Out of Commission
I was feeling bad last night as I watched the Wisconsin-Northwestern game, knowing that although I was able to watch the game, I would have very little chance at writing an update. You see, shortly after I finished watching the Illinois-Michigan State game on Tuesday night, I became afflicted with a nasty stomach flu (warning--some of today's update could be a tad graphic), and I've pretty much been out of commission since. Then, during the Wisconsin-Northwestern game, one of the announcers noted that Gene Keady was missing Purdue's game that night due to a bout with the flu, effectively ending a streak of something like 4000 straight games that he's been on the sidelines. So, I guess if a legend like Keady can take a night off of coaching a Big Ten team, I can take a day off from writing a daily basketball update that is regularly read by probably no more than 15 people. For Keady's sake, however, I hope that unlike me, he is capable of keeping more than 2 cups of liquid in his body at any given time.
Due to the flu, last night led to an odd evening of taking in games. I probably should have been watching the state of the union address, but had I done that, I likely would have been yelling more profanities at the television than I did when Marquetee lost to Louisville last week. Instead, my priority was to watch the Wisconsin game on TV, and due to the magic of DVR, I was able to see the game in its entirity. At several points, however, my viewing was interrupted with flu-related trips to the bathroom, where I was able to get updates on the Marquette game on the radio that sits unsafely on my sink. So in some respects, I need to thank whatever pathogen is inhibiting my body, because it unwittingly allowed me to monitor two games at once. And the upside tonight is that though I won't make it to my normal bowling night, I will be at home in bed taking in the Grinnell-Beloit game on ESPN, the network's first attempt at a D3 game. Sure, it's mainly because Grinnell is a great novelty team, but it will still be cool to see. And it doesn't hurt my cause that Beloit is a Wisconsin team, even if it's in a city that I don't feel the need to ever pass through again.
Enough about the benefits of being laid up with a chroically queasy stomach--I've watched a boatload of basketball in the past two days, and only given a mild update. And lots has happened in the world of basketball, too. A myriad of random thoughts follow:
1) Last night I watched the second half of the Duke-Wake Forest game. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a closet Duke fan, but I still fall into the category of those who haven't given the Blue Devils a lot of credit this year. That officially stops now. Wake Forest won the game--which comes as no surprise to me, since I think they're the better team. However, there were several times in the last 4 minutes when I looked at the clock and after a play I said to myself "Well, that's it--Wake's got this one wrapped up." Then, repeatedly, J.J. Reddick would make a play. By some miracle, a Duke squad that spent much of the final couple minutes down by 9 points, ended up clanking a not-entirely-ridiculous 3-pointer at the buzzer. Duke's going to lose its fair share as they begin playing the tough teams in the ACC, but they're better than I thought.
2) Marquette had another rough night, losing to UAB last night. I was sort of encouraged on my 4th trip to the bathroom during the game when I heard that the Golden Eagles were up by one point at the half, but eventually they faded in the second half. Making matters worse, it sounds like guard Joe Chapman, who apparently had a stellar performance last night, managed to hurt his knee. With Travis Diener still recovering from a stress fracture, is it possible that the Golden Eagles, who in the past have seemed to have no less than 7 guards ready to contribute, will be short-handed at the guard spot? Making matters worse, it sounds like Niv Berkowitz is dinged up a bit, too. Can things get much worse for Marquette? On the positive side, I can't imagine that Diener will be out much longer, so there's some hope.
3) I just did a duke point, followed by a Marquette point, which turns my mind to an odd thought. Back when he was in high school, at various times I heard Marquette junior Steve Novak's game compared to that of Duke junior Shavlik Randolph. Novak was generally considered to be a slightly lesser version of Randolph (a "poor man's Randolph" was a phrase I heard a lot of). Three years later, who would you rather have? It's tough for me to decide, since they've taken on such divergent roles. Novak's game has developed little, except for his shooting, but I still maintain that there's no one in the country I'd rather have spotting up than Novak (now, if we're curling off of screens, too, I'll take Mr. Reddick, but that's another story). Randolph has been bogged down with injury and has transformed his body to become more of a post-banger than the slim, inside-outside threat that he was advertised as coming in. Both are solid contributors for their teams, but are now completely different ballplayers. I don't know if there's a good answer to this one.
4) One of my friends informed me last night that Marquette High's Matt Mulcahy is out for the season with a broken ankle, suffered in a recent game. Sad news, not only for the Hilltopper team, but for Mulcahy, who from everything I've heard is a pretty good kid. On the upside, now Mulcahy can devote a bit more time to deciding what sport (he's an even better volleyball player, apparently) and what school will provide his college scholarship.
5) Things are looking worse and worse for Iowa, with the loss of Pierre Pierce to legal problems. The Hawkeyes never cease to amaze me. In the pre-season, I picked them to be near the bottom of the Big Ten. Then, after seeing them play a couple of times early on, I backed off of that assertion, since they were playing really well, and impressed me about as much as any team this year in their early season loss against North Carolina. A few conference losses, and now the loss of one of the better guards in the conference clouds the season even more. If things continue like this, it just goes to prove my theory--never trust a Steve Alford team, no matter how good they may look at any point. Yes, I'm still bitter at the Hawkeyes for not doing more with Luke Recker and Reggie Evans.
6) What the hell is going on with Wisconsin's Kammron Taylor? He's really starting to look like a player, shooting and distributing the ball nicely against Northwestern last night. It's not the first time that he's done this, either. It's almost scary how quickly he went from a struggling first-year point guard to a string of games where he's a constant threat to throw 15 points on the board. Will this continue? I don't know, but it's sure an encouraging sign for the Badgers, who need something to smile about while Alando Tucker rests his foot.
7) Illinois-Michigan State on Tuesday was an excellent contest, that I wish I had time to break down more completely, but it elevated my opinion of Illinois even more. I see them being #1 for a very long time this year. As I've said before, I still think that North Carolina would beat Illinois if both were playing their best games. I still think this is true, but I also think Illinois is a much bigger threat to win the national championship this year. The reason being that the Illini are consistent beyond belief. While North Carolina is prone to a drop-off in production from time to time, Illinois just keeps charging at you. There's no game that these guys are going to drop without one hell of a fight. And to top it off, even though they're a rival of my Badgers, they even seem like a fairly likeable bunch. It boggles the mind. It's fun to have an elite team in the Big Ten again.
Well, I'm going to run to the bathroom and try to down some broth. Then I'm settling in for a night of high school and D3 basketball on ESPN. With such an obscure night of features, I'm starting to wonder if ESPN is dedicating this night specifically to me as I lay at home in bed. Even if they're not, it should be fun.