutes between them. On the negative side, Niv Berkowitz wasn't on the bench and has apparently left the program and returned to Isreal, marking what seems like the 80th player to leave during Tom Crean's tenure. This one seems to be for legitimate homesickness reasons, but will probably again (fairly or unfairly) raise questions about why there is so much attrition from the Marquette progarm.

UWM-UIC: I kind of wish I had been downtown for the battle of the two coaches that hate one another. During the brief portion that I saw, Joah Tucker seemed to be having his way, and UWM eventually took away a nice win. The camera, as always, showed UWM coach Bruce Pearl walking by UIC coach Jimmy Collins at halfcourt and Collins refusing to shake hands with Pearl based on an incident that must be at least 15 years old now. On one hand, I admire Pearl for trying to be a big man and offering his handshake as a token gesture. On the other hand, I admire Collins' honesty in his hatred, and his ability to remain consistent in it for such a lengthy period of time. And I'll give Collins credit--he does give credit where credit is due, highly praising Pearl's coaching in quotes appearing in the newspaper this morning, and making comments indicating that he expected UWM to walk away with the Horizon League regular season championship after they won this game.

UWGB-Youngstown State: Beat the league leader. Lose by 30. Win by 30. That's the kind of season that it's been for UWGB, as they follow up tremendous wins by laying huge eggs. Today was a nice win. I've seen the Phoenix, though, and they don't have the top talent in the league. They'll have that soon. UWM might be the sexy team to play for right now, but with the talent that UWGB has coming in next year, if I was a senior in high school and had to choose between the two, I'd definitely be going to UWGB. Check that--I'd actually probably go to UWM, but if I was basing it strictly on basketball, UWGB's got to be the place. Too bad the campus is terrible.

And like I said, Whitefish Bay-Sheboygan South was rough. Very rough. I will at least say that in the Whitefish Bay fieldhouse it is interesting to see the Math and Compter teams' conference championship banners hanging with those of the athletic teams. I was actually on my school's JV math team for one meet in high school (man, it pains me to admit that), so I know what that entails, but I have to ask--what in God's name does a computer team do? I guess these are the type of things that kids are good at in the good school districts.

Finally, a word needs to be said for Syracuse-Notre Dame, which I viewed the last 8 minutes or so of at my friend Kevin's apartment. The great thing about the place is that Kevin lives with 4 other guys, and they made the wise investment of purchasing a 60 inch HDTV. So I saw my first ever HD broadcast of a game. Phenomenal. If I had the money, I'd have been at Best Buy that evening buying something that can get me HD capability. I don't, so I simply savored the wonder of the broadcast as Notre Dame pushed Syracuse harder than they should have, taking the game down to a final desparation shot. Oh, and Hakin Warrick is unbelievable.

That's it for the weekend. Coming later this week, a 3:30am Thursday night illness-induced tribute to my father. I swear it will make sense when I write it.

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