Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Your Horizon League Champs: UWM

Wednesday was a duel game night, with a trip down to the MECCA Arena to watch the final UWM regular season home game of the year, and a subsequent viewing of the Wisconsin-Michigan game at home on the DVR box. The night got off to a rocky start, as one of my friends that I was supposed to attend the UWM game with got into an accident on the way downtown, and ended up driving his dinged up car home so that he could get an early jump on calling his insurance company and getting the car fixed. On the upside, my friend Dez was still headed to the game with me, and as usual, he was on top of making peripheral observations. Since I was actually there, it came earlier in the evening, and there's more to say about it, the UWM-Butler game gets my first stream of thoughts. Excuse me if I don't get to all of my Badger thoughts right away--occassionaly I like to both sleep and do my job during the week.

1) Since it was the final home game, it seemed like a buzz had actually formed in Milwaukee about UWM, and attendance was probably close to double what I've seen at a few games this year. Major Goolsby's Sports Bar, where I met up with Dez before the game, was also busy for the first time all season before a UWM game. Not that I minded a bit more of a crowd, as the MECCA still had plenty of elbow room, and more people were being exposed to Milwaukee's semi-hidden secret.

2) Major Goolsby's, despite recently being ranked at one of the top sports bars in the country by Sports Illustrated, is not a favorite dining spot for me (though no one can deny the coolness of it's circa-1985 decor). So, I decided that I would do something that I never do, and ended up purchasing food for the night from the concession stand at the arena. Since the Mexican stand was near my seats, I opted to order the "nachos supreme." All I can say about that is that whoever gave these nachos a "supreme" rating is a damn liar. Taco Bell looked like a gourmet meal compared to this stuff. Now I remember why I avoid concession stands.

3) Wait, it's senior night, and James Wright isn't starting? I would understand this move if Wright was some terrible player, but he's started at times throughout the season, and was the first man off the bench tonight. And he's given the best 7 years of his life to the program. At least let the guy get announced as a starter in his last non-tournament home game. What was coach Bruce Pearl thinking?

4) Back to the concession stands. All throughout the season, I kept walking by the smoothie stand in the MECCA. Normally, the crowd was pretty small, and thus, the smoothie stand was not open. It wasn't a big deal, since I'm normally not looking to buy a smoothie, but I do have to admit that I have been intrigued all season by the sign on the side of the cart that said "Now Available With Alcohol!" Tonight Dez and I broke down and decided to get smoothies, with alcohol. In choosing the size of our smoothies, we were left with the decision between the "Small," "Large," and "Tiki Cup." The Tiki Cup was, of course, huge, and shaped like a tiki god. After staring for a bit, I don't know if it was me or Dez, but one of us said "I think we have to go with the Tiki Cup." So, with $18 in hand, I walked up to the stand and ordered two smoothies in Tiki Cups, "with alcohol." To the smoothie stand operator's credit, he didn't hold back on the alcohol. On the negative side, no one ever told me what type of alcohol was being used. I still assume it was rum, but for all I know rubbing alcohol was being mixed into my "Dreamsicle" smoothie. Anyway, there was a bit too much banana in my smoothie for my taste, but it was pretty filling, and there's nothing quite like the feeling of knowing that you just dropped $9 to hold a gigantic yellow Tiki Cup at a basketball game.

5) UWM, despite sealing up the conference championship tonight, wasn't playing their best ball tonight. Joah Tucker was still a man among boys, but Ed McCants was only effective for maybe half his time on the floor (he would have been scary if he'd been on all game, though), and I think the Panthers may have gotten more offensive rebounds on tip-outs to the perimeter than they did by actually catching the ball. That trademark, trapping press still looked nice, though.

6) I kept looking at the Butler bench and wondering, is that who I think it is? And as UWM put the game out of reach in the final minutes, he got in, and it was the guy--former Marquette High star Andy Grunst. Grusnt was phenomenal in high school, and during the Marquette-Wauwatosa East rivalry that I mention so often, used to regularly light up former Marquette forward Scott Merritt. Of course, it doesn't look like Grunst ever really climbed the depth chart at Butler. When he got into the game, I noted to Dez that Grunst had really bulked up since high school. Dez appropriately replied, "Yeah, but it doesn't look like he picked much of that up in the weight room." Nonetheless, Grunst would make my list of favorite high school players to watch over the past several years. Too bad he doesn't seem to have made a huge impact at Butler.

7) At the end of the game, the UWM student section rushed the floor in celebration of the conference championship. It was perhaps the most anti-climactic rushing of the floor that I've seen in recent memory. UWM was expected to be at this point, and it was pretty much assumed that they would wrap up the conference tonight. Additionally, winning the Horizon League title doesn't really mean much, other than an obscenely nice road to the finals of the conference tourney and a home court advantage for said tournament. Get a win on March 8, and rushing the court will be a lot sweeter. Until then, I'm a bit lukewarm towards the idea. It's nice, for a change, though, to see something for UWM students to get excited about other than their institutional relation to the guy from "American Movie."

8) When I was playing back the Badger game, they actually broke into the game with a Bruce Pearl interview from the big Panther win. While I still doubt that there were many people out there watching the Badgers that cared that UWM had clinched an outright Horizon League championship, the fact that a TV station (even one as borderline illegitimate as Milwaukee's WMLW) would consider breaking in with this news shows how far Bruce Pearl has taken this program.

9) Okay, it's not a UWM comment, but I'm facing up to the fact that I might have to save my Wisconsin comments for tomorrow sometime. I might not eat lunch again. In any event, I feel strongly enough about this Wisconsin point that I'm putting it here tonight. Like I said, I watched the game on TV. The color commentator tonight was Tim McCormick. I was going to ask that if anyone knew where Tim McCormick lives that they tell me so that I can go there and punch him in the stomach. However, McCormick did some interviews after the game, and he's actually a pretty big dude, so if, say, Mark Eaton is reading this and looking to pick up some extra cash, I'd be willing to pay you to punch Tim McCormick in the stomach. McCormick's not really a homer (I didn't even know he was a former Michigan player until after the game) and he did make a fair number of valid points, but he's just a really, really annoyingc color man. And for that, someone should slug him in the gut.


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